Radical Roundup: 10 stories that have got buried – Week 4, March 2022

The news you didn’t seek this week…

Radical Roundup

1.NHS workers deserve more than pay cuts, GMB tells NHS pay review body

The GMB union has told the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) that health workers deserve more than pay cuts.

The Government has once again recommended in their own PRB submission a real terms pay cut for NHS workers of between 2-3% .

Giving oral evidence to the body, GMB warned about the impact on services this pay cut will have, with staff already leaving the NHS due to low pay and poor conditions – patient care is already suffering. 

Rachel Harrison, GMB National Officer, said: “GMB members rejected last year’s pay award, and the one before – and we have been proven right to do so. 

“It can’t be right the lowest paid workers have to be given an emergency advance just so the NHS doesn’t break minimum wage legislation.

“Staff morale is at an all-time low and talks of another below inflation pay award only serves to rub salt in the wounds.”

2.  Unions demand business secretary names a date for an employment bill in wake of P&O scandal

Trade unions are demanding the business secretary names a date for the government’s long-overdue employment bill in the wake of the P&O Ferries scandal.

General secretaries from the TUC and more than thirty affiliate unions including RMT, Nautilus, Unite, Unison and GMB have written to Kwasi Kwarteng, calling on the government to strengthen employment legislation and make sure the P&O scandal is never allowed to happen again.

The government first promised an employment bill more than two years ago, which was supposed to boost workers’ rights and make Britain the best place to work in the world.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The prime minister promised to make Britain the best place to work in the world.

“But one of the most shameful moments in the recent history of UK industrial relations has happened on his watch.

“No more excuses. The government must name a date for an employment bill now.”

3. UK workers miss out on £4,000 in pay growth compared to OECD average since 2007 – TUC analysis

New analysis published by the TUC shows the exceptional nature of the UK’s pay squeeze.

While most OECD countries have delivered significant pay growth to their workers since the financial crisis, real wages in the UK have fallen.

Average annual pay growth in the UK has been -0.2% since 2007, and it is one of just 7 out of 33 OECD countries where real pay growth since 2007 is negative.

The TUC says that UK workers should not assume that, because the rest of the world was hit by the financial crisis and other global problems, other countries have suffered the same pay stagnation too.

4. Oxford City Council slams privatisation of Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre

Oxford City Council has voted unanimously to oppose the privatisation of the Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre, based in Harwell Oxfordshire. It comes after a motion that obtained cross-party support, proposed by Green Councillors Chris Jarvis and Lucy Pegg on March 21.

The Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre is based in Oxfordshire and was launched in 2018 with more than £200m of public funding. The flagship UK vaccine manufacturing centre has been at the heart of the government’s efforts to prepare for future pandemics, and was reportedly vital in the UK’s vaccine programme.

Chris Jarvis – leader of the Green Group on the City Council – said: “Putting the VMIC up for sale is beyond absurd. Throughout the two years of the Covid-19 pandemic we’ve seen that when private profit is put above public health, multi-national companies line their pockets and people suffer. We should be learning the lessons from this, not repeating the same mistakes. I’m incredibly grateful that Councillors – Green, Labour, and Liberal Democrat – have all put political differences aside and called for this damaging move to be blocked.”

5. Private Hire Drivers Protest Central Government and TfL over Poverty Pay, Safety, and Unfair Dismissals

Private hire drivers from the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) went on strike and protested outside of the Houses of Parliament over poverty pay, health and safety concerns, and the lack of a fair dismissal process that has led to hundreds of drivers losing their jobs.

The action also received international support, including from private hire driver unions in Nigeria and Uruguay, and is targeting central government and licensing authorities in a call for better regulation of the sector.

Nader Awaad, Chair of United Private Hire Drivers’ Branch (IWGB), says: “We have suffered through years of poverty pay, mistreatment and a lack of basic rights and safety, and are here today to show both the apps and the government that enough is enough.

“We need pay that reflects the rising costs of living and fuel, we need proper safety precautions to protect drivers, and we need a fair and human process when it comes to dismissals. If the apps are shirking responsibility for their workers, we need the government to step up and enforce our rights.”

6. Calderdale councillors must stop fire and rehire threat – GMB

GMB Union will lobby a full meeting of Calderdale Council today over plans to fire and rehire workers – and badge it as a restructure. 

GMB is also in dispute with Calderdale Council over their failure to carry out a much-needed job evaluation process following the council’s decision to dish out a whopping £450,000 from the public purse over the next three years so outsourced waste contractor Suez can increase the market rates for HGV drivers and supervisors.

The union is now calling on Calderdale Council to review the trade union facilities agreement as it puts GMB representatives at a severe disadvantage compared to other unions.

Jake O’Malley, GMB Organiser, said: “We’ll be lobbying the council meeting today to send a clear message to councillors that the GMB will not sit back and allow fire and rehire to happen to our members in Calderdale.

“We’re calling on the council to rethink its fire and rehire tactics, carry out a job evaluation process and renegotiate a more meaningful facilities agreement with GMB, so we can get on with the job of representing our members effectively.”

7.  SNP demand a reverse to forces cuts

The SNP has demanded that the UK government reverse the deep cuts to the Armed Forces ahead of the Chancellor’s Spring Statement.

Warning that renewed threats to our strategic interests should come with a significant overhaul of MOD spending, the SNP’s Shadow Defence Secretary, Stewart McDonald MP, called for a reverse to cuts to the UK’s conventional forces and for the Chancellor to address pro-rata personnel shortfalls in Scotland.

In recent years the army has seen troop numbers reduced by 10,000, proposals to cut the UK’s arsenal of Challenger tanks from 227 to 148 and cuts which have seen Scotland’s pro-rata forces fall short by 2,000 personnel.

8. Devolve ‘levelling up’ funds and focus on cost-of-living crisis – Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru Treasury Spokesperson, Ben Lake MP, has introduced a Bill to Parliament calling for the devolution of the Shared Prosperity Funds to Wales and for a new focus on the cost-of-living crisis.

The Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto promised a replacement for EU funds that would be “fairer and better tailored to our economy”, but just over two years on, Mr Lake has criticised the UK Government’s “lack of a clear strategic focus” and “disjointed projects that tinker around the edges.”

Mr Lake said that the funds should be refocused to address the cost-of-living crisis and to “deliver genuinely transformational programmes” starting with a “wholesale” home retrofitting programme.

9. TUC – ministers must “come down like a ton of bricks” on P&O

Responding to the letter from P&O Ferries to the government, which admits that no consultation was carried out in advance, before the company sacked 800 workers, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Ministers must come down on P&O like a ton of bricks.

“If P&O is allowed to get away with a slap on the wrist, it will be a green light for employers up and down the land to treat staff like disposable labour.

“The government needs to hit the firm where it really hurts.

“That means suspending all of P&O’s licenses immediately and cancelling its lucrative freeport contracts until all workers have been reinstated.”

10. Chancellor must deliver public sector pay rise and cost of living help, says UNISON

The chancellor must use the spring statement to signal a significant rise in public sector workers’ pay or essential services across the UK could come to a standstill, says UNISON.

With millions struggling to pay bills and afford the basics, there’s a real danger that staff working in the NHS, care, schools, police forces and councils will look for work elsewhere, leaving vital services unable to cope, the union says.

UNISON has written to Rishi Sunak calling for Wednesday’s spending announcements to include proper investment in public sector pay after years of freezes or minimal rises before it’s too late and irreversible damage is done.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Rising prices are wreaking havoc on the finances of working people. The government can’t just sit idly by.

“What’s needed from the chancellor is funding for an above-inflation pay rise across the entire public sector.

“Health, care, council, police, energy and education services were key to seeing us through the pandemic.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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