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

The news you didn’t see this week…

Radical Roundup

1.Gatwick Airport bus drivers secure 21.5% pay increase

Bus drivers employed by ABM at Gatwick Airport have achieved an inflation beating 21.5 per cent pay increase.

The drivers’ pay has increased from £12.34 an hour to £14.25 with the deal backdated to 1 April this year. Pay will further increase to £15 an hour from 1 January 2023. In addition overtime rates will now be paid at time and a quarter.

The drivers are responsible for taking passengers to and from Gatwick’s terminals to distant airplanes for boarding and disembarking.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This is an excellent pay increase and it delivers on Unite’s commitment to secure a fair day’s pay for its members.

“Unite is now dedicated to enhancing and defending its members jobs, pay and conditions, this strategy is increasingly bearing fruit and the pay deal at ABM is a further example of that.”

2. Unite secures 12% pay deal for Sainsbury’s HGV drivers in Basingstoke

Unite has secured a 12 per cent pay deal for around 200 Sainsbury’s HGV drivers in Basingstoke.

The drivers, who deliver stock to stores across the region, voted by 92 per cent in favour of the one-year deal.

The deal is above the real rate of inflation, RPI, which currently stands at 11.8 per cent. It was negotiated without industrial action.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This is another great deal won by Unite and demonstrates once again that even in this cost of living crisis, Unite is winning better jobs, pay and conditions for our members.”

Unite regional officer Phil Silkstone said: “There is power in a union – that’s why workers looking to improve their wages and working lives should join Unite and get their colleagues to do the same.”

3. TUC: Grant Shapps’ proposals are an attack on the fundamental right to strike

Commenting on the transport secretary’s proposals to restrict strike action set out in the Telegraph today, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Grant Shapps hasn’t lifted a finger to end this rail dispute. Instead of doing his job, he has been blocking an agreement and picking fights with unions.

“These proposals are an attack on the fundamental right to strike. They are anti-democratic and anti-worker.

“Threatening the right to strike tilts the balance of power too far towards employers. It means workers can’t stand up for decent services and safety at work – or defend their jobs and pay.

“While millions are struggling to get by, ministers are falling over themselves to try to find new ways to limit workers’ ability to bargain for higher pay.”

4. Greenpeace takes government to court over Jackdaw gas field: Campaigners claim ignoring emissions is unlawful

The government is facing fresh legal action after it approved a new North Sea gas field without checking the climate damage of burning the gas extracted.

Greenpeace argues that the government failed in its legal duty to check the environmental impacts of Shell’s Jackdaw project by refusing to consider the damage caused by burning the gas extracted.

The legal challenge comes as the UK endures a summer of unprecedented heat waves, with the gas from Jackdaw, when burnt, set to generate more CO2 than the annual emissions of Ghana, Greenpeace says. And the Jackdaw gas will not even help ease the UK’s energy crisis, or have any effect on energy bills because it belongs to Shell, and will be sold on international markets to the highest bidder – something government officials have admitted.

Philip Evans, oil and gas transition campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: “This Jackdaw approval is a scandal. The government knows that burning fossil fuels drives the climate crisis, yet they’re approving a new gas field in June, without proper climate checks, and declaring a national emergency over heatwaves in July.”

5. Arriva bus drivers in Essex and Kent balloting for strike action over low pay

Eight hundred Unite members employed as bus drivers by Arriva in Kent and Essex, are being balloted for industrial action in a dispute over pay.

The ballot closes on Friday 12 August and if the workers vote for industrial action then strikes could begin before the end of next month.

Despite extensive negotiations Arriva has only been prepared to offer a 7.8 per cent pay increase, which is a substantial pay cut with the real inflation rate (RPI) currently standing at 11.8 per cent. The bus drivers earn as little as £12.12 an hour.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Arriva and its parent company, Deutsche Bahn, are fabulously wealthy and can fully afford to make our members a decent pay offer. The company is prioritising paying dividends to shareholders over decent wages for workers.

“Unite will provide its members with the union’s total support until a pay offer which meets members’ expectations is made, which would resolve the dispute.”

6. Thatcher threat rings alarm bells across Scotland

The growing Thatcher threat will send alarm bells ringing across Scotland, the SNP has said today, as Tory leadership candidates lurch even further to the right and attempt to out-Thatcher Thatcher.

The warning comes after Rishi Sunak boasted in an article for the Daily Telegraph that: “My values are Thatcherite…I am a Thatcherite, I am running as a Thatcherite and I will govern as a Thatcherite.”

Meanwhile, multi-billion-pound tax cuts pledged by candidates, including Liz Truss, throughout the campaign would be a boost for the wealthy, the executive director of the Institute for Public Policy Research has highlighted, while ordinary households struggle to make ends meet as the Tory-made cost of living crisis continues.

Commenting, the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford MP said: “The continuity candidates will both be a disaster for Scotland – with yet another Tory Prime Minister, elected only by Tory members, forced upon Scotland against our will.

“While households struggle to make ends meet as the Tory-made cost of living crisis spirals out of control, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are more focused on trying to out-Thatcher Thatcher.

“Scotland still bears the scars of Thatcher’s damaging policies – which hammered Scotland and increased inequality in the UK to levels that have never been reversed.”

7.Welsh Lib Dems Reiterate Calls for Welsh COVID Inquiry

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have reiterated their calls for a Wales specific COVID inquiry. The calls come after it has emerged that of the first three modules of the UK inquiry announced, only one will have a sub-module specifically examining Wales.

The party have accused Labour of dodging scrutiny and of missing an opportunity to ensure Wales is fully prepared for any future pandemic.

The first module will examine the resilience and preparedness of the UK for the pandemic. The second module, which will be dealt with in parts, will look at core political and administrative governance and decision-making by each of the UK’s governments. The third module will investigate the impact of COVID, and governmental and societal responses to it, on healthcare systems, including on patients, hospitals and other healthcare workers and staff.

Currently only module two will examine Wales specifically.

Commenting, Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds MS said: “The news today demonstrates that a UK wide COVID inquiry is at risk of not having the adequate scope to thoroughly consider decisions taken in Wales by the Welsh Government during COVID-19.

“Decisions made in Wales, by our devolved Government were often different and had an impact, be it negative or positive. The bereaved families of Wales deserve an inquiry that pays full attention to that decision making in Cardiff Bay.”

8. IFS: 110,000 workers missing from work as a result of long COVID at a cost of £1.5 billion a year in lost earnings

The number of people with long COVID (defined as reporting symptoms more than four weeks after infection) has been on the rise – with the latest ONS figures showing that there were almost 2 million people with the condition as of May 2022, around double the number a year before.

New IFS research shows that having long COVID causes one in ten sufferers who were in work to stop work while they have the condition. It is likely that around 110,000 people are missing from work at any one time as a result of long COVID (i.e working no hours at all, generally because they are on sick leave), at a cost of almost £1.5 billion in lost earnings per year. The research also finds that those who were less well off before the pandemic are more likely to suffer from long COVID.

Tom Wernham, a Research Economist at IFS and an author of the report, said: “Though acute COVID is no longer the severe threat to public health and the economy that it once was, the impact of long COVID has continued to grow over time, with almost 2 million now suffering from the condition. Our research suggests that for a significant minority of long COVID sufferers, the condition has severe effects not only on their health but on their ability to do paid work”.

9. Surrey boroughs next in line for bin strike

GMB, the union for refuse collectors, have announced the first 3 weeks of strike action for members employed by Amey in Elmbridge and Surrey Heath.

This area, which includes Camberley, Cobham, Esher, Frimley, Walton-on-Thames and Weybridge will see no kerbside rubbish collection for the period, which will initially run for the three weeks from 1 August to 19 August.

GMB members are already looking at announcing further dates in due course, should their employer not agree to meet their union representatives for talks to look at ending the dispute, which relates to this year’s pay offer.

10. Environment Agency pay offer is ‘simply not enough’, says UNISON

UNISON’s Environment Agency (EA) sector committee has recommended that members reject the latest pay offer from the agency, saying the offer is “simply not enough” to address the cost of living crisis.

Pay negotiations for 2022/23 with the EA concluded last week when a full and final offer was made that equated to an average increase of 2% plus £345 consolidated increase and some modest increases to allowances.

However, the offer falls far short of the claim the EA unions jointly submitted in March and, on top of that, most agency members got a 0% rise, last year, after a decade of below inflation pay rises.

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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