Radical Roundup: 10 stories that have got buried – Week 3, 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. Industrial action at Aston Martin

Industrial action is being threatened at carmaker Aston Martin as workers face losing about £100,000 in retirement income if the defined benefit (career average) scheme is closed from February next year.

Unite the union said its members affected by the proposal at Gaydon and Wellesbourne (both in Warwickshire); Milton Keynes; Newport Pagnell; and St Athan in South Wales had voted overwhelmingly in a consultative ballot that they wanted to hold a full-scale industrial action ballot in the New Year to protect their retirement incomes.

Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd wants to close the defined benefit (DB) scheme on 31 January which the union’s pension experts estimate could cost members about £100,000 over the course of their retirement.

2. TUC calls for ministers to act to prevent job losses

The TUC says that ministers must act to prevent job losses as Covid restrictions bite. It comes after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released figures which show payroll employees up on pre-pandemic levels, but self-employment down by 759,000 and the level of real pay falling for six months since April.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The omicron variant is spreading fast, and the economy is slowing. We need a plan B to protect jobs and livelihoods now.

“Ministers should introduce a permanent short-time working scheme – like furlough – and provide additional support for hard-hit sectors like travel, manufacturing, hospitality, retail and the arts.”

3. Stuart Cut Key Worker Pay 25% but gave CEO a 1000% Pay Rise

The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) has revealed that Stuart, which delivers for JustEat, gave its highest paid director a 1000 percent pay rise last year as the corporation made an extra £20 million profit during the height of the pandemic.

The revelation that CEO Damien Phillipe Francis-Xavier Bon took home £2,232,453 in 2020 is set to spark outrage as JustEat couriers working for Stuart enter their second week of strike action over a devastating 25 percent pay cut.

Despite promises to postpone made by Stuart following protests by IWGB couriers, pay was slashed from 6 December on most deliveries from £4.50 to £3.40.

4. Rising prices have left public service pay ‘well and truly behind’, says UNISON

Commenting today on the inflation figures for November, UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Rising prices have left public sector pay well and truly behind.

“Without additional government funding for better wages, hospitals, councils, police forces, schools and college are going to struggle to hold onto staff and won’t be able to attract new employees.

“The pandemic has demonstrated the crucial role public services play in our communities. But pay awards and wage offers significantly below the cost of living will do nothing to address the growing staffing crises in health and care.

“It’s in all our interests to have well-resourced, properly staffed services and decent pay is key to achieving that.”

5. Scottish budget sets Scotland’s path to a just transition

The 2021-22 Scottish budget has set Scotland on a path to a Just Transition while securing hundreds of thousands of oil and gas jobs.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes announced the first £20m of the 10-year £500m being invested by the SNP Scottish Government into a Just Transition. The investment will increase year-on-year.

There were also other spending commitments in the budget to make Scotland greener, including £350m towards decarbonising one million homes across Scotland, and the equivalent of 500,000 domestic homes by 2030.

Commenting, SNP MSP and member of the Net Zero, Energy and Transport committee Jackie Dunbar said: “The SNP Scottish Government continues to recognise the importance of our Just Transition away from fossil fuels – bringing jobs, communities and business along on that process to ensure that lessons are learned from the past and no one is left behind.

“The SNP is serious about our responsibility to move workers into green jobs for the future with £500m investment in the Just Transition fund.”

6. Latest Westminster ‘power grab’ blasted by Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP, has blasted the UK Government for “yet another power grab” in the form of the Subsidy Control Bill. During a debate in the House of Commons on Monday, Ms Saville Roberts described the Bill as the result of an “unconstructive disdain for the rights and responsibilities of the devolved nations.”

The Bill sets out how the UK and devolved governments, local authorities and other public bodies should make decisions to award subsidies. It replaces EU state aid rules, which applied until the Brexit transition period ended on December 31 2020. Powers over state aid were centralised in Westminster by the Internal Market Act 2020.

The Bill has been criticised by the Welsh Government for undermining “the long-established powers of the Senedd and Welsh Ministers” in devolved areas, including “economic development, agriculture and fisheries.”

7. Strike against poverty pay at Luton airport means Christmas travel disruption ahead

Luton airport passengers face disruption to their Christmas travel plans as workers employed by contractor Wilson James take industrial action in an effort to earn more than poverty pay.

Strike action will begin at 05:00 on Sunday 19 December and end at 04:59 on Thursday 23 December.

The Wilson James workers are employed to assist passengers with mobility issues to board and disembark flights. Front of house workers are paid only the minimum wage of £8.91 an hour, while the drivers who transport passengers to and from planes airside and are required to possess a class 2 HGV licence receive just £10 an hour.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Workers employed by Wilson James at Luton Airport have an important role caring for vulnerable passengers. They should not be expected to undertake it on poverty rates of pay.”

8. Bank of England told to restrict fossil finance ahead of Financial Stability Report

Climate campaigners gathered outside the Bank of England on Monday to demand that policymakers introduce restrictions on UK banks’ investments in fossil fuels, ahead of its  Financial Stability Report press conference.

In a stunt organised by research and campaign group Positive Money, activists wore masks of Rishi Sunak and Andrew Bailey’s faces, and held banners showing that UK banks have financed £11.5 billion of fossil fuel projects in 2021 and with the slogans: “no financial stability in a climate emergency” and “stop UK banks funding oil & gas expansion”.

Rachel Oliver, head of campaigns and organising at Positive Money, said: “After much green finance hype during COP26, shockingly the Bank of England is still letting UK banks fuel climate breakdown at home and around the world, by pouring billions of pounds a year into fossil fuel projects. Governor Andrew Bailey’s lack of action threatens the basic conditions for economic and social stability, let alone financial stability.”

9. Unite says TfL must act on bus pedal confusion to keep London’s roads safe

Unite, the union representing over 20,000 London bus workers, is calling on Transport for London (TfL), bus operators and the mayor of London to act swiftly to resolve the problem of pedal confusion on London buses.

Unite has been raising concerns about the design of pedals since the summer and the problem was again highlighted this week when pedal confusion was cited as a possible factor in the death of a commuter at Victoria bus station in August this year.

Unite lead officer for London buses John Murphy said: “Unite’s members work hard every day to keep London’s passengers and road users safe but it is vital that the buses they drive are also safe, which is why we are pressing TfL and the bus operators to work with us to eradicate any possibility of pedal confusion. 

10. The government brought Covid restrictions on themselves, vaccine campaigners say

Responding to news of fresh coronavirus restrictions in England, Tim Bierley, pharma campaigner at Global Justice Now, said: “The government brought these restrictions on themselves by standing in the way of efforts to vaccinate the world and creating the conditions for Omicron to emerge.

“Until we allow low and middle-income countries to access Covid-19 vaccines, we will be trapped in an endless cycle of variants leading to restrictions and even lockdowns. By letting the global south suffer, we are ultimately harming ourselves.

“The WHO and countries in desperate need of vaccines have repeatedly called for a suspension of intellectual property on Covid-19 vaccines to scale up production. It’s time for Boris Johnson to finally listen.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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