Welcome to Union News – a podcast giving news from the trade unions and labour movement in the United Kingdom. In this edition, UK Unions Rally for Fair Pay in Widespread Demonstrations and Strikes Across Britain, Rail Strike Could Last Years Say Unions, Royal Mail Accused of Lacking Integrity as Communication Workers Union Announces Strike, New Bill to Boost Workplace Protection for Pregnant Women and New Parents Passes House of Commons, Union Leader Calls for Suspension of Deputy PM Over Bullying Claims and finally Join the Fight Against Anti-Union Bias in the Reactionary Media.
UK Unions Rally for Fair Pay in Widespread Demonstrations and Strikes Across Britain
The largest day of industrial action in decades took place on Wednesday, with around half a million workers including teachers, university workers, civil service workers, and train drivers going on strike. The marches and rallies were well-attended, with reports suggesting that new, young activists were emerging on the picket lines and rallies. Anger against the government was palpable, with workers feeling the effects of attacks on pensions, wages, and working conditions. The strikes were largely successful, with minimal signs of scabbing and public anger overwhelmingly directed not at strikers but rightly at the, culprits in our misgovernment. However, different groups of workers are at different stages in terms of strategy and escalation. The strikers must continue to push for longer and bigger strikes, demanding further united action and coordination.
There were widespread rallies and marches across Britain alongside the mass strike. Thousands of people participated in the rallies and marches in various cities, including Sheffield, Bristol, Leeds , Nottingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Glasgow. The demonstrations were attended by various unions, including RMT, Aslef, PCS, NEU, Unison, UCU, and the GMB, as well as family and friends of union members. The rallies were aimed at demanding fair pay and were marked by speeches attacking Labour leader Keir Starmer’s lack of support for the strikes. Patrick Harrington, General Secretary of the Solidarity union, commented: “The rallies were strong and large and can be built on. Better transport arrangements to bring people to the demonstrations, better advance promotion of the demonstration assembly points and paid advertising have the potential to build really large presence on the streets”.
Rail Strike Could Last Years Say Unions
The UK National Rail strikes, organized by train drivers’ union Aslef and transport union RMT over pay, jobs, and working conditions, may continue for years. Aslef’s General Secretary, Mick Whelan, stated that his members haven’t had a wage increase since 2019. The strikes resulted in major parts of the country having no rail services as multiple operators could not run trains. The rail unions have accused Downing Street of blocking a deal to end the strikes, and the talks between the Rail Delivery Group and the unions have reportedly gone backwards since the dispute began last summer.
Royal Mail Accused of Lacking Integrity as Communication Workers Union Announces Strike
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has accused Royal Mail bosses of lacking integrity during a dispute over jobs and working conditions. The CWU announced a 24-hour strike on February 16, involving over 115,000 workers, in response to Royal Mail management forcing through changes related to work structure in direct contravention of pre-existing agreements with the union. The reforms also remove the union’s right to negotiate at a local level. The General Secretary of the CWU, Dave Ward, stated that the strike is due to the conduct of management and called for the company to take negotiations seriously. Royal Mail, however, accused the union of not being interested in resolving the dispute.
New Bill to Boost Workplace Protection for Pregnant Women and New Parents Passes House of Commons
A new bill aimed at improving workplace protection for pregnant women and new parents passed the House of Commons unopposed. The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill, sponsored by Labour MP Dan Jarvis, aims to extend employment rights for new mothers and mothers-to-be by protecting them against redundancy for a longer period. The bill would create new powers to protect women from redundancy during and after pregnancy and amend existing regulations to protect parents from redundancy on their return from maternity, adoption, or shared parental leave. The bill requires employers to prioritize soon-to-be and new parents in a redundancy situation and offer them a suitable alternative vacancy if their job is at risk. The bill will now undergo further scrutiny in the House of Lords.
Union Leader Calls for Suspension of Deputy PM Over Bullying Claims
The leader of a union representing senior Whitehall officials has stated that civil servants who were allegedly bullied by Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab have experienced “mental health crises” and lost their careers. Dave Penman, general secretary of FDA, denied allegations that the complaints against Raab were politically motivated. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has appointed lawyer Adam Tolley to investigate the bullying claims against Raab, with around 50 civil servants involved in 8 formal complaints. Penman has called for Raab to be suspended during the probe.
Penman also expressed surprise at senior Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg’s warning against being “too snowflakey” about bullying allegations. The union leader emphasized that bullying behaviour can have serious consequences on an individual’s mental health and life, and it is unacceptable for such behaviour to be belittled.
and finally Join the Fight Against Anti-Union Bias in the Reactionary Media
Union News is calling on all workers and union members to join the fight against the negative portrayal of the labour community by Mainstream Media. The recent attack on teachers by the Daily Mail serves as a clear example of the anti-union bias in reactionary media.
We’re building a network of correspondents who can provide regular local labour and trade union news. This includes shop floor and office news, news related to your trade and profession, and news from the picket line.
Union News believes in positive action and the only way to challenge Mainstream Media’s negative portrayal of the labour community is by building an alternative media source.
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