More than 100 maintenance workers at Magenta Living, a social housing provider in Merseyside, recently ended their strike after winning a deal over safe working with asbestos.
The strike, which began in February, was sparked by a change to the organization’s asbestos policy that required workers to handle the dangerous substance if they came across it in a property. But the workers, represented by the union Unite, stood together and successfully negotiated a new agreement that protects their health and safety.
The workers’ success in this strike is a testament to the power of collective action. By standing together and withholding their labour, they were able to force their employer to address their concerns and make changes to its policies. The new agreement ensures that staff who have opted out of handling asbestos will not be forced to undertake essential tasks with the dangerous material, which can cause cancer. This is a significant victory for the workers, who can now go about their jobs with greater peace of mind knowing that their health and safety are being protected.
This strike also highlights the importance of having a strong union to represent workers’ interests. Unite general secretary Sharon Graham praised the workers for standing together in their union and achieving this excellent result. She emphasized that the safety of union members is non-negotiable and that Unite always supports workers concerned about their health and wellbeing in the workplace. By having a strong union behind them, the Magenta Living workers were able to negotiate a better deal for themselves and ensure that their voices were heard.
The Magenta Living strike is just one example of how strikes can win for workers.
Higher pay win
In another example striking mill workers at an animal feed and nutritional product manufacturer have won a huge pay boost worth more than 13 per cent, their union Unite announced today.
The union confirmed that further walkouts by the 150 staff at AB AGRI have been cancelled after they voted to accept the two-year deal.
It includes a wage boost of 4.5 per cent backdated to October 2022, plus a one-off payment worth 1.5 per cent. From September this year, salaries will increase again by 5.5 per cent, followed by a further 2 per cent in January 2024.
An additional day’s annual leave and an agreement to allow union recognition across the firm’s mills — in Suffolk, Norfolk, Oxfordshire, Fife, Devon, Lincolnshire and East and North Yorkshire — is also included, Unite confirmed.
Both strikes show that strikes can win. These strikes are a powerful reminder that workers have the power to effect change when they stand together and demand better. When employees stand together and demand better working conditions, they can achieve real change. In recent years, we have seen strikes by teachers, healthcare workers, and other groups of employees who have successfully won better wages, benefits, and working conditions. By withholding their labour and disrupting business as usual, workers can force their employers to take their concerns seriously and make real changes to improve their working conditions.
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.
The TUC’s day of action over anti-union laws was a welcome start and we look forward to co-operation with those who are fighting restrictions on the right to protest. . As Patrick Harrington, General Secretary of the Solidarity union, states, “Solidarity is a small but disciplined union. Our members are attending pickets and rallies and will never cross a picket line. They know that only united action by workers organized through unions that won’t sell them out will win. That’s why I and they say: victory to the strikers.”
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.
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 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.”
Statement to members for period ended 31 December 2021
as required by section 32a of trade union and labour relations (consolidation) act 1992
Income and Expenditure
The total income of the union for the period was £21,393. This amount included payments of £18,437 in respect of membership income of the union. The union’s total expenditure for the period was £21,219.
The union does not maintain a Political Fund.
General Secretary Salary and Other benefits
The General Secretary of the union was paid £9,098 in respect of salary and £2,510 in respect of benefits.
A member who is concerned that some irregularity may be occurring, or have occurred, in the conduct of the financial affairs of the union may take steps with a view to investigating further, obtaining clarification and, if necessary, securing regularisation of that conduct.
The member may raise any such concern with such one or more of the following as it seems appropriate to raise it with: the officials of the union, the trustees of the property of the union, the auditor or auditors of the union, the Certification Officer (who is an independent officer appointed by the Secretary of State) and the police.
Where a member believes that the financial affairs of the union have been or are being conducted in breach of the law or in breach of the rules of the union and contemplates bringing civil proceedings against the union or responsible officials or trustees, he should consider obtaining independent legal advice.
INDEPENDENT AUDITORS’ REPORT TO THE MEMBERS OF THE SOLIDARITY UNION
We have audited the financial statements of Solidarity for the year ended 31 December 2021 and notes to the financial statements, including a summary of significant accounting policies. The financial reporting framework that has been applied in their preparation is applicable law and United Kingdom Accounting Standards, including Financial Reporting Standard 102 The Financial Reporting Standard applicable in the UK and Republic of Ireland (United Kingdom Generally Accepted Accounting Practice).
In our opinion the financial statements:
• give a true and fair view of the state of the group and Union’s affairs as at 31 December 2021 and of its transactions for the year then ended; and
• have been prepared in accordance with the requirements of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1992.
Basis for opinion
We conducted our audit in accordance with International Standards on Auditing (UK) (ISAs (UK)) and applicable law. Our responsibilities under those standards are further described in the Auditor’s responsibilities for the audit of the financial statements section of our report. We are independent of the union in accordance with the ethical requirements that are relevant to our audit of the financial statements in the UK, including the FRC’s Ethical Standard, and we have fulfilled our other ethical responsibilities in accordance with these requirements. We believe that the audit evidence we have obtained is sufficient and appropriate to provide a basis for our opinion. Conclusions relating to going concern We have nothing to report in respect of the following matters in relation to which the ISAs (UK) require us to report to you where:
• the officers’ use of the going concern basis of accounting in the preparation of the financial statements is not appropriate; or
• the officers have not disclosed in the financial statements any identified material uncertainties that may cast significant doubt about the union’s ability to continue to adopt the going concern basis of accounting for a period of at least twelve months from the date when the financial statements are authorised for issue.
The officers are responsible for the other information. The other information comprises the information included in the annual report, other than the financial statements and our auditor’s report thereon. Our opinion on the financial statements does not cover the other information and, except to the extent otherwise explicitly stated in our report, we do not express any form of assurance conclusion thereon. In connection with our audit of the financial statements, our responsibility is to read the other information and, in doing so, consider whether the other information is materially inconsistent with the financial statements or our knowledge obtained in the audit or otherwise appears to be materially misstated. If we identify such material inconsistencies or apparent material misstatements, we are required to determine whether there is a material misstatement in the financial statements or a material misstatement of the other information. If, based on the work we have performed, we conclude that there is a material misstatement of this other information, we are required to report that fact. We have nothing to report in this regard. Matters on which we are required to report by exception We have nothing to report in respect of the following matters where the Trades Union and Labour Relations Act 1992 requires us to report to you if, in our opinion:
• proper accounting records have not been kept;
• a satisfactory system of control over its accounting records, cash holdings, and receipts and remittances have not been maintained; or
• the financial statements are not in agreement with the accounting records and returns. Responsibilities of officers
The officers are responsible for the other information. The other information comprises the information included in the annual report, other than the financial statements and our auditor’s report thereon.
Our opinion on the financial statements does not cover the other information and, except to the extent otherwise explicitly stated in our report, we do not express any form of assurance conclusion thereon. In connection with our audit of the financial statements, our responsibility is to read the other information and, in doing so, consider whether the other information is materially inconsistent with the financial statements or our knowledge obtained in the audit or otherwise appears to be materially misstated. If we identify such material inconsistencies or apparent material misstatements, we are required to determine whether there is a material misstatement in the financial statements or a material misstatement of the other information. If based on the work we have performed, we conclude that there is a material misstatement of this other information, we are required to report that fact. We have nothing to report in this regard.
Matters on which we are required to report by exception
We have nothing to report in respect of the following matters where the Trades Union and Labour Relations Act 1992 requires us to report to you if, in our opinion: • proper accounting records have not been kept;
• a satisfactory system of control over its accounting records, cash holdings and receipts and remittances have not been maintained; or
• the financial statements are not in agreement with the accounting records and returns.
Responsibilities of officers
The officers are responsible for the preparation of the financial statements and for being satisfied that they give a true and fair view, and for such internal control as the officers determine is necessary to enable the preparation of financial statements that are free from material misstatement, whether due to fraud or error. We have been appointed as auditors under section 33 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1992 and report in accordance with section 36 of that Act. In preparing the financial statements, the officers are responsible for assessing the union’s ability to continue as a going concern, disclosing, as applicable, matters related to going concern, and using the going concern basis of accounting unless the officers either intend to liquidate the union or to cease operations or have no realistic alternative but to do so. Auditor’s responsibilities for the audit of the financial statements Our objectives are to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements as a whole are free from material misstatement, whether due to fraud or error and to issue an auditor’s report that includes our opinion.
Reasonable assurance is a high level of assurance but is not a guarantee that an audit conducted in accordance with ISAs (UK) will always detect a material misstatement when it exists. Misstatements can arise from fraud or error and are considered material if, individually or in the aggregate, they could reasonably be expected to influence the economic decisions of users taken on the basis of these financial statements. In preparing this year’s unaudited company accounts, the union found errors in the previous accounts. The errors are an understated bank balance brought forward of £180, This was because money put aside in a reserve account was missed. The attention of the Auditor was drawn to this error. Only last year’s accounts are affected. The balance sheet was affected and this has been adjusted this year. After discussion with the union, I accept that this was an oversight of facts that existed at the time the financial statements were prepared. The matter can be dealt with through a restatement of last year’s closing balance which is included in this AR21 and can be read alongside this report. I do not consider this to be a material misstatement due to the sum involved and the likely lack of effect on users. The Reserve fund had no income or expenditure as it was used only for transfers from other union accounts in and transfers to other union accounts out. A further description of our responsibilities for the audit of the financial statements is located on the Financial Reporting Council’s website at: http://www.frc.org.uk/auditorsresponsibilities. This description forms part of our auditor’s report.
Do you need help at a grievance meeting? Are you facing a Disciplinary hearing? Not in a union? Solidarity union can still help. We offer an affordable fixed fee to provide representation to non-members who have a problem. Email us at email@example.com so we can start to help.