Union News 29th January 2023

Advertisements

Welcome to this edition of Union News. News from a labour and trade union perspective. In this edition Luton Airport Workers Secure 30% Pay Rise in Unite win, Amazon Workers in UK Go on Strike for First Time Over ‘Derisory’ 50p Pay Rise, Civil Service Union Prospect Launches Massive Industrial Action Ballot, TUC warns UK government’s proposals won’t end fire-and-rehire, Ambulance Workers Stage Strike Action Over Pay Dispute, as Largest-Ever NHS Strike Looms and Workers at Job Centres and Benefit Offices to Take 20 Days of Strike Action.

Luton Airport Workers Secure 30% Pay Rise in Unite win

Luton airport baggage handlers and check-in staff are set to receive a pay rise of nearly 30% according to the Unite union. More than 200 workers employed by Menzies will receive a 20% pay increase backdated to October and will receive an additional 8.5% pay increase next month. The deal, which was secured during annual pay negotiations without strikes, also includes an improvement in overtime rates. The General Secretary of Unite praised the “excellent deal” and urged workers to join the union to improve their wages and working conditions.

Amazon Workers in UK Go on Strike for First Time Over ‘Derisory’ 50p Pay Rise

Amazon workers in Coventry, UK, have gone on strike for the first time in the United Kingdom, protesting a “derisory” pay rise of just 50 pence an hour. Union GMB, which represents the workers, said the employees “just want a decent standard of living” as inflation tops 10%. The main problem stems from “target-led performance measures” set by an “algorithm,” said GMB senior organiser Amanda Gearing. Amazon said it already offers “competitive pay, comprehensive benefits and excellent opportunities for career growth” and that the vast majority of ambulance call-outs to its buildings are related to pre-existing conditions.

Civil Service Union Prospect Launches Massive Industrial Action Ballot

The Civil Service union Prospect has begun its largest industrial action ballot of members in the public sector in over a decade. The ballot, which will take place over the next few weeks, will ask thousands of workers in government departments and other areas, including the Met Office, Natural England, and the Health and Safety Executive, whether they want to strike in protest of a 3% cap on pay offers, potential job losses, and proposed cuts to redundancy terms. In a recent indicative ballot, members voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action. Despite meeting with ministers, the union claims that there has been no progress on pay for 2022-23 and no indication that next year’s pay round will be any better.

TUC warns UK government’s proposals won’t end fire-and-rehire

The TUC (Trades Union Congress) has warned that the UK government’s “reheated” proposals to prevent another P&O-style scandal won’t deter bad bosses from treating staff like disposable labour. The charge came after Business Secretary Grant Shapps announced plans for a statutory code of practice for employers, which ministers claimed would empower employees to seek compensation from bosses engaging in fire-and-rehire tactics. The TUC says that a statutory code of practice is not going to stop another P&O-style scandal from happening and it won’t deter bad bosses from treating staff like disposable labour.

Ambulance Workers Stage Strike Action Over Pay Dispute, as Largest-Ever NHS Strike Looms

Thousands of ambulance workers across north-west England went on strike for 12 hours starting from midday on Tuesday, in a dispute over pay for overworked NHS staff. The strike was organized by the GMB union, and was followed by industrial action by thousands of GMB, Unite, and Unison ambulance employees on Monday. This strike comes ahead of what could be the largest-ever NHS strike on February 6, when all three unions are set to strike alongside nurses. The workers are demanding a proper pay offer and are accusing the Tory government of endangering patient safety and demonizing them. Labour has called on the government to clarify its commitment to free-at-the-point-of-use healthcare.

And finally,

Workers at Job Centres and Benefit Offices to Take 20 Days of Strike Action

Workers at job centres and benefit offices are set to take 20 days of strike action in an escalation of the bitter dispute over the pay, jobs and conditions of civil servants. Members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) will stage walkouts between February 9 and March 3 at job centres in Liverpool, a Department for Work and Pensions contact centre in Stockport and a benefit centre in Bolton. This comes ahead of a strike on February 1 by 100,000 PCS members in 123 government departments as part of the long-running dispute. PCS is demanding a 10% pay rise to help members through the cost-of-living crisis.

Strike to save the NHS!

Advertisements

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has announced new strike dates for February 6th and 7th, and the GMB union has announced that many of its paramedic staff will join them on the first of those two days.

Unite members across five ambulance trusts in England and Wales are also now set to go on strike on February 6th, as unions increase pressure on the government to address years of pay cuts and worsening patient safety.

The government has expressed disappointment but willingness to engage in pay talks with the unions. Unite general secretary Sharon Graham has criticized the government for demonizing ambulance workers and not taking action to protect the NHS.

Here at Solidarity, as our name suggests, we believe in the value of solidarity.

Showing solidarity with striking nurses is important for several reasons.

Firstly, nurses, like other healthcare workers, are on the frontlines of the healthcare system and are essential in providing care and treatment to patients.

They have been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic, often putting their own health at risk, and deserve fair pay for the work that they do. Secondly, the fight for fair pay for nurses is not just about them, but about ensuring that the healthcare system as a whole is properly funded and can provide the best possible care for patients.

When nurses and other healthcare workers are underpaid and overworked, it can lead to burnout and a lack of staff, which can negatively impact patient care.

Furthermore, the struggle for fair pay for nurses is connected to the broader struggle for workers’ rights and a fair economy.

The government’s refusal to provide fair pay for nurses is part of a larger agenda of austerity and cutting public services.

By showing solidarity with striking nurses, other workers are standing up for the right to fair pay and against the erosion of workers’ rights and the public sector.

Finally, showing solidarity with striking nurses can help to build a stronger and more united workers’ movement. When workers from different sectors and industries come together to support each other, it makes it harder for the government and employers to divide and conquer. By standing in solidarity with striking nurses, other workers are sending a message that they will not be divided and will fight together for fair pay and better working conditions for all.

There are two things you can do right now:

  1. Join a picket line if you can and show you care about the NHS and fair pay for staff.
  2. Donate to the RCN Strike Fund

The RCN has launched a donation page for members of the public to contribute to our strike fund after people have got in touch to ask how they can help support strikes in a practical way.
During strikes, nursing staff forfeit a day’s wage for each day of action they take part in. To protect them from the financial impact of this fight for patient safety, they can receive £50 for each day they strike through the RCN strike fund.

Members of the public can now show their support for nursing strike action by donating to the fund.

Pat Cullen of the RCN said: “We’re all paying the price for the UK government’s failure to pay nursing staff fairly. The NHS is in crisis and nursing staff have been forced to strike to protect our profession and our patients.

“More than a decade of real-terms pay cuts have put the nursing profession and safe patient care at risk. Shifts are understaffed, tens of thousands of posts are vacant and nursing staff are struggling to keep afloat.

“Governments think if they ignore nursing staff for long enough our members will be forced to give in. But we know something they don’t. We know that the public is with us, shoulder to shoulder with nursing staff.”

Union News 21 January 2023

Advertisements

In this weeks programme: NHS Staff Show Solidarity and Determined Mood in Strikes for Fair Pay, Trade unionists gather to oppose war, Wales First Minister Warns Anti-Strike Laws Will “Inflame” Public Sector Disputes, Rail Workers Should Reject Insulting Pay Offer from Employers and Education Unions in Scotland Demand “Substantially Improved” Pay Offers.

NHS Staff Show Solidarity and Determined Mood in Strikes for Fair Pay

NHS staff are in a determined mood, as seen by the nurses’ strikes on Wednesday and Thursday, ambulance strikes in Wales on Thursday, and more ambulance action set for England next week. There is a lot of public support for the strikes, with passing vehicles honking in support of the strikers. The RCN union has responded to the nurses’ anger by naming new dates for strike action, with 12-hour strikes planned for both 6 and 7 February. The GMB union for ambulance workers will also be striking on 6 February, potentially leading to a major NHS strike that day. There is also a feeling of solidarity among the strikers, with many saying that NHS workers “simply have to be part of” the TUC day of action on 1 February to defend the right to strike.

Trade unionists gather to oppose war

Trade unionists have gathered in London for a conference on strengthening voices for peace in the labour movement. The World at War – a Trade Union Issue has been called by the Stop the War Coalition in response to efforts to silence peace campaigners in the Labour Party and a narrow vote to support increased arms spending by the Trades Union Congress. Speakers included National Education Union joint general secretary Kevin Courtney, Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan, RMT president Alex Gordon, Fire Brigades Union officer Riccardo la Torre and Warren Smith of the Maritime Union of Australia, among others. The conference focused on reaffirming that war is a trade union issue, making opposition to war more central to trade union activity and reversing TUC policy on increasing arms expenditure.

Wales First Minister Warns Anti-Strike Laws Will “Inflame” Public Sector Disputes

Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford, who is also the leader of the Labour party in Wales, has warned that new anti-strike laws proposed by the UK government will “inflame disputes across the public sector”. This statement comes as workers and their trade unions across Britain prepare for a day of action against the new laws on February 1st. Drakeford criticized the proposed laws, saying that they will restrict workers’ right to take industrial action and further inflame current disputes in the public sector. Unison, a public sector union, has also spoken out against the laws, with more than 90% of health worker members in Wales voting for industrial action in a pay dispute.

Rail Workers Should Reject Insulting Pay Offer from Employers

Rail workers across 13 train operating companies in the UK have been offered a pay rise of 5% or a £1,750 increase for last year and 4% for this year by the Rail Delivery Group, the employers’ representative. The offer also includes the closure or “repurposing” of all station ticket offices, mandatory Sunday working, a two-tier pay structure for new hires and “flexible working” for all employees. The offer also includes worse holidays and sick pay. The previous offer was rejected by the RMT union as it was below inflation and included attacks on working conditions. The RMT leaders are considering the new offer and have not yet made a decision. Many rail workers are calling for the RMT leaders to reject the offer and to prepare for escalation of strikes.

Education Unions in Scotland Demand “Substantially Improved” Pay Offers

Education unions in Scotland have warned that only “substantially improved” pay offers will end the ongoing teaching strikes. The Scottish negotiating committee for teachers, which is made up of SNP ministers, local authority leaders, and trade unions, met again today to discuss the issue. The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the largest union for educators in Scotland, welcomed further discussions but emphasized that a failure to improve on last year’s below-inflation 5% wage increase for most workers would result in continued strikes. The EIS launched 16 days of rolling strikes earlier this week, with staff in two council areas striking each day. Teachers who walked out in Angus and East Dunbartonshire today are demanding a 10% wage increase to match inflation.

We hope you have enjoyed this edition of Union News. Please consider subscribing. Music in this broadcast is by Tim Bragg.

Tim is a multi-instrumentalist & singer-songwriter. You can hear his songs here:
Video credit: Roving Reporter

Health workers anger on pay

Advertisements
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.

Edinburgh: Stand up for the bin workers

Advertisements

Cleansing staff at Edinburgh City Council went out on strike on Thursday August 18, as part of the protest over pay.

The walkout, the first in a series of protests planned by trade unions, is due to go on until August 30, with bins around the city already overflowing with rubbish as a result of not being emptied.

The action comes while Edinburgh is the venue for an international Festival of arts and culture. It is a huge embarassment for the City Council and SNP government.

Local authorities this weekend increased their below-inflation pay offer from 3.5 per cent to 5 per cent.

Alison Maclean of Unite noted: “While the 5% offer is an improvement, it is important to emphasise that it comes at a time when the broader retail price index has now hit a 40-year high at 12.3%.

Unite’s local government committee will urgently consider this latest offer. At this juncture the strikes for next week continue as planned.”

Comedian Mark Thomas has joined forces with the city’s Stand venue to organise a benefit in solidarity with the strikers on Wednesday. The money raised will go straight to the GMB’s official strike fund.

Comedians and members of the public are supporting the strikers

Thomas says: “These are the workers who got us through Covid and now they are being told to take a real cut in their wages. It’s unacceptable and they deserve our support in fighting back.

GMB support worker Kirsten Muat added: “Too many local government workers across Scotland are already suffering in work poverty. The bin men in Edinburgh are striking to try and put an end to that.

“GMB are incredibly grateful to everyone supporting the striking workers, including all the comedians and members of the public coming along to the benefit gig.

The benefit will take place at The Stand’s New Town Theatre at 9pm on Wednesday. Tickets are £20, or £5 for strikers.

Also on the bill are Jason Byrne, Jo Caulfield, Kiri Pritchard-McLean, Mark Nelson, Shazia Mirza, Suse McCabe, Rachel Fairburn, Vladimir McTavish and Danny Bhoy.

You can buy tickets here: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/stand-up-for-the-bin-workers

Picture credit for overflowing bins: (C) Pat Harrington. All rights reserved.