Union News 21st of May 2023

Welcome to Union News, the weekly podcast bringing you news from the Trade Union and labour movement in the UK. In this episode: Outsourced Hospital Cleaners and Caterers Demand Pay Rise in Demonstration at ISS Offices in London, Tube Workers in London Face Violence and Abuse Amidst Surge of Station Closures, Rise in Shoplifting Fuels Surge in Violence Against Shopworkers, and finally Teachers’ Union Warn of Further Strikes Unless Education Secretary Settles Dispute. Music is by Tim Bragg.

Outsourced Hospital Cleaners and Caterers Demand Pay Rise in Demonstration at ISS Offices in London

Hospital cleaners and caterers from the South London & Maudsley NHS Trust (SLaM) staged a demonstration outside ISS offices in Canary Wharf, London, demanding a pay rise. The four-day strike was initiated due to an unsatisfactory offer worth 30p. The protesters, comprising nearly 200 individuals, expressed their determination to fight until they receive the necessary and deserved pay. This ongoing dispute follows a previous 48-hour strike, during which the staff asserted that they were being paid 90p below the Real Living Wage. ISS expressed disappointment with the continuing strike action, citing their offer as higher than the London living wage.

Tube Workers in London Face Violence and Abuse Amidst Surge of Station Closures

The RMT union has issued a warning that tube workers in London are being subjected to threats of violence and verbal abuse following the closure of over 100 stations in a span of two months. The union has called on Transport for London (TfL) to halt its cuts program, which has resulted in repeated station closures and left staff vulnerable to frustrated passengers. Despite TfL’s significant funding reduction from central government, the union accuses Mayor Sadiq Khan of failing to challenge the ministers responsible. The RMT highlights the impact of staff cuts and an ineffective rostering system, with multiple stations experiencing closures and inadequate staffing. The shortage of staff has led to the transfer of workers to understaffed stations while others remain closed. The escalating verbal abuse and threats of violence have become commonplace, causing work-related stress and poor mental health among employees. The RMT emphasizes the urgent need for improvement to prevent serious physical assaults on its members, attributing the staff shortages to government budget cuts and the Mayor’s reluctance to address the financial strain on London’s transportation. TfL has been approached for comment.

Rise in Shoplifting Fuels Surge in Violence Against Shopworkers

Usdaw, a retail union, has raised concerns about an increase in violence against shopworkers in England and Wales driven by a rise in shoplifting incidents. Police crime statistics indicate a significant uptick in shoplifting across the two countries in the 12 months leading up to December 2022. The Office for National Statistics reveals a 31% increase in Wales, with Dyfed-Powys experiencing a 42% rise. Usdaw’s annual survey of over 7,500 shopworkers highlights that 31% of violence, threats, and abuse incidents were related to shoplifting in 2022. Usdaw’s general secretary, Paddy Lillis, emphasizes that shoplifting is not a victimless crime and explains the detrimental effects on shopworkers, including anxiety, fear, and physical harm. Lillis also attributes the increase in shoplifting incidents to the cost-of-living crisis, noting that theft from shops contributes to rising prices. Usdaw urges the government to facilitate coordination between retail employers, police, and the courts to ensure the safety of shopworkers and customers.

Picture attribution: Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5502986

Teachers’ Union Warn of Further Strikes Unless Education Secretary Settles Dispute

The National Education Union (NEU) has issued a warning that teachers are prepared to engage in additional strikes if Education Secretary Gillian Keegan fails to resolve the ongoing dispute by June 17. During their meeting on Thursday, the NEU’s national executive committee narrowly voted against announcing three strike dates, with the split being 28 in favor and 24 against.

Jenny Sutton, an NEU member from Hastings, expressed her disappointment with the decision, stating that it merely postpones the issue. Sutton emphasized the need for concrete action, stating, “The Tories have shown no willingness to compromise so far, and we require genuine action. Prolonging the process diminishes our momentum and makes it harder to bring new individuals into the movement.”

She further voiced concern that strikes may not occur until September, indicating that waiting for other unions to coordinate their strikes should not hinder the NEU’s actions. According to Sutton, being dependent on other unions’ decisions would limit their progress.

NEU members are currently participating in a ballot to renew their strike mandate, which is set to conclude on July 28.

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