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

The news you didn’t seek this week…

1.Airport chaos will continue if aviation industry’s treatment of workers doesn’t improve

The chaos and staff shortages afflicting UK airports will continue unless the aviation industry improves the way it treats its workers, Unite, the UK’s leading union, has said.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “We warned the aviation sector repeatedly not to use the cover of Covid to slash jobs and pay. This would render it unable to meet demand when passengers returned.

“Now the sector is suffering from a chronic inability to attract new staff because workers are not attracted to an industry where pay is poor and conditions are lousy.

“Bargain-basement wages and insecure jobs must be consigned to the past if the sector wants to get back on track.

 “It is pretty simple – if you want to thrive, treat your workers with respect and don’t attack their jobs, pay and conditions.”

2. Hundreds of St George’s hospital workers balloted for strike against ‘cruel and unnecessary pay cycle changes

GMB union will ballot hundreds of members employed by Mitie at St Georges Hospital for strike action.

The members, who work as domestics and hostesses are angry about pay they are owed being delayed. The company has changed pay cycles of the low paid workers, who will now be forced to take out loans with the company to afford spiralling rent and bill payments.

The ballot will close on Thursday next week (14 April) and will, subject the members’ decision, progress to a formal industrial action ballot.

Helen O’Connor, GMB Regional Organiser said: “Our members work incredibly hard to keep St George’s Hospital running and the very least they should be able to expect is to have their wages paid on time.

“Mitie is a rich company with headquarters covering the entire 14th floor of the Shard building in London. There is no excuse for them to withhold wages from low paid workers.

“GMB can see the planned pay cycle disruption is not in the interests of our members, who are being put at risk of eviction and starvation if they don’t accept loans instead of wages owed. It is cruel and unnecessary.”

3. Unite members stand firm to secure fair tips victory at Pizza Express

A long campaign by Unite has secured a return to a fair tips policy at Pizza Express, boosting the wages of low paid waiting staff.

In March, an internal Pizza Express committee, established to agree tips allocation, scrapped a controversial rule that 50 per cent of the electronic tips waiting staff receive should be given to kitchen staff.

The committee, made up of staff representatives from across Pizza Express, has now agreed to return to the policy that was in place before May 2021. Waiting staff will now receive 70 per cent of all electronic tips.

When Pizza Express cut tips to 50 per cent, waiting staff reported their incomes had dropped by around £2,000 a year. The policy was heavily criticised, seen as a way for Pizza Express to boost its profits by underpaying its kitchen staff and then subsidising their wages through tips.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This decision is long-overdue and the right move. Congratulations to our Pizza Express waiting staff members who stood firm to fight this unpopular, unfair tipping policy in the face of pressure from the company to stay silent and accept a raw deal.

4. SNP slam fracking survey commissioned by UK ministers

The SNP has slammed UK ministers for commissioning a survey which will look at reintroducing fracking.

The process – which pumps water, chemicals, and sand underground at high pressure to fracture shale rock to release oil and gas – had been placed under moratorium by UK ministers since 2019. 

In contrast, fracking was banned by the Scottish Government who described the process as “incompatible” with the government’s policies to tackle the climate emergency.

Commenting, the SNP’s Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesperson Deidre Brock MP said: “The UK government’s decision to commission a survey which will look at the possibility of reintroducing fracking is completely unacceptable and must be reversed.

“When the leaders of the world descended on Glasgow for COP26, we pledged to do everything we can to end our reliance on fossil fuels – and everything in our power to tackle the climate emergency.”

5. Longest Gig-Economy Strike hits Day 100 as Stuart Delivery Boss Admits to Pay Cuts in Meeting

The longest gig-economy strike in history hit 100 days last week as JustEat subcontractor Stuart Delivery’s UK general manager, Brendan Hamill, declared fees were previously too high in recent meetings with a union representative.

It represents the first admission from the company that the new pay structure equates to a pay cut, despite Stuart previously claiming that the 24% cut to the base rate rolled out in early December 2021 was “fairer”. 

Couriers, who are forced to pay their own vehicle and fuel costs, are doubly hit by the cost of living crisis, as wages have fallen while expenses are skyrocketing. Many couriers are forced to work upwards of 70 hours a week to make ends meet. Meanwhile, Stuart Delivery, ultimately funded by the French public-owned postal service, has one of the highest margins on deliveries in the gig economy and handed a £2 million pay rise to CEO Damien Bon in 2020.

Parirs Dixon, Courier and Chair of the Sheffield Couriers’ Branch (IWGB), said: “It was refreshing to hear Stuart’s UK General Manager Brendan Hamill finally agree to meet me after 100 days of action, but it became clear during the 3 hour meeting that Mr. Hamill was not there to negotiate in good faith.

“He spoke down to me, told me our fees prior to the cut were too high, and seemed as if he was trying to break my spirits to stop the strike. He will be disappointed to know that workers are incensed about the contempt he showed me and other cities are starting to take action after hearing about the meeting. This has only strengthened our resolve and we have no intention of stopping until we get the pay rise we are owed.”

6. Off-grid homes left ‘particularly neglected’ by chancellor

The SNP has warned of a ‘hidden impact’ amidst the cost of living energy crisis, warning that millions of homes across the UK could face energy costs higher than those covered by the price cap.

Recent figures from the House of Commons Library revealed that off-grid households face an even bigger hike to energy bills, with the SNP warning that around 129,000 off-grid homes in Scotland were being ‘particularly neglected’ by the Chancellor.

The stats showed that while homes protected by the price cap had seen their energy bills rise by 97.5% in the last year, those who fall outside the cap have faced a 164% increase in the same period.

In a letter to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the SNP’s spokesperson Alan Brown MP said that with no regulation of off-grid energy sources households faced a ‘manifestly unjust’ situation, and called for greater support for those hit the hardest by the cost of living crisis.

7. Hackney council workers strike over “insulting” 1.75% pay offer

More than 200 Hackney council workers will strike over an “insulting” 1.75 per cent pay offer, Unite said today.

Staff working in refuse, building services and passenger services for those with disabilities and special educational needs, will strike between 25 and 27 April and 3 May and 5 May.

While the rate of real inflation (the RPI) is running at 8.2 per cent and rising, the 1.75 per cent offer, rising to 2.75 per cent for those on the bottom pay point, has been set nationally by the Local Government Association (LGA) for 2021/22.

Unite is urging Hackney council to reject the LGA recommendation and to table a proper pay rise and prevent the possibility of long-running strike action.

8. Majority of public believe Boris Johnson lied to Parliament over Downing Street parties

Earlier this week, we reported on an exclusive poll that found an overwhelming majority of the public believe that Boris Johnson lied to Parliament over Downing Street parties.

70% of those asked said they believed Boris Johnson lied to Parliament about Downing Street parties, compared to just 12% who believe that he did not lie.

The Tories are now pushing the line that Johnson was given ‘incorrect information’ after he claimed for weeks that ‘no rules were broken’ and that guidelines were followed at all times when questioned about whether parties had taken place in Downing Street and Whitehall during lockdown. The Met’s decision to issue fines shows once more that Johnson lied and the public certainly aren’t buying into his excuses.

 9. UK is second worst country for stripping people of citizenship

A new report has found the UK has stripped more people of their citizenship than any other country asides from Bahrain in the past decade after the House of Lords again rejected the  government’s controversial new immigration and asylum reforms.

More than 200 people have had their citizenship removed to supposedly protect national security by the UK government since 2010, based on the study by the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion and Global Citizenship Observatory.

Commenting on the new report, Amal De Chickera, co-director of the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion and a visiting lecturer at Middlesex University, said: “The UK is one of the world’s worst offenders for stripping people of their citizenship.

“Knee jerk reactions to terrorist events and court judgments alike, have resulted in rushed, reactive policy making, with no evidence that we have been made safer.

“Such ill-judged measures ultimately validate and bolster racist, populist narratives, while eroding citizenship and rights for all.”

10. Tory MP Craig Mackinlay backs ‘Laughable’ Report Urging Renewables be ‘Wound Down’

Tory MP Craig Mackinlay who chairs the Net Zero Scrutiny Group (NZSG), which opposes many of the government’s net zero policies, has endorsed a report calling for renewable energy to be “wound down” completely.

DeSmog highlights how Mackinlay is quoted at length in a press release for a report released by Net Zero Watch entitled: “Taking Back Control: Addressing Britain’s Energy Crisis”, which was released over the weekend and covered in the Telegraph newspaper.

The report calls for the rapid extraction of oil and gas as well as the return of fracking. It further states: “Renewables must be put on the same footing as other generators, with no subsidies and no preferential dispatch, and eventually wound down.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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