Welcome to Union News, the weekly podcast for the labour and trade union movement. In this edition: Outrage as NHS Funds Flow to Private Companies Amidst Record Waiting Lists, Camden Traffic Wardens Brave the Rain to Demand Fair Pay in Lively Protest, Amazon Workers Rally for Fair Wages: One Year Since Historic Walkout, Bus Drivers in Manchester Stage Powerful Strikes for Better Pay and Working Conditions, Rank and File Construction Workers Fight for Rights and Fair Pay on Major Projects and UNITE Demands Scottish Government to Step Up on Local Government Pay Amidst Looming Strikes. Writing is by Pat Harrington and music is from Tim Bragg.
Outrage as NHS Funds Flow to Private Companies Amidst Record Waiting Lists
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced plans to establish 13 new community-based centres to diagnose patients and tackle the record waiting lists of 7.47 million patients. However, eight of these centres will be run by private companies, raising concerns among health campaigners. Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) warned that funnelling £19 billion to the private sector is draining vital resources from the NHS. Critics argue that long-term solutions are needed, including adequate investment in the NHS and addressing chronic underfunding, as opposed to temporary fixes through private involvement. The NHS faces staff shortages and struggles to retain workers due to real-terms pay cuts, making the move towards private-sector involvement controversial and potentially detrimental to the NHS’s overall resources. Camden
Traffic Wardens Brave the Rain to Demand Fair Pay in Lively Protest
Traffic wardens in Camden, employed by outsourcer NSL, took to the streets in an all-out strike demanding a pay rise. Around 60 strikers marched through the north London borough, joined by Unison union members, St Mungo’s homelessness charity strikers, and UCU union members from across London. The workers are resolute in their fight for better pay, with bosses offering a disappointing raise to £15 an hour in three years, while the strikers demand £15.90 on a one-year deal. They are also highlighting the unequal treatment faced by black and Asian workers and are determined to achieve their main aims. The spirited protest has garnered support from the public, and the strikers are unwavering in their fight against low pay and racist outsourcing practices.
Amazon Workers Rally for Fair Wages: One Year Since Historic Walkout
Hundreds of Amazon workers in Coventry and Rugeley marked the one-year anniversary of their biggest walkout in Britain with defiant rallies. Shouting “Freedom, we will not stop,” the workers demanded fair wages and better working conditions. Despite facing heavy private security and newly erected metal barriers, they stood strong in their calls for a cost-of-living pay rise to £15 per hour. Strikers shared their struggles of working long hours, barely having time for family, and resorting to second jobs just to make ends meet. Amazon’s attempts to deter the rallies with metal fences backfired, only igniting the workers’ determination to be heard. With one year of striking under their belt, the workers continue to fight for their rights and fair treatment in the face of corporate resistance.
Bus Drivers in Manchester Stage Powerful Strikes for Better Pay and Working Conditions
Around 350 bus drivers employed by First Manchester launched strike action for improved pay in July and continued their picket lines on Friday. They will be joined by more than 1,000 Stagecoach bus drivers next week, escalating the pay dispute. The drivers, members of Unite, rejected the offered pay increase of 7.4% backdated to April with an additional 3.4% in October, deeming it insufficient to address their high living costs and chronic staff shortages. Both First Manchester and Stagecoach have reported significant revenues and profits, yet the drivers’ wages remain the lowest in the region. The ongoing strikes demonstrate the drivers’ determination to secure fair pay and better working conditions as they make their voices heard in the pursuit of a resolution.
Rank and File Construction Workers Fight for Rights and Fair Pay on Major Projects
Construction workers at Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in Somerset and Stanlow oil refinery in Ellesmere Port are taking significant stands to secure their rights and fair pay. At Hinkley Point C, mechanical and electrical workers walked out to oppose travel allowance cuts, while scaffolders stopped work to resist changes in shift patterns. Both groups of workers are determined to win their battles, with the support of rank and file movements. At Stanlow oil refinery, workers successfully cabined up to force through a bonus payment, highlighting the potential for rank and file organization in the construction sector. These ongoing disputes demonstrate the power of collective action among workers and their determination to secure better working conditions and fair treatment. and finally,
UNITE Demands Scottish Government to Step Up on Local Government Pay Amidst Looming Strikes
UNITE, the powerful workers’ union, has issued a strong call to the Scottish government, urging them to “get involved and get real” concerning local government pay. This stern warning comes in the wake of an announcement by the union that its members in schools and early years positions across 10 councils have voted in favour of striking. UNITE’s regional officer, Graham McNab, revealed to BBC radio’s Good Morning Scotland that a potential strike could commence as early as September. However, McNab emphasized that the timing decision hinges on the outcome of the ongoing Unison ballot. This allows both UNITE and the GMB to collaboratively “discuss our plan of attack and our action.” The strike ballots were prompted by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) offer, which falls considerably short of expectations. The offer claims to provide an average pay increase of 5.5%, a stark contrast to the current inflation rate of 10.7%. UNITE Executive Committee member Eddie Cassidy condemned this offer as derisory and demanded that the Scottish government face the reality of the situation. Cassidy expressed his frustration, stating, “Year after year we have to threaten strike action just to get them to match the Tory settlements down south. A 5% offer with real inflation still well over 10% is a pay cut pure and simple — and we’ve had enough. It’s time the Scottish government got involved and got real.” The Scottish government responded by stating that local government pay negotiations are a matter for local authorities and unions. Despite UK government cuts, the Scottish government has allocated an additional £155 million to support substantial pay raises for local government workers. This allocation has already been factored into the pay offer put forth by Cosla. As the potential strike looms and tensions escalate, the call from UNITE to the Scottish government to “get involved and get real” reverberates as a rallying cry for fair treatment and just compensation in the local government sector.