Union News 10th of April 2023

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Welcome to Union News the podcast reporting on the labour and trade union movement in the UK. In this week’s episode: British Teachers Work an Average of 54 Hours per Week, Unite Warns of 12-Week Strike at Kaefer, Junior Doctors to strike for a further four days, Teachers debate calls for key worker home discounts, and finally, Protests and strikes continue in France. Music in this podcast is by Tim Bragg.

British Teachers Work an Average of 54 Hours per Week

A survey by the NASUWT teaching union has found that teachers in Britain work an average of 54 hours per week, with 13 of those hours falling outside of normal school hours. 87% of the 8,464 NASUWT members surveyed said their workload had increased over the past year, and 83% said their job had adversely affected their mental health. The union is calling for a contractual limit on working hours to ensure staff can enjoy a life outside of work. The government has committed to forming a taskforce to reduce teacher worload by five hours per week.

Unite Warns of 12-Week Strike at Kaefer

Defence contractor Kaefer may face a 12-week, all-out strike by Unite members including painters, scaffolders, cleaners and support service workers. The union has warned that work on the £1.25bn type-31 frigate contract at the Rosyth yard in Fife could be “significantly delayed” due to the strike, after rejecting a 7.2% pay offer from the employer. Unite regional industrial officer Bob MacGregor has criticised Kaefer and Babcock, which owns the yard, for their handling of industrial relations at Rosyth. A Babcock spokesman said it was aware of the situation and would work to mitigate any impacts to Rosyth operations.

Junior Doctors to strike for a further four days

Health officials have expressed deep concern about patient care provision during the four-day strike planned by junior doctors next week. The British Medical Association (BMA) has called its members to strike from tomorrow to Saturday next week. NHS managers are concerned about emergency cover and the impact on operating lists, as many consultants who stepped in during previous strikes will be on holiday over Easter week.

But Dr Latifa Patel, BMA workforce lead officer, said: “No-one understands better than us, the doctors who care for them, that patients are getting a substandard experience 365 days a year from an overstretched and understaffed NHS.

“In this brutal work environment, patient care is at risk every day due to chronic staff shortages and years of underinvestment in equipment and services.

“We have a jointly agreed system with NHS England in place to ensure patient safety in the event of extreme and unforeseen circumstances.

“We met with NHS England four times per day during the last strikes to monitor the situation, but there were no requests for a derogation – a temporary stoppage of the industrial action – to be made.

“The same proven arrangements will be in place this time.

“Junior doctors have no desire to strike, they been pushed into this action by long-term government inaction and now want to bring this dispute to an end as quickly as possible.

“We hope the Health Secretary will come to the table immediately with a meaningful pay offer so doctors can avoid more strike action and instead return to doing what they want to be doing: caring for their patients.”

The Department of Health and Social Care has refused BMA’s demand for a 35% pay rise to make up for years of pay cuts, claiming it is unreasonable and unaffordable.

Teachers debate calls for key worker home discounts

At the NASUWT conference this weekend, a motion to campaign for rental and first-time buyer discount schemes of at least 30% below market prices in high-cost areas was debated. The motion highlights that increased housing costs have made it difficult to recruit and retain teachers, particularly younger teachers. A recent survey of NASUWT members under 30 showed that 71% consider housing to be a major factor in their decision to remain in the profession. Two-thirds have experienced a rise in rent or mortgage over the past year, with 31% experiencing a rise between £100 and £200. The general secretary of NASUWT, Dr Patrick Roach, has called for the government to prioritize teachers’ access to affordable housing and to extend discount schemes for rental and first-time buyers.

and finally, Protests and strikes continue in France

France is currently experiencing widespread demonstrations and strikes in response to President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to raise the age of pension entitlement. The protests have grown to address issues such as democracy, police violence, and social organisation. The 11th day of protests on Thursday saw over 370 planned gatherings, with huge numbers of people marching in Paris, Marseille and Nantes. In a move showing international solidarity, Belgian trade unionists blockaded a major oil depot set to supply French petrol stations with fuel. Protesters also blocked roads and roundabouts and invaded the headquarters of the multinational BlackRock in Paris. Sophie Binet, the new CGT general secretary, says it’s urgent for workers and students to find a way to win on pensions and push out Macron. She noted that the mobilisation will continue in one form or another after this week, despite the forthcoming ruling by the Constitutional Council on whether the pension measure was passed legally.

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