Welcome to Union News, your weekly podcast of reports from the Trade Union and labour movement in the UK. In this week’s edition: Junior Doctors Set to Launch Major Strikes, Challenging Tories and Hospital Bosses in Pay Battle, Successful Edinburgh Meeting Calls for an End to the War in Ukraine, 20,000 Rail Workers to Strike in July Amid Pay Dispute with Train Operators, Xplore Dundee bus workers resume strike action over rejected pay offer, Amazon workers in Coventry set to strike for three days during Prime week, warns GMB, North-West University Support Staff Escalate Strikes Demanding Fair Pay, and finally, Sun Editorial shows need for a pro-union Counter Media. Music is by Tim Bragg.
Junior Doctors escalate strikes
Junior doctors are preparing for a major block of strikes, aiming to challenge the government and hospital administrators. The upcoming five-day strike, scheduled for July 13, will be the longest single walkout in NHS history. The British Medical Association (BMA) has called for fair pay, demanding a 35 percent rise to bring salaries back to 2008 levels. The announcement coincided with the closing of a strike ballot by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). If the RCN members vote in favor of striking, there may be joint action with the BMA. The BMA highlights the government’s lack of commitment to resolving the dispute, with no effort made to reopen negotiations. The ongoing NHS pay battle seeks to address the workforce crisis, with millions on waiting lists for treatment and thousands of unfilled doctor positions. The escalation of the pay campaign is crucial, and the support of all trade unionists on hospital picket lines is essential. The BMA is currently balloting hospital consultants, and their strike is planned for July 20 and 21. While simultaneous strikes by junior doctors and consultants could pose a significant challenge to the government, the BMA has ruled out such action at this time. However, united NHS strikes have the potential to force the government to address the pay issue.
Successful Edinburgh Meeting Calls for an End to the War in Ukraine
On Saturday 24th of June a rally was held next to the Holyrood Parliament in Edinburgh with the object stated as addressing: “The recklessness of British policy on Ukraine is a threat to us all and to world peace. Send out a strong message and reaffirm our democratic right to assembly and free speech: End this war!”
In glorious summer sunshine the crowd heard speeches from, amongst others, Brian Gerrish of the UK Column, Lauren Wilson of the Workers Party of Britain and Peter Ford, former ambassador to Bahrain and Syria.
20,000 Rail Workers to Strike in July Amid Pay Dispute with Train Operators
Approximately 20,000 rail workers are set to go on strike in July as part of a nationwide rail dispute. The strike action comes after train operators rejected a new pay offer, backed by the Tories who support the privatised rail firms. Members of the RMT union working across 14 train operating companies will walk out on July 20, 22, and 29. RMT general secretary Mick Lynch emphasized that the strike mandate was renewed by an overwhelming majority, and the union will continue its campaign until a satisfactory agreement is reached on pay, working conditions, and job security.
The latest pay offer from the Rail Delivery Group, representing the bosses, is a mere 5 percent pay increase for the 2022-23 period, significantly below the inflation rate. Additionally, the union would have to accept company-by-company negotiations for a major restructuring of job roles and conditions before a pay rise for 2023-24 is considered. The fragmented talks and proposed changes by the rail companies, such as a single flexible station grade and closed ticket offices, have sparked concerns among union leaders. Despite some leaders possibly viewing the 5 percent offer as acceptable without the conditions attached, it is regarded as inadequate and should be rejected.
While the new strikes are welcomed, it is evident that achieving victory will require a higher level of action. The upcoming anti-union laws that the Tories plan to pass in parliament pose a threat, allowing for minimum service levels during strikes and potential repercussions for non-compliance. Rail workers will likely be among the early targets. In the negotiations, unions should demand a firm commitment from employers to refrain from utilizing these laws under any circumstances. The Scottish government has already agreed to this condition, raising the question of why rail bosses have not followed suit. Any employer resorting to these laws must be met with mass defiance and non-compliance.
In a separate development, RMT members working as ticket inspectors on Arriva Rail London (London Overground) have commenced voting on whether to strike. The vote stems from a collective grievance that has not been adequately addressed, with the employer failing to adhere to the proper procedures outlined in the collective bargaining agreement. The ballot will run until July 11.
Xplore Dundee bus workers resume strike action over rejected pay offer
Bus workers employed by Xplore Dundee went back on strike this weekend after rejecting the latest pay proposal. Members of Unite, the union representing the workers, had previously walked out in a heated dispute concerning pay, terms, and conditions at the city’s privately-owned bus operator, which is part of the McGills group. The workers were dissatisfied with a below-inflation pay increase of 7 percent, ongoing restrictions on sick pay, and the accumulation of hundreds of days in outstanding annual leave owed by the company.
The employer, known for its anti-trade union stance, further provoked workers by displaying pictures of the city’s shuttered Timex factory on noticeboards during the strike ballot. This was seen as a veiled threat, which became explicit during negotiations when the company hinted at folding the business and terminating employees to be rehired. The workers had temporarily suspended their 12-week strike to consider a new offer, but according to Unite representative Dougie Maguire, the proposed terms failed to meet their needs, particularly amidst the current cost-of-living crisis.
Maguire emphasized that for a resolution to the dispute, Xplore Dundee must present an offer that aligns with the expectations and demands of the workers.
Amazon workers in Coventry set to strike for three days during Prime week, warns GMB
The GMB union issued a warning today that the upcoming three-day pay strikes at Amazon’s Coventry warehouse will have a significant impact on one of the online retail giant’s busiest weeks of the year. The walkouts, scheduled for July 11, 12, and 13, coincide with the company’s annual Prime week event, known for offering substantial discounts on popular products to drive sales.
Nearly 900 workers in the West Midlands are expected to participate in the ongoing dispute, marking the first time that British-based Amazon staff have taken strike action. The conflict, initiated in January following a meagre 50p hourly wage increase, has already resulted in 19 days of strikes.
Rachel Fagan, senior organiser at GMB, emphasized the staggering sales figures generated during Prime week, which can reach up to £2 billion. In light of this, she criticized the company for denying low-paid workers a wage that enables them to meet their financial needs. The message from GMB members to Amazon is clear: human beings cannot be undervalued and underpaid.
North-West University Support Staff Escalate Strikes Demanding Fair Pay
Support staff at universities in north-west England are intensifying their strike action in protest of their pay. Employees such as cleaners, IT technicians, administrators, and library staff at Manchester Metropolitan University will walk out today and tomorrow, adding to the six days of strikes that began last week. They will also strike on July 5, 6, and 7. Additionally, support staff at the University of Liverpool and Liverpool Hope University took action on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
These workers, who are members of the public-sector union Unison, are demanding fairer compensation for their vital roles in ensuring a positive university experience for students. Unison’s North West regional organiser, Kate Doyle, criticized the generous executive pay and bonuses enjoyed by senior leaders in higher education while support staff have faced years of pay cuts in real terms. Doyle called on the universities to reconsider their inadequate pay offer and improve wages. The workers have already rejected a 5 to 8 percent pay rise.
and finally, Sun Editorial shows need for a pro-union Counter Media
The need for a pro-worker counter media arises from several reasons that stem from the shortcomings and biases present in mainstream media. This is especially evident in the editorial you mentioned from The Sun newspaper, which highlights the importance of alternative sources of information that prioritize the interests and well-being of workers. Here are some key reasons why a pro-worker counter media is necessary:
Challenging biased narratives: Mainstream media outlets often have corporate interests or political affiliations that can lead to biased reporting. As a result, they may prioritize the perspectives and agendas of the elite or powerful, neglecting the concerns and struggles of the working class. A pro-worker counter media aims to challenge these biased narratives and provide a platform for alternative viewpoints.
Amplifying worker voices: Workers’ perspectives and experiences are crucial in understanding socio-economic issues, labor rights, and workplace conditions. However, these voices are often marginalized or overshadowed in mainstream media. Pro-worker media outlets prioritize amplifying the voices of workers, allowing them to share their stories, concerns, and demands, thereby fostering a more inclusive and democratic media landscape.
Raising awareness of labor rights: Many workers face challenges such as exploitation, unfair wages, unsafe working conditions, and inadequate labour protections. Mainstream media may not adequately cover these issues or provide in-depth analysis of labour rights violations. A pro-worker counter media strives to educate the public about labour rights, workplace abuses, and the need for social and economic justice.
Holding power to account: Media plays a crucial role in holding power accountable, including government institutions, corporations, and other influential entities. However, when media outlets have vested interests tied to these powerful entities, their ability to provide objective scrutiny may be compromised. Pro-worker media outlets are less likely to be influenced by these interests, allowing them to provide a more independent and critical perspective on power dynamics and abuses.
Fostering solidarity and organizing efforts: Pro-worker counter media can serve as a platform for fostering solidarity among workers, unions, and labour movements. By highlighting success stories, organizing efforts, and collective actions, these media outlets can inspire and mobilize workers, contributing to a stronger labour movement and improved working conditions.
Examples like the Morning Star, Workers magazine, and the Union News podcast that you mentioned are important alternatives that prioritize the interests of workers and provide a counter-narrative to the dominant mainstream media. Supporting such outlets can help create a more balanced media landscape, ensure the representation of workers’ concerns, and contribute to a fairer society.
If you’ve enjoyed this edition of Union News please consider sharing, liking and subscribing.