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

The news you didn't see this week...

Radical Roundup

1.Unions call for inflation-busting pay rise for local government and school staff

The three local government unions, representing 1.4 million council and school employees, have submitted a pay claim for staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to receive a pay boost of at least £2,000 each.

UNISON, GMB and Unite say only a significant rise will help protect services and enable staff to weather the growing cost of living pressures following a decade of local authority cuts and pay restraint.

The 2022 claim, which would apply from the start of ​April, would see council employees receive either a £2,000 rise at all pay grades or the current rate of RPI (presently 11%), whichever is higher for each individual.

This would lift all council and school employees back above the ​real living wage of £9.90 per hour (outside London).

The three unions say ​staff working in local government have seen an average of 27.5% wiped from the value of their pay since 2010, the unions say.

The squeeze on household budgets has a pronounced effect ​on council workers, many of whom are in low​-paid roles and are currently paid little more than the minimum wage​, say unions.

2. Record fuel prices mean NHS staff now paying to work, says GMB

Record fuel prices mean NHS staff are now paying to go to work, GMB Union has warned.

Petrol prices set a new record of 178.5p a litre, with diesel hitting a massive 185.2p a litre.

Based on average UK fuel consumption, this equates to 21 or 22 pence per mile.

The NHS provisions for mileage are just 20p per mile after the first 3,500 miles – with many community staff averaging more than 10,000 miles.

A £60 per month ‘wear and tear’ payment to staff has also been cut.  GMB is calling for an urgent review on the mileage allowance provisions. 

An NHS Community Nurse, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “I use my own car for work and after 3,500 miles it’s literally costing me money to do my job. 

“I average around 10,000 miles a year. Fuel prices have been steadily increasing yet NHS bosses are not taking this into account and raising our mileage allowance in relation to this. 

“It’s yet another kick in the teeth.”

3. Croydon facing stinking summer as Veolia workers announce strike over poverty pay

Refuse workers employed by French-owned waste management company Veolia on the outsourced Croydon council refuse collection contract will strike for an initial three weeks this summer in a dispute over poverty pay.

Over 100 refuse workers who are members of Unite and employed as drivers, loaders and sweepers, will begin strike action on Thursday 16 June with the strike ending on Friday 8 July. Further strike action could be announced if no progress is made in the dispute.

The workers are striking over poverty rates of pay, with many workers earning over £7,000 a year less than comparative roles in other London boroughs.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “These workers deserve a pay rise and Veolia can well afford to pay it. It is a disgrace that a company expecting to pocket over £1 billion in profits won’t pay the rate for the job and is demanding our workers take a pay cut while inflation soars.”

4. “Sleekit” Johnson scraps £3 billion HS2 rail link to Scotland

The SNP has described Boris Johnson’s decision to scrap a £3 billion HS2 rail link to Scotland as “sleekit” and “cowardly”.

The announcement, made by Tory ministers yesterday, confirmed they were removing the Golborne Link from HS2 which would have connected high speed trains from the north west of England to Glasgow.

It’s the latest pledge to be scrapped by the UK government following the £1 billion CCUS project in the north east of Scotland, and the UK Shared Prosperity Fund which aimed to mitigate the cost of Scotland being forced out of the EU.

Commenting, the SNP’s Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Gavin Newlands MP, said: “This sleekit move sums up Boris Johnson’s tenure as Prime Minister – cowardly and shameful.

“His decision to announce this crucial cut on the same day as his Vote of No Confidence – knowing full well it would fall off the radar – is despicable.

“The original investment would have drastically improved Scotland’s rail links with the north west of England, but yet again this Westminster government is tearing it apart. “

5.‘Johnson’s authority shredded by threadbare victory’ – Plaid Cymru

Responding to the Conservative vote of confidence in Boris Johnson, Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP said:

“Boris Johnson stays in post, but his authority as Prime Minister has already been shredded by this tired and threadbare victory.

“It speaks volumes that not one Welsh Tory MP openly called for Boris Johnson to resign. They must reflect tonight on whether it is respect for their constituents or fear of the Tory whips that drives them.

“A toxic Tory civil war will now continue to pollute our politics. Wales can do so much better than this Westminster horror show.”

6. Two more strike days at Richmond upon Thames College over Fire & Rehire

Staff at Richmond upon Thames College will warn prospective students and parents about the behaviour of college management as two more strike days were called in a bitter dispute over plans to fire and rehire 127 teachers.

University and College Union (UCU) members at Richmond upon Thames College will down tools on Tuesday 21 and Tuesday 28 June, both of which are open days. The college describes the open days as an opportunity to ‘meet our teachers’ and ‘speak to our teaching staff’.

The dispute has seen over 70 staff take five consecutive days of strike action last month (Monday 23 to Friday 27 May) as they try to stop plans by management to sack all 127 teachers at the college and force them to reapply for their jobs on worse terms and conditions. UCU had offered to pause any further action if management lifts the threat of compulsory dismissals for staff that do not sign new contracts. However, management has repeatedly refused and insists staff would have to reapply for their jobs on new contracts that would see them lose 10 days holiday.

7. Hundreds of Heathrow workers begin voting on British Airways strike

Hundreds of GMB members working as Heathrow check in and ground staff began voting on strike action yesterday.

If the British Airways workers vote to take industrial action, they would walk out during the summer holiday period. The ballot ends on 23 June with the result expected the same day. 

Workers are furious because a ten per cent pay cut imposed on them during the pandemic has not been reinstated – despite bosses having their pre-covid pay rates reinstated. 

While other BA workers have been given a 10 per cent bonus, the check in staff have had nothing. 

Nadine Houghton, GMB National Officer, said: “Staff at Heathrow have been verbally and physically abused by angry passengers after British Airways’ staff shortages and IT failures nearly brought the airport to a standstill.

“On top of that, they had their pay slashed during BA’s callous fire and rehire policy. 

“Now they want that money back. Bosses have had it back. Heathrow ground and check in staff want to know why they haven’t had it too.”

8. Airport crisis caused by failure to ‘hard-wire’ public cash to jobs guarantees

As the crisis across UK airports deepens, the leading aviation union, Unite, is blaming businesses for taking public money but then slashing jobs during the pandemic. 

The union is calling for a ‘hard wire’ link to jobs to prevent taxpayers’ cash being misused to prop up share prices at the expense of workers’ jobs and pay.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The UK’s airports are in crisis because thousands of jobs have been slashed and working conditions attacked.

“Our money was handed over to firms without any strings attached. Literally hundreds of millions went to the aviation sector during the pandemic and instead of bringing stability those firms have brought us chaos.

“They did not protect jobs, many just used public money to prop up their share price or to pay for ‘fire and rehire’ to hammer pay and conditions. That is why we are where we are.

9. Tory austerity blamed for driving down health in Scots

Tory cuts to vital social security have been slammed as ‘catastrophic’ in a new report by top researchers.

The Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH) found that people in Scotland feel their health is deteriorating from a younger age than previously. The study found that people in Scotland started to feel their health decline from age 46, a decline from 51 in 2009.

Dr David Walsh from GCPH described the finding as ‘terrifying’ and laid the blame squarely at the door of the Tory UK government and its cuts to social security payments. Dr Walsh also commented that ‘this should not be happening in a wealthy country like the UK’.

Commenting SNP MSP Elena Whitham said: “This report is a damning indictment on the record of this callous Tory UK government as they continually slash support from those that need it most.

“In a country as wealthy as the UK, people should not feel their health decline earlier than they did a decade ago. It is shocking and demonstrates just how Westminster control is not working for people across Scotland.”

10. Unite members at TfL and London Underground to strike over pensions, pay and jobs

Strikes will hit the capital’s transport network this month as Unite members at Transport for London (TfL) and London Underground (LU) take action to defend pay, pensions and jobs.

On Tuesday 21 June, over 1,000 Unite members will walk out in protest at plans to slash the value of their pensions and close the existing final salary scheme. Due to shift patterns, services could also be hit on 22 June.

Unite says that the pension cuts are an unacceptable effort to make members pay the price of the pandemic. The cuts are being demanded by central government in return for ongoing pandemic recovery funding for TfL.

The workers are also angry over TfL’s failure to make an acceptable pay offer to members for either 2021 or 2022, and concerns that TfL refuses to guarantee there will be no job cuts.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “It is not acceptable in any way, shape or form that the dedicated workers at TfL and London Underground are being told to pay the price of the pandemic with their pensions, pay cuts and threats to their jobs.

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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