Radical Roundup: 10 stories that have got buried – Week 1, November 2021

The news you didn’t see this week…

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Your Wednesday fix of under-reported news… Got a story tip? Email us: [email protected]

1. Unite General Secretary writes to FCA Chief Executive to demand a voice for the workforce

The General Secretary of Unite the union, Sharon Graham, has today written to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) Chief Executive to demand trade union recognition for the workforce.

Staff across the financial regulator have been joining Unite following many months of turmoil within the organisation. With no formally recognised trade union, staff have expressed frustration at the leadership and direction of the FCA and this has brought a significant growth in membership of Unite.

Sharon Graham, Unite General Secretary said: “Staff at the Financial Conduct Authority are flooding to join Unite as their independent trade union voice. The FCA management cannot any longer stick their heads in the sand and ignore the anger within their workforce. It is time for them to recognise Unite as the representative of staff in the FCA.

“Employees at the regulator want to be heard. Last month Unite launched a staff petition to secure the right to be formally recognised to represent workers across the organisation – the first time this has happened in the organisation’s history – following the massive growth in staff joining the union.”

2. One in three night-workers earn less than £10 an hour

The TUC is calling for better pay and conditions for the 3.2 million workers who regularly work nights. Analysis published by the union body reveals that 1 in 3 (33%) night-workers earn less than £10 an hour. This is despite the heightened health risks that come with night work and the disruption it causes to workers’ lives.

The analysis also shows that key workers are twice as likely to work overnight than other workers, with 1 in 6 (16%) key workers working night shifts, compared with 1 in 12 (8%) of other workers.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Working through the night is tough – with night-workers at higher risk of health problems and disruption to their daily lives.

“We all owe Britain’s night workers a huge debt for keeping the country running while we are asleep. It is not right that so many of those who work overnight – especially in key sectors like care – are on low pay and insecure contracts.”

3. Pfizer accused of ‘making a killing’ while denying vaccines to most of world

Reacting to the announcement that US pharma giant Pfizer has raised its 2021 coronavirus vaccine revenue projections to $36 billion, Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, said: “Pfizer is now sitting on the most lucrative medicine ever produced, but while the corporation’s shareholders are making a killing, most of the world has been locked out of this vaccine as Pfizer has aggressively pursued profits ahead of saving lives.

“Just 1% of Pfizer’s supplies have been sold to the international distribution mechanism Covax, as the company has put sales of third and fourth doses in wealthy markets ahead of selling doses to where they’re most needed. This will undoubtedly prolong the pandemic.”

4. Harrods workers threaten Christmas strike to end poverty wages

Restaurant workers at Harrods, the luxury department store owned by the Qatari royal family, are demanding an end to poverty wages at the billion-pound company. United Voices of the World (UVW), the workers’ union, has written to Harrods notifying them a dispute has started which could lead to strike action over Christmas.

UVW won a dispute at Harrods in 2017 which saw restaurant workers win 100% of the service charge, when the company had been taking up to 75%.

One Harrods worker and UVW member, said: “We have called for a ballot for strike action because we want radical change in regards to our benefits and salary. It’s very difficult, whatever benefits we had have been cut. The wages are so low, so many of my colleagues are leaving and no one is coming to replace them. When people come, they look around and don’t stay. We’re on poverty wages – and I have much more of a workload which effectively means I’m working for free.

“The cost of living is going up and soon I won’t be able to afford to buy food, rent. In the last year, the inflation has risen but not my salary. The wage I’m getting can’t cover my outgoings.”

5. Melrose’s closure of GKN Birmingham slammed as green economy betrayal as 500 manufacturing workers set to lose their jobs

In the week that the world’s leaders gathered in Glasgow to agree action to combat the climate emergency, Unite, the UK’s leading union, slammed the planned closure of the GKN Birmingham car component plant as a failure to seize an opportunity to support UK manufacturing on the road to a carbon neutral economy.

The union said it was a ‘betrayal of a highly skilled workforce’.  The 500-plus workforce at GKN Birmingham are set to lose their jobs next year.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “Melrose’s shameful decision to close the last UK plant operated by GKN automotive in Erdington betrays not only the 519 workers at the factory but leaves a gaping hole in the UK supply chain as Melrose seeks to increase profits by exporting manufacturing operations to Poland.

“Melrose is very happy to take UK taxpayers’ money to support the research and development of new electric drive systems, but when it comes to supporting the workers and communities who give them that money with manufacturing work, disgracefully they run away.”

6. Scots reject Sunak’s budget

A new poll suggests that an overwhelming majority of Scots do not believe the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget will help ease their financial situation. A J.L. Partners and Politico poll of adults in Great Britain suggests that 65% of Scots think the Budget will not help people like them, with 51% believing that it will instead benefit those on higher incomes.

The news comes just days after a separate poll, produced by YouGov and The Times, which suggested that 62% of Scots believe the UK government is handling the UK economy badly.

The J.L. Partners and Politico poll also found that:

· 45% of Scots found the Budget unfair; 20% found it fair.

· 45% of Scots disapprove the Budget; 18% approve it.

· 30% of Scots believe the Chancellor did not spend enough; 18% believe he spent too much.

Commenting, the SNP’s Work and Pensions spokesperson David Linden MP said: “This latest poll clearly suggests that the people of Scotland reject Rishi Sunak’s Budget.

“Despite throwing a lot of fancy rhetoric around during last week’s announcement, it is clear that the people of Scotland have not fallen for the Chancellor’s sleekit tricks.”

7. Victory for staff at five London colleges over pay and conditions

Staff at five London colleges have won improved pay offers from employers after taking strike action. University and College Union (UCU) members at Croydon College overwhelmingly voted to accept a deal on pay and conditions. Members had previously taken seven days of strike action.

The deal includes a backdated 2% pay increase for all staff and 5% for lower-paid members in learning support roles and a minimum salary for qualified teachers of around £30k. There are additional commitments around workload protection, a four week summer leave period and simplified pay progression

South Thames Colleges Group, which includes South Thames, Merton, Kingston and Carshalton colleges, has offered a pay rise for all staff, which for staff on under £23k includes an increase of over 2.25%.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “This is a fantastic win for all our members at Croydon, Carshalton, Kingston, Merton, and South Thames colleges. By taking industrial action they have won long overdue improvements to their pay and terms and conditions, which will particularly benefit lower paid staff.”

8. Latest attacks attempt to ‘undermine’ role of elections watchdog

Campaigners have called on the government to re-think proposals to reform the Electoral Commission after senior Conservatives launched a fresh attack on the elections watchdog.

The comments come as Senior Conservatives accused the Commission of ‘lobbying’ MPs after it produced a briefing on the proposed reforms that would see the Government handed powers to set the regulator’s priorities.

Elections experts warn that Government plans, set out in their Elections Bill, would pose a serious risk to the independence of the Commission and undermine its ability to provide proper scrutiny of parties and campaigners.

Commenting on the story Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society said: “This latest round of attacks on the Electoral Commission is yet another attempt to undermine the role of our independent elections watchdog.

“Far from protecting our elections, the government’s Elections Bill threatens to damage the integrity of our democratic processes. It poses a serious risk to the independence of the Electoral Commission – weakening our elections regulator at a time when it has never been more important.”

9. GMB union demands the government takes immediate steps to build the domestic energy supply or risk further chaos

GMB, the union for energy workers, has called on the Government to take immediate steps to build domestic energy capacity after the French Government threatened to cut off supplies in a bad-tempered trade dispute. 

The threat, made by French Prime Minister, Jean Castex, was made as result of a dispute over fishing rights for French trawlers operating in British waters.  The union says that such threats are only possible because of the UK’s position as a net energy importer, with the country relying on imports of electivity and gas to service our power needs.

The threats follow the recent surge in gas process causing havoc for consumers and industry with numerous energy suppliers going bust.  The union believe that the events highlight the UK Governments long-term failure to invest in vital energy infrastructure with all but one of the current power stations due to go offline within the next decade.

Andy Prendergast, GMB National Secretary said: “We should never be a in a position where a trade dispute could see the power switched off.

“This is only possible because of years of delays and underinvestment in our key energy infrastructure.  The recent spike in gas prices exposed the chaos that can ensue because Britain is a net importer of energy. “

10.  New poll shows huge public support for decisive action to make the gig economy fairer  

A new poll has found that the majority of Brits support a raft of policy measures designed to make the gig economy fairer, from changing employment law to strengthening trade union rights.  

The survey, conducted by Survation on behalf of the Fairwork research project, University of Oxford, polled 2,020 adults between the 21st and 22nd of October.  It found that the majority of the public believe that gig economy platforms prioritise making profits over having a beneficial impact on society. Just 22% think that gig economy platforms pay workers a fair wage. 

Mark Graham, professor of Internet Geography at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, and Director of Fairwork said: “These results show an appetite for decisive action to improve fairness in the gig economy. 

“The development of technology has allowed for services like transport and delivery to be organised in new ways, but these developments risk being monopolised for the benefits of platforms and their investors, rather than being passed onto workers.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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