Union News (8th of August 2023)

Please consider subscribing to our YouTube channel

Welcome to Union News, the weekly podcast for the labour and trade union movement. In this edition: Outrage as NHS Funds Flow to Private Companies Amidst Record Waiting Lists, Camden Traffic Wardens Brave the Rain to Demand Fair Pay in Lively Protest, Amazon Workers Rally for Fair Wages: One Year Since Historic Walkout, Bus Drivers in Manchester Stage Powerful Strikes for Better Pay and Working Conditions, Rank and File Construction Workers Fight for Rights and Fair Pay on Major Projects and UNITE Demands Scottish Government to Step Up on Local Government Pay Amidst Looming Strikes. Writing is by Pat Harrington and music is from Tim Bragg.

Outrage as NHS Funds Flow to Private Companies Amidst Record Waiting Lists

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced plans to establish 13 new community-based centres to diagnose patients and tackle the record waiting lists of 7.47 million patients. However, eight of these centres will be run by private companies, raising concerns among health campaigners. Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) warned that funnelling £19 billion to the private sector is draining vital resources from the NHS. Critics argue that long-term solutions are needed, including adequate investment in the NHS and addressing chronic underfunding, as opposed to temporary fixes through private involvement. The NHS faces staff shortages and struggles to retain workers due to real-terms pay cuts, making the move towards private-sector involvement controversial and potentially detrimental to the NHS’s overall resources. Camden

Traffic Wardens Brave the Rain to Demand Fair Pay in Lively Protest

Traffic wardens in Camden, employed by outsourcer NSL, took to the streets in an all-out strike demanding a pay rise. Around 60 strikers marched through the north London borough, joined by Unison union members, St Mungo’s homelessness charity strikers, and UCU union members from across London. The workers are resolute in their fight for better pay, with bosses offering a disappointing raise to £15 an hour in three years, while the strikers demand £15.90 on a one-year deal. They are also highlighting the unequal treatment faced by black and Asian workers and are determined to achieve their main aims. The spirited protest has garnered support from the public, and the strikers are unwavering in their fight against low pay and racist outsourcing practices.

Amazon Workers Rally for Fair Wages: One Year Since Historic Walkout

Hundreds of Amazon workers in Coventry and Rugeley marked the one-year anniversary of their biggest walkout in Britain with defiant rallies. Shouting “Freedom, we will not stop,” the workers demanded fair wages and better working conditions. Despite facing heavy private security and newly erected metal barriers, they stood strong in their calls for a cost-of-living pay rise to £15 per hour. Strikers shared their struggles of working long hours, barely having time for family, and resorting to second jobs just to make ends meet. Amazon’s attempts to deter the rallies with metal fences backfired, only igniting the workers’ determination to be heard. With one year of striking under their belt, the workers continue to fight for their rights and fair treatment in the face of corporate resistance.

Bus Drivers in Manchester Stage Powerful Strikes for Better Pay and Working Conditions

Around 350 bus drivers employed by First Manchester launched strike action for improved pay in July and continued their picket lines on Friday. They will be joined by more than 1,000 Stagecoach bus drivers next week, escalating the pay dispute. The drivers, members of Unite, rejected the offered pay increase of 7.4% backdated to April with an additional 3.4% in October, deeming it insufficient to address their high living costs and chronic staff shortages. Both First Manchester and Stagecoach have reported significant revenues and profits, yet the drivers’ wages remain the lowest in the region. The ongoing strikes demonstrate the drivers’ determination to secure fair pay and better working conditions as they make their voices heard in the pursuit of a resolution.

Rank and File Construction Workers Fight for Rights and Fair Pay on Major Projects

Construction workers at Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in Somerset and Stanlow oil refinery in Ellesmere Port are taking significant stands to secure their rights and fair pay. At Hinkley Point C, mechanical and electrical workers walked out to oppose travel allowance cuts, while scaffolders stopped work to resist changes in shift patterns. Both groups of workers are determined to win their battles, with the support of rank and file movements. At Stanlow oil refinery, workers successfully cabined up to force through a bonus payment, highlighting the potential for rank and file organization in the construction sector. These ongoing disputes demonstrate the power of collective action among workers and their determination to secure better working conditions and fair treatment. and finally,

UNITE Demands Scottish Government to Step Up on Local Government Pay Amidst Looming Strikes

UNITE, the powerful workers’ union, has issued a strong call to the Scottish government, urging them to “get involved and get real” concerning local government pay. This stern warning comes in the wake of an announcement by the union that its members in schools and early years positions across 10 councils have voted in favour of striking. UNITE’s regional officer, Graham McNab, revealed to BBC radio’s Good Morning Scotland that a potential strike could commence as early as September. However, McNab emphasized that the timing decision hinges on the outcome of the ongoing Unison ballot. This allows both UNITE and the GMB to collaboratively “discuss our plan of attack and our action.” The strike ballots were prompted by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) offer, which falls considerably short of expectations. The offer claims to provide an average pay increase of 5.5%, a stark contrast to the current inflation rate of 10.7%. UNITE Executive Committee member Eddie Cassidy condemned this offer as derisory and demanded that the Scottish government face the reality of the situation. Cassidy expressed his frustration, stating, “Year after year we have to threaten strike action just to get them to match the Tory settlements down south. A 5% offer with real inflation still well over 10% is a pay cut pure and simple — and we’ve had enough. It’s time the Scottish government got involved and got real.” The Scottish government responded by stating that local government pay negotiations are a matter for local authorities and unions. Despite UK government cuts, the Scottish government has allocated an additional £155 million to support substantial pay raises for local government workers. This allocation has already been factored into the pay offer put forth by Cosla. As the potential strike looms and tensions escalate, the call from UNITE to the Scottish government to “get involved and get real” reverberates as a rallying cry for fair treatment and just compensation in the local government sector.

Strikes Can Win For Workers


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.

Strong support for strikes and protests


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.

Large crowds in many cities turned out to support the right to strike

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.”








Bin Strikes in Scotland spread


Bin strikes in Scotland have spread as workers walked out in more areas.

GMB Scotland members in 16 council areas started four days of action from Friday until Monday, coinciding with existing action in Edinburgh.

Unison members in waste and recycling also joined the strike action, walking out in eight council areas for four days from August 26.

It comes after Unite members working in waste services at 13 councils walked out on Wednesday, joining workers in Edinburgh who began strike action on August 18.

Kirsten Muat, GMB Scotland organiser, said:

“Our members are not prepared for services to be delivered on the backs of the working poor.

“Our key workers deserved to be valued properly and ahead of a grim winter with forecasts of double-digit inflation and eye-watering energy bills, they urgently need pay that confronts this cost of living crisis.”

GMB Scotland senior organiser for public services, Keir Greenaway, said: “GMB members are clear that they are not prepared to accept working poverty as an inevitability and their strike actions are a direct response to the failure of political leaders to realise this.”

Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity union, commented: “I attended Stand-up for the bin workers – the show to support the bin workers strike fund. The mood was passionately in favour of the strike. As an Edinburgh resident the bin strike affects me. I’m 100 percent behind the strikers as are the vast majority of people here. It’s because we realise that the strikes are Just and necessary.”

Picture credit: KollectivFuture 2022. All rights reserved.