In recent times, there has been a noticeable increase in the level of militancy among British workers as they demand greater protection of their rights, fair pay and better conditions.
This development is encouraging and suggests that the British are beginning to emulate the French, who are known for their propensity to protest and strike when their wages, conditions, and pensions are under threat.
One striking example of French workers’ determination to defend their rights is the ongoing massive nationwide protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age by two years. The protests have been going on for many days, and various groups, including union confederations, the French Communist Party, and student unions, have all been central to the fight against the proposed attack on pension rights.
The determination of the French workers to continue protesting until their demands are met is a trait that British workers would do well to emulate. The recent increase in strikes and protests by British workers shows that they are beginning to take a leaf out of the French book in this regard. This is a positive development that bodes well for the future of workers’ rights in the UK.
While some may view these actions as disruptive, it is important to note that protests and strikes are essential tools for workers to protect their rights and improve their working conditions. By taking collective action, workers can exert pressure on employers and the government to address their concerns and ensure that they are treated fairly.
The growing militancy among British workers in their fight for their rights is a welcome sign that we may be getting more like the French. By emulating the French workers’ determination to defend their rights, British workers can ensure that their voices are heard and their rights are protected. Protests and strikes may be disruptive, but they are essential tools for workers to demand the respect and dignity that they deserve.
Welcome to Union News the podcast that brings you news of the UK labour and trade union movement. In this edition: NHS workers in Wales to vote on pay offer, Firefighters donate engine to Palestinians, University workers begin marking boycott, and, Posties to vote on pay offfer. Music is by Tim Bragg.
NHS workers in Wales to vote on pay offer
Health workers in Wales are being balloted on an improved pay offer from the Welsh government, aimed at ending a long-running dispute over salaries. Unite is not recommending acceptance of the offer, but strike action will be paused while voting is held over the next month. Unison, however, is recommending that its members accept the offer, which includes commitments to reductions in the qualifying period for unsocial hours and enhancements on sick pay.
For 2022-23, a collective agreement was reached earlier this year which provided 3 per cent, half of which was a non-consolidated cash payment, on top of the average 4.7 per cent increase already made following the Pay Review Body recommendations.
The offer for 2022-23 is a one-off NHS Recovery Payment of an average 3 per cent non-consolidated payment.
For 2023-24, the offer is for a consolidated across-the-board increase of 5 per cent with effect from April 1 2023 to Agenda for Change pay scales.
If the offer is accepted, this means that NHS staff in Wales will have received an average award of over 15.7 per cent, of which 11.2 per cent is consolidated into pay permanently, said the Welsh government.
Firefighters donate engine to Palestinians
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has donated a fire engine to Palestinian firefighters for the third time in a year as part of its ongoing solidarity efforts. The FBU has also trained hundreds of Palestinian firefighters in Scotland and sent firefighting equipment to several cities in Palestine. Ian Morris of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said surplus or reusable assets and equipment should be shared to support firefighters around the world. Jim Malone of the FBU said the latest donation would help Palestinian firefighters provide better coverage in communities under “illegal apartheid occupation”.
University workers begin marking boycott
Workers at 145 universities in the UK have started a marking and assessment boycott in their ongoing fight over pay, equalities, and pensions. Despite attempts by the general secretary of UCU union, Jo Grady, to delay the boycott, members voted to keep up and escalate action at a higher education special sector conference. The conference also passed a motion calling for greater democracy and organisation among rank and file members, including fortnightly branch delegates’ meetings or national strike committees.
Posties to vote on pay offer
Postal workers are being recommended to accept a new pay deal that would end the long-running dispute with the Royal Mail. CWU members will be balloted on the offer in the coming weeks. Leaders of the Communications Workers Union are supporting a ‘Yes’ vote.
The deal includes a real-terms pay cut over three years.
There would be no improvement on the 2 percent that was forced on workers last year—and which they voted to strike against. Starting from April this year, there would be a 6 percent increment, along with a lump-sum payment of £500 that would not be included in workers’ regular wages. However, the following year, they would have to settle for a paltry 2 percent rise.
On a more positive note the deal includes a profit-sharing scheme dependent on profits, where the first 20 percent of profits are shared out among workers as an annual bonus. Of course, this is dependent on the business making profits and cannot be relied on in the same way as a wage increase. Nonetheless offering profit sharing as part of a bundle of incentives and rewards is something to be generally welcomed.
But make no mistake this is a deal which even leaving aside the low pay offer has parts which should worry workers.
The deal assures that there will be no mandatory layoffs, but only until April 2025. Beyond that date, there will be a reassessment where the management will likely push for more job cuts. Some positions, particularly in airport locations, are already at risk as the management plans to decrease mail flights. Affected workers will need to either take up positions in other areas or opt for voluntary redundancy.
Another disturbing aspect of the proposed agreement leaves suspended or sacked reps at the mercy of a right-wing Labour lord, Lord Falconera. He is a personal friend of Tony Blair and advised the coal bosses against the NUM union during the 1984-5 strike.
There are also concerns that the deal pushes workers’ conditions closer to a gig-economy model, with seasonal hours, late shifts, and potential rewards schemes for parcel deliveries. The deal also creates a two-tier workforce, with new workers on worse terms and conditions, and incentivizes bosses to replace existing workers with them.
Postal workers need to take a long hard look at the proposed deal before voting.
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Welcome to Union News, the podcast that brings you news of the labour and union movement in the United Kingdom. In this edition, Nurses vote to continue strikes, Unison win equal pay campaign, Cleaners strike for fair pay, and Environment Agency workers start strikes. Music is by Tim Bragg.
Nurses vote to continue strikes
Nurses in England are planning to go on a 48-hour strike from the evening of April 30 after rejecting a pay offer from Tory ministers. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) reported that 54% of its members voted to reject the offer, and a grassroots revolt led by cross-union group NHS Workers Say No played a decisive role in the decision. The walkouts will also involve nursing staff working in emergency departments, intensive care units, cancer care and other services that were previously exempt. The crisis in the healthcare sector cannot be addressed without significant action that addresses urgent recruitment and retention issues and nursing pay.
Unison win equal pay campaign
After a decade-long campaign by the union Unison, hundreds of women council workers in Brighton and Hove will receive pay equal to their male colleagues. The workers will also receive a settlement of up to £2,000 each as part of the landmark deal. The pay disparity began in 2013 when a special bank holiday payment was negotiated for refuse and recycling workers, which benefited male employees, while low-paid women staff, many in the care sector, continued working on bank holidays without extra pay. The deal brings “historic inequality to an end,” Unison said, and should put pressure on other local authorities to address gender pay disparities.
Cleaners strike for fair pay
RMT union members, who clean trains on Avanti West Coast, GWR, Northern, GTR and Southeastern, rounded off a 48-hour strike on Saturday.Train cleaners working for outsourcers Churchill, Bidvest Noonan and Atalian Servest, and employed by Avanti West Coast, GWR, Northern, GTR and Southeastern, have gone on strike more than 20 times since February 2022 to demand a pay increase to at least £15 an hour, sick pay, free travel and better pensions and holidays. The cleaners are calling for the contracts to be ripped up to bring them back in house. The strikes are having an impact on the train operating companies, and union campaigning has led to free travel being granted to outsourced workers at Transport for London. Bella Fashola, a picketer in Hastings, is confident of workers winning a reballot at the end of May to renew their strike mandate.
and finally, Environment Agency workers start strikes
Members of Unison at the Environment Agency began a weekend of strikes on Friday in protest against what they described as “woeful” pay. The action, which will continue until 7 am on Monday, is an escalation of last year’s industrial action over a “terrible deal” of a 2% increase and a one-off lump sum of £345, according to the union. UNISON has now written to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt requesting that he intervene to provide additional funds for the public body to pay its employees fairly. UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea warned that “uncompetitive pay” is causing a worker exodus at a time when environmental damage and rising pollution levels are in the spotlight.
Our graphic highlights a number of upcoming strikes by fellow British workers who are fighting for fair pay and working conditions. It is becoming increasingly clear that people cannot manage on below inflation “pay rises” that are, in reality, pay cuts. Unfortunately, this year, many workers are facing not just one but multiple years of real-terms wage cuts.
People are understandably fed up and are taking action to fight back against these unfair policies. At Solidarity, we firmly believe that it is important to support and stand with our brothers and sisters in other unions when they take action. This is why we are explaining the reasons behind these strikes and urging you to join the picket lines if possible.
It is true that times are tough, but we encourage you to consider making a small donation to the strike funds if you can. Every little bit helps and can make a big difference in supporting those who are fighting for fair pay and better working conditions.
The strikes are not just about money, they are also about dignity and respect for workers. Many of the workers who will be striking are in essential services such as healthcare, transportation, and education. They are on the front lines every day, providing vital services to our communities, and deserve to be treated with fairness and respect.
We urge you to show your support for these workers and stand in solidarity with them as they fight for their rights. By doing so, we can send a message to employers and the government that we will not stand idly by while workers are treated unfairly. Together, we can make a difference and create a better future for all workers.
Why are the junior doctors in the British Medical Association striking?
The strikes are mainly over pay. The BMA said the wage for junior doctors has fallen 26% in the last 15 years, with newly qualified medics making less than a barista in a coffee shop.
It has demanded a 35% pay rise for junior doctors to bring salaries back to 2008-2009 levels, calling this “pay restoration”.
“The lack of investment in wages by the government has made it harder to recruit and retain junior doctors,” the BMA said.
“If junior doctors are forced out of the NHS because of poor pay and conditions, the services we all rely on to look after our loved ones will suffer.”
Why are teachers in the National Education Union striking?
Experienced teachers’ pay has fallen by one fifth in real terms since 2010, and that the current cost-of-living crisis in Britain is exacerbating the problem. It is also troubling to hear that the government is suggesting only a five per cent increase in pay for experienced teachers, which is effectively a seven per cent cut when inflation is factored in.
It is not surprising that long hours and poor pay are causing many teachers to leave the profession, leading to a recruitment and retention crisis in education. This situation ultimately harms children’s education, as there are not enough teachers to provide high-quality instruction. Furthermore, when supply teachers or unqualified teachers are used, it can negatively impact students’ learning outcomes.
It is important for the government to take action to address this issue and prioritize the recruitment and retention of qualified teachers. This includes providing fair and competitive pay, reducing workload, and ensuring that teachers are supported and valued for the important work they do. It is crucial for the future of education in Britain that we invest in our teachers and provide them with the resources and support they need to succeed.
What can I do to help the workers?
You can join striking staff on the picket lines.
Why are civil and public servants in the PCS striking?
Their industrial action is in support of our claim for a 10% pay rise, pensions justice, job security and no cuts to redundancy terms. The PCS been carrying out targeted industrial action with specific groups of members, designed to cause the most disruption to the employer.
Why are Amazon workers in the GMB at the Coventry Warehouse striking?
Workers at Amazon’s Coventry warehouse have announced six fresh strike dates, as the GMB union prepares to test support for stoppages among staff at another five of the delivery company’s sites.
Strikes at the vast Coventry centre, known as BHX4, began in January – the first industrial action ever taken against Amazon in the UK. Staff are demanding pay of £15 an hour.
The GMB claims to have signed up hundreds of new members among the workforce at Coventry and in Amazon sites further afield since the dispute began.
Amazon announced a fresh pay rise for all its UK staff earlier this month but the union said this amounted to an average of only 1.8%-2.5%, describing it as “an insult”.
More than 560 workers are now expected to join in two three-day stoppages, one from 16-18 April and another from 21-23 April. Previously fewer than 300 staff were involved. The union believes it is edging closer to the 50% membership that would allow it to apply for statutory recognition.
Welcome to Union News the podcast reporting on the labour and trade union movement in the UK. In this week’s episode: British Teachers Work an Average of 54 Hours per Week, Unite Warns of 12-Week Strike at Kaefer, Junior Doctors to strike for a further four days, Teachers debate calls for key worker home discounts, and finally, Protests and strikes continue in France. Music in this podcast is by Tim Bragg.
British Teachers Work an Average of 54 Hours per Week
A survey by the NASUWT teaching union has found that teachers in Britain work an average of 54 hours per week, with 13 of those hours falling outside of normal school hours. 87% of the 8,464 NASUWT members surveyed said their workload had increased over the past year, and 83% said their job had adversely affected their mental health. The union is calling for a contractual limit on working hours to ensure staff can enjoy a life outside of work. The government has committed to forming a taskforce to reduce teacher worload by five hours per week.
Unite Warns of 12-Week Strike at Kaefer
Defence contractor Kaefer may face a 12-week, all-out strike by Unite members including painters, scaffolders, cleaners and support service workers. The union has warned that work on the £1.25bn type-31 frigate contract at the Rosyth yard in Fife could be “significantly delayed” due to the strike, after rejecting a 7.2% pay offer from the employer. Unite regional industrial officer Bob MacGregor has criticised Kaefer and Babcock, which owns the yard, for their handling of industrial relations at Rosyth. A Babcock spokesman said it was aware of the situation and would work to mitigate any impacts to Rosyth operations.
Junior Doctors to strike for a further four days
Health officials have expressed deep concern about patient care provision during the four-day strike planned by junior doctors next week. The British Medical Association (BMA) has called its members to strike from tomorrow to Saturday next week. NHS managers are concerned about emergency cover and the impact on operating lists, as many consultants who stepped in during previous strikes will be on holiday over Easter week.
But Dr Latifa Patel, BMA workforce lead officer, said: “No-one understands better than us, the doctors who care for them, that patients are getting a substandard experience 365 days a year from an overstretched and understaffed NHS.
“In this brutal work environment, patient care is at risk every day due to chronic staff shortages and years of underinvestment in equipment and services.
“We have a jointly agreed system with NHS England in place to ensure patient safety in the event of extreme and unforeseen circumstances.
“We met with NHS England four times per day during the last strikes to monitor the situation, but there were no requests for a derogation – a temporary stoppage of the industrial action – to be made.
“The same proven arrangements will be in place this time.
“Junior doctors have no desire to strike, they been pushed into this action by long-term government inaction and now want to bring this dispute to an end as quickly as possible.
“We hope the Health Secretary will come to the table immediately with a meaningful pay offer so doctors can avoid more strike action and instead return to doing what they want to be doing: caring for their patients.”
The Department of Health and Social Care has refused BMA’s demand for a 35% pay rise to make up for years of pay cuts, claiming it is unreasonable and unaffordable.
Teachers debate calls for key worker home discounts
At the NASUWT conference this weekend, a motion to campaign for rental and first-time buyer discount schemes of at least 30% below market prices in high-cost areas was debated. The motion highlights that increased housing costs have made it difficult to recruit and retain teachers, particularly younger teachers. A recent survey of NASUWT members under 30 showed that 71% consider housing to be a major factor in their decision to remain in the profession. Two-thirds have experienced a rise in rent or mortgage over the past year, with 31% experiencing a rise between £100 and £200. The general secretary of NASUWT, Dr Patrick Roach, has called for the government to prioritize teachers’ access to affordable housing and to extend discount schemes for rental and first-time buyers.
and finally, Protests and strikes continue in France
France is currently experiencing widespread demonstrations and strikes in response to President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to raise the age of pension entitlement. The protests have grown to address issues such as democracy, police violence, and social organisation. The 11th day of protests on Thursday saw over 370 planned gatherings, with huge numbers of people marching in Paris, Marseille and Nantes. In a move showing international solidarity, Belgian trade unionists blockaded a major oil depot set to supply French petrol stations with fuel. Protesters also blocked roads and roundabouts and invaded the headquarters of the multinational BlackRock in Paris. Sophie Binet, the new CGT general secretary, says it’s urgent for workers and students to find a way to win on pensions and push out Macron. She noted that the mobilisation will continue in one form or another after this week, despite the forthcoming ruling by the Constitutional Council on whether the pension measure was passed legally.
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.
Welcome to Union News, the podcast giving you reports from the labour and trade union movement in the United Kingdom. Music in this podcast is by Tim Bragg. In this weeks episode: Heathrow security guards launch 10-day strike over pay, Amazon Workers in Coventry to Strike Again Over Pay, Daniel Kebede elected as new General Secretary of National Education Union, and finally, Royal Mail accused of corporate blackmail as bosses claim strikes have pushed the company to the brink of bankruptcy.
Heathrow security guards launch 10-day strike over pay
Security guards at Heathrow Airport have begun a 10-day strike over pay, affecting the busy Easter weekend. Approximately 1,400 members of Unite are involved in the walkout after last-minute talks failed. Picket lines have been mounted outside the airport and the strike has been described as “well supported” by Unite. While the airport has said its contingency plans are working well, some British Airways flights are expected to be cancelled. Unite claims that Heathrow can afford to pay a decent pay rise to its workers, many of whom are on “poverty pay”. The strikes involve security officers at Terminal Five, which is used exclusively by British Airways, and campus security guards responsible for checking airport cargo.
Amazon Workers in Coventry to Strike Again Over Pay
Workers at Amazon’s fulfilment centre in Coventry are set to stage a fresh strike over pay. More than 500 members of the GMB union will walk out for three days from April 16th, followed by another strike from April 21st to 23rd. The strikes follow previous stoppages earlier this year, and the GMB is also balloting its members at five other Amazon sites across the Midlands for strikes over pay. The union’s senior organiser, Amanda Gearing, said that industrial action is growing and that Amazon needs to urgently get serious and talk pay with GMB. Amazon announced that from next week, the minimum starting pay for its employees will increase to between £11 and £12 an hour depending on location.
Daniel Kebede elected as new General Secretary of National Education Union
Daniel Kebede has won the ballot of members to become the general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), making him the first sole leader of the union. Kebede, a qualified primary school teacher, was the union’s national president between 2021 and 2022. His appointment will take effect on September 1, and he will replace joint general secretaries Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney. In response to the news, Bousted and Courtney congratulated Kebede and offered their commiserations to runner-up Niamh Sweeney. Kebede has a law degree from the University of Wales.
And finally, Royal Mail accused of corporate blackmail as bosses claim strikes have pushed the company to the brink of bankruptcy
Royal Mail bosses are claiming that the strikes by the Communication Workers Union (CWU) have put the company on the brink of bankruptcy, which could result in a government-appointed administrator splitting up the company and selling its profitable parcels side of the business. CWU leaders have been in talks with bosses for months, but without any success, while bosses have been making workplace cuts and victimizing workers.
Royal Mail’s claim that strikes have pushed the company to the brink of bankruptcy is being described as corporate blackmail. The company recorded a profit of £758 million in the year to March 2022, and distributed around £567 million to shareholders in dividends and share buybacks.
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British Airways image by Wael from Pixabay Amazon image by Mustafa Keskin from Pixabay Royal Mail logo by KollectivFuture
Welcome to Union News which reports on the labour and trade union movement in the UK. In this podcast Fire Brigades Union calls for mass campaign to resist UK government’s ‘draconian’ anti-strike legislation, Workers at London’s largest sixth form college vote for 30 days of strikes, Junior doctors in England to hold longest strike in NHS history over pay dispute, National Express bus drivers continue indefinite strike in West Midlands, while balloting on new pay offer and Join the Active Minority and Help Build Union News: Donate Today! Music in this podcast is by Tim Bragg.
Fire Brigades Union calls for mass campaign to resist UK government’s ‘draconian’ anti-strike legislation
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has called for a mass campaign of resistance against the UK government’s Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, which is currently at committee stage in the House of Lords. The proposed legislation would allow bosses and ministers to sack workers who refuse to cross picket lines and provide a minimum service level during walkouts in six key sectors. The FBU’s general secretary, Matt Wrack, described the bill as the “most draconian attack on the rights of working people in decades” and called for a mass movement of non-cooperation and non-compliance to defeat it. The Trades Union Congress has also condemned the bill and is being urged to organise an emergency congress and a sustained campaign of resistance.
Workers at London’s largest sixth form college vote for 30 days of strikes
NEU union members at NewVic, the largest sixth form college in London, have unanimously voted for 30 days of strikes in a dispute over management attacks on their working conditions and students’ education. The strikes will take place three days a week for ten weeks from the beginning of the summer term in April. This is the third dispute in the past 12 months at NewVic, and workers have grown stronger and more experienced through their previous struggles. Workers have cited a lack of concern for education and a focus on money from management, and delivered a vote of no-confidence in the principal in January. The first strike day will also see a mass meeting, with NEU joint general secretaries invited to attend along with other trade unionists, local councillors, and supporters.
Junior doctors in England to hold longest strike in NHS history over pay dispute
Junior doctors in England are planning to hold a four-day strike from Tuesday, 11 April, in the longest such action so far over the health service pay dispute. The doctors, represented by the British Medical Association, are calling for their pay to be restored to 2013 levels, which would represent a 26% increase. The action is expected to force the cancellation of thousands of operations and the closure of outpatient services. The union leadership has accused the government of failing to make any credible offer in negotiations. Other health unions are recommending that their members accept a pay deal that the BMA deems inadequate.
National Express bus drivers continue indefinite strike in West Midlands, while balloting on new pay offer
Over 3,100 National Express bus drivers in the West Midlands continue their indefinite strike as they ballot on a new pay offer. The Unite union members walked out in several cities on Monday, impacting the number of buses running in the entire West Midlands area. The new offer includes a 16.2 percent increase on all current driver pay rates, formalizing existing interim overtime rates, and accident pay to be paid at 12-week average pay. However, the 16.2 percent pay offer still would not take drivers up to the £18 an hour rate. Workers have been balloting on the offer.
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The following motions were passed at the 2023 meeting of Solidarity union.
Motion for Union Meeting in Support of Strikers
The following motion is being presented in support of the strikers who have taken action to defend their rights and livelihoods: WHEREAS, workers across the country are facing real-terms pay cuts, with inflation outstripping wage increases; and WHEREAS, the recent government decision to freeze public sector pay, and the ongoing economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, means that many workers are struggling to maintain their existing living standards; and WHEREAS, strikes are a legitimate form of industrial action that allow workers to defend their rights and working conditions; and WHEREAS, the recent strike action taken by many unions is an example of workers exercising their right to strike in order to defend their pay and conditions; THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that this union meeting expresses its full support for the striking workers and their right to take industrial action in order to defend their rights and livelihoods; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this union will take all necessary steps to support the striking workers, including providing practical and financial assistance where possible; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this union calls on the government and employers to negotiate in good faith with the striking workers, and to work towards a resolution of the current dispute that recognizes the legitimate concerns and interests of all parties. We urge all members to support this motion and to stand in solidarity with the striking workers as they fight for fair pay and conditions.
Proposed: Patrick Harrington. Seconded: Dave Andrews
Motion: Building Union Counter-Media to Combat Mainstream Media’s Reactionary Narrative
This meeting recognises the vital importance of the media in shaping public opinion, and the significant influence of mainstream media, particularly print media, in promoting a reactionary narrative that undermines the interests of working people. We believe that it is necessary for unions to build their own counter-media in order to challenge this narrative and promote a more positive view of unions and the work they do. We welcome the opportunities offered by new technology, which make it easier to create and distribute pro-union content to a wider audience. We acknowledge the importance of Union News, which is supported by non-financial voluntary contributions from Solidarity union members, as an example of a successful pro-union media outlet. We believe that it is crucial for unions to support such initiatives and work to expand their reach using new technology. Therefore, we resolve to continue to find ways to expand pro-union media, using new technology to reach a wider audience and challenge the reactionary narrative promoted by mainstream media. We urge all unions to support this effort and work together to build a media landscape that accurately reflects the interests of working people.
Proposed: John Field. Seconded: David Kerr
Motion: Opposing the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill
The proposed Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill is a draconian piece of legislation that will severely limit the right of workers to take strike action. This motion condemns the bill and commits the Solidarity Union to oppose it through all available means. The bill will allow ministers to impose regulations that will force workers to work during strikes in six sectors, including health, education, fire and rescue, border force, nuclear decommissioning, and transport. Employers will be able to issue work notices that name who must work and what they must do. Workers who refuse to comply could face dismissal and unions could be hit with huge damages. The bill is undemocratic as it forces workers to cross picket lines even if they have voted to strike in a legal ballot. It is also counter-productive as the government’s own analysis warns that it could lead to more strikes. Moreover, it ignores the steps that workers already take to ensure that life-and-limb cover is in place during industrial action. The proposed legislation will infringe on individuals’ freedom by allowing employers to dismiss workers who take part in a strike that has been agreed in a democratic ballot. Workers who continue to take strike action despite being required to work during the strike will lose their protection from automatic unfair dismissal. The bill also places an unreasonable burden on unions to ensure that all their members identified in the work notice do not take part in the strike action. Failure to do so could result in the union facing an injunction or having to pay huge damages, costs that come out of members’ subscriptions. This proposed legislation is probably against international law as it goes against normal democratic practice across Europe. The Solidarity Union, therefore, resolves to oppose the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill and urges all members to stand in solidarity with workers who will be affected by this legislation. We believe that the government cannot legislate away workers’ dissatisfaction, and this bill will do nothing to resolve the current industrial disputes or support those using public services. The Solidarity Union will continue to work towards the protection of workers’ rights and against any measures that limit their right to strike.
Proposed: David Kerr. Seconded: Patrick Harrington
Welcome to Union News, the weekly podcast which brings you news from the labour and trade union movement in the UK. In this episode: High cost of childcare forces over half of UK mothers to reduce working hours, Scottish teachers’ union accepts 7% pay deal after year-long dispute, Thousands March in London in Support of NHS Strikes and Urgent Action to Save the NHS, Build support for strikes and demos on the 15th of March 2023 and, Grow Union News. Music is by Tim Bragg. You can e-mail us privately with news from you industry or workplace at UnionNewsServices@protonmail.com.
High cost of childcare forces over half of UK mothers to reduce working hours
Over half of mothers with children aged 11 or younger have been forced to reduce their working hours due to the high cost of childcare, according to an online poll by charity Save the Children. Of the 2,000 parents who responded, 56% said they were impacted by the cost of childcare, while almost half reported declining job offers due to childcare responsibilities. The charity has called on the UK government to introduce a grants-based scheme to cover upfront childcare costs for the first month, expand and reform tax-free childcare offers, and ensure universally accessible, affordable childcare from the end of parental leave to the end of primary school. The government has previously acknowledged financial pressure on families and spent over £20bn in the past five years to help with childcare costs.
RMT union suspends Network Rail strikes and puts forward pay offer for ballot
RMT union leaders have decided to suspend the Network Rail strikes planned for next week and put forward an offer for ballot. Network Rail employs signallers and track maintenance workers, and their absence from the strike may make it easier for other rail bosses to organize scabbing on strike days.
The proposed deal would increase workers’ pay by either £1,750 or 5 percent for the period 1 January to 30 September 2022, whichever is higher. Additionally, there would be a 4 percent increase from 1 October 2022 to 31 December 2023. The RMT claims that for most of the affected workers, this would result in a 10.3 percent increase in basic earnings over two years. However, with inflation at 13.4 percent for a single year, this could lead to a significant real terms pay cut and is being evaluated for rejection.
The Network Rail bosses have proposed job cuts disguised as “Modernising Maintenance”, which could involve a 30 percent increase in nights and weekend work and the removal of 1,950 front-line posts. The company has promised not to make any compulsory redundancies, but only until 2025.
The RMT leaders have not recommended the deal, and the ballot will remain open until 20 March. While they have acknowledged a marginal improvement, which includes back pay being increased from January 2023 to October 2022, they have not endorsed the deal. Additionally, the rail deal includes 75 percent discounted leisure travel.
Scottish teachers’ union accepts 7% pay deal after year-long dispute
Scotland’s largest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), has voted overwhelmingly to accept the latest pay offer from the Scottish government and local authorities group Cosla. The ballot produced a nine-to-one vote in favour of accepting the proposal, on a turnout of 82%. The pay deal means that teachers will receive a 7% pay rise backdated to April 2022, 5% next month and a further 2% in January. The year-long dispute resulted in strikes across the country and targeted action in the constituencies of SNP and Green ministers. The EIS settlement follows the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association’s agreement, but the NASUWT is still to ballot its members.
Thousands March in London in Support of NHS Strikes and Urgent Action to Save the NHS
Thousands of campaigners and workers marched in London on Saturday in support of the National Health Service (NHS) strikes. The SOS NHS coalition of 50 groups organised the demonstration, which called for emergency funding for the NHS, an end to privatisation and support for workers. Many of the protesters had been fighting for the NHS for a long time, but there were also new people who were concerned about the health crisis and inspired by the walkouts of nurses, ambulance workers, and junior doctors. The strikes were described as a way of doing something rather than feeling helpless, and Anne, an RCN nurses’ union member who recently went on strike, said that the strikes were necessary to ensure that there were enough staff to offer patients the care they deserve. The unions did not make much effort to turn out their members, which some protesters criticised, and Cat Hobbs from the We Own It anti-privatisation campaign said that the government wanted the NHS to fail so that it could be handed over to private capital. John McDonnell MP pledged his support for the NHS, stating that the government would not be allowed to destroy it. The strikes were deemed the most important way of fighting back, and the next week’s action was described as crucial.
Build support for strikes and demos on the 15th of March 2023
On March 15th, a mass strike will be joined by more than 500,000 workers. While some have already taken action, others are new to the movement and joining for the first time. Who’s striking on 15 March? Over 275,000 teachers in the NEU union in England and Wales Over 125,000 civil service workers in the PCS and Prospect unions Over 40,000 junior doctors in the BMA and HCSA Around 70,000 university workers in the UCU union Around 12,000 London Underground workers in the Aslef and RMT unions Around 1,000 NUJ union members working for BBC Local Plus workers at Amazon, Coventry in the GMB union, and others Help build the strikes and demonstrations Encourage other workers to join the strike in some way Bring your own demands, such as a minimum wage increase and more rights at work Join rallies and picket lines even if you’re not striking Organize everyone to join demonstrations on 15 March Donate to strike funds Deepen participation and direction by strikers themselves Take pictures and video of the demonstrations and pickets and share on social media Send us pictures and video at the email address in the show notes
And finally, Grow Union News
Union News is looking to expand its coverage by building a network of local volunteer correspondents who can provide regular labour and trade union-related information. The goal is to increase both the frequency and reach of Union News, and we are calling on anyone who is willing to help. All we need is regular local news from the shop floor or office. In addition, Union News is also interested in covering wider issues that affect ordinary workers, such as housing, homelessness, health, and price inflation. If you want to be part of building a pro-worker and pro-Trade Union alternative media, we encourage you to get in touch today. It’s time to take action and make a difference! Our email address is: UnionNewsServices@protonmail.com.