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

The news you didn’t seek this week…

Radical Roundup

1.BMW faces strikes at Oxford MINI as component pay offer overwhelmingly rejected

Strikes by warehouse workers based at Oxford’s MINI plant will resume after a pay offer was overwhelmingly rejected by the workforce, Unite, the UK’s leading union, said today.

The members voted by 91 per cent to reject the offer on a ballot with a 98 per cent turnout because it failed to address low wages across the company.

Industrial action had been postponed while the offer was voted on, however strikes by the 200 workers will now take place on 10, 12, 17 and 19 May.

The workers, made up of warehouse staff and shunter drivers, handle components for BMW and the strikes will significantly impact production at the Mini plant.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Our Rudolph & Hellman members are loud and clear in their rejection of this pay offer and they have Unite’s full backing in resuming industrial action.

“It is not acceptable for BMW to be making profits off the backs of low paid supply chain workers. Rodolph & Hellman and BMW need to come back with a fresh deal that reflects our members’ rapidly rising living costs.”

2. Dudley care home’s sudden closure creates chaos for staff and residents – GMB

The sudden closure of a West Midlands care home has created chaos for staff and residents, says GMB Union.

People living in Holbeach House, in Dudley, have been given just 28-day notice to leave their homes.

Meanwhile staff have been invited to one-to-one meetings tomorrow to discuss their future.

The home has 48 beds and currently has 22 residents and 32 permanent staff it also relies on agency staff.

Holbeach House was originally a Four Seasons care home but the property – once the hideout of Guy Fawkes – is now operated by Belsize.

GMB Union have staged a demonstration outside the home.

Rachel Fagan, GMB Organiser, said: “This sudden closure has created chaos for residents and staff.

“Almost two dozen people – many who’ve lived in Holbeach for years – have been given just 28 days to move out. It’s inhumane.

“Meanwhile workers are suddenly told they’re losing their jobs and being called into meetings, but not being told they can have their union rep present.

“The residents of Holbeach and those who care for them deserve better than this.”

3. Insecure low-paid work is costing the Treasury £10 billion a year-TUC

The government’s failure to clamp down on insecure, low-paid work is costing the Treasury £10 billion a year, a new TUC report has warned.

The report reveals how low paid self-employment, zero-hours contracts and other forms of precarious work are “starving” the public purse by reducing the government’s tax take and increasing social security pay outs.

The report shows that low paid self-employment is costing the exchequer £9.7bn alone each year.

And zero-hours contracts are punching a further £614 million hole in the public finances.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Britain’s insecure work epidemic isn’t just punishing workers – it’s starving the public finances too.

“The government’s failure to clamp down on shady employment practices is costing the Treasury a fortune every year.

“And that means less funding for our cash-strapped hospitals, care homes and schools.”

4. Sturgeon hails best ever SNP election result

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has hailed a “resounding victory” as her party celebrates its best ever Scottish council election result.

In a dominant performance across the country, the party recorded its highest vote share and its highest number of elected councillors on its way to becoming the biggest party in 21 of the country’s 32 councils.

The SNP is the biggest party in all of the country’s city councils including Glasgow, where Roza Salih, a Kurdish refugee, and Abdul Bostani, a refugee from Afghanistan, were both elected.

And after 15 years in power at Holyrood, the SNP’s remarkable performance was capped when it secured a majority on Dundee City Council in a voting system designed to prevent majorities.

Commenting on the result, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “The people of this country clearly trust the SNP nationally and locally.

“This election has once again confirmed the SNP is – by any measure – Scotland’s dominant political force and our resounding victory is even more remarkable given my party has been in government at Holyrood for 15 years.”

5. Brighton bar staff vote on strike action over pay and conditions, and sue their employer for alleged harassment, sexism and transphobia 

Bar staff at St James’ Tavern (SJT) in central Brighton, who are United Voices of the World (UVW) members, are being balloted in May for strike action over pay and working conditions.

The workers are demanding an end to zero-hours contracts, a minimum pay increase to £11.50 for all staff as well as a full sick pay scheme including cover for Covid-19-related sickness absences, which they don’t currently enjoy.

Some of the workers are suing SJT for alleged harassment and discrimination, including allegations of transphobia, sexism and anti-Semitism.

The determined group of workers and United Voices of the World (UVW) members claim they have been subjected to mistreatment for a long time, alongside poor working conditions. The situation was so dire that many felt compelled to quit their jobs and some of those remaining have second jobs due to their low wages.

6. Bigger, gender-balanced Senedd agreement a ‘boost for democracy’

Plaid Cymru has warmly welcomed an agreement between its Leader and the First Minister as a path to ‘a bigger Senedd making a bigger difference for the people of Wales’.

Senedd reform is a key commitment in the Co-operation Agreement between Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government. In a joint letter to a committee, Adam Price MS and Mark Drakeford MS state that they have agreed on a package of reforms.

Their plan would mean changes come into effect by the next elections in 2026, with the number of Senedd Members increasing to 96.

They will be elected through a PR-only system – making Wales the first country in Britain to abolish the First Past the Post system at a parliamentary level.

Responding to the joint letter, Rhys ab Owen MS from Plaid Cymru said: “This agreement is historic. Not only does it pave the way for a stronger Senedd with a greater ability to make a difference to the lives of people across our country, it will also boost our democracy – making it fairer and more representative.

“Some of Plaid Cymru’s key manifesto commitments will now be met.  We will have a stronger Senedd with 96 members elected through a proportional electoral voting system – gender-balanced in law by the next election in 2026.

“It’s not about more politicians. It’s about super-powering our parliament – making it fit to represent our people and reflective of all the voices and aspirations of Welsh society.”

7. Staff set to strike over plan to ‘Fire & Rehire’ over 100 teachers at Richmond upon Thames College

Staff at Richmond upon Thames College are set to down tools for five consecutive days over plans by management to sack every teacher at the college and force them to reapply for their jobs on worse terms and conditions if they want to stay. The action is set to take place from Monday 23 to Friday 27 May.

It comes after an overwhelming 97% of University and College Union (UCU) members who voted in the industrial ballots said yes to strike action. The turnout was 88%, smashing the Tory anti trade union legal threshold of 50%.

The five days of strike action will immediately be followed by staff working strictly to contract, after 100% of those who voted said yes to action short of strike. The action short of strike could also be escalated to include refusing to cover for colleagues, refusing to use personal IT facilities including Wi-Fi and broadband, refusing to reschedule lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action, and a boycott of assessments.

The college wants to sack all 127 members of its teaching staff and make them reapply for their jobs on new contracts that would see them lose 10 days holiday.

8. NUJ condemns sweeping attack on journalists and media freedom following legislation unveiled in Queen’s speech

The NUJ has expressed concern about the impact of government legislation on journalists and journalism announced in the Queen’s Speech today.

New bills and reforms to existing legislation mean journalists may now find themselves manoeuvring increasingly hostile environments through the course of their work. Government plans to proceed with reforms to existing law under the Official Secrets Acts, could see journalists prosecuted for reporting on information provided by sources, including whistle-blowers exposing wrongdoing by government. 

Despite a failure by the government to formally respond to the many submissions received in its summer consultation last year, it is now clear the government plans to move full steam ahead with little consideration for the damning impact on journalism of its proposals. 

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “For many this programme of legislation will feel like open season against journalists and journalism, and against all those who value the role that human rights and media freedom plays in our democracy. The NUJ will be working hard to see off these challenges to our members and the work they do.

“The NUJ has previously voiced its concern about the lack of protection for journalists and their sources within the Online Safety Bill. Promises to amend the bill must be delivered on, to ensure journalistic content is not stripped from sites with potentially wide-ranging impacts on media freedom. “

 9. Thousands of cadent gas workers begin industrial action

Thousands of field force workers at gas giant Cadent have begun industrial action this week.

Despite nearly 2,000 GMB members voting to walk out in a strike ballot last month, GMB is only calling on members to take part in an overtime ban from 00:01 on Tuesday 10 May 2022.

The overtime ban includes stopping working additional hours and members withdrawing from pre-planned overtime to cover gaps in rosters and sick leave.

The industrial action could potentially cause outages at homes and businesses throughout five regions in England; North West, East and West Midlands, East Anglia and North London.

Workers resoundingly rejected a below inflation pay increase of 2 per cent for 2021 and 4 per cent from July 22.

Gary Carter, GMB National Officer, said: “Despite members voting overwhelmingly for strike action, as a gesture of goodwill members will begin with a short-term overtime ban.

“But workers will not hesitate to escalate to strike action if the company doesn’t come back to the table with an improved pay offer.

‘It shows how out of step senior management are; they’re just not listening to their employees and the problems facing working people across the country.” 

10. Big win at Gatwick as Unite secures 10 per cent pay increase for Menzies workers

Unite has secured a 10 per cent pay increase for over 300 ground handlers employed by Menzies Aviation at Gatwick Airport.

The pay deal, which has been overwhelmingly accepted by the workers, follows a similar pay increase secured by Unite for DHL ground handlers at the airport.

Unite has also recently secured comparable increases for ground handlers employed by dnata and Swissport at Gatwick.

In addition to the 10 per cent pay increase, Unite has secured a commitment from Menzies to undertake national negotiations concerning the potential introduction of a contractual sick pay scheme.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This is a welcome pay increase for our members at Menzies and builds on the good work by Unite’s reps across Gatwick Airport to challenge low pay.

“Unite has consistently warned aviation employers that unless they address the sector’s poor pay and conditions, they will struggle to recruit and retain the workers they need.  This Menzies deal should signal to other aviation employers that improving pay and conditions is the way forward.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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