Solidarity: winning for members

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Solidarity Reps work to win cases for members on all kinds of workplace issues. Here is a sample of our recent cases.

Getting a reasonable adjustment


A member who suffers from a medical condition was running into trouble with her manager for repeated sickness absences. Using the Company’s absence procedures, it looked like the member would be forced out on medical grounds or simply on a failure to work.Solidarity asked the member to contact her GP to see if her condition was in reality a disability. Her GP confirmed that. The Union pointed out that the Equalities Act expects disabled employees to be offered a ‘Reasonable Adjustment’ i.e., allowing or offering a way of working or specific equipment that will allow the employee to perform to the best of their ability. In this case the equipment as set up was aggravating a medical condition leading to sickness absence.

Adjustments (which were reasonable for both the individual and company) resolved the problem.

Assault allegation kicked out

A Solidarity member in the NHS was accused of assault. She was told it could amount to gross misconduct and he could lose his job. It became clear at the disciplinary that the hearing Chair had inappropriately spoken to witness. Our Rep pointed out this procedural flaw which resulted in the sanction being downgraded to a warning. On appeal our Rep was able to get the warning thrown out.

Accused of sexual harassment but mitigating factors put forward

In another NHS case a member was accused of sexual harassment of a patient. He was told he could lose his job. Our Rep, however, was able to point out mitigating circumstances and the insight practiced by the member with the result that the member received only a warning.Half pay on sickness restored to full payA member was moved onto half pay during a sickness absence caused by the inaction of management in dealing with work stress. Solidarity was able to persuade the company to pay full pay in back pay for the period in question.

Attempts to kick out a discrimination case foiled


An attempt to kick out a discrimination claim on behalf of a member at a Preliminary hearing was foiled by our General Secretary. An attempt to say that the wrong company had been named as the employer was abandoned by the Barrister representing the employer as a result of evidence of the links between the various companies involved. The Barrister had to clarify which company was the employer and to accept the substitution of their name on the paperwork. The case will now go forward to a five-day tribunal hearing unless a settlement can be agreed.

Inflation up again – pay battles must continue

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Union leaders should co-ordinate strike action and organise big demonstrations against the return of austerity and under inflation pay rises (wage cuts) say Solidarity union.

Price rises surged again in September. New official statistics released on Wednesday showed the RPI inflation rate had bit 12.6 percent, a rise of 0.3 percent.

The main driver was higher food prices, which went up by almost 15 percent. The figure means that if wages “rise” by, say, 4 percent, that is actually a cut of 8.6 percent.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the government’s preferred CPI measure of inflation rose 0.5 percent in the month compared with August to 10.1 percent.

Darren Morgan, ONS director of economic statistics, said, “After last month’s small fall, headline inflation returned to its high seen earlier in the summer. The rise was driven by further increases across food, which saw its largest annual rise in over 40 years.”

Price rises have not yet peaked, despite the energy price guarantee limiting gas and electricity bills this winter. The ONS said electricity prices rose by 54 percent and gas prices almost doubled in the year to September.

The September figure is also the number normally used for the uprating of benefits, including the state pension. Last Tuesday, new chancellor Jeremy Hunt could not guarantee the government would stick to its “triple lock” commitment on pensions. That would increase them by earnings, prices or 2.5 per cent—whichever is highest.

Cutting pensions and benefits as inflation keeps rising means an assault on millions of ordinary people. It will mean deep poverty, malnutrition, illness and death.

Patrick Harrington, general secretary of Solidarity said: All unions must fight for wage increases that at least match inflation. Workers are already being hit hard. We must also oppose any attempt to cut public services. Only co-ordinated strikes and street demonstrations will help us to win. Let’s start with the small things we can do to back the strikers.”

Small steps you can take to support the strikers

Go to your local picket line

Display a poster in your window backing the strikers

I support my postie
I support my postal worker

Make a small contribution to a strike fund

Wear a badge or T-shirt backing the strikers

Health workers anger on pay

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Health secretary Therese Coffey said recently that NHS workers will not get a higher pay offer than the present one of 3 percent. So for all the praise during the most deadly phase of the pandemic, health workers are now being told to take a pay cut of almost 10 percent.

It’s another reason to vote for strikes in the ballots taking place now. Sharon Graham, leader of the Unite union, said, “With RPI now up to 12.6 percent, workers and communities must not pay for a crisis they did not create. We will not stand by and watch the country take a pay cut while corporations profit and the government pours petrol on the fire.

”“Vote yes to save the NHS!” is the Unison union’s slogan as it launches a massive strike ballot over pay. Some 320,000 health workers in England and Wales are set to receive ballot papers in the coming days. It comes after the government imposed a rise of just 4 percent—less than a third of the rate of inflation. Unison is joining the nurses’ RCN, midwives’ RCM, Unite, GMB and physiotherapists’ unions in asking its members to hit back with strikes. It now looks likely that there will be action by at least some groups of NHS workers in December or early next year.

The Unison ballot is “disaggregated”, meaning the vote will take place on a trust by trust basis. Organisers hope this will allow workers in parts of the NHS where union organisation is strong to strike, even if weaker areas fail to meet the Tories’ 50 percent turnout threshold. Pat Harrington, general secretary of Solidarity, commented: “Our brothers and sisters in other unions will need to mount an enormous campaign to get the vote out. We have a number of members in the NHS and we will be discussing with them as to how best we can support any strikes and picket lines.”

Picture credit: KollectivFuture 2022. All rights reserved.

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.”

Take to the streets in solidarity with the strikers

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This Saturday is shaping up to be a big day of resistance, with 175,000 workers set to strike across the country. The strikes come in response to the Tories’ declaration of intensified class war in their mini-budget last week, which included plans to break unions and push for wage cuts.

Marches and rallies are planned in around 30 cities and towns, there will be plenty of opportunities for solidarity on the picket lines.  

Patrick Harrington, the general secretary of Solidarity union said: “In response to the Tories’ declaration of intensified war on ordinary workers in their mini-budget last week and the below inflation pay offers (pay cuts), 175,000 workers across the country are set to strike this Saturday. With marches and rallies planned in around 30 cities and towns, this could be one of the biggest showings of the power of ordinary workers strength in recent years. I urge every decent person to stand with the strikers by attending the demonstrations and picket lines.”

If we want to win, we need more strikes, escalating strikes, and united strikes that fight to win. This is just the beginning – let’s make it a day to remember! Only then can we hope to put an end to this declaration of war on workers. Saturday promises to be a big day – let’s make it a step forward in the fight for our collective future.

It’s time to take to the streets.

On October 1st, get out to the following locations to support the strikes and the five demands of Enough is Enough.

Protests:

LONDON

12pm, Kings Cross station, N1 9AL

MANCHESTER

12pm, Piccadilly Gardens, M1 1RN

LIVERPOOL

12pm, St. George’s Plateau, L1 1JJ

LEEDS

10am, Leeds Train Station, LS1 4DY

GLASGOW

12pm, buchanan street steps, G1 2NG

BIRMINGHAM

12pm, Birmingham New Street Station, B2 4QA

BRISTOL

12pm, Square in front of Knights Templar, BS1 6DG

CARDIFF

11am, Cardiff Central Library, CF10 1FL

NORWICH

11am, King Street near Last Pub Standing, nr1 1pd

NOTTINGHAM

11am, Nottingham train station, NG2 3AQ

NEWCASTLE

12pm, Grey’s Monument, NE1 7AN

HULL

12pm, Queens Garden, HU1 3FA

PORTSMOUTH

10am, Guildhall square, PO1 9ST

PLYMOUTH

12pm, Plymouth Guildhall, PL1 2BJ

SOUTHEND

10.30am, Royal Mail, Short street, SS1 1AA

HASTINGS

11am, HASTINGS STATION, TN34 1BA

ELLESMERE PORT

12pm, Stanney Grange Community Centre, CH65 9HE

HUDDERSFIELD

1pm, St. George’s Square,  HD1 1LA

LANCASTER

11am, Royal Mail, Fenton Street, LA1 1AA

BATH

12.30pm, The Orange Grove, BA1 1EE

SHEFFIELD

11.30am, Devonshire Green, S1 4GT

COLCHESTER

2pm, War Memorial, ME7 1HL

DARLINGTON

1pm, high row opposite post house wynd, DL3 7LP

PRESTON

12pm, Flag Market, PR1 2AP

DUNDEE

12pm, 110 Blackness Road, DD1 5PB

ABERDEEN

11am, Marischal college, AB10 1AB

STOKE-ON-TRENT

10am, Network Rail Depot, Stoke Road,  ST4 2QH

WALSALL

12pm, Royal Mail, Hatherton Street, WS1 1AA

CANTERBURY

1pm, Canterbury Baptist Church, CT1 1UT

LUTON

12pm, Town Hall, George Street Luton LU1 2BQ

BLACKPOOL (FRIDAY SEPT 30)

7PM, Bootleg Social, 30 Topping St, FY1 3AQ

BRIGHTON

11am, Brighton Train Station, BN1 3XP

HARLOW

11AM, The Obelisk, Broad Walk, CM20 1HA

WEYMOUTH

11am, King’s Statue, DT4 7AN

EASTBOURNE

12pm, Eastbourne Library, BN21 4TL

CHESTERFIELD

11am, Shentall Gardens, S40 1LW

EDINBURGH

10.30AM, Waverley Bridge, EH1 1BQ

More cities and towns to come. Non-listed locations by Friday are asked to assemble at their local picket line at 12pm.

Two TV programmes for Trade Unionists next week

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Crisis, What Crisis? Will Truss face the same fate as Callaghan?

Next week, Channel 5 will be airing two programmes that are of interest to Trade Unionists. The first, 1978: Winter of Discontent, tells the story of the seven months of strikes by British workers that led to the downfall of then – prime minister James Callaghan. Featuring interviews with key players on both sides of the dispute, the programme provides a fascinating insight into one of the most momentous periods in British industrial history. With the worst weather for a decade, 13 million days were lost to strikes, with thousands of schools closed, hospitals only admitting emergency patients and the dead remaining unburied. The second, Britain On Strike: The Debate, is a live discussion featuring a panel of experts discussing the reasons for and the impact of the recent wave of strikes on British society. Are the strikes justified? Are they the best way to bring about change? Who is to blame for the disruption?

Sunday 2 October is 1978: Winter of Discontent (Channel 5 at 9pm) and on Monday 3 October Britain On Strike: The Debate (Channel 5 at 9pm). Thanks to our friends over at Counter Culture for the heads-up.

Picture credit: See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The bankers budget: the devil in the detail

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Kwarteng, the Tory chancellor, signalled £45 billions of tax cuts, overwhelmingly for the very rich.

The cap on bankers’ bonuses will go—and the fattest of fat cats will again be cheering their puppet in Number 11 Downing Street.

Rupert Lee-Browne, chief executive of foreign exchange group Caxton, said that “with enticing tax cuts, removal of bonus caps, regulatory reform and huge spending plans, these measures will put a big smile on the face of the City”.

Kwarteng confirmed that corporation tax—paid by the top 10 percent of businesses—would not rise from 19p in the pound to 25p, as promised by his predecessor Rishi Sunak. It could have raised £17 billion a year from businesses to repair public finances.

From next April the present 45 percent top rate of tax—which applies to those grabbing over £150,000 a year—will be scrapped. So, the top rate will be 40 percent. This means mega earners pay the same rate as those on £50,000. This is a generous present to roughly the richest 1 percent at a time of national hardship.

The chancellor said he would also cut the basic rate of income tax by 1p in the pound to 19 percent in April 2023. That’s a year earlier than the government had previously promised and again it’s the rich who will gain most.

It will do nothing for 21 million adults surviving on less than £21,570 a year. But it’s a boon for business. The move will reduce tax for 920,000 businesses by nearly £10,000 on average next year.

Kwarteng said the government’s recent increase in national insurance contributions will be cancelled. The more you grab, the more you benefit from this. Someone earning £20,000 will get an additional £1.79 a week while a person on £100,000 will collect an extra £21 a week.

Analysis by the Resolution Foundation showed that half of the gains from personal tax cuts will go to the richest 5 percent. They will on average be £8,560 a year better off. In contrast, just 12 percent will go to the poorest half of households.

Meanwhile, 120,000 people on Universal Credit who earn less than the equivalent of 15 hours a week at National Living Wage rates will be forced to meet regularly with a “Work Coach”. And they’ll have to take active steps to increase their earnings.

If they don’t, the authorities will slash their meagre benefits. It’s an attempt to force them into low paid jobs.

As expected, there will be a cap on energy bills. But, at an average of £2,500 a year, it’s still double what people were paying a year ago.

Analysis from the End Fuel Poverty Coalition suggests that just under a quarter of all households will still fall into fuel poverty this year, even with this new energy price freeze and previously announced measures.

A budget for the bankers

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The government is picking a fight with unions and workers after it revealed a “bankers’ budget” last week that aims to further restrict the right to strike and does little for ordinary people but much for the super-rich.

Trade union leaders have called the government’s mini-Budget a “Robin Hood in reverse” that hands a giveaway to the super-rich while holding down workers’ pay.

Following the budget, TSSA and Unite announced fresh strikes in the ongoing rail disputes over jobs, pay and conditions.

All the major rail unions are now taking strike action on October 1.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “The government should be working towards a negotiated settlement in the national rail dispute, not seeking to make it even harder to take effective strike action.

“RMT and other unions will not sit idly by or meekly accept any further obstacles on their members exercising the basic human right to withdraw their labour.”

And TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said that the new rules will only elongate disputes and do nothing to encourage employers to negotiate realistic offers.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady labelled the Budget “Robin Hood in reverse,” slamming Prime Minister Liz Truss for holding down wages and lining the pockets of big corporations and City bankers.

“We should be rewarding work, not wealth. The party of pay cuts strikes again.”

Ms O’Grady said a “very different plan” was needed in the full autumn Budget, including the boosting of the minimum wage, universal credit and pensions.

She added: “Nobody takes the decision to strike lightly, but the right to strike to defend pay and conditions is a fundamental British freedom.

“And it’s the last line of defence against employers who refuse to negotiate fair pay.

“These new restrictions are unworkable, very likely illegal and designed to hold down pay across the economy.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said that billionaires and City bankers will “once again be considering which tax haven they will stash their money in, while millions of ordinary families continue to struggle to make ends meet.”

Solidarity general secretary Patrick Harrington said: “This budget does very little to help ordinary working people but a lot for the richest in our society. It’s an insult to all those struggling to make ends meet. The attacks on unions seeking to maintain their members living standards must meet mounting resistance both in workplaces and on the streets.”

GMB general secretary Gary Smith said the announcement had “set in stone an economy that’s rigged against the working people.

“Our members want an economic policy that works for all, not just the spivs and speculators who have done very well out of a Tory government,” he said.

Royal College of Nursing chief executive Pat Cullen urged members to back strike action as she struck out at the package that gives “billions to bankers and nothing to nurses.”

Resolution Foundation chief executive Torsten Bell said those earning £1 million annually will get a £55,000 tax cut next year.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said it shows the government has “no understanding of the economic reality facing millions across the UK.

Chief economist Rebecca McDonald said: “This is a Budget that has wilfully ignored families struggling through a cost-of-living emergency and instead targeted its action at the richest.

United protests and actions on October 1

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Saturday 1 October is set to be a major day of united strikes by over 170,000 workers. Rail workers, workers at Royal Mail and dock workers at Felixstowe will all strike. The media has dubbed the day of action a ‘perfect storm’.

On Friday the RMT emailed its 40,000 members on Network Rail and 14 train operating companies about a new strike date of 1 October. General secretary Mick Lynch added: “Due to the period of national mourning, the RMT will be making no press or public statements regarding the action.” The union may announce another day, probably 5 October, later.

The Aslef union, although it has also made no public statement, is also calling for more strikes by around 9,000 drivers at 12 companies. The managing director of rail operator LNER, David Horne, tweeted that the union had notified it of strikes on 1 October and 5 October.

The TSSA rail union has also called strikes for 1 October.

Over 115,000 Royal Mail workers in the CWU union were already set to strike on 1 October. And there are also scheduled strikes by more than 560 dockworkers at the Port of Liverpool, and 1,900 workers at the port of Felixstowe that cover that day. Together they move 60 percent of Britain’s container traffic.

The Liverpool strike is from Monday until 3 October and the Felixstowe one is from 27 September to 5 October. Unity is a big step forward. Pressure from below has helped to push the union leaders to call strikes on the same day.

On 1 October the Enough is Enough campaign needs to mobilise the 600,000 people who have signed up to its campaign. It calls for real pay rises, taxing the rich, an end to food poverty, decent homes for all and slashed energy bills.

It has now announced protests for 1 October in 13 cities — London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, Nottingham, Hull, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Norwich and Bristol. These can unite the picket lines and wider groups. Everyone should build them.

Don’t Pay UK have also called protests on the day.

Patrick Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity union, commented:

The value of wages, having been stagnant for 12 years, is now falling. Offers of wage increases which are less than the rate of inflation is, in effect, wage cuts. That’s the stark reality for workers and that’s the main reason for strikes and protests. You can’t take money from people’s pockets without them getting angry.

“The other factor is that after a decade of austerity, people have had enough. They’ve seen public services privatised and being run for profit, not for need or the public good . That’s why the Labour Party’s pledge under Corbyn to renationalise the railways and water companies, as well as bring energy back into public ownership, was so popular.”

It’s good to see unions striking on the same day and that protests are being organised by Enough is Enough. If workers are to protect their living standards, then this action must spread and escalate. Workers must not be made to pay for bad government decisions and policy.  We need to see more days of action, and co-ordinated action, until we get a decent pay rise for all.”

Harrington continued:

“There is a lot of anger out there. And it needs to be harnessed in a constructive way so that workers get the pay rise that they deserve. That’s why I’m encouraging everyone to get involved in the protests on 1 October, and to support the strikers.”