Welcome to Union News a podcast with reports from the labour and Trade Union movement in the UK. This week: Workers strike and protest in Ulster, London Underground drivers to join strikes on budget day, UK Workers Lost £26 Billion in Unpaid Overtime Last Year, Thousands march for peace in London, RMT members reignite trade unionism in Britain, says Mick Lynch at young members’ conference and TUC warns energy bills will eat up a tenth of UK workers’ salary from April. Music in the podcast is by Tim Bragg.
Defend the right to protest, defend the right to strike!
Key rights are under attack in Britain. As the Tory government faces widespread opposition in workplaces and on the streets they are seeking to bring in laws to shut down the protests. They are attacking our right to strike and our right to demonstrate. Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity, said: “It’s no coincidence that both the right to protest and the right to strike are under attack. The attacks are linked and so should our response to them be.”
Defend the right to protest
Protest is a form of nonviolent direct action that allows people to voice their grievances and demands in public. It is a way of engaging in the civic space and has been instrumental in achieving human rights through actions such as strikes, marches, sit-ins, and civil disobedience. Protests have played a significant role in liberation and justice movements and continue to impact change through creative and diverse forms. Throughout history, protests have led to positive change, although it often requires strong social movements, persistence, and participation. Despite attempts by authorities to suppress protests, their influence and legacy can be seen years later through changing social norms and laws. The power of protests lies in highlighting the lack of legitimacy of repressive power structures, raising awareness, and contributing to the gradual change of language, minds, and behaviours until a tipping point is reached. Over time, these processes have led to improvements in various issues such as governance, labour conditions, gender equality, environmental protection, and more.
Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty UK’s Chief Executive Director said:
“It follows a pattern of a government voicing support for protest around the world but cracking down on the right to speak up here at home.”
These new attempts to reduce protest rights are in breach of international human rights law. On September 2020, the UN Human Rights Council General Comment on the right to peaceful assembly stated:
“State parties should not rely on a vague definition of ‘public order’ to justify overbroad restrictions on the right of peaceful assembly. Peaceful assemblies can in some cases be inherently or deliberately disruptive and require a significant degree of toleration.”
For example, the government proposed Serious Disruption Prevention Orders go even further than Russian Law on Assemblies. In Russia, people convicted of protest-related offences are not allowed to organise protests. If the Public Order Bill passes, people convicted for protesting would not even be allowed to participate.
Defend the right to strike
The UK government’s proposed Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill has sparked controversy as it aims to limit the right to strike of workers in key public services such as health, education, transport and more. Many human rights defenders say that the bill is a direct attack on workers and their trade unions and instead of addressing the issues that lead to strikes, the government is making it harder for workers to win fair pay. The bill allows the government to set “minimum service levels” for public services, but with no detail on the limits, the government may impose restrictions without agreement with unions. The bill also gives employers the right to serve the union with a “work notice” specifying the number of workers required to work during the strike and mandates the union to ensure compliance, which the union claims would force them to break the strike. The bill removes protection for striking workers, allowing employers to dismiss those who take part in lawful industrial action and making unions liable for up to £1 million if they do not attempt to force striking workers to work, which will limit the right to withdraw labour.
The right to strike is a fundamental aspect of workers’ rights and a cornerstone of a just society. It provides workers with a means of bargaining for better wages, working conditions, and overall treatment from their employers. Without the right to strike, workers would have no way of leveraging their power and making their voices heard, leading to a situation where employers hold all the power in the workplace.
One of the main reasons why the right to strike is so important is that it helps to balance the power dynamic between workers and employers. Workers, particularly those who are low-paid or in low-skilled jobs, often face challenging working conditions and limited opportunities for advancement. By striking, they can draw attention to their grievances and force employers to take their concerns seriously. This, in turn, helps to create a more equitable and just workplace, where workers are treated with dignity and respect.
Another reason why the right to strike is important is that it provides workers with a way of seeking fair compensation for their labor. In many cases, workers are not paid a living wage and are unable to make ends meet, even when working full-time. By striking, workers can demand better wages and benefits, helping to ensure that they are able to provide for themselves and their families.
Strikes can also play a key role in promoting social justice and advancing human rights. For example, the right to strike has been instrumental in achieving many of the key labor rights that workers enjoy today, such as the minimum wage, paid holidays, and the right to form a union. By striking, workers can put pressure on governments and employers to make positive changes that benefit not just themselves, but society as a whole.
Finally, the right to strike is also important because it is a key component of democratic societies. Workers have the right to express their opinions and demand change, just like any other citizen. By striking, they can make their voices heard and contribute to the democratic process, helping to create a more inclusive and equitable society.
Take to the Streets! Defend the right to strike!
The UK government is proposing new legislation that will restrict the right to strike for workers in the health, education, transport, and fire and rescue services, as well as border security and parts of the nuclear, radioactive waste and fuel sectors.
This move comes as thousands of workers are being forced to take industrial action to protect their pay, standard of living and the services they provide. However, this legislation is not a solution to the deep-rooted causes of industrial disputes and is a distraction from the government’s inability to effectively manage public services and the economy.
Solidarity, alongside many other unions, is supporting the TUC’s campaign to defend the right to strike, as it is a fundamental right of workers.
The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill is currently being fast-tracked through Parliament, despite the fact that it is undemocratic and will do nothing to address the issues facing the country, such as high inflation, a pay crisis in the public sector, and an overburdened NHS.
We urge all those concerned with freedom in our country, not just union members, to get out on the streets and protest this attack on individual and collective liberty. Let’s defeat these evil proposals with united action. Join a protest in your area (see the list below).
Birmingham: Centenary Square B1 2ND, 12 noon AND Conference and Events Centre, Hill Street, Birmingham, B5 4EW, 6pm
Bournemouth: rally in town square, BH2 6ED, 12 noon
Brighton: assemble at The Level, Brighton, 11am
Bristol: assemble outside Defra Horizon House, BS1 5AH, at 10:45 am to march to College Green, BS1 5TJ. Rally there at 12 noon
Canterbury: assemble Westgate Hall, Westgate Hall Road, Canterbury CT1 2BT, move off at 11.45 for march around city centre and then back to Westgate Hall for rally
Cambridge: assemble at 11am on Parker’s Piece, march to to city centre, followed by a rally Guildhall at 12.30
Carlisle: Carlisle Market Cross, CA3 8JA, 11am
Chesterfield: New Square, Chesterfield, S40 1AH, 11am
Coventry: Broadgate, CV1 1FS, 11am
Derby: Cathedral Green, Derby, DE1 3AF, 10am
Dover: assemble Migrants Memorial on Dover Seafront near to Eastern Docks and march to Royal Cinque Ports Yacht Club, 4-5 Waterloo Crescent Dover CT16 1LA for 10:45am rally
Exeter: assemble at Bedford Square, EX1 1LR at 10:30 for march to Corn Exchange, EX1 1BW for rally at 11:30am
Hastings: march from Hastings pier TN34 1JY, 11am
Hull: Hull Interchange, HU1 3UF, rally at 11am, march at 11:30am.
Halifax: Halifax Industrial Museum, HX1 1QG rally at 10:30 am,
Leeds: meet at 11:30 for march from Leeds Town Hall, LS1 3AD at 12 noon followed by rally at 1pm back at Leeds Town Hall.
Liverpool: assemble 12noon at the Metropolitan Cathedral, march at 12.15 with a rally at The Adelphi Hotel at 12.45pm
London: assemble at 11 am for march from Portland Place W1A 1AA, to a rally in Westminster Central Hall.
Manchester: rally at St Peter’s Square, M2 5PD at 12:30pm, short march at 1pm and second part of rally back at the Square.
Newcastle, assemble Civic Centre, Newcastle NE1 8QH 11:30am, march starts at 12 noon to Greys Monument, NE1 5AF for rally at 12:30pm.
Nottingham: assemble 11am for a march through city centre from meet point of Nottingham Bus Station concourse, Carrington Street to indoor rally at 12:30 in Albert Hall, North Circus Street.
Oxford: march and rally, assemble at 12 noon, Wesley Memorial Church, New Inn Hall Street, Oxford OX1 2DH.
Peterborough: assemble 11am at Stanley Recreation Ground, march at 11.30am to Cathedral Square
Plymouth: Guildhall Square on Royal Parade, PL1 2BJ, 12 noon.
Portsmouth: assemble Portsmouth Guildhall Square, PO1 2AB. March leaves at 12:20pm for route round the city centre and returns to Guildhall Square at approx 12:50pm for closing rally.
Reading: West end (KFC end) of Broad Street, Reading, RG1 2AP ending with a rally in Town Hall Square, 12 noon
Sheffield: assemble 12noon at Devonshire Green S1 4GT for march to rally at Sheffield City Hall, S1 2JA at 1pm.
Southend: outside Odeon cinema, 12 noon.
Weymouth: Jubilee Clock Tower, Weymouth, DT4 7BE, 12 noon.
Wokingham: assemble 11am at Wokingham Town Hall, Market Place, RG40 1AS
York: Exhibition Square, YO30 7BL, 12 noon
Dundee: City Square, Dundee, DD1 3BA, 1pm
Edinburgh: The Mound, EH2 2EL, 12 noon
Glasgow, Buchanan Street steps, G2 3NY, 12 noon AND Glasgow indoor rally, ticketed (free), Trades Hall of Glasgow, 85 Glassford Street, G1 1UH 7pm. Tickets here
Cardiff: HMRC building, CF10 1EP, 11:30am
Swansea: Castle Square, Swansea, SA1 1DW, 12 noon
Strike to save the NHS!
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:
- Join a picket line if you can and show you care about the NHS and fair pay for staff.
- 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 7th January 2023
Union News is a source for news and information about the UK union and labour movement. It is dedicated to providing accurate and unbiased coverage of these issues, which are often overlooked or misrepresented in mainstream media. By sharing links and following Union News on platforms like Spotify, Amazon Music, and YouTube, you can help to support this alternative source of information and build a counter media that accurately represents the experiences and concerns of working people. If you have news to share, Union News welcomes submissions and encourages you to get in touch. You can contact Union News here: UnionNewsServices@protonmail.com
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Union News 18/12/2022
Here’s a round up of the latest trade union and labour related news from around the UK. In this programme: Rail strikes stay solid, A quarter of Britons to enter the new year in debt, a union launches a Buy British at Xmas campaign and Scottish female footballers demand equal pay.
Public back the nurse’s strike
71% of British adults think it’s acceptable for nurses to go on strike for a pay raise, while 74% say it’s acceptable to take industrial action for better patient care (IPSOS survey).
Around one in 10 people were neutral on the subject, while just 16% said it was unacceptable for nurses to go on strike for a pay increase and 13% said it was unacceptable even to secure better standards of care.
The poll of 1,083 British adults found 75 per cent of people who voted Labour in the 2019 general election strongly or tended to support the nursing strikes, compared to 45 per cent of Conservative voters.
Postal workers shut down the Royal Mail
Royal Mail workers shutting down nearly the whole of the postal service on Friday delivered a resounding message to their bosses: we’re not going to take your meagre pay increase lying down.
The strike, the first national one in 12 years, comes after postal workers were offered a below-inflation pay rise of just 2 percent. In other words, their real-term pay would be cut if they accepted the offer. Meanwhile, top executives have been raking in profits and awarding themselves big bonuses.
Clearly, the workers have had enough and are determined to get a fairer share of the company’s success.
The strike sends a clear message from postal workers: we’re not going to be taken for granted any longer. We deserve a fair share of the company’s profits.
Addressing a large crowd of striking workers and campaigners outside Royal Mail offices in Farringdon, central London, CWU general secretary Dave Ward warned greedy bosses at the privatised company that workers would not give in easily.
To loud cheers and the tooting horns of passing buses, he said: “When we say we’re in this for the long haul, you better believe we bloody well mean it.”
Around 115,000 workers at the firm are also set to walk out on Wednesday and on September 8-9, after the union said management imposed a 2 percent pay rise without consultation.
Royal Mail insisted the offer actually amounts to 5.5 percent, about half the lowest rate of inflation in July, but CWU categorically rejected this claim as a lie.
The union’s members at the Post Office, who first walked out in May, are also striking after the state-run company imposed a pay freeze in 2021-22 and offered 5 percent plus a £500 lump-sum for this financial year.
About 3,500 workers are involved in that dispute.
Mr. Ward called for solidarity with workers nationwide, as rail staff, dockers, criminal barristers, and exam board employees also take industrial action.
He said: “Solidarity has never been more important, solidarity with your colleagues and other unions is the way we’re going to win.
“Solidarity with workers who are not in unions, who are getting shafted up and down the UK. At CWU, we say every worker counts.
“We’ll win our disputes, but we’ve got to do more. I think it’s time that we push the boundaries further than they’ve ever been pushed.
“I think it’s time we saw collective action led by trade unions, led by community organisations and we get the whole of the working class in the UK together to fight back.”
Rail union RMT’s head Mick Lynch also addressed the lively demo, which included campaigners from the National Education Union, the University and College Union, Unison, and Equity.
Mr. Lynch, whose union has held six national strike days this summer, said: “The billionaires and the big corporations are telling working people to cough up for the problems in this society and become poorer.
“Our message to them is simple, enough is enough.”
Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity union said:
“This is an inspiring show of strength by postal workers. They are up against one of the most powerful companies in the country. Postal workers have been humiliated and treated with contempt by their bosses. But they are now fighting back. Their action has caused massive disruption to postal services across Britain. It has also sent a message of hope to low-paid workers who are facing similar attacks on their pay. The postal workers’ strike is an important battle in the wider war against austerity and for decent pay for all.“