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

P&O: Sinking British Jobs

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There can’t have been many of us who weren’t shocked by the abrupt sacking of 800 British employees of P&O on Thursday.

The announcement by a recorded video message was a cruel way to deliver the news to the company’s loyal workforce. Union reaction to this outrageous act of throwing British workers onto the scrapheap was swift with the RMT’s Mick Lynch saying:
We are receiving reports that security guards at Dover are seeking to board ships with handcuffs to remove crew so they can be replaced with cheaper labour. We are seeking urgent legal action and are again calling for the government to take action to stop what is fast turning into one of the most shameful acts in the history of British industrial relations. If this happens at P&O, it can happen anywhere and we are calling for mass trade union and wider public mobilisation and protest against the company.

Nautilus General Secretary Mark Dickinson weighed in with:
The news that P&O Ferries is sacking the crew across its entire UK fleet is a betrayal of British workers. It is nothing short of scandalous given that this Dubai-owned company received millions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money during the pandemic. There was no consultation and no notice given by P&O. Be assured the full resources of Nautilus International stand ready to act in defence of our members’ best interests to stay onboard until further notice.

Manuel Cortes of the TSSA stated:
In any civilised country these actions would not only be unlawful but punishable in the harshest possible terms. Sadly, I doubt the Tory government will lift even their little finger to ensure this happens.

Workers magazine commented:
Remember when workers were told that the call for British jobs for British workers was a racist demand? So, what is it when the entire British workforce is sacked without notice over a Zoom call in order to replace them with a lower-paid foreign workforce?

Solidarity stands four square behind the P&O workers that have been so disgracefully treated by the Dubai owned company. It is scandalous that employees with in many cases a long history of service can be just unceremoniously dumped by an employer.

Unless the decision if reversed when booking any trips by sea we must be sure that this company is not one that we ever use.


P&O Ferry Picture by Fabian318, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

MOTIONS PASSED AT THE SOLIDARITY ANNUAL CONFERENCE

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Here are a selection of motions passed at the Solidarity Annual Conference held last weekend. Conference provides an opportunity for members to vote to decide the policy and direction of their union. Any member can attend our Conference which this year was held online.


Buy British
Over the last two years, post-Brexit, Solidarity has promoted a ‘Buy British’ campaign in the interest of the national economy and workforce.

The recent Ukrainian/Russian conflict has highlighted just how vulnerable the UK and the West in general is to external supplies, especially of energy, being stifled deliberately or otherwise.

This Conference believes the Union should continue supporting ‘Buy British’ campaigns and any moves to protect or replace energy/utility supplies from abroad. Over the last two years, post-Brexit, Solidarity has promoted a ‘Buy British’ campaign in the interest of the national economy and workforce.

This Conference believes the Union should continue supporting ‘Buy British’ campaigns and any moves to protect or replace energy/utility supplies from abroad.

PASSED


Solidarity with TfL workers
Conference notes that over 10,000 RMT London Underground members in all grades took strike action on 1 and 3 March, paralysing the tube network.

Many Underground services were also suspended for at least part of 2 and 4 March as a result. Also affected were some “main line” train services, especially Chiltern, which operates over London Underground tracks.

Conference believes that the government is forcing London Mayor Khan to consider eroding staff pensions and other working conditions as a condition for its financial help.

It has also dictated a fare increase 1 per cent above that imposed by the government on main line rail passengers, and wants Khan to increase the qualifying age for free travel from 60 years old.

No firm decisions have yet been announced. Conference notes that other unions, ASLEF, TSSA and Unite – are likely to join in with strike action if as expected TfL and the government announce by 31 March their intentions to cut pension provision and make massive job cuts. Conference expresses

Solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the RMT and other unions in their just fight to protect the interests fo their members.

PASSED

Importance of the collective work of the union
Conference notes the important collective work carried out by officials relating to the regulation of relationships between employer and employees.

Conference notes that these collective actions are wide-ranging and include: raising health and safety concerns, questioning policies and procedures, raising concerns about pay and conditions, asserting union rights with the employer, promoting wider public campaigns on issues that affect the terms and conditions of workers nationally, making submissions to government consultations.

Conference recognises that this work is done not just on behalf of groups of Solidarity members but also all workers with that employer.

Conference urges the National Executive to increase this work on behalf of all workers.

Conference further urges the union to study the possibility of applying for a Certificate of Independence from the Certification Office.

PASSED

Image by No-longer-here from Pixabay

ADDRESS OF GLEN NICKLASSON (PRESIDENT OF SOLIDARITY) TO THE 2022 AGM

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“Greetings, good afternoon, Comrades. Thank you all for attending this year’s AGM. Once again, we were unable to meet in person due to Covid restrictions. Restrictions that have all but died out recently so hopefully we can have a normal AGM next year.

A very big thank you to the General Secretary for his Annual Report, to those who proposed and seconded motions and to all our hard working reps without whom there would be no union. And let’s just ponder on that word for a moment; “union”. We are UNION. We are a trade union. We represent member’s individually and collectively and have been for a decade and a half and we are determined to continue to do so. We will continue to fight on issues such as low pay, bullying, zero-hour contracts, fire and re-hire and discrimination.

If there’s one form of discrimination that we detest then that is discriminating against one’s right to be in a Trade Union. It is a fundamental Human Right to organise and to be a member of a trade union and we will fight for that right to continue.

Much has changed in the last three weeks. The media has all but forgotten about Covid 19 and its variants and its obsession persuading us all to get jabbed, double-jabbed and boosted-up! The media is now obsessed with the Russia-Ukraine war. We condemn all war as is the case it’s always the young working class that end up on the battlefield spilling blood and guts. Not to mention women and children that get caught up and get labelled as collateral damage. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the peoples of Ukraine, including the ethnic Russians, and to those caught up in the two dozen other conflicts in the world that rarely get a mention.

Members will have noticed that there have been large price rises this year.

Electricity, fuel, gas, just to name a few. Many of these companies behind the price rises used to be owned by the British state but are now foreign owned and people are beginning to ask why they were sold off.

Surely, we would be better off if we owned gas, electricity, and water companies to give us more control on prices? Which leads us to another question: why are we so reliant ton foreign energy when we have our own coal and gas reserves?

We should encourage our government to explore all options concerning energy with the intention of becoming self-sufficient in providing our own energy needs.

This would undoubtedly create jobs, which is good news for the British Worker as many of these jobs will be highly skilled and well paid. Where will we get these workers from, I hear you ask? As we are all aware many sectors are experiencing a labour shortage.

For far too long successive British governments looked for labour abroad.

We encourage the government to look closer to home when looking for labour. There is a working-age population of 41 million in the UK, 25% of which do not work. You do the math, that’s 10 million people that are not working in the UK.

I’m sure many of those people are unable to work due to genuine ill health, etc., and I’m also sure that many would be enticed back into work with the right prospects, right training, and right pay.

Together with the current skills/worker shortage there’s never been a better time to join a union.

Join a fighting union. Join Solidarity.

Recruit your friends and family. Together we are strong.”

We demand a 4 day week!

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The Covid pandemic has changed a lot about the world of work not least of which is the widespread adoption of the 4 day or 32 hour working week with no reduction in pay.

Following successful trials of reduced working weeks in Iceland countries including Scotland, Spain and Ireland are planning to start their own trials.

Other countries considering a four-day week include Germany, Belgium, Portugal, and the USA, as reported on the Union News website.

In the UK the 4 Day Week Campaign has been leading the way in calling for a shorter working week and it is keen to work with trade unions and add their members’ voices to the call for a four-day week.

Solidarity is fully behind the reduction in the working week without loss of pay. It would be a step forward for workers to have more time to spend at rest, leisure, with friends and family or undertaking sport or hobbies.

A better work-life balance for workers also benefits employers as rested employees usually are more motivated and productive and have less time absent through illness.

By David Andrews

Bring back British Rail!

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Rail passengers in England and Wales have just been hit with a 3.8% rise in fares which, according to the Rail Delivery Group, is the highest rise since 2013 reported the Morning Star newspaper.

This is based on the July 2021 retail price index inflation rate plus 1% and has the effect of increasing the price of an annual season ticket between London and Brighton by £194 and between Manchester and Liverpool by £105.

Reaction to this fares hike from unions has been swift: Manuel Cortes of the TSSA said “It’s almost as though ministers want to force people off our railways and into cars in an effort to speed up our climate crisis

RMT General secretary Mick Lynch said: “The price of profiteering means instead of having fairer fares taxpayers are paying massive dividends to private rail companies.”

The RMT also points out that research indicates that rail journey costs have risen by four times that of car journeys over the last decade.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said, “It is vital that our rail system recovers the passengers it lost at the start of the pandemic, especially if we want to keep to our climate commitments”.

The campaign group “We own it” has called for the rail companies to be brought back under public ownership and says that doing so could save £1bn per year which is enough to cut rail fares by 18% or build 100 miles of new track.

Solidarity believes that public transport should be run for the benefit of passengers in a safe and affordable way. We say: “Bring back British Rail!”.

Ordinary people are being hit with cost of living rises in so many areas of life just now and to have an increase in transport costs on top of everything else is a going to be a huge blow to the many people who depend on the train to get to work and visit friends and family.

By David Andrews

Small business and union leaders call for sick pay reform

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Union and business leaders have issued a joint plea to the Government to improve sick pay and help employers deal with staff absences.

The TUC and Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) have written to the Chancellor urging him to create an “effective” sick pay system to underpin the economic recovery and to make sure all employers would be able to afford it. Unions have been stepping up campaigns for better sick pay, arguing that two million low paid workers, mainly women, do not qualify because of their low earnings.

The FSB revealed that the average cost of sickness absence to small employers was just over £3,500 last year. TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “No-one should be forced to choose between doing the right thing and self-isolating or putting food on the table, but millions of low-paid workers have faced this impossible choice.

“Two years into the pandemic, it’s time ministers stopped turning a blind eye to this obvious problem and fixed our broken sick pay system.

“Delivering sick pay for all would be an important first step, but with statutory sick pay at a measly £96 a week, we need ministers to increase it to real living wage so people can afford to self-isolate.”

Martin McTague, of the FSB, said: “Small business owners are struggling to find £5 billion a year for sick pay costs. Last year, the Chancellor responded to our calls for help with a reintroduction of the small employer sick pay rebate until the end of March.

Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity, commented: “It’s good to see unions and small business leaders coming together to lobby the government on this issue. SSP needs to be raised and include those on low pay.

The Cost of Living Crisis

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Research by the Living Wage Foundation think tank showed people are increasingly turning to payday lenders and going hungry.

A survey of 1,700 workers showed that one in five were forced to take out a payday loan and around two in five were regularly skipping meals.

It’s a damning look at the reality of Britain—even before the fuel price rises and tax increases scheduled for April.

Katherine Chapman, Living Wage Foundation director, said, “Our polling paints an unsettling picture for millions of people as rising living costs compound the challenges of two years of the pandemic.”

She called for a pay raise for “people that kept us going during the pandemic like cleaners and security guards”.

Dave Innes, head of economics at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said, “It is deeply worrying that so many low-paid workers are already skipping meals and taking on debt.”

He warned that “people on low incomes, who spend a higher proportion of their income on essentials, are at the sharpest end of the crisis.”

In addition to debt and hunger, around a third of workers also reported they couldn’t afford to keep their homes warm this winter. This crisis is set to be compounded by the astronomical rises in energy prices in April.

Energy expert Professor Alex Kemp said global increasing demand for gas meant that prices aren’t set to fall any time soon.

And bosses are already threatening to raise prices in order to protect profits. The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) bosses’ club said its survey of 1,000 businesses revealed a “cost of doing business crisis”.

Some three out of four respondents said they are planning on raising prices and half are cutting costs.

Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity commented:

“Soaring living costs are a crisis. Rising energy prices will coincide with the planned rise in National Insurance contributions and the freezing of income-tax thresholds in April. Inflation will top 7% by Spring and interest rates are already rising adding to mortgage costs. Higher taxes and energy costs will leave the average family £1300 worse off from April.”

“Sunak’s is offering an insulting £200 energy loan and 80% will receive a £150 Council Tax rebate. These measures will do little to offset the real burden faced by ordinary people.”

GENSEC ON TOUR – LONDON

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The Pandemic panic has slowed, but not ended the tour around Britain of our General Secretary, Pat Harrington.

Next stop is London on Sunday, 20 February 2022.

Pat will be available in Central London from 13:15 to meet members and discuss any cases or issues they have. To book a slot with him please email: solidaritygb@aol.com with the subject GenSec on tour.