The news you didn’t seek this week…
1. GSK workers deliver historic vote for strike action in fight for fair pay
For the first time in the history of pharmaceutical giant GSK, UK workers have voted for industrial action in a dispute over pay.
The workers, members of Unite the union, recorded an 86 per cent yes vote in favour of strike action in response to GSK making a derisory pay offer of just 2.75 per cent, a substantial real terms pay cut for the workforce, with the true rate of inflation (RPI) currently standing at nine per cent.
Unite says that GSK now has a short 48 hour-window of opportunity to make a much-improved offer or strike action will be announced.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Never before have our members at GSK voted for strike action – their anger is a clear response to the company’s colossal corporate greed.
“GSK pocketed more than £34 billion in profits last year, yet expects its workforce to swallow a pay cut in the midst of a cost of living crisis. As the strength of our members’ vote shows, this is simply not acceptable – I’m backing Unite members and their demand that GSK thinks again.”
2. Wave of GMB strike action to hit hospitals across south London if private sector bosses continue with cuts
Porters, domestics and hostesses across South London hospitals are set for a wave of industrial action to protect services from cuts.
Staff employed by outsourcing giants Mitie and Sodexo across St George’s NHS Trust have voted overwhelmingly to be formally balloted for strike action.
The members, based at St George’s Hospital in Tooting and Queen Mary’s Hospital in Roehampton, are being balloted over their pay and proposed contract changes.
The union’s indicative ballots were undertaken this week and the formal ballots will follow immediately, with any strike action due to take place in June.
Helen O’Connor, GMB Regional Organiser said: “Outsourced workers in St George’s NHS have had enough of bad deals being agreed behind closed doors that are driving down their pay, terms and conditions.
“GMB members can see the trust ruthlessly balancing the books at the expense of the staff and the patients.
“At Queen Mary’s Sodexo is making eye watering cuts, while Mitie continues to weaken the pay, terms and conditions of domestics and hostesses in St George’s Hospital at every single opportunity.”
“Porters, cleaners and catering staff are part of the NHS team – it is staggering these vital staffing groups are being undermined by private operators with covid on the rise.”
3. Glasgow Foster Carers “Betrayed” by Council as Unelected Officers Undemocratically Refuse Council’s Pay Proposals
Foster carers are calling Glasgow HSCP’s decision to overturn Glasgow City Council’s recommendation of 10% child allowance increase amidst the cost of living crisis, a deeply undemocratic betrayal. Unelected officers responsible for the delivery of social care services across the city have also denied foster carers a union recognition deal recommended by the full council and voted through in the February budget.
In advance of the budget announcements, foster carers launched the ‘Fairness for Foster Care’ campaign in December demanding an end to the 10-year freeze on child allowances, equating to a 24% real-terms cut. The campaign received support from the Scottish Greens, Labour, the Conservatives, and a number of independents. The SNP have so far refused to support Glasgow’s foster carers.
Kenny Millard, Chair of the Foster Care Worker Branch (IWGB), says: “It is totally unacceptable that unelected officers in the HSCP have decided to stand in the way of Glasgow’s democratic process. The 10% increase to child allowances voted on by our elected representatives will make a huge difference to the lives of our foster carers and the vulnerable children in their care who have seen incomes frozen for a decade.”
4. SNP call for educational workshops to tackle sexism in football
SNP MSP Joe FitzPatrick will today call for Scottish football teams to facilitate educational workshops in their teams to address the issue of sexism in football.
Leading a debate on the issue in Holyrood, the MSP for Dundee West will highlight educational workshops led by Graham Goulden, a former Chief Inspector with Scottish Violence Reduction Unit. Goulden’s Bystander approach would work with clubs to show how they can identify warning signs of unhealthy behaviours to empower them to use their leadership to help their teammates and friends.
Mr FitzPatrick has said that ‘the workshops would support players and clubs to use the opportunity that their leadership positions give them to create greater change.’
Commenting SNP MSP Joe FitzPatrick said: “Women’s football has made huge strides – with record crowds attending, the success of the Women’s National Team and increased participation – however, the issue of sexism in football continues and we need to see action to address it.
“From unequal pay to sexual harassment, tackling the underlying problem of sexism through initiatives like educational workshops could hopefully be a catalyst for change across the board.”
5. Plaid Cymru call for new law against lying in politics
Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP, at today’s PMQs, called on Boris Johnson to support her party’s proposal for a law against lying in politics.
A series of scandals from partygate to second jobs appear to have significantly eroded what remaining faith the public has in UK politics.
Half (47%) of the UK public has lost faith in politics and politicians over the last twelve months, polling from the think-tank Compassion in Politics today reveals.
The polling also reveals that the public would overwhelmingly (73%) support the introduction of a new law – as proposed by Compassion in Politics and Plaid Cymru – to require that politicians tell the truth.
6. Manchester facing prolonged bin strikes as Biffa workers back strike action in pay dispute
Manchester is braced for city-wide bin strikes next month as refuse collection workers employed by Biffa have overwhelmingly voted for strike action over a ‘lousy’ pay offer.
Biffa is offering the workers, including members of Unite the union, just 1.75 per cent on pay, a real terms pay cut given that the real cost of living (RPI rate) currently stands at nine per cent and is expected to rise further.
Over 200 workers – drivers, loaders and environmental operatives – employed by Biffa on the outsourced Manchester council refuse collection contract will begin strike action on Tuesday 3 May with the strike ending on Friday 13 May. There will then be a further two week strike from Monday 23 May until Friday 3 June.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Biffa banked millions in profit last year. The company should be utterly ashamed of making such a lousy pay offer, which is actually a pay cut, at a time when workers are battling a cost of living crisis.
“Unite’s members will be receiving the union’s total support until this dispute is resolved and a fair pay rise is secured.”
7. Over a third of government policies predicted to have negative impact on equalities, says major new report
One in three government policies announced during the last decade has been expected to have a negative impact on at least one equalities group, a major new report by the think-tank Compassion in Politics has revealed.
The group analysed 175 Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs) published by governments between 2010 and 2021 and found that a third (34%) assumed the policy under analysis would have a negative impact on one or more equality group.
People with disabilities were most likely to be negatively affected: 25% of EIAs expected policies to have a harmful impact on this group. 22% of EIAs predicted a negative effect on gender and age equality and 21% on ethnicity.
Matt Hawkins, Co-Director of Compassion in Politics, said: “This report lays bare how successive governments have overlooked, underused, and poorly deployed Equality Impact Assessments. The UK’s experience of the Covid pandemic – in which black and minority ethnic groups, people with disabilities, and individuals living in deprived communities experienced the highest number of deaths – requires that such an approach should never be repeated.
8. Student debt interest rise ‘policy disaster’, UCU says
The University and College Union has responded to a briefing from the Institute for Fiscal Studies that shows the impact that inflation will have on student loan repayments.
The report outlines how the maximum interest students will pay will rise from the current level of 4.5% to 12% for 6 months, with higher earning graduates incurring around £3000 in interest in that time.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “It simply cannot be right to saddle students with tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt and then subject them to the whims of volatile markets and rocketing interest rates. Today’s news will leave those already repaying their student loans preparing for increased debt payments during a cost of living crisis and force others to consider whether a university education is worth the cost at all. On any level, this is a policy disaster.
“As today’s report from IFS makes clear, low earners are being hit particularly hard by this toxic system of debt and interest which punishes students for going to university. If ministers still wanted to resuscitate their levelling up agenda, sorting this mess out would be a good place to start.”
9. Unite confirms further dates for strike action for pay increase by council, education and housing workers in Northern Ireland
Following on from strike action taken by Unite members at Councils, the Education Authority, NI Housing Executive, further education colleges, schools and youth service, the union has now confirmed a timetable of further strike action. This will take the form of a discontinuous strike in the last week of April and early May.
The strike follows the failure of employers to provide an improved pay offer to workers. The increase offered under the National Joint Council amounts to 1.75 per cent. The current rate of inflation impacting workers’ living standard is nine per cent.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham offered her union’s support to the workers taking further strike action in Northern Ireland saying: “The offer of 1.75 per cent is completely unacceptable – it’s a huge wage cut. All workers have a right to expect pay to keep pace with inflationary pressures and it’s appalling that public sector workers face a choice of heating or eating.
“Workers out on pickets in Northern Ireland are demonstrating their determination to secure real improvements. They have my complete support and that of everyone in Unite.”
10. Tory plan to extend school day will punish pupils and teachers
Scottish Conservative plans to extend the school day would be a ‘disaster’ for pupils’ mental health and pile extra pressure on overworked teachers, the Scottish Greens have said.
The Tory manifesto pledges to lengthen the school day ‘to help pupils catch up’.
Responding, Scottish Greens education spokesperson Ross Greer said: “The Tories are going to increasingly absurd lengths to take Scotland’s education system back a hundred years.
“Time in school wasn’t the only thing our children missed due to the pandemic, they also lost out on social opportunities, especially with friends and family. Forcing them to spend more time in school at the expense of the myriad of other things which bring joy in their lives would be a disaster for the mental health of an already struggling generation. And that’s before even thinking about our massively overworked teachers, who are already doing some of the longest overtime in the developed world.”
Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward
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