Welcome to Union News, the weekly podcast which brings you news from the labour and trade union movement in the UK. In this episode: High cost of childcare forces over half of UK mothers to reduce working hours, Scottish teachers’ union accepts 7% pay deal after year-long dispute, Thousands March in London in Support of NHS Strikes and Urgent Action to Save the NHS, Build support for strikes and demos on the 15th of March 2023 and, Grow Union News. Music is by Tim Bragg. You can e-mail us privately with news from you industry or workplace at UnionNewsServices@protonmail.com.
High cost of childcare forces over half of UK mothers to reduce working hours
Over half of mothers with children aged 11 or younger have been forced to reduce their working hours due to the high cost of childcare, according to an online poll by charity Save the Children. Of the 2,000 parents who responded, 56% said they were impacted by the cost of childcare, while almost half reported declining job offers due to childcare responsibilities. The charity has called on the UK government to introduce a grants-based scheme to cover upfront childcare costs for the first month, expand and reform tax-free childcare offers, and ensure universally accessible, affordable childcare from the end of parental leave to the end of primary school. The government has previously acknowledged financial pressure on families and spent over £20bn in the past five years to help with childcare costs.
RMT union suspends Network Rail strikes and puts forward pay offer for ballot
RMT union leaders have decided to suspend the Network Rail strikes planned for next week and put forward an offer for ballot. Network Rail employs signallers and track maintenance workers, and their absence from the strike may make it easier for other rail bosses to organize scabbing on strike days.
The proposed deal would increase workers’ pay by either £1,750 or 5 percent for the period 1 January to 30 September 2022, whichever is higher. Additionally, there would be a 4 percent increase from 1 October 2022 to 31 December 2023. The RMT claims that for most of the affected workers, this would result in a 10.3 percent increase in basic earnings over two years. However, with inflation at 13.4 percent for a single year, this could lead to a significant real terms pay cut and is being evaluated for rejection.
The Network Rail bosses have proposed job cuts disguised as “Modernising Maintenance”, which could involve a 30 percent increase in nights and weekend work and the removal of 1,950 front-line posts. The company has promised not to make any compulsory redundancies, but only until 2025.
The RMT leaders have not recommended the deal, and the ballot will remain open until 20 March. While they have acknowledged a marginal improvement, which includes back pay being increased from January 2023 to October 2022, they have not endorsed the deal. Additionally, the rail deal includes 75 percent discounted leisure travel.
Scottish teachers’ union accepts 7% pay deal after year-long dispute
Scotland’s largest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), has voted overwhelmingly to accept the latest pay offer from the Scottish government and local authorities group Cosla. The ballot produced a nine-to-one vote in favour of accepting the proposal, on a turnout of 82%. The pay deal means that teachers will receive a 7% pay rise backdated to April 2022, 5% next month and a further 2% in January. The year-long dispute resulted in strikes across the country and targeted action in the constituencies of SNP and Green ministers. The EIS settlement follows the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association’s agreement, but the NASUWT is still to ballot its members.
Thousands March in London in Support of NHS Strikes and Urgent Action to Save the NHS
Thousands of campaigners and workers marched in London on Saturday in support of the National Health Service (NHS) strikes. The SOS NHS coalition of 50 groups organised the demonstration, which called for emergency funding for the NHS, an end to privatisation and support for workers. Many of the protesters had been fighting for the NHS for a long time, but there were also new people who were concerned about the health crisis and inspired by the walkouts of nurses, ambulance workers, and junior doctors. The strikes were described as a way of doing something rather than feeling helpless, and Anne, an RCN nurses’ union member who recently went on strike, said that the strikes were necessary to ensure that there were enough staff to offer patients the care they deserve. The unions did not make much effort to turn out their members, which some protesters criticised, and Cat Hobbs from the We Own It anti-privatisation campaign said that the government wanted the NHS to fail so that it could be handed over to private capital. John McDonnell MP pledged his support for the NHS, stating that the government would not be allowed to destroy it. The strikes were deemed the most important way of fighting back, and the next week’s action was described as crucial.
Build support for strikes and demos on the 15th of March 2023
On March 15th, a mass strike will be joined by more than 500,000 workers. While some have already taken action, others are new to the movement and joining for the first time.
Who’s striking on 15 March?
Over 275,000 teachers in the NEU union in England and Wales
Over 125,000 civil service workers in the PCS and Prospect unions
Over 40,000 junior doctors in the BMA and HCSA
Around 70,000 university workers in the UCU union
Around 12,000 London Underground workers in the Aslef and RMT unions
Around 1,000 NUJ union members working for BBC Local
Plus workers at Amazon, Coventry in the GMB union, and others
Help build the strikes and demonstrations
Encourage other workers to join the strike in some way
Bring your own demands, such as a minimum wage increase and more rights at work
Join rallies and picket lines even if you’re not striking
Organize everyone to join demonstrations on 15 March
Donate to strike funds
Deepen participation and direction by strikers themselves
Take pictures and video of the demonstrations and pickets and share on social media
Send us pictures and video at the email address in the show notes
And finally, Grow Union News
Union News is looking to expand its coverage by building a network of local volunteer correspondents who can provide regular labour and trade union-related information. The goal is to increase both the frequency and reach of Union News, and we are calling on anyone who is willing to help. All we need is regular local news from the shop floor or office. In addition, Union News is also interested in covering wider issues that affect ordinary workers, such as housing, homelessness, health, and price inflation. If you want to be part of building a pro-worker and pro-Trade Union alternative media, we encourage you to get in touch today. It’s time to take action and make a difference! Our email address is: UnionNewsServices@protonmail.com.