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1.Coventry bin strike escalates as new strike dates announced
Coventry council’s failure to address the low pay of its refuse collection drivers is set to lead to an escalation in strike action, after Unite, the UK’s leading union, announced a total of 19 new strike dates in the increasingly bitter bin dispute.
Around 70 drivers are striking after Coventry council informed Unite that it would not make an improved offer and that an offer which had previously been rejected by workers was no longer on the table, at last minute talks held on Tuesday 4 January.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite members at Coventry council have been forced to escalate their industrial action due to the council’s total failure to enter into meaningful negotiations.”
2. UK workers’ pension funds now own just 6% of UK listed shares
New research published by the TUC, Common Wealth, and High Pay Centre shows that UK workers get comparatively little benefit from share dividends – despite common claims that they do.
The report Do dividends pay our pensions? finds that the proportion of UK shares directly held by UK pension funds fell from almost one in three in 1990 to less than one in 25 by 2018 – a decline of over 90%.
Over this period, ownership of UK public companies shifted from UK pension funds to foreign owners and investors whose identities are often obscured by lax reporting rules.
The TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Working people deserve a fair share of the wealth they create. This should come through wages, pensions, and reinvesting profits to safeguard the future of the firm and its workforce.”
3. Unite calls for government to reverse fit note relaxation
Unite, the UK’s leading union, is calling on the government to cancel the relaxation to the fit note system, which the union believes is leading to attacks on employees conditions and could damage workers’ health. Meanwhile, doctors have described the changes to the fit note regime as a ‘drop in the ocean’ compared to the challenges faced by GPs
Shortly before Christmas the government announced changes to the fit note system in order to relieve pressure on GPs and allow them to concentrate on getting patients the Covid booster vaccine.
Under the government’s changes, an employer can only ask an employee who is off sick for a fit note after 28 days of absence, rather than the usual seven days. This applies to all sickness absences from 10 December and will remain in place until at least 26 January. Unite is concerned that, among other issues, this could encourage unscrupulous employers to put pressure on employees’ to return to work sooner than they should.
4. Courier pay cut strike resumes in Sheffield and Blackpool this week after Stuart’s secret pay talks exposed
The UK’s longest ever gig-economy pay strike resumes today as Sheffield and Blackpool couriers from the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) relaunch industrial action and will picket McDonalds branches every day this week.
Last week Stuart invited selected riders to closed-door meetings on pay which excluded all unionised workers. When IWGB members staged a peaceful demonstration outside the Sheffield location, they were informed by venue security that the meeting had been cancelled and Stuart staff had left the building via a ground floor fire escape.
Strike action began on 6 December when Stuart slashed its base rate of pay per delivery by 24 percent from £4.50 to £3.40, with protests spreading to Chesterfield and Sunderland. The majority ethnic minority workforce demands at least £6 per delivery plus mileage and paid waiting times after 10 minutes and their strike fund has raised almost £14,000.
5. SNP MP calls for terminal illness payments to be brought forward
SNP MP Drew Hendry has called on the Tory government to change the disability benefit rules for terminally ill people immediately, so they receive vital financial support quicker.
Mr Hendry, who chairs the APPG for Terminal Illness, has long campaigned for greater access to fast-track disability benefit applications for those with a terminal diagnosis.
After pressure from the SNP and campaigners, the UK government announced in July that the current rule that someone has to have a diagnosis of six months or less to access fast-tracked support is to be replaced with a new 12-month, end of life definition.
The move will ensure that more terminally people will have their benefits fast-tracked and at the highest rate through revised Special Rules.
However, the changes won’t be introduced until April 2022 – almost ten months after the announcement was made.
Commenting Drew Hendry said: “As we head into 2022, I am urging the UK government to change the rules now so that people who have been told they have a year or less to live can access vital financial support. It is the very least the UK government can do after making the wait so long already.”
6. Plaid Cymru MP makes plea to stop ‘isolation and separation’ of people with dementia
Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP, has made a poignant plea to stop the “isolation and separation” of people with dementia in care homes and hospitals.
During today’s Prime Minister’s Questions, the Dwyfor Meirionnydd MP, whose mother was diagnosed with dementia just before Christmas, called on governments across the UK to deliver on their commitments to the principles of John’s Campaign.
This means recognising the basic principle that people disabled by dementia should qualify as having a special need for person-centred care, and thus conform with the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 to make individual assessments of people with disability and reasonable adjustments to meet those needs.
Ms Saville Roberts called on the Prime Minister to recognise that “the human rights of disabled people, sick people and the elderly are not fair-weather luxuries, and that everyone with dementia, wherever they live, has the right to care from a family member.”
7. Heathrow airlines facing refuelling and ground handling misery as Menzies workers ballot for strike action
Over 400 workers employed by ground handling and refuelling company Menzies will be balloted for strike action from this Thursday in a dispute over pay.
The company, unlike its competitors dnata and Swissport, has refused to enter into meaningful negotiations over outstanding pay increases for its workers for either 2020 or 2021.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The UK is facing a cost of living crisis and our members at Menzies realise that a two year pay freeze will make it impossible to make ends meet.
“Unite fights to defend the jobs, pay and conditions of our members. We make no apology for demanding that Menzies makes a fair pay offer to its workers. Unite will be defending our members’ interests to the hilt until this dispute is resolved.”
8. 11 more strike days to go ahead after Eastbourne council refuses to meet GMB
Eastbourne refuse collectors will go ahead with a further 11 days of industrial action after the council refused to meet with GMB Union.
The union says a face-to-face negotiation is vital to talks as the lead representative, Mark Turner, is visually impaired and struggles to use Zoom and similar online platforms.
Eastbourne council has so far ignored requests for a meeting on 12 January and a request for a meeting on 13 January has also thus far been left unanswered.
Mark Turner, GMB B50 Branch Secretary said: “The council’s only focus appears at this time is to try to break the strike and blames GMB for the inconvenience to the residents of Eastbourne.
“We hoped they might take responsibility for this mess – given they’ve moved the service back towards being in-house through an arms-length company. Since then they have done nothing to improve the poverty pay rates or welfare, health and safety of their workers.
9. Tory cut to Universal Credit ‘very brutal and very unfair’, says charity
The Tory government’s decision to cut Universal Credit by £20 has been described as ‘very brutal and very unfair’ by a leading children’s charity in Scotland.
Mary Glasgow, Chief Executive of Children 1st, told MSPs that the decision to cut the support sent a clear message to families that ‘their poverty did not matter’. She also told the Health and Sport committee that more families are turning to foodbanks, parents are choosing to starve themselves so their children can eat and cannot afford to buy clothes for their kids.
Ms. Glasgow also told how the cut has caused ‘more guilt, shame and embarrassment’ for families who have suffered as a result of the cut.
10. Amber Rudd choice for Centrica board ‘wrong person at wrong time’ says GMB
GMB, the union for British Gas workers, says the appointment of Amber Rudd to parent company Centrica’s board is ‘the wrong person at the wrong time’.
As Energy Minister, Ms Rudd prioritised the market – which has spectacularly failed leaving confusion for millions of consumers after their supplier went bust, the union says.
GMB says her policies also left the UK’s energy security in a shambles, meaning the public are exposed to price spikes.
Andy Prendergast, GMB National Secretary, said: “Amber Rudd’s appointment to the board of Centrica is simply the wrong person at the wrong time.
“Her business background is questionable and her role as energy minister is marked by forcefully pushing for the competition system which has spectacularly failed over the last six months.”
Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward
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