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

The news you didn’t see this week…

The news you didn’t see this week…

1.Unite wins extra cost of living pay rise for lowest paid at Natwest

Unite the union has announced that it has won an extra cost of living pay increase for the lowest paid at Natwest.

Following calls from Unite and extensive talks, the bank has agreed to give the lowest paid staff who earn less than £32,000 across the bank an additional 4 per cent salary increase. This deal will help some 17,300 employees.

Unite continues to press for improvements in the pay of all at the organisation in order to address the pressures faced by staff in the bank as the costs of living continues to go up.

Caren Evans, Unite national officer, said: “Unite has today won an extra 4 per cent pay increase for those in Natwest who are facing the largest hardship as the costs of living increase. The bank has responded to the union’s demands about the impact that the cost of living is having on the lowest paid. The union welcomes the pay rise which is preferable to a one-off payment.

“While the bank’s offer does not meet in full all that Unite requested, this is an important first step. Unite will continue to press for a pay increase for the remaining employees who also need support during these challenging financial times.”

2. NHS workers lose access to Covid sick pay and leave

At the start of the pandemic, in recognition of the high-risk environment NHS workers were expected to work in, Unions negotiated with Department of Health officials to secure protected pay for periods of Covid related sickness.

Last week, those provisions were taken away – at the same time as some NHS trusts are reintroducing the wearing of face masks and other covid measures.

Rachel Harrison, GMB National Officer, said: “Covid has not gone away for our NHS key workers – so why do the Government believe that now is the right time to remove pay protections in cases of covid.

“Staff morale is at an all time low. Chronic understaffing levels are putting additional strains on the workforce who continue to work in high risk situations for contracting Covid. And we are facing a cost of living crisis.

“This is no way to treat our NHS key workers.”

3. TUC calls on employers to keep their staff safe as temperatures soar

The TUC has urged employers to make sure their staff are protected from the sun and heat after the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) issued a heat-health alert.

A Level 2 heat-health alert has been issued for the South West, East Midlands, West Midlands, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber regions.

And a Level 3 alert has also been issued for the East of England, South East and London regions.

Both alert levels are in place until 9am on Friday, with warm weather forecast across the country throughout the course of next week.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “We all love it when the sun comes out. But working in sweltering conditions in a baking shop or stifling office can be unbearable and dangerous.

“Indoor workplaces should be kept cool, with relaxed dress codes and flexible working to make use of the coolest hours of the day.

“And bosses must make sure outdoor workers are protected with regular breaks, lots of fluids, plenty of sunscreen and the right protective clothing.”

4. Cancel summer recess so MPs can keep tabs on squatter PM – Plaid Cymru

Westminster recess should be cancelled as Boris Johnson can’t be trusted with the levers of power, Plaid Cymru has said.

With no clear commitment from Boris Johnson to leave Downing Street and given his track record of riding roughshod over due process, Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts said “democracy would be further undermined if Members of Parliament couldn’t keep the squatter Prime Minister honest.”

Plaid Cymru have called on Boris Johnson to immediately vacate Number 10. If Tory MPs fail to get rid of him before the recess, however, Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader has said that he must “come to Parliament to give regular updates on his and his zombie Cabinet’s activities”.

Liz Saville Roberts MP said: “It’s preposterous that Boris Johnson still holds the keys to Number 10 despite having lost all claim to them. His self-serving speech yesterday showed zero self-awareness and zero contrition. I fear what this bullying narcissist of a Prime Minister will do with his last days of power.

“The House of Commons is due to rise for our summer recess in under two weeks, after which Johnson will continue to be in office without any scrutiny. Democracy would be further undermined if Members of Parliament couldn’t keep the squatter Prime Minister honest.”

5. Queen Mary, University of London, threatens to close courses to punish staff for industrial action

The University and College Union (UCU) has said that Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL) has cemented its status as one of the most vindictive’ and ‘anti-worker’ employers in the country, after QMUL Principal Colin Bailey escalated his attempts to smash UCU’s marking boycott.

In internal emails sent over the weekend, Bailey threatened to close QMUL’s Film Studies degree programme unless staff return their marks. In writing, Bailey said that QMUL ‘can’t take new students onto programmes where staff refuse to deliver the promised education.’

All affected staff at QMUL’s Film Department have signed an open letter condemning ‘consistent potentially unlawful threats to the future of our department and livelihoods, and the relentless hostility colleagues have been facing from the Principal’.

UCU members at QMUL taking part in a marking and assessment boycott have already faced a more aggressive response from the university’s management than has been seen anywhere in the country.

6. We must go further on buses, say Greens

Responding to government plans to cap single bus fares in England at £2 this winter, Greens are calling for massive public investment to provide a “genuine bus revolution” which would mean everybody had access to an expanded and high frequency bus network.

They have also called for a cap on fares to be permanent, not just for six months over the winter. Greens say diverting the £27 billion away from road building could pay for huge improvements to public transport services.

Green Party co-leader Adrian Ramsay said: “Boris Johnson’s planned bus revolution got stuck in neutral, indeed many communities across England have seen bus services go into reverse. But a genuine bus revolution, creating an expanded, high frequency and sustainable bus network to all corners of England, is possible. It’s a question of priorities. We say axe the damaging £27bn road building programme and divert this money into supporting buses.

“While a temporary £2 cap on single bus fares is hugely welcome and is an important move to help address the cost of living crisis this winter, it must come with fresh funding – councils cannot be expected to foot the bill. We also need such a cap to be permanent, not temporary.”

7. Brighton pub workers defy violent union-busting by issuing fresh strike dates

Workers at the SJT pub in Brighton will be on strike for 20 days in July and August, including the weekend of Brighton Pride and the August bank holiday weekend, as part of their fight for better terms and conditions and demand for respect in the workplace.

The hospitality workers will be walking out of their jobs again in defiance of vicious union busting by the landlords. Their first two peaceful and joyful pickets outside the pub on 25 June and 2 July were met with physical assaults and the illegal sacking of strike leader Jake Marvin. Marvin has applied for interim relief to be reinstated as bar manager and the landlords have been reported to local licensing authorities.

Other striking workers have been suspended while they are allegedly under investigation after the bosses claimed to have reported the 25 June picket to the police.

The strikers and their union, UVW, are calling for Stonegate Group, the UK’s largest pub company which leases the SJT, to intervene in the dispute. Having vowed to look into the matter, Stonegate has so far refused to intervene.

Kate Flood, a union organiser for UVW, said: “Following their first days of strike action workers at Saint James Tavern have been subject to victimisation, threats and assault, alongside unlawful disciplinary proceedings, suspensions and dismissals. Stonegate is claiming this is not their responsibility, and the bosses Zak and Vicky are refusing to talk to workers. This is symptomatic of a hospitality industry which is essentially unregulated, and where bosses believe they have carte blanche to treat workers atrociously.”

8. Over 120 academics pen open letter to London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine demanding an end to “second class” treatment of outsourced workers

126 academics, including London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) staff, alumni and members of the wider academic community, have published an open letter to Senior Management at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, raising concerns over “second class” treatment of outsourced workers, which “tarnishes the reputation of the School”.

The academics demand that management meet “essential workers’ demands of fair treatment and pay” and “the immediate annulation of disciplinary sanctions faced by some workers engaged in union activities and campaigns.”

These allegations of second class treatment by the university follow on from an independent review commissioned by LSHTM and published in December 2021 which found the university to be structurally racist.

Dr Sabah Boufkhed, lecturer in global health and LSHTM alumni says: “Our academic and global health community has taken a stand with less privileged colleagues who have organised themselves to address their poor labour conditions. We know from the research we do that these conditions are a major determinant of health. I hope that LSHTM’s senior management will immediately address the situation and make a step towards addressing causes of health and social inequities within their own premises.”

9. Oxford City Council to debate motion on free period products

On Monday 18 July 2022, Oxford City Council will debate a motion which would mandate the Council to explore providing free period products.  The motion has been submitted by Green Party Councillors Rosie Rawle and Lucy Pegg.

If passed, the motion would seek to provide free period products in public toilets and other public buildings – including the Town Hall and community centres. It would also see the Council’s cabinet member for health and transport lobby the County Council to undertake a similar scheme and push for the Westminster government to roll out a nationwide scheme.

The motion seeks to support the work already being carried about by the Young Women’s Music Project which currently delivers a volunteer-run distribution network in Oxford – called Wings –  to support people who menstruate or have young children and cannot access sanitary products or nappies.

Speaking on the forthcoming motion, Green Party Councillor Rosie Rawle said: “Period poverty is a major issue facing millions of people across the country, and hundreds in our city. Lack of access to period products can have a huge impact on the lives of women, girls, non-binary people and trans men who menstruate. It can lead to people wearing period products for too long and using unsuitable or unsafe alternatives.

“There are already brilliant initiatives in Oxford – like Wings – which do incredible work to overcome period poverty. But we need to go further.

“It’s time for the City Council to step up and help tackle this. That’s why we’re calling on the City Council to look seriously at whether it can provide free period products for our residents.”

10. Ministers must act now as Covid infection rates rise, says UNISON

Responding to the release of Office for National Statistics data showing a sharp increase in Covid infection rates, UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said:

“Infection rates are rising at an alarming rate. The fact the virus is spreading so quickly during the warmer months should set off alarm bells across the government.

“Simply wishing Covid away is dangerous. If we don’t begin to prepare now for the inevitable winter wave, staff will be absent, services will be compromised and communities will be denied the quality public services they expect.

“Ministers must learn from the devastating mistakes of their predecessors, get ahead of the Covid curve and protect the vital public services.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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