Welcome to Union News, the podcast that brings you news of the labour and union movement in the United Kingdom. In this edition, Nurses vote to continue strikes, Unison win equal pay campaign, Cleaners strike for fair pay, and Environment Agency workers start strikes. Music is by Tim Bragg.
Nurses vote to continue strikes
Nurses in England are planning to go on a 48-hour strike from the evening of April 30 after rejecting a pay offer from Tory ministers. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) reported that 54% of its members voted to reject the offer, and a grassroots revolt led by cross-union group NHS Workers Say No played a decisive role in the decision. The walkouts will also involve nursing staff working in emergency departments, intensive care units, cancer care and other services that were previously exempt. The crisis in the healthcare sector cannot be addressed without significant action that addresses urgent recruitment and retention issues and nursing pay.
Unison win equal pay campaign
After a decade-long campaign by the union Unison, hundreds of women council workers in Brighton and Hove will receive pay equal to their male colleagues. The workers will also receive a settlement of up to £2,000 each as part of the landmark deal. The pay disparity began in 2013 when a special bank holiday payment was negotiated for refuse and recycling workers, which benefited male employees, while low-paid women staff, many in the care sector, continued working on bank holidays without extra pay. The deal brings “historic inequality to an end,” Unison said, and should put pressure on other local authorities to address gender pay disparities.
Cleaners strike for fair pay
RMT union members, who clean trains on Avanti West Coast, GWR, Northern, GTR and Southeastern, rounded off a 48-hour strike on Saturday.Train cleaners working for outsourcers Churchill, Bidvest Noonan and Atalian Servest, and employed by Avanti West Coast, GWR, Northern, GTR and Southeastern, have gone on strike more than 20 times since February 2022 to demand a pay increase to at least £15 an hour, sick pay, free travel and better pensions and holidays. The cleaners are calling for the contracts to be ripped up to bring them back in house. The strikes are having an impact on the train operating companies, and union campaigning has led to free travel being granted to outsourced workers at Transport for London. Bella Fashola, a picketer in Hastings, is confident of workers winning a reballot at the end of May to renew their strike mandate.
and finally, Environment Agency workers start strikes
Members of Unison at the Environment Agency began a weekend of strikes on Friday in protest against what they described as “woeful” pay. The action, which will continue until 7 am on Monday, is an escalation of last year’s industrial action over a “terrible deal” of a 2% increase and a one-off lump sum of £345, according to the union. UNISON has now written to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt requesting that he intervene to provide additional funds for the public body to pay its employees fairly. UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea warned that “uncompetitive pay” is causing a worker exodus at a time when environmental damage and rising pollution levels are in the spotlight.