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

The news you didn’t see this week…

Radical Roundup

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

1.New survey reveals shocking shortage of bus drivers

A survey of Unite activists working in the bus sector has revealed driver shortages at a far higher level than previously indicated by the industry. The survey reveals that the principal reasons why drivers are leaving is due to low pay, poor conditions and long hours.

Over 500 activists working throughout the UK took part in the survey, which found that there were bus driver shortages at 99 per cent of bus garages.

The survey found that driver shortages are getting worse, with 79 per cent of respondents recording that vacancies had increased since the pandemic began in March 2020. This is a highly disturbing picture for passengers, who will be concerned about declining and unreliable services, especially as buses remain the most used form of public transport.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This survey reveals that bus drivers are leaving the industry in droves due to low pay, poor working conditions and long hours. Bus companies have got to stop trying to sweep driver shortages under the carpet and start tackling the fundamental problems in the industry.”

2. TUC: PM must increase sick pay so workers don’t face financial hardship this Christmas

The TUC is urging the prime minister to increase sick pay. Commenting on the Prime Minister’s announcement about the new Covid-19 variant Omicron, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:  

“We all want to stay safe and stop this variant from spreading. Failure to do so will have a huge impact on public health, our front-line services and the economy.

“Given more workers may now need to self-isolate, we need to protect them from financial hardship. Ministers must raise sick pay to the level of the Living Wage and make sure every worker can get it. 

“No-one should have to choose between doing the right thing and putting food on the table.”

3. Panasonic workers strike for third day over pay dispute

GMB members at Panasonic Cardiff have walked out for a third time in a dispute over pay.

Workers are also set to down tools on 6 December, with more dates expected to be announced soon. 

On Monday workers picketed the electronics giant’s Cardiff plant after the company revealed plans to impose a pay freeze on them for the second year running.

Nicola Savage, GMB Regional Organiser said: “This is the third time our GMB members at Panasonic have walked out.

“Despite the cold weather they are in fine spirits. A soup kitchen and a burger van were on hand to keep them fed and watered while other unions and members of the public have shown their solidarity.

“Our members deserve a real pay rise and GMB will not rest until they get one.”

4. Human rights advocates eye legal action against UK, Canadian, German, and Norwegian governments over global COVID vaccine inequality

Human rights lawyers have threatened legal action against the German, Norwegian, and Canadian governments for obstructing global efforts to increase access to COVID-19 vaccines and other healthcare technologies.

The move comes as state delegates from around the world prepare to negotiate the future rules governing the supply of COVID-19 vaccines and other healthcare technologies at next week’s Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

A group of human rights advocates—the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (Germany), Professor Andenæs QC at the University of Oslo (Norway), and a coalition of organizations in Canada —today announced the development of prospective domestic lawsuits in each country should their governments fail to support the waiver of intellectual property over COVID healthcare technologies proposed by South Africa and India at the WTO last year in response to the pandemic. Meantime, Global Justice Now and Just Fair have written a letter of concern to the UK government setting out why the failure to support the waiver contravenes international human rights law.

5. PPE shortcomings must be a key focus of public inquiry, says UNISON

Commenting on a new report published on Tuesday by the group Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice into the issues that must be covered by the public inquiry into the pandemic response, UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said:

“Thousands of frontline health and care workers were infected with Covid-19 as they went about their vital work and far too many died.

“Despite repeated calls for proper protection, many were left without the correct safety equipment that could have made all the difference.

“It’s essential the public inquiry examines every aspect of how and why they were left defenceless.

“Lessons have to be learned and people should be held to account where they’re responsible for failings and negligence.”

6. New poll shows 55% of Scots would back an Independent Scotland

A new poll has found that 55% of people in Scotland would back Scotland becoming an independent country if a referendum was held tomorrow.

The poll by Ipsos Mori for STV News shows that support for independence has increased by 5% since before the Scottish Parliament elections in May.

In other findings, the poll also shows that SNP leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon continues to be the most popular of the party leaders in Scotland, with 58% of people saying they are satisfied with her performance.

Commenting, SNP Depute Leader Keith Brown MSP said: “I welcome this extremely encouraging poll that shows the majority of people in Scotland would back Scotland choosing a better future as an independent country.

“However, we do not take anything for granted and will continue to make the case to the people of Scotland of how we can build a fairer, greener and more prosperous nation as an independent country.

7. Welsh justice system ‘dysfunctional, unfair and in need of radical reform’

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts MP and Labour’s Shadow Minister for Victims and Youth Justice, Anna McMorrin MP hosted a conference on Tuesday on the Welsh justice system.

Ahead of the conference, Ms Saville Roberts described the current system as “dysfunctional, unfair and in need of radical reform” while Ms McMorrin said that “decades of cuts have meant a lack of proper access to justice for the people of Wales.”

The conference brought together politicians and experts from across Wales to discuss the past, present and future of Welsh justice and policing in light of the two-year anniversary of the report by the Commission on Justice in Wales. 

Liz Saville Roberts MP said: “The justice system in Wales is dysfunctional, unfair and in need of radical reform. Wales has the highest rate of imprisonment in western Europe, which fuels a cycle of poverty as well as health and mental health problems. Black people are six times more likely to be imprisoned than their white counterparts. Nearly half of Welsh children who are imprisoned are detained in England, far from their homes and family support. There is a chronic lack of community provision for women, which also severs family connections.

8. Unite secures pay award for Lincolnshire and Newark workers at Bakkavor factories

Unite has secured a pay rise for hundreds of workers employed by Bakkavor at five factories in Lincolnshire.

The union was preparing to ballot for industrial action, after the food manufacturer had introduced a £250 extra payment to new starters once they had completed 16 weeks of work, while refusing to make a similar incentive payment to its existing workforce.

As a result of Unite’s intent to move towards industrial action Bakkavor returned to negotiations and the union was able to secure permanent pay increases of between one and eight per cent (depending on roles and previous pay rates) for workers at four of the sites: Bakkavor Pizza in Holbeach, Bakkavor Salad in Bourne, Bakkavor Desserts in Newark and Bakkavor Meals in Sutton Bridge.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This is a highly important deal for Unite’s members at Bakkavor who, by standing together, have secured permanent pay rises for all workers.”

9. Brexit cited as one of the top causes of the supply crisis as suppliers warn of xmas booze shortage

A new nationwide poll suggests that many people believe that Brexit is one of the top factors causing the ongoing supply chain crisis. The findings come as a group of 48 wine and spirit companies warn the Transport Secretary that Britain is set to face a Christmas alcohol shortage.

In a poll by Opinium on behalf of internationalist campaign group Best for Britain, 2,000 people were asked to rank what they thought were the main factors causing continued supply issues in the UK.

Brexit came second only to Coronavirus as the top reason people think Britain is experiencing supply issues.

Naomi Smith, CEO of Best for Britain, said: “It’s clear the pandemic has had an impact on supply chains around the world, but after a series of boom and bust lockdowns followed by the ‘pingdemic’ we have to ask why it is only Britain that is experiencing acute shortages both in goods and labour.

“Johnson’s threadbare Brexit deal combined with the pandemic has been a double hit on our supply chains leading to serious shortages this Christmas. It’s time the government renewed its gin membership.”

10. UK government has provided £14 billion in subsidies to the oil and gas industry since signing the Paris Agreement.

New analysis has found that the UK government has provided £14 billion in subsidies to the oil and gas industry since signing the Paris Agreement.

Around £10 billion of this money was in the form of preferential tax breaks and almost £4 billion was direct payments from the UK government to big oil and gas companies like Shell, BP and Exxon, according to campaign group Paid to Pollute.

The UK government is being taken to the High Court in less than two weeks over the billions it has spent propping up the oil and gas industry. Starting on December 6th, the #PaidToPollute claimants and supporters from across the country will gather for a series of events and rallies in London, culminating with the case being heard in the High Court on December 8th.

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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