Radical Roundup: 10 stories that have got buried – Week 4, June 2022

The news you didn’t see this week…

Radical Roundup

1.UNISON vote to back proportional representation hailed as ‘huge boost’ in campaign for fair votes

Delegates at the union’s National Delegate Conference backed a motion calling on UNISON to ‘reject First Past the Post’ and for the adoption of PR for UK general elections.

UNISON will now join a growing number of Labour affiliated trade unions in support of electoral reform alongside Unite, ASLEF, the Musicians Union and the TSSA.

Nancy Platts, Coordinator, Politics for the Many, said: “Trade Unionists have always stood at the front of the battle for democratic rights in the UK. Today’s vote shows that that is still true today. For the UK’s largest union to come out in favour of PR is a huge moment for the campaign for fairer votes.

“Across our movement, people can see the corrosive effects of our electoral system – a system that ignores millions of people’s votes and hands power to Tory Governments that fail to represent them. Once we kick the Tories out, we can never allow them to return to power with a minority of the vote again.”

2. Scotland National Care Service Bill: Care staff not even afterthought in fag packet plans – GMB Scotland

GMB Scotland has responded to the introduction of the National Care Service bill.

Keir Greenaway, GMB Scotland Senior Organiser, said: “Care staff and their fight for £15 haven’t even been an afterthought in drafting the bill, they’ve been totally left out. 

“Care staff who worked on the frontline throughout the pandemic and continue to care for our most vulnerable cannot afford to wait for improved terms and conditions.

“There is plenty on new executive boards of bureaucrats, and their pay and pensions, but there is no mention of how care workers can improve their pay. 

“It’s unclear how, if at all, care staff will benefit from these fag packet plans.

“The Scottish Government is in danger of overpromising on a National Care Service. 

3. TUC and REC urge government to abandon plan to allow agency staff to replace striking workers

The TUC and the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) have called on the government to abandon its “unworkable” plan to lift the ban on agency workers filling in during strikes.

The full joint statement from the TUC and REC reads:

The Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) and Trades Union Congress (TUC) are urging the government to abandon its proposal to repeal the ban on agency workers filling in for employees who are on strike.

The two organisations, representing both the agency sector and unions, think the plan is unworkable and oppose it in the strongest possible terms. They urge the government to leave the current ban in place as a key element of a sustainable national employment relations framework.

Using agency staff to cover strikes will only prolong the conflict between employers and their staff. Strikes are industrial disputes within a single industry or firm.

Government needs to step up and do the work around resolving industrial disputes rather than inserting a third party in the form of agency workers into a dispute. That does nothing to solve the underlying issues between the company and their staff. This will only prolong the dispute and inflame tensions.  Negotiations should be the obvious priority – rather than potentially putting the safety of agency workers and company employees at risk

4.New report shows Brexit “making UK poorer”-SNP

A new report highlighting the “devastating” impact of Brexit – lower wages, reduced productivity and a shrinking economy – six years on from the referendum in 2016 is in ‘stark contrast’ to the Scottish Government’s vision of an independent Scotland, the SNP has said.

The study, by the Resolution Foundation in collaboration with the London School of Economics (LSE) concludes that Brexit is making the UK poorer and will see a reduction in productivity and wages in the decade ahead.

Referencing the Scottish Government’s ‘Building a New Scotland’ paper the party’s Shadow International Trade Secretary, Drew Hendry MP said that the impact of Brexit proved Scotland would be better joining the ranks of the many small independent neighbouring countries continuously outperforming the UK on wealth, happiness and fairness metrics.

Mr Hendry said the Scottish Government’s plans for independence would allow Scotland to make the most of its potential to create a more prosperous, fairer and happier country.

5. Welsh Human Rights Bill needed to counter Westminster attacks – Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP, has today criticised the UK Government’s “callous disregard for the essential universality of human rights” and called on the Welsh Government to accelerate plans to enshrine human rights law into Welsh law.

Ms Saville Roberts was responding in the House of Commons chamber to Dominic Raab’s plans to abolish the Human Rights Act, including reducing the influence of the European court of human rights (ECHR).

The Plaid Cymru MP said that the Human Rights Act is “directly woven into Wales’s constitutional settlement” and urged Mr Raab to give assurances that he would seek the consent of the Senedd.

The Welsh Government has previously said it would “explore incorporating UN Conventions into Welsh law which could potentially lead to a Welsh Bill of Rights”. Liz Saville Roberts said that the Welsh Government should waste no time in creating a Welsh Bill of Rights”, alongside the “wholesale devolution of justice”.

6. Outsourced Workers at LSHTM Set to Strike over Pay Following Escalating Union Victimisation

Outsourced cleaners, porters, post room, and security staff working at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) have voted unanimously in favour of strike action over poverty pay amidst the cost of living crisis.

In April, workers from the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) launched a campaign to bring an end to a discriminatory pay gap that would pay the majority-migrant and BAME workers below the lowest grade of the university-wide pay scale. This follows only months after a damning report revealing ingrained structural racism across the prestigious university, at academic staff and student level.

The IWGB has sent a pre-action protocol letter to LSHTM for a claim of union blacklisting after the university suspended four workers for their involvement in a peaceful protest in late April as part of the campaign. Three of these workers have now been given written disciplinary warnings but the fourth worker and two others are facing further disciplinary action over trade union activities. Although the IWGB represents the majority of this workforce, LSHTM is refusing to recognise or negotiate with the union, instead victimising its majority-BAME and migrant workforce.

Cleaners and security staff are demanding that they are placed on a minimum of pay grade 3 (starting at £14.38/hr), the same grade as many maintenance staff with similar responsibilities. Outsourced workers are asking supporters for donations via their strike hardship fund.

7. Merseyside braced for bus disruption as Stagecoach workers announce strikes

Bus passengers across Merseyside are set for severe disruption and delays beginning next week as a result of bus operator Stagecoach failing to make workers a fair pay offer.

The dispute affects 370 members of Unite, the UK’s leading union, who are employed as bus drivers and engineers and work at the company’s Gilmoss depot.

The drivers are looking for a fair deal that would raise the current pay rate of just £12.69 an hour.

Initial strikes have been called for Thursday 30 June and also for Monday 4 July.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Stagecoach is a highly profitable company – it can easily afford to pay its workers a decent wage but it is choosing not to.

“Unite will always challenge employers who make excessive profits by exploiting and underpaying workers. Our members will receive Unite’s complete support until this dispute is resolved.”

8. NEU joint general secretaries write to Nadhim Zahawi as inflation hits 11.7%

With inflation hitting 11.7% (RPI) today, the joint general secretaries of the National Education Union have written to the education secretary Nadhim Zahawi urging him to act to protect teacher living standards.

Teacher pay has fallen by a fifth in real terms since 2010, even before this year’s huge increases in inflation. Teacher workload remains at unsustainable levels.  Pay cuts and excessive workload combine to intensify the already serious recruitment and retention problems.  Failing to recruit or retain enough teachers adds to the workload problems and highlights the damage caused by previous pay cuts, but the Government plans more pay cuts and has not taken effective action on workload.

The Government must respond to the new reality on inflation and protect education by protecting teacher living standards.

The NEU has written to the education secretary setting out the need for the Government to commit to an inflation-plus pay increase for all teachers – in the interests of teachers, but also of young people and parents. 

9. Almost half of all workers borrowed from banks, payday lenders or family and friends to make ends meet this year, GMB survey show

Almost half of all workers have been forced to borrow money from banks, payday lenders or family and friends to make ends meet during the past six months, according to a GMB Survey.

In the poll of more than 2,300 workers across all sectors, more than 41 per cent agreed they ‘have had to borrow money to cover essentials from banks, payday lenders, or family and friends in the last 6 months’.

Other findings from the survey include:

Just 30 per cent said they ‘can afford necessities for myself each month’ and only 25 per cent ‘can afford necessities for family and dependents each month’

More than 60 per cent agreed ‘the rise in energy costs is forcing me to spend less on basic food items or other essentials’

Just five per cent agreed that ‘the Government’s £200 payment and £150 loan is making the April energy bill increase affordable’

10. Overwhelming vote for strike action over low pay at Hugh Baird College

The University and College Union (UCU) has called on High Baird College in Merseyside to increase its 1% pay offer after staff overwhelmingly voted for strike action. Unless management makes an improved offer UCU said it will strike during key dates early in the next academic year.

Over 93% of UCU members at Hugh Baird College who voted backed strikes in an industrial ballot that closed yesterday (Monday). 98% of members also voted yes to taking industrial action short of strike action, which could include working strictly to contract and refusing to undertake additional voluntary activities. Turnout was 74%.

The ballot is over low pay and comes after management refused to improve on an offer of a 1% pay increase and a one off £500 payment. Inflation is currently over 11% making the offer a real terms pay cut.

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