Radical Roundup: 10 stories that have got buried – Week 2, March 2022

The news you didn’t seek this week…

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

  1. LGBT organisations welcome publication of Scottish government gender recognition reforms

National LGBT organisations in Scotland, including Equality Network, Scottish Trans, LGBT Youth Scotland, Stonewall Scotland and LGBT Health and Wellbeing, have voiced approval of the publication of the Scottish government’s gender recognition reforms.

The Bill proposes reforms to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA). Since 2004, GRA has enabled trans people to change the sex listed on their birth certificates.

The organisations say that the Bill’s proposed reforms will be greatly beneficial to transgender people in Scotland.

2. Northern Ireland £200 energy payments delayed due to ‘technical glitch’

Payments from NI’s £55 million Energy Payment Support Scheme were delayed due to a ‘technical glitch’. Communities minister Deidre Hargey announced that the much-need payment will be made through existing payment channels from March 11.

The one-off payment of £200 will provide support for people who are struggling to pay their energy bills due to rising costs. The payments will be automatically made to around 280,000 people on specified benefits in Northern Ireland.

3. Bin strike in Barrow

A bin strike is taking place in Barrow this week. Refuse collectors working for FCC Environment voted unanimously to walk out over the real terms pay cut offered by bosses. The strike began on March 9 and will run for three days. Further strikes will be held the following week on March 16 – 18.

Michael Hall, GMB organiser, commented: “Barrow’s refuse collectors are at the end of their tether. Bosses are trying to fob them off with a real terms pay cut while the country is in the grip of the worst cost of living crisis in a generation. 

“Now, thanks to FCC’s pig headedness, tens of thousands of Barrow homes won’t have their rubbish collected. 

“These refuse collectors know what they’re worth and they’ll fight to get it. Management could stop any disruption for the people of Barrow in a pen stroke – just offer our members an actual pay rise so they can make ends meet.” 

4. SNP says Westminster must do more to support Ukrainian refugees

The SNP has issued a damning critique of the UK government’s response to the Ukrainian refugee crisis. It points to how over ten days after Putin invaded Ukraine, Home Office reports show only around 300 Ukrainian refugees had been granted visa to come to the UK, despite more than 13,500 applying.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was “inhumane” and “indefensible”, and that Westminster’s insufficient response is creating unnecessary hurdles for those seeking refuge.

The Scottish government said it is committed to working alongside local authorities to support Ukrainian refugees to settle in Scotland.

5. Strikes at GE Steam Power in Rugby continue

Strikes at GE Steam Power in Rugby have continued. Two days of action took place on March 4 and 7. More than 75 members of Unite the Union – almost the entire GE Steam Power workforce – are set to strike for another eight days next week and on May 2.

Bosses of GE Steam Power are refusing to negotiate over flexible working payments and expect workers to accept new positions without additional pay.

6. UNISON appoints first female Scottish secretary

UNISON has appointed Tracey Dalling, who will be the union’s first female Scottish secretary in its almost 30-year history. The appointment was announced on March 8, International Women’s Day.

Dalling is taking over from Mike Kirby, who retired after working for UNISON for decades.

Commenting on her new position, Dalling said: “I have represented Unison members in Scotland for many years and I look forward to continuing to do so in my new role. 

“We may be emerging from the pandemic, but it is the start of another huge period of change as our members are further pressed by pay and pension squeezes with bleak choices on managing household bills. 

“Unison has clear priorities: the crisis in social care and new national care service; investment for local government; the staffing crisis in the NHS; fair pay settlements for all public service workers; protecting all our pensions; equal pay; climate change; and a strong voice for all our public services and those that deliver them. I look forward to the challenge ahead.” 

7. Plaid Cymru announces new measures to tackle loophole in housing market

Plaid Cymru has announced a new package of measures designed to help tackle the housing crisis. The strategy is part of the commitments set out in the Co-operation Agreement between the Welsh government and Plaid Cymru, to take immediate and radical action using the planning, property and taxation systems.

The measures include an increase to the maximum level of council tax premiums for second homes, as well as new local tax rules for holiday lets.

8. Muslim Hands to hold annual Walk for the Children of War

Muslim Hands is encouraging people to join them this Ramadan as they walk 5km to support children caught up in wars around the world. The Walk for the Children of War event is being held on April 23 in London. The annual event takes place every Ramadan as a symbol of the group’s solidarity with children and families affected by war.

9. Churchill train cleaners continue fight for fair pay and working conditions

Railway cleaners employed by the outsourcing giant Churchill, are to hold a 48-hour walkout starting from midnight on March 12. The cleaners are fighting to get paid £15 an hour and for their jobs to be brought in-house by the rail companies that they work for. By working for the rail companies rather than Churchill, the cleaners hope to be guaranteed free travel and fair sick pay.

The first day of RMT members’ action took place on February 23 and was the biggest strike by cleaners in the history of railways.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch, commented on the strike action: “Churchill’s treatment of cleaning staff who have risked their health and safety to work throughout the pandemic is a disgrace. Workers on low pay are much worse off now than 12 months ago and multimillion-pound contractor Churchill has failed to recognise that.”

10. University workers to step up strike action

The UCU Union has announced two waves of strikes are planned for March. Action will take place on Monday 21 March to Friday 25 March, when staff from 36 universities will head to the pickets in another round of action over cuts, pension schemes and workload.

Strikers will vote on a new package of offers, including full employment rights for all, and an end to zero-hour contracts. A cap on workloads has also been announced.

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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