Radical Roundup: 10 stories that have got buried – Week 1, October 2022

The news you didn’t see this week…

Radical Roundup

1.Asda worst paying ‘big four’ supermarket once again-bosses need to wake up, says GMB union

Asda is once again the worst paying of the ‘big four’ supermarkets after Tesco bumped up wages.  Basic pay for Asda retail workers remains at £10.10 per hour.

Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Aldi have all increased wages recently to help workers cope with the cost of living crisis.  

Meanwhile, Asda has cancelled a driver premium payment which was meant to last until December, leaving Asda delivery drivers at an industry low.

Nadine Houghton, GMB National Officer, said: “It should be a source of massive shame for Asda they are now the worst paying of the big four.

“Only last week Asda refused a meeting with GMB representatives to discuss the important issue of pay. 

“While other companies are trying to protect hard-working employees from the cost of living crisis, Asda seems happy to sit back while its workers struggle.

“It’s time for Asda’s new owners to focus on investing in staff, instead of further debt leveraging Asda to expand their empire.”

2. Scrapping gender pay gap reporting for businesses risks turning the clock back for women at work, warns TUC

Commenting on government deregulation which will see businesses of less than 500 workers no longer required to report on gender pay gaps and executive pay ratios, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Make no mistake. These changes represent real threats to workers.

“Obligations on businesses which were put in place to help improve the lives of working people, like reporting on gender pay gaps and executive pay ratios, are set to disappear overnight for employers with less than 500 workers.

“Scrapping gender pay gap reporting for businesses up and down the country risks turning the clock back for women at work. And ditching reporting on pay ratios for these businesses will be a boon to greedy bosses.

“Yet again we are seeing reckless and cynical deregulation being pushed through with no consultation and no real thought for the impacts on working people.”

3. Strike wave over low pay hits more North West colleges

Staff at the City of Liverpool, Burnley and Oldham colleges have begun three consecutive days of strike action from Tuesday this week in a dispute over low pay.

Members of staff at the colleges will be on picket lines every morning of strike action. Burnley staff have also picketed their college from Tuesday to coincide with the college’s open evening.

The strikes amount to the biggest wave of industrial action ever to hit English colleges with around 4,000 staff on strike and tens of thousands of students being impacted. It comes during the worst cost of living crisis in living memory and after more than a decade of low pay has seen further education staff salaries fall 35% behind inflation since 2009. RPI is currently 12.3%, UCU is demanding pay rises that reflect the increases in the cost of living.

4. Water company’s pollution bills must come from boss’s pay and profits, not workers’ pockets

GMB Union says massive fines water companies face for pollution must come from bosses’ pay and profits – not workers’ pay and conditions.

Thames Water, Southern Water and others will have to return about £150m to customers in the form of lower bills in the 2023-24 financial year, the water regulator for England and Wales, Ofwat, has announced.

Gary Carter, GMB National Officer, said: “This dreadful mess is the fault of slack water company bosses. It’s the top brass – and shareholders – who should stump up for this. 

“These fines must not be used as an excuse to further slash the pay and conditions of hard working employees.

“Ultimately, this is yet another example of water privatisation being a monumental failure.”

5.Ministers should be ashamed that NHS staff are having to use food banks, says UNISON

Commenting on the NHS Providers cost of living survey published last week, UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said: “It’s like the UK has gone back to Victorian times, when workers were so poor, they couldn’t feed their families.

“Some health employees are now so hard up, they can’t survive without help from their employers. This is a shocking state of affairs. Ministers should be ashamed that things have come to this.

“The government should be raising the wages of health workers above the cost of living. This would help keep the wolf from the door and enable the NHS to hold onto experienced staff.

“Instead, the Prime Minister’s reckless gamble threatens the very future of the NHS. Any squeeze on funding or freeze on wages could see so many staff heading for the door that services are no longer able to function. It’s small wonder there’s growing support for strike action by health workers.”

6. Tory threat to Scottish pensions

The SNP has said Liz Truss must rule out UK government plans to hike the state pension age – warning the plans are a “threat to Scottish pensions and yet another Tory attack on the poorest in society”.

Asked if she would raise the pension age as part of a new wave of Tory austerity cuts, the Prime Minister refused to rule the move out, describing it as “a decision which is yet to be made”.

The latest statistics from the ONS show that life expectancy in the UK has risen at a slower pace over the past decade and fell since the coronavirus pandemic.

Commenting, SNP Shadow Work and Pensions spokesperson Kirsty Blackman MP said: “The disastrous Tory budget has shown the pensions of millions of Scottish people aren’t safe under Westminster control – and Scotland needs independence to get rid of the Tories for good.

“Liz Truss must ditch her plans to raise the state pension age, which are a serious threat to Scottish pensions and yet another Tory attack on the poorest in society.”

7. Truss ‘lying through her teeth’ on energy bills – Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru have calculated that 44.1% of homes in Wales will pay over £2,500 per year on energy bills, despite the Prime Minister Liz Truss repeatedly claiming that “nobody” would be paying over that amount.

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP, criticised the Prime Minister for “lying through her teeth” to struggling Welsh households about their energy bills.

Ms Truss told BBC Radio Kent last week that the government was “making sure that nobody is paying fuel bills of more than £2,500”. She made similar claims to BBC Radio Leeds, saying that “through the energy price guarantee the maximum will be £2,500”.

The UK Government’s Energy Price Guarantee caps the price of a unit of gas and electricity, meaning that the average household will spend £2,500. It does not, as the Government suggest, ensure that no household pays more than £2,500 for their energy bills.

Liz Saville Roberts MP said: “People are facing an incredibly challenging winter. They need correct, reliable information to be able to make informed choices about their spending. The Prime Minister and Chancellor are, however, so lost in their own warped ideology that they no longer distinguish between fact and fiction.

“Let’s cut through the spin. We needed a real energy price cap – but the UK Government’s Energy Price Guarantee is not it. Plaid Cymru called for energy prices to be capped at pre-April levels. It’s time for Liz Truss to recognise her plan still leaves people struggling, and to use a new windfall tax to bring prices back down to the levels they were before April.”

8. Cost-of-living crisis: over 700,000 retirees preparing to return to work

More than 733,000 retirees across the UK are preparing to return to work as the cost-of-living crisis escalates, according to new research by My Pension Expert.

The UK’s leading at-retirement adviser commissioned an independent survey of 2,000 UK adults. It found that, for 12% of those in retirement, rising inflation has “upended” their retirement plans.

More than a third (34%) of UK retirees are worried they will no longer be able to sustain their desired lifestyle in retirement as the cost-of-living increases so sharply.

Inflation in the UK has reached 9.9% and is expected to rise to 15% or higher by the start of 2023.

The survey also found that:

-12% say soaring inflation has “upended” their retirement plans

-34% are worried they will no longer be able to sustain their desired lifestyle in retirement

-6% of retirees (733,000 people) say they are likely to return to the workforce in the coming months to top up their pension pots

9. Falmouth University staff to strike over two-tier workforce plans

The University and College Union (UCU) has announced that staff at Falmouth University will take three days of industrial action over the decision by the university to employ all new academic staff through a subsidiary company, Falmouth Staffing Ltd (FSL).

UCU members will walk out for three consecutive days from Monday October 17th until Wednesday October 19th to defend the employment status of staff teaching at the university if management does not reverse its decision.

The announcement comes after 90% of members who voted said yes to strike action to protect hard-won terms and conditions for all academic staff at the university

and push back against a two-tier workforce.

10. North East ambulance service faces strike vote as GMB launches industrial action ballot

Ambulance workers should not be worrying about having to choose between eating or heating this winter, says GMB Union

Ballot dates will be announced in the coming days.

The vote comes following a consultative ballot which saw almost 90 per cent of NEAS members vote in favour of a walk out.

GMB has almost 750 NEAS Paramedics and ambulance workers, who are angry over the Government’s imposed 4 per cent pay award, which leaves them facing yet another massive real terms pay cut.

Michael Hunt, GMB Organiser, said: “Ambulance workers should not be worrying about having to choose between eating or heating this winter whilst providing a crucial public service across our communities.

“North East Ambulance Service is in disarray; it can only keep going thanks to the good will of the overworked and undervalued crews.

“But good will only goes so far.

“GMB members have a clear message for the Government and the employer: ‘we are worth more, we deserve more, we are willing to make a stand and we want a ballot for strike action’.

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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