Radical Roundup: 10 stories that have got buried – Week 5, June 2022

The news you didn’t see this week…

1.Strikes over bullying and pay cuts could hit Coca Cola supplies this summer

Supplies of Coca Cola are under threat this summer because bosses are attempting to force through a below inflation pay deal. The workers are furious about an abysmal pay deal alongside management threats and bullying.

In 2021, Coca Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP) made £1.6 billion in profit and had revenues worth £12.7 billion. However, CCEP is offering the workers an abysmal 21-month pay deal of 3.25 per cent for the first 12 months, and 1.75 per cent for the next 9 months.

That would mean a real-terms pay cut of 6.7 per cent, based on the current RPI rate of 11.7 per cent. To make matters worse, CCEP is threatening staff with further reductions to the pay offer, and threatening potential changes to “ways of working” should they take industrial action. The threats have swollen union density at the site.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This scandalous behaviour is tainting one of the world’s biggest brands. This Coca-Cola bottling plant is trying to bully and threaten our members into taking a pay cut while making money hand over fist.”

2. Tory government should ‘butt out’ of devolved Welsh affairs, says GMB union

GMB union has pledged to fight the Tories’ cynical plans to repeal Senedd legislation that protects striking workers.

Commenting on the announcement, Tom Hoyles GMB political officer for Wales said: “GMB will fight this at every step.

“Let’s be clear on this, the UK government has no right to get involved here – they are overstepping the mark.

“Their vindictive trade union bill was overturned in Wales six years ago.

“This is a clear attempt to create division and divert attention away from their internal party chaos and failure to tackle the cost of living crisis.

“They should butt out.”

3. Blocking online balloting for strikes is “absurd” and “hypocritical”-TUC

Commenting on reports that the government is to block trade union members from voting online during strike ballots, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“This is a feeble attempt to look tough by a government that wants to stoke a culture war against unions.

“It is absurd and hypocritical to stop union members from voting electronically on the key workplace issues that affect them.

“Online voting is just as safe as postal balloting, and it is used by many organisations – including the Conservative Party.

“This proves that the government’s Trade Union Act was always about undermining unions and workers’ right to strike – not improving workplace democracy.”

An independent review (commissioned by the government) concluded in 2017 that online balloting was safe and secure to use during strike ballots.

But ministers have continued to drag their feet on electronic balloting and now look set to block it.

4. Cross-party support for proposals to ban lying in politics

Plaid Cymru Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP, has today led calls from six political parties in Westminster to make it an offence for elected representatives to make statements which they know to be misleading.

Liz Saville Roberts presented her Elected Representatives (Prohibition of Deception) Bill to the House of Commons earlier on Tuesday, which would make it an offence for politicians to wilfully lie to the public.

Repeated offences would be sanctioned with a fine or prohibition from standing for election for up to 10 years.

The Second Reading for Plaid Cymru’s Bill is scheduled for 28 October. However, given that parliamentary time is in the gift of the government, it is unlikely that the Conservatives will allow sufficient time for the Bill to progress.

5. SNP MP to lead debate calling on public inquiry into miners’ strike

An SNP MP will today lead a debate urging the UK government to launch a UK-wide inquiry into the miners’ strike of the 1980s, following the pardon given by the Scottish Government earlier this month.

Owen Thompson MP will call on the UK government to launch the inquiry related to the 1984-85 strikes, warning that a reconsideration of their position is required.

It follows Scotland becoming the first home nation to pardon former miners convicted of offences related to strike action in the 1980s.

Commenting, Owen Thompson MP said: “It was a great relief to see the Miners’ Pardon Bill pass into law in Scotland earlier this month.

“This landmark legislation has been warmly welcomed by families and communities who were badly affected by the miners’ strike.

“It will finally remove the stigma of unfair convictions from miners and their families, who were simply trying to protect their jobs and communities during what can only be described as the most bitter industrial disputes in living memory.”

6. SNP calls for investigation over UK government corruption allegations

The SNP has blasted allegations of Tory bribery, dishonesty and threats after controversial legislation, aimed at tearing up chunks of the Northern Ireland Protocol, passed its Second Reading in the House of Commons.

Despite clear internal resistance to the bill and speeches in favour of the opposition from former Tory Northern Ireland Secretaries and former Prime Minister, Theresa May, not one Conservative MP voted against the legislation.

Following this, a Conservative MP was reported by Politico to have described “a combination of veiled threats about losing the whip, political honours being dangled and an ability for the government to dupe MPs by lying openly about quite a technical bill”, in order to quell any lingering resistance within Tory ranks and ensure the legislation progressed to the next stage.

Now, in an open letter to Simon Case, the UK’s Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service, Richard Thomson MP, the SNP’s Northern Ireland Spokesperson, has highlighted the allegations and called for a Cabinet Office investigation into the matter.

7. Barnet & Southgate College staff told to vote to strike by UCU president & general secretary

University and College Union (UCU) general secretary Jo Grady and president Janet Farrar will meet with staff at Barnet & Southgate College today to urge them to vote yes in a strike ballot over low pay.

The ballot opened on Tuesday 14 June and will close on Friday 15 July. Staff are being balloted after college management refused to offer any more than 2% for the previous two financial years (1% 2020/21 and 1% 2021/22). UCU is demanding a significant uplift to help meet the cost of living crisis.

Inflation is currently 11.7% and staff at English colleges have seen pay fall behind inflation by 35% since 2009.

8. Staff at Reach to ballot for industrial action over pay 

NUJ members at Reach titles will be balloted in coming weeks, following rejection of a 3% pay offer.

The dispute over pay follows months of talks with Reach plc, to agree a fair and decent pay award for staff within the company. Despite the union’s extensive negotiation efforts including senior talks with Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, the company has failed to recognise the significant contribution of journalists and increase their final offer of 3% or £750 for employees. 

The Reach NUJ Group chapel has overwhelmingly rejected the pay offer and has voted to ballot for strike action and/or action short of a strike. The union will now prepare to ballot members and on 24 June, and informed Reach of its intention. 

2021 full year results at the company indicated a £24m rise in cash balances with operating profits of over £146m. Its chief executive Jim Mullen’s £4m pay package last year was worth 107 times the pay of median earning Reach employees, and in stark contrast to the final 3% pay offer.

9. Firefighters’ 2% pay offer “utterly inadequate”

Firefighters and firefighter control staff have responded angrily to a 2% pay offer from UK fire and rescue employers. The Fire Brigade Union’s (FBU) executive council is recommending rejection of the pay offer to members.

The 2% pay offer is against a current rate of inflation of 9.1% (CPI, year on year to May 2022). The fire service annual pay award is due on 1 July.

The pay offer comes against a background of huge long-term pay cuts to firefighters’ pay. Between 2009 and 2021, firefighters’ real pay has been cut by 12%, or nearly £4,000. 

The pay offer will now go for consideration by members, with the union’s executive council recommending rejection.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “The FBU has today received a proposal from our employers of a 2% increase in pay.

“This is utterly inadequate and would deliver a further cut in real wages to firefighters in all roles in the midst of the cost of living crisis.

“This latest insulting proposal follows 12 years of government-imposed reductions in real wages. This proposal will anger firefighters, those working in emergency fire controls, and those in in all uniformed roles in fire services across the UK. It is galling to be insulted in this way, especially after our contribution to public safety during the pandemic.”

10. Richmond upon Thames College to face 14 days more strike action over fire & rehire plans

Staff at Richmond upon Thames College are set to down tools for 14 consecutive days over a three-week period in August and September 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 announcement comes as staff took a further day of strike action yesterday, aimed at disrupting an open day taking place at the college.

Striking staff picketed and held a rally at the Marsh Farm Lane entrance to the college at 4pm as prospective students and their parents visited the college.

UCU regional official Adam Lincoln said: ‘Today’s walkout and protest at the Richmond upon Thames College open day, plus the announcement of 14 days further strikes shows that staff will not allow management to use fire and rehire to threaten 127 members of staff.

“Staff now fighting to save their jobs have dedicated themselves to supporting their students and the fact that management are trying to slash 10 days from their holiday entitlement is a mark of shame for the entire college, and one which will rightly shock current and prospective students as well as the wider community in the area.”

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