NHS: Banding pay disputes intensify in Greater Manchester

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Around 200 clinical support workers and healthcare assistants at Salford Royal Hospital in Greater Manchester recently launched a collective grievance over their pay. The workers are demanding to be re-graded to NHS band 3 and backpaid to April 2018. They argue that they are doing the same job as their counterparts who are already on band 3, and so should be paid the same.

The workers handed their complaint to NHS trust bosses at the Salford Royal Hospital, and were joined online by many others at hospitals in Oldham, Rochdale and Fairfield. The trust has said that it is “disappointed” that the workers have taken this action, but that it is committed to “engaging positively” with them. A spokesman for the trust said that a final decision on the matter will be made by the end of October.

The workers’ demand for equal pay is just one example of the increasing pressure that NHS staff are under. In recent years, there have been reports of record levels of staff sickness, burnout and stress. Many staff are working excessive hours just to keep up with demand. This situation is only likely to get worse as the NHS faces further funding cuts in the years ahead.

Sandra, a band 2 clinical support worker at Salford, was furious with the trust. “In May, I had to sell my car as I could no longer afford it,” she told bosses. “I now cycle to work. I wake up at 4.20am, I leave my home at 5am and cycle 11.79 miles to work.

“During my shift I will get phone calls asking me to do things like ECGs and taking bloods. I don’t say, ‘No, I’m sorry I don’t get paid enough”. I don’t say, ‘No, I’m sorry I’m not a band 3”, I say “Yes of course I will. What bloods do you need?”

“I leave work at 7pm. I get changed and cycle the 11.79 miles home again. I usually get home around 8.30pm. I then get up the next day at 4.20am to do it all again—because I don’t get paid enough for the job I do.”

Unison union reps then handed over 900 staff signatures demanding change and asked NHS trust boss Owen Williams also to sign it. “Colleagues want me to sign something. I don’t feel I need to sign a pledge,” he replied.

Unison members then started chanting, “Sign it! Sign it! Sign it!” Williams signed the pledge.

At the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust workers are also demanding fair banding and fair pay.

Bosses at Manchester University NHS Trust need to learn to listen to workers and their representatives

One worker told us that specialist decontamination staff have sent a group petition calling on managers to give them the appropriate band and pay back money for the money they have lost from being wrongly banded. The worker said: “It is essential that employees are paid the correct rate for their position, as this not only provides a sense of fairness and justice in the workplace, but also helps to motivate and encourage staff. That is why it is so important that management listen to our concerns and address the issue of our pay rates. We simply want to be paid at the right rate for the job we do, and if we are unable to persuade management to see our point of view, we may have no choice but to escalate the matter. We hope that it does not come to this, and that management will take our concerns seriously and provide us with the fair compensation we deserve.”

Suicidal thoughts increase sharply amongst NHS and emergency workers

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The number of NHS and emergency workers seeking help for suicidal thoughts has increased sharply, research has revealed.

Solidarity union campaigns for workplace wellbeing

Figures from the Laura Hyde Foundation (LHF) shows that 946 workers contacted the charity in the first six months of 2022 for support over suicidal thoughts, up from 556 the year before.

The charity, which was set up by the family of nurse Laura Hyde who took her own life in 2016, offers help to medical and emergency service workers including nurses, doctors, paramedics, midwives, police officers and firefighters.

LHF has launched a new Feelings video to raise awareness of mental health issues among front-line workers, as the charity warned that people could face even more severe issues due to pressures from the cost-of-living crisis.

You can view the video here.

LHF chairman Liam Barnes said: “It is critically important that the new Prime Minister and her new Health Secretary put providing mental health support to emergency workers at the very top of their agenda.

“Sadly, the topic of mental health specifically for healthcare workers remains riddled with stigma. This simply has to end.”

Gemma Clay, 38, nurse and clinical doctorate fellow at the University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust, called for more action to support front-line workers.

She said: “When I talk to staff, many of them tell me that the cost-of-living crisis is having a big impact on their mental health.

“Large numbers are also suffering from PTSD linked to the pandemic and burnout due to the current pressures that exist within the service.”

HEALTH & WELLBEING AT WORK – RESEARCH FROM CIPD & SIMPLYHEALTH

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The research Includes interesting evidence on presenteeism, and Long Covid and includes a concise guide outlining how HR practitioners can support employees’ physical and mental health as we emerge from the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key findings of the research include;

  • Working when ill (presenteeism) remains prevalent and is even higher for those working from home (81% versus 65% among those in a workplace). However, 52% of HR respondents are taking steps to address this trend and investigate potential causes.
  • Just under half (46%) have employees who have experienced – or are experiencing – long COVID. Long COVID is now a major cause of long-term absence.
  • New or better support is starting to be available for people working from home. Just under three-quarters of organisations (72%) are providing new or better support for people working from home. For example, nearly half (47%) are encouraging more responsible use of digital technologies, acknowledging that regular movement breaks and time away from screens are essential for health and wellbeing.
  • There is less management focus on health and wellbeing compared with the first year of the pandemic. Seven in ten (70%) of HR respondents agree that employee wellbeing is on senior leaders’ agendas (down from 75% last year) and 60% believe that line managers have bought into the importance of wellbeing (down from 67% last year).


Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity, commented: “This latest research shows just how much work still needs to be done in these vital areas of health and well-being. It’s why our union will continue to campaign in this area”

Solidarity Launch Wellbeing at work campaign

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Employers need to work with Solidarity on their Well Being policies

Solidarity union cares about the mental health and wellbeing of its members and other workers and employees in the workplace. That’s why our National Executive has launched a campaign to ensure that Employers meet their duty of care. We will be contacting employers to raise health and safety issues with them and offer help to improve their policies and procedures. We are also gathering information on Health and Safety issues directly with employers and via Freedom of Information requests.

Do you have a health and safety issue in your workplace? Contact us at solidaritygb@aol.com

Setting up a windbreak in the face of a gale

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The Chancellor made his annual Spring Statement speech this week where he set out the Government’s tax plan.

Rishi Sunak: optimistic that wind break measures will shield us from economic gales

Key measures the Chancellor announced as part of the plan include:

• an increase to the National Insurance Primary Threshold for Class 1 NICs and the Lower Profits Limit for Class 4 NICs from 6‌‌‌ ‌‌July‌‌‌ ‌‌2022, aligning it with the equivalent income tax personal allowance which is set at £12,570 per annum

• from April 2022, self-employed individuals with profits between the Small Profits Threshold (SPT) and the Lower Profit Limit will not pay Class 2 NICs, while allowing individuals to be able to continue to build National Insurance credits

• the Employment Allowance will be increased by £1,000 from 6‌‌‌ ‌‌April 2022 to £5,000, which will benefit around 495,000 businesses

• an immediate reduction in duty on diesel and petrol from‌‌‌ ‌‌6‌‌‌‌pm on 23‌‌‌ ‌‌March 2022, by 5‌‌‌ ‌‌pence per litre, for 12 months.

The full detail on all the measures, some of which are subject to parliamentary approval, can be found on GOV.UK.

Consumer champion, Martin Lewis, said the increase in the national insurance threshold would be a tax cut for those earning under £35,000 a year.

Citing the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Lewis said the “break even” annual salary would be £35,000, meaning anyone earning less than that had been handed a tax cut.

“From July, if you earn £35,000 or less, you will pay less national insurance than you do currently on the same income.

“For those at the lower end of the scale it could be a good few hundred pounds.

“If you earn £35,000 or more, than you will pay more national insurance than you do currently.”

Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity had this to say on the Spring Statement:

“Of course, our union welcomes some of the measures announced.

Are the measures announced enough to protect the incomes of working people? No, is the simple answer.

It’s worth noting though although Sunak raised the point at which workers will start paying national insurance to £12,570 a year that won’t come into effect until July, while rates go up 1.25 percentage points in April.

Hours before Sunak made his statement, official figures showed the RPI rate of inflation — the most accurate one — had risen to 8.2 percent. If your pay or benefits are going up less than that, then you are facing a cut. Then there is also the looming threat of massively increased energy costs.

That means that even workers who’ve managed so far and could afford expenses will take a hit. Your car breaks down, your boiler needs a repair, your landlord kicks up the rent or your mortgage goes up — suddenly it’s hard to find the money. And we know that few people have anything much in a ‘rainy day’ fund.

Those who point to a new £500 million fund for councils to help the poorest cope should remember that the inflation-driven, real-terms cut in benefits equates to £12 billion.

How have we got to this point? The vast debt run up by the UK Government during the pandemic is a big part of it. In 2022-23 alone, the UK is forecast to spend a staggering £83 billion just on paying off the interest – the highest figure on record. Your union believes that the reaction to the Pandemic was disastrous, and that the government panicked and had no real plan. The unions should have been involved in planning from the start.

We must look at how to deal with this crisis on many different levels including the personal and union ones.”

Picture of Sunak. Chris McAndrew, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

VICTORY ON TIPS

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Solidarity was one of the groups that campaigned on the issue of employers stealing the tips meant for workers. Well, that battle has also been won.

The government has announced a proposed new law “as soon as parliamentary time allows” requiring employers to pass all tips to workers.

The legislation will require employers to pass on all tips, gratuities, and service charges to workers without any deductions. Employers will be required to distribute tips in a fair and transparent manner, where employers have control or significant influence over tip distribution.

The proposal also includes a new right for workers to make a request for information relating to an employer’s tipping record, to enable them to bring forward a credible claim to an employment tribunal.

End violence against workers

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Threats, abuse and violence against workers is unacceptable.

Our union has a zero tolerance approach to violence against any of our members and workers in general.

In the case of our members we are prepared to take action to pursue those who engage in this vile bullying as we have recently demonstrated. We will pursue culprits through civil and criminal routes and ensure that they are punished.

We will also look at how we can help to protect our members (in one recent case our Benevolent fund purchased a personal alarm for one of our members who had been threatened as well as advising on the pursuit of the culprit legally). 

It’s a widespread problem. There were an estimated 688,000 incidents of violence at work in 2019/20. See https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causinj/violence/index.htm

Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity, commented: “Many bosses think their duty of care end when the worker steps out of the workplace grounds even when a dispute is work related. We don’t accept that. We believe it includes acts of harassment on journeys to and from work, and when workers are away from the office on work activity. 

This should become clearer as the Westminster government’s has announced that it plans to ratify Convention 190 from the International Labour Organization’s (ILO), which says that everyone has a right to work free from violence and harassment. The Treaty will protect all workers but I’m glad to note that it specifically includes gender-based violence and harassment.

Wetherspoons – switch to UK Butter!

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J D Wetherspoon sells millions of breakfasts. All those with toast are sold with Lurpak butter. Lurpak is a brand of butter owned by Arla Foods based in Viby, Denmark. We want Wetherspoons to switch to a UK-made butter. Why?

It’s better for British jobs

Wetherspoon has earned a special place in British hearts by providing good quality food and drink at a reasonable price. It has built up a loyal following and many people visit ‘Spoons’ regularly for meals and drinks. For many, it has become their ‘local’. We want Wetherspoon to give back to our communities by supporting UK jobs whenever it can. Switching to a UK-made butter is something they can do which would support our farmers and support the home economy.

It’s better for the environment

Shortening supply chains and buying as locally as possible is better for our environment. Sourcing products for sale in the UK that are manufactured here makes sense ecologically. As a socially responsible company, we want Wetherspoon to show their commitment to that by switching to UK-made butter.

Sign the petition here

THIS WEEK’S TOP 5 CHRISTMAS GIFT TIPS

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Solidarity has teamed-up with the Third Way think-tank and the campaigning group Great UK Products You Can Buy to promote UK-made gifts this Xmas.

Each week in the run-up to Xmas we’ve been suggesting five companies to buy UK-made gifts from. It make sense for the environment and our home economy.

So here are our top 5 picks this week:

1. Christmas Cheese
https://www.thecheeseshed.com/products/cheese-gifts/christmas-cheese

Who wants a choice of three or four cheeses when you could have five? I know – ‘we would say that’ – but cheese offers a fantastic huge variety that it really is nice to take advantage of it!

The Christmas Five works like this. We start with a core trio of Ford Farm Cheddar, Devon Blue, and Cricket St Thomas Camembert. To that we add the very distinctive rich Jersey milk flavours of Sharpham Rustic … and then there’s a choice of fifth cheese: you can either have a super-soft Rosary goats’ cheese (in the version with herbs) or a fruity washed-rind Helford White. Either way, it all adds up to five beautifully different cheeses for your Christmas table.”

2. Christmas Wine
https://thebritishwinecellar.co.uk/

The British Wine Cellar is a family business, founded by husband and wife team Natasha & Gary to offer a wide variety of high-quality wines from England & Wales

3. Christmas Beer
https://www.beerhawk.co.uk/browse-beers/browse-by-country/british-beers

We’re certainly not short of fine beers made in the UK. They are stocked at all major supermarkets (Mine’s a Joker or Punk IPA!). You can also order online from Beerhawk above amongst many choices.

4. Christmas Spirits 
https://brityard.com/

I will be stocking my home bar from Brityard this year. “BritYard is the UK’s first online-only, luxury department store exclusively stocking independent British brands. Founded to change the shopping habits of UK consumers and to redefine what it means to ‘buy British’ by celebrating a diverse collection of independent British brands.” A great way to find all kinds of UK-made products.

5. Clothing gifts for Xmas
https://www.teddy-edward.com/pages/british-made-clothing

There’s a great selection of clothing at Teddy Edward for both men and women. Check out their Made In Britain range (pictured). They are clear in their pro-British philosophy: 

Here at Teddy Edward, we have a simple ethos. Our brand is based entirely on provenance, meaning that we design, source, and manufacture all our luxury clothing and accessories right here in Great Britain. No exceptions. From initial concept to the final product, Teddy Edward values the importance of maintaining age-old British skills, as well as contributing to the ethical and environmental benefits that come with being British-made clothing.

Try code TEMADEINGB10 to get 10% off when you pay.

Solidarity Launches ‘SHOP LOCAL AND BUY BRITISH CAMPAIGN’

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Our union is 100% for the British worker. That’s why we place such great emphasis on shopping local and buying UK-made goods. We want all of the people in our country to have well-paid jobs with good conditions.

This year we are again offering posters for display in home and shop windows (see featured image). Do you want A3 and A4 posters to display? We will send you some! Just send us a self-addressed envelope (SAE) with a large letter stamp on it (£1.29 for First and 96p for 2nd).

If you don’t mind your A3 poster folded then go for a C4 envelope. A standard C4 envelope measures 324mm x 229mm. This is designed to fit unfolded A4 paper. Standard A4 paper size is 210mm x 297mm. If you want your A3 poster unfolded go for a C3. A standard C3 envelope measures 458mm x 324mm. This is designed to fit unfolded A3 paper (which is double the size of A4 paper).

Send your SAE to Solidarity Trade Union, Room 407, 12 South Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1DD.