Union News (11 June 2023)


Welcome to Union News the weekly podcast from the labour and union movement in the UK. In this episode Surge in Universal Credit Claims from Welsh Public Service Workers, RMT Members Accept New Pay Deal at ScotRail, Teaching Unions Threaten Coordinated Strikes as Government Withholds Pay Rise Report, Dundee Workers Rally in Solidarity with Bus Workers Ahead of Impending Strike, and finally, Amazon accused of ‘dirty tricks’ as GMB withdraws recognition bid. Music is by Tim Bragg.

Surge in Universal Credit Claims from Welsh Public Service Workers

A recent analysis by the GMB union highlights a significant increase of 167% in the number of public-sector workers relying on universal credit in Wales since the beginning of the pandemic. The study, based on Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, indicates a rise of 3,610 individuals receiving social security payments between late 2019 and the end of last year.

Expressing concern, Rachel Harrison, the national secretary of GMB, criticized the situation, stating that it tarnishes the honour of the nation when so many public-sector employees are compelled to depend on working benefits to sustain themselves. Harrison further emphasized that these workers should be adequately remunerated to support their families and maintain a stable living without having to rely on universal credit.

According to the ONS labour force survey, the number of Welsh public-sector workers receiving benefits stood at 2,162 in the final quarter of 2019, increasing to 5,772 by the fourth quarter of 2022.

RMT Members Accept New Pay Deal at ScotRail

In a positive development, members of the RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport) union have accepted a new pay deal at ScotRail.

Under the terms of the agreement, the country’s largest rail union will see a 5 percent increase in their basic salary, with the lowest-paid workers receiving up to 8 percent. Additionally, the union highlights that the deal includes other benefits that contribute to an enhanced overall pay package.

“This exemplifies that agreements can be reached, and it is the government, not the unions, that bears responsibility for prolonging the rail strikes,” stated Pat Harrington, a representative of Solidarity union.

Mick Lynch, the general secretary of the RMT, expressed the challenges encountered during the negotiation process and the acceptance of this modest pay deal by the members. He noted that similar agreements have been successfully negotiated in various regions, including Wales, English regions, and now Scotland.

Lynch also highlighted the disparity between the treatment of RMT members and those working for 14 other rail operators who fall under the mandate of the Department for Transport. He emphasized that the RMT has been engaged in a year-long dispute with multiple strikes, whereas ScotRail members have received annual pay increases and additional value added to their overall pay packages. Some RMT members, on the other hand, have not seen a pay rise in the last four years.

Expressing gratitude, Phil Campbell of ScotRail acknowledged the constructive approach taken by their trade union colleagues during the negotiations and emphasized that the agreed-upon pay increase is well-deserved by the employees.

Teaching Unions Threaten Coordinated Strikes as Government Withholds Pay Rise Report

Teaching unions have issued a threat of coordinated strikes next month and strongly criticized the government for not releasing a leaked report recommending a 6.5% pay rise, calling it “extremely disrespectful.” The National Education Union (NEU) sent an open letter to Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, demanding the immediate publication of the School Teachers Review Body (STRB) report and a resumption of pay negotiations.

The NEU, alongside the ASCL, NAHT, and NASUWT unions, had made these calls over two weeks ago but has not received a response. In their letter, NEU joint general secretaries Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney described the delay as disrespectful and criticized the government for not engaging in discussions about pay, the STRB report, workload, and funding.

The NEU urged the Education Secretary to publish the STRB report promptly and arrange a meeting in the following week to address the dispute and the challenges faced by schools. If these demands were not met, the NEU’s national executive would consider the option of further strike action during the week starting July 3.

The NEU, ASCL, NAHT, and NASUWT had previously announced their plan to coordinate industrial action and are preparing to ballot their members for strikes in the autumn term.

The letter from the NEU comes after Schools Minister Nick Gibb stated that the Department for Education (DfE) was considering the STRB report’s recommendations and would respond in due course.

According to the leaked report, the STRB recommended a 6.5% pay increase for teachers after the NEU rejected a 4.3% offer. The looming strike action could impact nearly every school in England.

Government data revealed a doubling of teacher vacancies over the past two years, with a record 44,000 teachers leaving their jobs in 2022 alone.

In response, a spokesperson from the DfE stated that the independent STRB had submitted its recommendations on teacher pay for 2023-24, and the government would consider them before publishing its response.

Dundee Workers Rally in Solidarity with Bus Workers Ahead of Impending Strike

Workers in Dundee showed their support for bus workers as last-minute negotiations failed, setting the stage for an upcoming strike. The strike, scheduled to begin on Monday, is expected to last for 12 weeks. Employees of Xplore Dundee, the city’s sole bus operator, including drivers, duty managers, platform staff, and administrators, are taking action over pay issues. The strike was called after workers rejected a 7 percent pay offer deemed below inflation. Unite, the union representing the workers, reported that 93 percent of bus workers backed the strike. The rally received widespread support from local politicians and unions, with calls for the city council to intervene in the dispute.

and finally, Amazon accused of ‘dirty tricks’ as GMB withdraws recognition bid

The GMB union has accused Amazon of engaging in “dirty tricks” after being compelled to withdraw its historic bid for recognition at the internet giant’s Coventry warehouse. Despite months of strike action, GMB’s membership at the warehouse had surged to 800.

Last year, Amazon publicly stated that there were 1,400 workers at the warehouse, indicating that GMB members constituted more than the required 50 percent for statutory union recognition. However, when GMB officially applied to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC), Amazon claimed to have 2,700 workers—a claim that was accepted by the CAC.

GMB members employed at Amazon Coventry allege that the warehouse has been inundated with up to 1,000 new hires since the start of the strike action. Additional strikes at Amazon Coventry are scheduled for June 12, 13, and 14.

Stuart Richards, GMB Senior Organiser, voiced concerns over Amazon’s actions, stating, “Amazon has refused to pay workers a decent wage but is now paying an additional 1,300 workers to try and bust the union. We estimate that’s more than £300,000 a week—just to prevent workers from having a voice in their workplace. This amount exceeds the cost of paying the original workforce the £15 per hour they were requesting. It’s plain and simple dirty tricks.”

While the GMB has been compelled to withdraw its application for statutory recognition, it remains committed to the cause. GMB members at Amazon are determined to continue the fight for a liveable wage and union recognition, despite the setback.

If you’ve got any thoughts or comments on this issue of Union News or want to submit a news item, simply use the comments section on whatever Social Media platform you’re listening to and/or reading Union News on or e-mail us privately at UnionNewsServices@protonmail.com. To get you started here are some questions you might like to comment on: What are your thoughts on the significant increase in the number of public-sector workers in Wales relying on universal credit during the pandemic?
Do you believe the RMT’s acceptance of a new pay deal at ScotRail sets a positive example for other unions and industries?
How do you feel about the government’s refusal to release the leaked report recommending a 6.5% pay rise for teachers, leading to threats of coordinated strikes by teaching unions?

Union News 14 May 2023

Watch Union News every week

Welcome to Union News, the podcast which brings you weekly reports from the labour and trade union movement in the UK. In this podcast TUC research finds high levels of harassment, bullying and verbal abuse towards young women at work, PCS members vote overwhelmingly for industrial action in re-ballot results, “Draw a line in the sand”: Firefighters call for routine health monitoring to combat cancer risk, Amazon Allegedly Hiring Hundreds of Workers to Break Strikes, and finally, TransPennine Express rail services taken under public control following failures and cancellations. Music in this episode is by Tim Bragg.

TUC research finds high levels of harassment, bullying and verbal abuse towards young women at work

According to a recent poll conducted by the TUC, 58% of women in the UK have experienced sexual harassment, bullying or verbal abuse at work. The figure rises to 62% for women aged between 25 and 34. The majority of women surveyed said that these incidents were not isolated, with over 60% having experienced three or more incidents of bullying at work. Many victims do not report these incidents due to fear of not being believed or damaging their career. The TUC has also accused some Conservative MPs and peers of attempting to sabotage the Worker Protection Bill, which aims to protect workers from sexual harassment and assault at work. TUC general secretary Paul Nowak has warned that these vital new protections are in danger of being delayed and derailed. The government has made amendments to the Bill to address concerns but has promised to study any further amendments in parliament.

PCS members vote overwhelmingly for industrial action in re-ballot results

PCS members in the civil service and related areas have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action. The union achieved a 88% ‘Yes’ vote for industrial action, with an overall 52% turnout, surpassing the legal threshold for action in 106 employer areas. PCS members can now take sustained, targeted strike action in any or all of these areas. The union is calling for a negotiated pay settlement and has criticized the government for treating its workforce like second-class citizens. Despite falling just short of the 50% threshold in some areas, including the DWP, the union anticipates re-balloting after consultation. The next steps in the campaign will be decided at the upcoming annual delegate conference in Brighton.

“Draw a line in the sand”: Firefighters call for routine health monitoring to combat cancer risk

Delegates at the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) 2023 conference overwhelmingly backed resolutions calling for routine health monitoring of front-line staff across the emergency service. This follows research commissioned by the FBU earlier this year that revealed firefighters are dying of cancer at 1.6 times the rate of the general population. The union’s campaign for “presumptive compensation legislation,” which is already in place in the US, Australia, and Canada, was also supported. Delegate Barry Jackson urged employers to deliver on their “moral obligation” to protect the workforce. FBU national officer Riccardo de la Torre criticised the denial of the evidence of the occupational hazards facing firefighters.

Amazon Allegedly Hiring Hundreds of Workers to Break Strikes

Amazon is allegedly hiring hundreds of new workers at its BHX4 fulfilment centre in Coventry to break strikes and prevent unionisation. The GMB union members at the centre are scheduled to strike on 24th and 26th May. Some workers at the site reported that as many as 200 new workers started on Saturday of last week. The company is hiring new staff on temporary six-month contracts, which has raised questions over whether this is an attempt to bypass union recognition. More than 700 workers have joined the union, meaning they have a legal right for their union to be officially recognised. The GMB has submitted a formal request for recognition to the Central Arbitration Committee. Workers at other fulfilment centres are planning to vote for strikes, and building united and escalating strikes is seen as the way to win.

and finally, TransPennine Express rail services taken under public control following failures and cancellations

TransPennine Express, owned by First Group, has become the latest rail operator to be taken under public control due to its failure to provide adequate services, leaving thousands of passengers stranded. TransPennine joins other failed rail services, including London North Eastern Railway, Northern, and Southeastern, under public control. Unions have reiterated their calls for the renationalisation of the whole rail network, while the government has pledged to reprivatise TransPennine once it returns to efficiency and profitability under public control. Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh reiterated Labour’s pledge to renationalise rail if elected to government.

Union News 26 December 2022


Here’s a round-up of trade union and labour related news from around the UK. In this programme union leaders announce plans for major strikes in health, post and rail sectors, Unison calls on Welsh Government to make deals with health workers to avoid strike action and military personnel take over passport inspection as Border Force workers go on strike.

Union leaders announce plans for major strikes in health, post and rail sectors

Union leaders in the UK have announced new dates for strikes in the new year across the health, post, and rail sectors. The government has been criticized for using the military to undermine strikes and for paying armed forces personnel a bonus of £20 per day for taking the place of striking workers. Nurses and ambulance workers will go on strike in January, and the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) has announced strikes for tomorrow. The RMT has accused the government of sabotaging attempts to negotiate with employers, and has said it is still willing to negotiate. The General Medical Services union and Unison have also announced new dates for strikes by ambulance workers following a strike last Wednesday. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has announced new strike dates for January, following the first-ever strike by the organization last Tuesday.

The RCN union has announced new strikes for Wednesday 18 January and Thursday 19 January after the government failed to make any new pay offer. This follows strikes on 15 and 20 December. Picket line details will be out early in 2023.

The Unison union has called further ambulance strikes on Wednesday 11 January and Monday 23 January. The GMB union has wrongly called off strikes planned for 28 December—but has instead called action alongside Unison on 11 January.

Union Unison has called on the Welsh government to make a pay deal with health workers in order to avoid strike action

Union Unison has called on the Welsh government to make a pay deal with health workers in order to avoid strike action. Unison has asked the government to “reprioritize” spending, including a £460m ($622m) tax giveaway to businesses, in order to reach a “meaningful agreement” and prevent conflict. Health workers in Wales voted by more than 90% in favour of strike action over pay, but did not meet the turnout threshold set by the Westminster government in its anti-union legislation. Unison is calling for a pay increase of £1,400, which it argues is a real-terms pay cut, and is reballoting its members in the Welsh Ambulance Service following disruption caused by strikes at Royal Mail.

Military personnel take over passport inspections at major airports as Border Force workers go on strike

Military personnel have taken over passport inspections at major airports in the UK, including Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester, as Border Force immigration workers went on strike. Members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) are striking after suffering years of real-terms pay cuts. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said that armed forces personnel will receive daily bonuses of £20 after tax for covering the strikes between 19 December and 2 January. The strikes have also affected jobcentres, driving test centres, the Rural Payment Agency and the Highways Agency. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka has warned that travellers could face further disruption unless the government improves its pay proposals.


Our music is provided by Tim Bragg. Tim is a multi-instrumentalist & singer-songwriter. You can hear his songs here: – or any streaming service or on YouTube.

If you have news, video footage, pictures etc that you want featured in Union News please email: UnionNewsServices@protonmail.com

Our view on the Budget


It’s strange to see a Tory government that seems keen to spend and intervene in the economy. Certainly, under Johnson, they’ve moved away from strict austerity and spending cuts.

But before we get too enthusiastic we need to put the budget in context and look at the detail.

The £150 billion spending increase over the next three years is not even close to enough to repair the damage they inflicted on this country in the last decade.

It’s great, for example, that there are to be 75 new “family hubs”, intended to provide a one-stop shop for various support services.

But we need to remember that this is after the Tories closed 1,300 Sure Start centres which also provided a one-stop shop for various family support services. 75 opened and 1300 closed – you do the maths!

Per pupil schools funding is set to increase. But this will only be enough to take it back to the 2010 levels by 2024 — 14 years, an entire generation, wasted.

Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity, said:

“This wasn’t a budget that will change the lives of working people for the better. Overall we will be worse off. It wasn’t the radical budget we need to build the economic strength of our country and give people real incentives to work hard. It will not make a dent in the effects of years of wage stagnation and underspending on essential services.”

The cut in the “taper rate” for universal credit — the rate at which UC payments are removed once someone starts working — is to be welcomed.

Yet this will save claimants only £2 billion in total compared with the £6bn taken from UC claimants when the £20 weekly uplift was withdrawn.

The taper reduction will not benefit unemployed UC claimants at all.

Welfare payments will rise by around 3 percent, while inflation could be 5 percent.

Prior to the budget Sunak’s officials confirmed that the minimum wage for workers aged 23 and over will rise from £8.91 an hour to £9.50. That’s welcomed by us.

But a worker on the minimum wage affected by the removal of the universal credit uplift, higher national insurance contributions, and a freeze in income tax personal allowances, will still be £807 worse off from April. And that’s before taking into account the expected rise in gas and electricity prices next year.