Radical Roundup: 10 stories that have got buried – Week 1, February 2022

The news you didn't see this week...

Radical Roundup

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1.Construction workers pursue pay rise to meet galloping cost of living

Unions, led by Unite, the UK’s leading construction union, have submitted a pay claim to the Construction Industry Joint Council (CIJC) seeking a 10 per cent pay increase in a bid to redress pay cuts and the galloping rise in the cost of living faced by its members.

Unite argues that with a construction output of £110 billion per annum, employers can easily afford to reward workers with wages that keep pace with living costs. The union warns that unless the industry begins offering decent wages it will result in the continuing failure to attract new starters.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Construction workers are highly skilled and are essential to the UK’s future prosperity. But they are fed up with years of wage attacks. So with growth across the sector now forecast, we’re simply asking that our members get their fair share of rewards.”

2. Amazon stops paying workers for positive tweets – propaganda isn’t fooling anyone’ says GMB

GMB says ‘Amazon’s propaganda isn’t fooling anyone’ as the company ditches a scheme that paid staff to paint a positive image of working in its warehouses on social media.

Mick Rix, GMB National Officer, said: “Amazon’s paid propaganda isn’t fooling anyone.

“Too many Amazon workers in the UK –  and around the world  – report exhaustion due to dehumanising work methods.

 “Year upon year there are increases in reportable injuries.

“Amazon bosses are in denial; they are conning the public about the true working conditions in Amazon warehouses.

“GMB research shows every year an increasing and grossly unacceptable number of workers suffering  injuries – even requiring an ambulance to take them to hospital.

“Instead of denial and burying their heads in the sand, it’s time for the company to talk to GMB and make Amazon a great, safe place to work.”

3. Public’s top priority for levelling up is more and better jobs – new TUC poll

The British public’s number one priority for levelling up is more and better jobs, according to new TUC polling published this week.

The TUC polling, conducted by YouGov, reveals one in two Britons (49 per cent) think increasing the number and quality of jobs available should be front and centre of the government’s strategy to level up the UK.

Other popular policies include upgrading transport infrastructure, which 35 per cent backed and improving high streets and towns, which 33 per cent wanted.

Increasing the number and quality of jobs is popular across the political spectrum.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Everyone deserves to be treated fairly at work and paid a wage they can live on. But for too many in the UK, work isn’t paying the bills.

“After more than a decade of lost pay and with the cost-of-living crisis taking its toll, it’s time ministers got their priorities right. We can’t level up the country without levelling up work.”

4. Longest Gig-Economy Strike Escalates as Sheffield Couriers Blockade Sheffield McDonald’s

On 30th January, striking food delivery couriers, employed by the JustEat subcontractor Stuart Delivery, demonstrated outside of the Sheffield Archer Road McDonald’s. 60 drivers and supporters, joined by Paul Blomfield MP, blockaded the entrance to the McDonald’s, shutting down all orders for 45 minutes. Speeches were given by drivers and local business owners who came out to support the action.

Couriers began strike action on 6 December 2021, after Stuart Delivery cut the minimum delivery pay by 24%, from £4.50 to £3.40, following a gradual decline in pay and conditions. Couriers have been declining orders from McDonald’s between 5-8PM every evening for 40 days, and have recently started targeting Greggs and other restaurants. Strike action has also taken place in Sunderland, Chesterfield, Blackpool, and Huddersfield.

5. One third of Labour voters back Indyref

Leaked Labour party polling has revealed that almost a third of party members support a second independence referendum.

The SNP says that the polling puts even further pressure on Anas Sarwar to recognise the cast iron mandate for an independence referendum that the people of Scotland overwhelmingly voted for, less than a year ago.

Commenting on the leaked polling, SNP MSP Paul McLennan said: “In 2015, hundreds of thousands of former Labour voters switched to the SNP because of their opposition to independence and Labour’s alliance with the Tories.

“Now that their sole MP at Westminster treats the people of Scotland with the same ‘disdain’ they accuse the Tories of by lobbying the Tory government to take powers off the Scottish Parliament, they are not only further away from those former supporters but could alienate a significant proportion of what’s left of their vote.”

6. Jacob Rees-Mogg dodges question on Plaid Cymru proposals to hold lying politicians to account

Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams has said that the Conservatives’ refusal to support a bill to stop politicians from lying shows they know they’re guilty.

During Business Questions in the House of Commons last week, the Plaid Cymru MP asked for a debate on lying in politics. The party has long called for a law to stop politicians from deliberately misleading the public, with party leader Adam Price introducing the Elected Representatives (Prohibition of Deception) Bill when he was an MP in 2007.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Hywel Williams MP said: “Yesterday, the Leader [Jacob Rees-Mogg] said that in his experience, “very few people do lie in public life”. Well, very few people indulge in burglary but the law is there to deal with them.

“My party has longstanding proposals to strengthen Parliament’s ability to hold politicians to account when they deliberately lie. So can we have an early debate on lying in politics?”

Jacob Rees-Mogg dodged Mr Williams’ question, responding: “What people say politically is a matter of continual political debate – it is what we do in this Chamber. People have different opinions one way or another and when people disagree they often make accusations that are more aggressive than the facts bear out.”

7. UK at risk of new variants if poorer countries left unvaccinated, scientists warn

Allowing large numbers of people in low and middle-income countries to go unvaccinated is “a reckless approach to public health” that could lead to new variants of Coronavirus, scientists have warned the government.

More than 320 scientists and public health experts have called for the government to allow low and middle-income countries to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments for themselves in a letter to the Prime Minister and senior cabinet ministers.

Vaccinating the vast majority of the world’s population is the best way to prevent further coronavirus variants of concern, they say, including variants that are more infectious or render our current vaccines less effective.

Lord Nigel Crisp, former chief executive of NHS England, said: “Throughout this pandemic, the government has pledged that it will follow the science. The scientific evidence has been clear since the start of the pandemic that the best way to keep ourselves and our NHS safe from new variants is to vaccinate the world.”

8. London, Essex and Kent braced for bus delays as Arriva drivers ballot for strikes over ‘pitiful’ pay offer

Bus passengers across London, Essex and Kent are facing severe disruption this spring, as bus drivers employed by Arriva ballot for industrial action following a ‘pitiful’ pay offer.

Over 1,300 drivers are being balloted for strike action after being offered a pay increase of just 1.5 per cent; a sizeable real terms pay cut when the retail price index (RPI) inflation rate is currently 7.5 per cent.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Arriva’s bus drivers are no longer prepared to accept ‘pitiful’ pay rises, which amount to real terms pay cuts.

“Unite is the union which always puts the jobs, pay and conditions of its members first. Our members at Arriva will be receiving the union’s total support until the company makes an acceptable pay offer.”

9. Where is the £350 million a week for the NHS the Brexit bus promised?

On the day that the Sue Gray update into illegal parties in Downing Street parties was published, the government also published a document on the ‘Benefits of Brexit’.

John Lubbock who heads up our Right Watch project at LFF, takes a deeper look at where exactly is the 350 million a week for the NHS the Brexit bus promised? You can read his report here.

10. Government must apologise to care staff over ‘no jab, no job’ rule, says UNISON                    

Commenting on health secretary Sajid Javid’s refusal to apologise to care home staff for the government’s mandatory vaccination policy, UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “The government has treated staff working in English care homes and the wider sector appallingly. Ministers were warned repeatedly of the terrible consequences of the ‘no jab, no job’ rules, yet ploughed on regardless.

“The government must single-handedly take the blame for aggravating the staffing crisis and pushing care homes to the brink. It’s simply not good enough for the health secretary to say sacked workers can return to care homes if they like.

“Thousands of dedicated and experienced staff have been lost to the sector. Most will never return because they have found less stressful, better paid work.

“Sajid Javid should apologise and find the cash to ensure the real living wage is the minimum hourly rate in care. That’s the very least the government can do.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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