Welcome to Union News, the podcast which brings you weekly reports from the labour and trade union movement in the UK. In this podcast TUC research finds high levels of harassment, bullying and verbal abuse towards young women at work, PCS members vote overwhelmingly for industrial action in re-ballot results, “Draw a line in the sand”: Firefighters call for routine health monitoring to combat cancer risk, Amazon Allegedly Hiring Hundreds of Workers to Break Strikes, and finally, TransPennine Express rail services taken under public control following failures and cancellations. Music in this episode is by Tim Bragg.
TUC research finds high levels of harassment, bullying and verbal abuse towards young women at work
According to a recent poll conducted by the TUC, 58% of women in the UK have experienced sexual harassment, bullying or verbal abuse at work. The figure rises to 62% for women aged between 25 and 34. The majority of women surveyed said that these incidents were not isolated, with over 60% having experienced three or more incidents of bullying at work. Many victims do not report these incidents due to fear of not being believed or damaging their career. The TUC has also accused some Conservative MPs and peers of attempting to sabotage the Worker Protection Bill, which aims to protect workers from sexual harassment and assault at work. TUC general secretary Paul Nowak has warned that these vital new protections are in danger of being delayed and derailed. The government has made amendments to the Bill to address concerns but has promised to study any further amendments in parliament.
PCS members vote overwhelmingly for industrial action in re-ballot results
PCS members in the civil service and related areas have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action. The union achieved a 88% ‘Yes’ vote for industrial action, with an overall 52% turnout, surpassing the legal threshold for action in 106 employer areas. PCS members can now take sustained, targeted strike action in any or all of these areas. The union is calling for a negotiated pay settlement and has criticized the government for treating its workforce like second-class citizens. Despite falling just short of the 50% threshold in some areas, including the DWP, the union anticipates re-balloting after consultation. The next steps in the campaign will be decided at the upcoming annual delegate conference in Brighton.
“Draw a line in the sand”: Firefighters call for routine health monitoring to combat cancer risk
Delegates at the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) 2023 conference overwhelmingly backed resolutions calling for routine health monitoring of front-line staff across the emergency service. This follows research commissioned by the FBU earlier this year that revealed firefighters are dying of cancer at 1.6 times the rate of the general population. The union’s campaign for “presumptive compensation legislation,” which is already in place in the US, Australia, and Canada, was also supported. Delegate Barry Jackson urged employers to deliver on their “moral obligation” to protect the workforce. FBU national officer Riccardo de la Torre criticised the denial of the evidence of the occupational hazards facing firefighters.
Amazon Allegedly Hiring Hundreds of Workers to Break Strikes
Amazon is allegedly hiring hundreds of new workers at its BHX4 fulfilment centre in Coventry to break strikes and prevent unionisation. The GMB union members at the centre are scheduled to strike on 24th and 26th May. Some workers at the site reported that as many as 200 new workers started on Saturday of last week. The company is hiring new staff on temporary six-month contracts, which has raised questions over whether this is an attempt to bypass union recognition. More than 700 workers have joined the union, meaning they have a legal right for their union to be officially recognised. The GMB has submitted a formal request for recognition to the Central Arbitration Committee. Workers at other fulfilment centres are planning to vote for strikes, and building united and escalating strikes is seen as the way to win.
and finally, TransPennine Express rail services taken under public control following failures and cancellations
TransPennine Express, owned by First Group, has become the latest rail operator to be taken under public control due to its failure to provide adequate services, leaving thousands of passengers stranded. TransPennine joins other failed rail services, including London North Eastern Railway, Northern, and Southeastern, under public control. Unions have reiterated their calls for the renationalisation of the whole rail network, while the government has pledged to reprivatise TransPennine once it returns to efficiency and profitability under public control. Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh reiterated Labour’s pledge to renationalise rail if elected to government.