Welcome to Union News, your guide to the key stories from the UK Trade Union and labour movement. Writing is by Pat Harrington and music is by Tim Bragg.
Rail Workers Face Dilemma: Pay Cut Deal with Uncertain Future Conditions
Rail workers are set to vote on a proposed “memorandum of understanding” with rail bosses, offering a 5% pay rise or £1,750 (whichever is greater) to resolve the 2022 pay dispute. The deal falls significantly below inflation, amounting to a substantial real-terms pay cut. Although the proposal includes a temporary safeguard against compulsory redundancies, this guarantee expires in just over a year, with the potential for renewed attacks on jobs and working conditions. If accepted, the memorandum would suspend the union’s strike mandate until well into 2024, leaving members concerned about the long-term impact on their terms and conditions. Critics argue that the offer is inadequate, urging fellow members to vote against it. The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) emphasizes plans for 2023 pay talks, hinting at a focus on profit-driven changes to meet passenger needs. The e-ballot concludes on November 30.
Billions for Union Members Amid Greed Crisis
In a remarkable display of worker power, the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) reveals that workers across Scotland have successfully added over £4 billion to their wages and pensions by challenging employers over the past 18 months. The victories, including the restoration of £1.9 billion to university workers’ pension schemes after 69 days of UCU action, come despite calls for “pay restraint” from both UK and Scottish governments. STUC General Secretary Roz Foyer emphasizes the importance of collective strength but warns against complacency, urging vigilance as the movement faces challenges from the anti-trade union Strike (Minimum Service Levels) Bill proposed by the Tories.
RMT Members Overwhelmingly Vote to Extend London Underground Dispute
RMT members on the London Underground have voted overwhelmingly, with a 95% “yes” vote on a 54% turnout, to continue their ongoing dispute with Transport for London (TfL) regarding jobs, conditions, and pensions. The reballot extends the mandate for strike action for another six months. While strike action was temporarily suspended in October due to concessions securing job preservation, the RMT acknowledges persistent disagreements in the broader dispute. RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch congratulates members and states that the union will now assess the results and determine the next steps in the campaign. TfL is yet to comment on the matter.
Surge in Violent Incidents Across Scotland’s Public Sector Sparks Urgent Calls for Action
Scotland has witnessed a disturbing 31% surge in violent incidents within its public sector, as reported by Unison in its annual workplace violence analysis. The data reveals a staggering increase of 12,931 cases, reaching a total of 54,684 incidents during the 2022-23 period. Approximately two-thirds of these attacks occurred in councils, with schools and nurseries within councils experiencing between 80% and 98% of the incidents.
However, the report highlights an incomplete picture due to the non-response of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, the largest health board in Scotland, to freedom of information requests regarding the number of violent incidents experienced by its 43,000 staff.
Scott Donohoe, chair of Unison Scotland’s health and safety committee, emphasizes the need for immediate action to address workplace violence, rejecting the notion that it is an inherent part of the job. He calls for employers to take responsibility, advocating for stronger legislation, regulation, and government oversight.
Despite the concerning statistics, a spokesperson for the Scottish government assures that all workers, including those in the public sector, deserve protection from abuse and violence. The government underscores the robust legal powers available to address assaults, with potential sentences extending to life imprisonment.
Unison vows to pursue further action, condemning major employers who fail to respond to requests for information as indicative of a broader issue where employers neglect to gather crucial data on assaults against their staff. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has been contacted for comment.
and finally, NHS Trust Director Threatens Prosecution Over Strike, Unite Condemns “Bullying Tactics”
A director at Barts Health NHS Trust, one of Britain’s largest NHS trusts, warned workers of potential prosecution for striking just hours before a three-day walkout, as revealed by the Morning Star. Unite criticized the “bullying tactics” employed by the trust, highlighting an email sent to members of the East and South East London Pathology Partnership (ESEL) by Charlotte Mustoe, ESEL’s operations director.
Mustoe’s email emphasized that workers could face prosecution for breaching a “safe level of service agreement” with unions, especially if they failed to attend critical shifts impacting patient safety. Unite condemned these tactics as a form of intimidation, expressing no surprise at such behavior.
Despite the threat, the strike by ESEL members and other workers at St Bart’s proceeded as planned, lasting from Monday to Wednesday. Unite regional officer Tabusam Ahmed warned that if Barts Health did not cease bullying tactics and start addressing members’ concerns, the dispute would escalate.
The industrial dispute centers around issues of unsafe understaffing, increased workloads, and changes to rosters eliminating night-time roles. Workers at ESEL reported inadequate facilities, including staff having to use stairwells for lunches due to limited space and exposure to health and safety risks in pathology buildings. The East and South East London Pathology Partnership, hosted by Barts Health NHS Trust, cited the need to maintain patient safety amid strike actions.