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

The news you didn’t seek this week…

1.Manchester bin strike to go ahead after workers vote for industrial action

Manchester residents face a bin strike after workers voted for industrial action yesterday. GMB Union will now meet with members to discuss dates for the strike, which could affect up to 220,000 homes.

More than 90 per cent of the workers, employed by outsourced waste management company Biffa, voted for industrial action – on a turnout of more than 60 per cent.

The dispute stems from Biffa refusing to increase wages for the majority of the workers above the 1.75 per cent that local government workers received for 2021.

Michael Clark, GMB Regional Organiser, said: “Manchester’s residents now face a bin strike.

“The city’s refuse collectors and street scene services worked through the pandemic, doing a tough job.

“Now they need help to get them through the biggest fall in living standards for 50 years.”

2. Unite secures 12.2 per cent pay rise for Sellafield cleaners and catering staff

Unite has secured a major 12.2 per cent rise for cleaners and caterers working at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing site in Cumbria.

The 30-plus workers are employed by Mire Services Ltd, a local company which undertakes cleaning and catering services for the hundreds of construction workers who operate on the complex.

Unite has secured a pay deal which has seen the workers’ pay increase from the national minimum wage rate of £8.91 an hour to £10 per hour, a rise of 12.2 per cent.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite’s members at Mire Services stood together to secure this major pay increase. It’s a great win which underlines our commitment to improving pay across the Sellafield site and yet again demonstrates the value of being a member of Unite.”

3. ASDA now worst paying of big four supermarkets and ‘needs to get a grip’ – GMB

GMB, the union for Asda workers, has criticised the supermarket for today becoming the worst paying of the ‘big four’ of Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Asda.

Nadine Houghton, GMB National Officer, said: “Asda needs to get a grip.

“It is now the lowest paying of the big four supermarkets and one of the lowest paying supermarkets over all. 

“On the very same day, Oxfam has announced them as being bottom of the supermarket ethical scorecard.

“Asda needs to stop poverty pay. There is a cost of living crisis and for many Asda workers covering basic bills is a struggle.

“Bosses must view this as a turning point – they can change this now by committing to be a better employer.”

4. Over £10 billion – The price of being short-changed and ignored by Westminster, say SNP

The SNP says that a litany of figures amounting to over £10 billion expose how Tory Westminster governments have form in short-changing Scotland, with statistics showing it is still going on with outstanding debts to be paid and Scotland also having to pay for being short-changed by the Tories’ Brexit obsession.

Amongst the list of items there is:

£421 million in underfunding City Deals

£1.3 billion in promised but undelivered funding from the UK leaving the EU

£290 million in Barnett consequentials for the Council Tax rebate

£125 million in VAT paid by Scottish police & fire services

£103.4 million in health funding shortfalls

£3.04 billion as Scotland’s share of the Brexit ‘divorce’ bill

£1.4 billion to be spent in mitigating benefits cuts by the Westminster government

 £1 billion as the promised Tory figure for the cost of a carbon capture facility which had previously been confirmed for location in Scotland

£2.6 billion lost over the next five years through the scrapping of their manifesto promise to maintain the triple lock pension

In total £10.3 billion or over £2,000 per person in Scotland or nearly £4,400 per household.

5. UK Government fails to address crippling energy bills or give clarity over investment in Wales

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP has criticised the UK Government for “taking too long to deliver the net-zero solutions to our climate and energy crises” while households are struggling with “crippling energy bills”.

The strategy, which is expected to be published in full later today, includes new oil and gas developments, which Ms Saville Roberts described as “inexplicable”.

The UK Government have also made a non-committal pledge to develop the Wylfa nuclear site “as soon as possible this decade” and an ambition for more offshore wind.

Ms Saville Roberts said that the lack of clarity over investment for Wales was “exasperating” and called for the devolution of more energy powers to Wales in order to “deliver the green investment needed to create jobs and opportunities”. She also highlighted the need for a national energy company, Ynni Cymru, which forms part of Plaid Cymru’s Cooperation Agreement with the Welsh Government.

6. Staff at 24 UK universities back further strike action in ballot over USS pension cuts

Staff at 24 UK universities have secured a mandate to take further strike action in a dispute over cuts to pensions which could see disruption continue throughout the rest of the academic year.

Overall, eight in ten (79.5%) backed strike action, with almost nine in ten (88.1%) voting for action short of strike (ASOS). The vote in favour of strike action is higher than it was during the ballots that concluded in November last year, where 76% backed strike action.

Today’s results mean that staff at 27 universities have a mandate to take strike action over pensions which will last until October 2022. Staff at Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University did not take part in the ballots but will join any possible action as their mandate remains live. Queen Mary University of London has a live mandate until July.

In April, cuts drawn up by Universities UK were implemented and will see the typical lecturer lose 35% from the future guaranteed retirement income they will build up. The cuts are premised on a valuation of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) which was conducted in March 2020 as markets crashed due to the pandemic.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “University vice chancellors should be under no illusion at how disgusted staff are at the attacks on their pensions. The cuts are unjust, unnecessary and with eight in ten staff voting in favour of strike action it is clear the anger has not gone away.”

7. Oxford MINI facing serious disruption as warehouse workers set to strike over `inadequate’ pay

Production of the MINI at Oxford could be severely disrupted during pay strikes by warehouse workers handling components for the carmaker, Unite the union warned.

Nearly 150 workers based at the Oxford MINI plant, employed by logistics firm Rudolph & Hellmann Automotive Limited, will strike on 26 and 28 April and 4, 6, 10, 12, 17 and 19 May.

The workers, made up of warehouse staff and shunter drivers, are striking over an ‘inadequate’ pay offer.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Our Rudolph & Hellman members will be receiving Unite’s complete backing during these strikes, which will slow the BMW production line down or stop it completely.

“Unite will not accept a situation whereby BMW’s profits are being made off the backs of low wage workers in the supply chain. Rudolph & Hellman – and BMW – need to start taking account of our members’ rocketing living costs and put forward an offer they can accept.”

8. It’s right to celebrate diversity, but much more needed to tackle racism in the NHS, says UNISON

Commenting on NHS England’s race equality standard report published last week, which said that the NHS workforce is more diverse than at any point in its history, UNISON deputy head of health Helga Pile said: “While it’s good to see NHS staff better reflect the communities served by their hospitals, unfortunately the picture isn’t quite so rosy ​when it comes to their experiences at work.

“White applicants are still more likely to be appointed than black job seekers. Black staff are more likely to be disciplined and experience bullying or harassment from patients and other staff. They’re also nearly three times more likely to have suffered discrimination at work from their managers ​and colleagues.

“Working in the NHS can still be a hostile and damaging experience for many black health workers. It’s beyond intolerable for this still to be the case in 2022.”

9. GMB to ballot Queen Mary’s Hospital workers over ‘Dangerous cuts’

GMB union are set to ballot their members employed as porters, domestics and hostesses at Queen Mary’s Hospital in Roehampton.

The workers, who are employed by outsourcing giant Sodexo have been told that they will be dismissed or transferred to other hospitals due to cutbacks which will devastate services within the South London hospital.

The proposed plan will see staff who serve meals to patients also clean toilets and porters forced to take on waste disposal duties.

As well as the reduction in staffing numbers, GMB has raised concerns with management about the contamination risk caused by workers undertaking these tasks but not able to wash, change clothing or decontaminate before transporting patients or serving food.

The ballot is due to close on Thursday. Helen O’Connor, GMB Regional Organiser said: “Our members are very concerned about the changes Sodexo plans to introduce, not just because many will lose their jobs, but also because the hospital wards risk becoming dirty and dangerous.

“Unwell patients are already extremely vulnerable and some will have compromised immunity, so clinical environments should have the highest standards of cleanliness.

“Workloads are already excessive on the contract, and workers will risk sustaining injuries and getting unwell if their duties get further increased.”

10. Editors and MPs urge watchdog to act over escalating government secrecy

OpenDemocracy is leading a campaign to enforce transparency laws, as the government stands accused of abusing the Freedom of Information Act and blacklisting reporters.

An open letter signed by more than 110 MPs, journalists and campaigners, calls on the UK’s new information commissioner, John Edwards, to do more to hold ministers and departments accountable.

The letter, coordinated by openDemocracy, says the current approach to enforcing the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act is “clearly not working”. It urges Edwards to defend the public’s right to know, including allocating more resources to investigate complaints about secrecy in Whitehall.

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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