Radical Roundup: 10 stories that have got buried – Week 3, March 2022

The news you didn’t seek this week…

Radical Roundup

1.Strike fears at the Financial Conduct Authority as staff start formal strike ballot

Employees working across the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have today served notice to begin a ballot on taking industrial action against cuts to their pay and conditions.

Unite, the union representing staff at FCA, has today sent legal notification to the regulator of the industrial action ballot to commence in seven days. The union is balloting the workforce because damaging proposals by the regulator will have the effect of driving down performance and threatening the financial watchdog’s operations at a time when it is already struggling due to a staff exodus.

The FCA’s CEO Nikhil Rathi has refused all attempts by the union to negotiate on the cuts.

Sharon Graham, Unite General Secretary said: “Our members at the Financial Conduct Authority are rightly angry. For too long their CEO Nikhil Rathi has chosen to ignore their concerns while pocketing about half a million pounds a year of public money. Now it seems he would rather cut the pay of hard-working frontline staff than make necessary structural reforms.

2. Wiltshire council must ditch plans to slash keyworker pay by 20 percent or face industrial action – GMB

GMB Union has warned Wiltshire Council it must ditch plans to slash key worker pay by 20 per cent or face industrial action.

Under the local authority’s plans, staff in highways and leisure centres, care workers, social workers and traffic wardens face a pay cut of between 10 and 20 per cent.

Social workers would lose around £7,000 per year, and traffic wardens would lose about £2,000 per year.

In total, 97 per cent of GMB members voted to reject the cuts – the ballot also showed they would support industrial action if required.

Keith Roberts, GMB Regional Organiser, said: “GMB has proposed talks to resolve differences with the council, but they have point blank refused to talk to us. 

“A confrontation is not in the interests of the council, staff, or residents – but if that is the path they want to push us down, we will reluctantly have to take it.”

3.  Energy bills set to rise at least 14 times faster than wages in 2022

Energy bills are set to rise at least 14 times faster than wages this year, according to new TUC analysis.

The analysis shows that while gas and electricity bills are set to increase by 54 per cent when the price cap set by Ofgem is increased in April, by contrast average weekly wages are set to rise by just 3.75 per cent per cent in 2022.

The TUC estimates that record-high energy prices could wipe out the entire value of pay rises this year.

Average wages are forecast to increase by around £1,000 a year (in nominal terms) in 2022, but the rise in the energy price cap in April of £693 will wipe out 70 per cent of these gains.

4. Education catch-up programme failing to reach disadvantaged students

Commenting on Is the Catch-up programme fit for purpose?, a new report from the House of Commons Education Committee, Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: “This is a serious warning from the Education Committee that if government doesn’t provide enough support for disadvantaged young people, they risk baking in the deepening inequalities between disadvantaged children and their better off peers.

“There is a role for tutoring because so many extra students need individual attention due to Covid disruption, but the catch-up funding should have been allocated directly to schools and colleges not via Randstad.

“The view of teachers is that they need much more opportunity for children to have time in small groups and more one-on-one time and this requires extra qualified teachers and more curriculum flexibility than the Department for Education has thus far allowed.”

5. More than 80% of Scots worried about Tory cost of living crisis

Polling suggests more than 80% of people in Scotland are worried about the Tory cost of living crisis as food, fuel and household bills sky-rocket.

A YouGov poll suggested 84% of Scots were worried, with 43% reporting that they were very worried about increasing costs, with just 2% of people not at all worried.

Across Great Britain, those over 65 years old were those with the greatest concerns, as 82% of pensioners were worried.

Commenting, SNP MSP Emma Roddick said: “The Tories should be listening and taking drastic action to address the concerns of the people of Scotland, with those on lowest incomes having to choose between heating and eating. Some are already experiencing a Tory-imposed squeeze on living standards from when they cut Universal Credit by £20 a week last year.

“Incomes are set to be squeezed further as the Tory hike in National Insurance hits pay packets in April. We must see action from the Tory Chancellor, who should introduce an emergency package of support for families that need it most.

6. Coventry bin strikes will run into the summer after huge vote for action

A “catalogue of failures” and “rank incompetence” on the part of Coventry council means the long-running Coventry bin strike will continue into the summer after HGV drivers voted for further industrial action by a huge margin.

94% of the HGV drivers who took part in the ballot voted to renew the mandate for industrial action.

All out strike action will recommence on Monday 28 March. The strikes will run through the spring, including during the local elections in May, when 18 of Coventry’s councillors will be elected.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Rank incompetence and a catalogue of failures by Coventry council mean this strike will continue into the summer.

“The dispute could have been easily settled with capable council leaders. Instead, George Duggins and the other councillors have scandalously squandered millions and refused to attend a single meeting with Unite.”

7. Plaid Cymru MP criticises Minister for lack of ‘awareness’ of devolved fracking powers

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP, has slammed a UK Government Minister for a lack of “awareness” after he failed to commit to respecting the Welsh ban on fracking.

When asked by the Plaid Cymru MP in the House of Commons whether he would respect Wales’s opposition to fracking, the Minister of State, Greg Hands MP, said that “energy is a reserved matter”. However, powers over licensing for oil and gas extraction on land as well as in intertidal areas, estuaries and coastal inlets were devolved to Wales in 2018.

Ms Saville Roberts responded that “awareness should be established within this Government as to which powers are reserved and which powers are devolved to Wales”.

8. More than 50 MSPs sign SNP cross-party letter on defibrillator VAT

SNP MSP Jenni Minto has sent a cross-party letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak urging him to ditch VAT on purchases of life-saving defibrillators.

More than 50 MSPs from the SNP, Labour, Conservatives, Greens and the Lib Dems signed the letter which highlights the importance of building an effective defibrillator network across the country to ensure that those who suffer from an out of hospital cardiac arrest can receive CPR with defibrillation quickly and effectively.

Currently, charities and local authorities are able to claim a VAT exemption when purchasing a defibrillator, but the Chancellor is being urged to extend this exemption to anyone buying the equipment.

9. Croydon Hospital workers hold post box rally as they gear up for strike action

GMB members who work as porters and cleaners at Croydon Hospital have held a post box rally last week in the main entrance of the hospital.

The workers, who are employed by outsourcing giant G4S, are currently being balloted for industrial action over pay and are demanding the real London Living Wage and an occupational sick pay scheme.

The rally took place around the post box in the entrance of Croydon University Hospital from 3:30pm on Friday 11 March and encouraged members to return their ballot paper before the ballot closes on Friday 18 March.

Helen O’Connor, GMB Regional Organiser, said: “Large numbers of G4S workers are joining GMB because they are sick and tired of trying to eke out an existence on poverty pay and having to come into a hospital to work when they are unwell.

“They held a protest on 31 January  which was widely supported and they had hoped this this would prompt G4S and the trust to take their concerns seriously but nothing has changed. They are now voting for a strike and they are determined to ensure that every last G4S colleague joins the union and votes in the ballot.

“They are clear that they want to see the end of G4S and they want to be taken back in-house by the trust and put on NHS contracts like all the other staff in the hospital.”

10. Greens condemn two main parties for failing to show compassion over Ukrainian refugees

The Green Party has said that ‘neither Conservatives nor Labour are stepping up to the level required in this humanitarian crisis.’

Migration and Refugee Support Spokesperson Benali Hamdache said: “Priti Patel is making our country look cruel and incompetent in the face of the humanitarian disaster unfolding across our continent. But Labour’s failure to back visa-free access is even more shocking and it is deeply depressing to see Labour politicians mimicking the tough stance of this awful government.

“The vast majority of the public want to allow Ukrainian refugees to come to Britain without having a visa as they flee for their lives. Yet politicians from both main parties are unrelenting in applying cruel bureaucracy that is rejecting refugees at our borders. The UK stands alone in Europe in turning away those in need. This is a national disgrace.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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