The news you didn’t see this week…
1.Prison educators vote to strike across England over low pay
Over 400 staff working in education at 48 prisons and youth offender institutions across England could walk out after voting for strike action, the University and College Union (UCU) announced yesterday.
Members voted overwhelmingly for strike action with 94.47% of those voting, voting ‘YES’ in a vote that surpassed the 50% turnout threshold imposed by Tory anti trade union legislation.
The prison educators, who are employed by Novus, have seen their pay fall by more than 25% since 2009. Prison education is already one of the lowest paid sectors, as highlighted by
the House of Commons Education Select Committee.
Novus has made a pay offer of just 2% for 2021/22 and 3% for 2022/23, far below current RPI inflation of 12.3%.
2. Three south coast ambulance services facing strike action as GMB launches industrial action ballot
Three ambulance trusts across the south coast are facing a strike vote as GMB Union launches a formal industrial action ballot on behalf of their 3500 members across the trusts.
Ballot dates for South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAMB), South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) and South Western Ambulance Service (SWAST) will be announced in the coming days.
The vote comes following a consultative ballot which saw over 90% of GMB members decide in favour of a walk out over poverty pay.
These workers are angry over the Government’s imposed 4 per cent pay award which leaves them facing yet another massive real terms pay cut.
GMB Union has now announced formal strike ballots in all ten ambulance trusts in England.
Lib Whitfield, GMB Regional Organiser, said: “The service being provided by ambulance trusts across the country has been chronically underfunded and staff have for too long been at breaking point with no sign of anything changing.
“Recent CQC reports have been less than complimentary to the management of these services and it is only thanks to the goodwill of the overworked and undervalued crews that the service continues to be as responsive as it is.”
3. Tory threat to benefits shows need for independence, says SNP
The SNP has said the growing Tory threat to social security payments shows exactly why Scotland needs independence.
It comes after Kwasi Kwarteng confirmed he was looking to double the savings on the Department of Work and Pensions which could include cutting housing benefit, raising the state pension to 67 and 68 sooner, removing the triple-lock on state pension, and means testing universal benefits, such as child benefit.
The Tory government has already scrapped free tv licenses for over 75s, brought in pension credit cuts that left pensioners up to £7000 worse off, and imposed the cruel debt-inducing two-child limit on benefits for families.
Commenting, the SNP’s Work and Pensions spokesperson, Kirsty Blackman MP said: “The Tories have already spent twelve years systematically dismantling the UK’s social security system, and now they want to take another sledge hammer to it.
“This is why Scotland needs independence – so we can ensure there will always be a social security safety net for those that need it.”
4. Plaid Cymru call for 1,000 litre heating oil vouchers
A voucher scheme should be introduced to provide worth 1,000 litres of heating oil to homes not connected to the gas grid, Plaid Cymru have said.
Ceredigion MP Ben Lake, whose constituency has the highest proportion of properties not connected to the mains gas grid on mainland Britain, said it would be “immoral” for the UK Government to punish non-gas households with a “substandard support package”.
He said: “It is unacceptable that in an advanced economy such as that of the UK, thousands of families will be unable to afford to heat their homes this winter.
“The UK Government has detailed its plan to help households connected to the mains gas grid, but we still await details of the support that will be offered to those not connected to the mains gas grid. These households are reliant on heating oil and LPG, and are facing eye-watering increases to their heating bills. An offer of £100, with no explanation of how eligible households will receive it, is a pitiful attempt by the Government to ensure commensurate support is available to off-grid properties.”
5. Social rent cap must not leave councils out of pocket, say Green Party councillors
Green Party councillors who are members of ruling administrations in England have written to Simon Clarke, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, asking for a guarantee that councils will not be out of pocket as a result of the proposed cap on social rents. They also point to how local authorities would be undermined without a corresponding cap on private sector rents.
A government consultation ends today, which has sought views on proposals to cap social housing rent increases for the coming financial year, with options at 3%, 5% and 7% being considered.
In their letter to the Secretary of State, the councillors say: “In our view, a government-imposed cap on social rents is not the way to address the cost of living without equivalent action on private rents. We are living through a housing crisis, with private sector rents becoming increasingly unaffordable in many parts of the country.
“To cap social rents while taking no action in the private sector and failing to provide local authorities with additional funding would undermine local authorities’ ability to build or purchase affordable homes, just when they are most needed to house those least able to afford inflated private sector rents.”
6. Sunderland bus strike: ‘Vindictive’ stagecoach blocks parents and children of striking workers from travelling
Stagecoach has blocked the families of striking workers from travelling during the industrial action in a ‘vindictive’ move, GMB union says.
Sunderland’s bus drivers are given a family pass, meaning their partners and children can travel for free as a perk of the job.
But the passes have been pulled during the walkout, leaving children unable to get to school and college and family members unable to get to work or the shops.
Almost 200 Stagecoach bus drivers in Sunderland are on strike this week after Stagecoach offered them a massive real terms pay cut of just 4 per cent, with 2 per cent to follow later in the year.
Stuart Gilhespy, GMB Organiser, said: “This is a petty, vindictive move, plain and simple.
“These bus drivers are just trying to win themselves a decent wage, to help them make ends meet during the cost of living crisis.”
7. Union-busting pizza chain ordered to put waiter back on payroll, judge rules
Earlier this week, an Employment tribunal granted a United Voices of the World (UVW) member and former Pizza Pilgrims (PP) waiter Interim Relief (IR) pending a final hearing on his abrupt dismissal, resulting in an order to put him back on the payroll, backdate his wages and pay them in full until a final hearing.
Over the course of a year PP waiter Ben Gray organised his colleagues into UVW, hoping to secure a recognition deal between the union and the restaurant. UVW claims his abrupt dismissal was carried out without due process and on flimsy and fabricated grounds.
At the London South Employment Tribunal, a judge heard an audio of an all staff emergency meeting called as a response to workers’ organising moves, where one of PP’s founders Thom Elliot disparaged Gray’s union activities and denigrated the role of unions.
From the evidence put forward, the judge said there was a “high degree of animosity towards union activity” from the employer and that Gray was seen as a “ring leader” with a lot of hostility directed to him personally. The judge also noted Gray was “made responsible for union activities… beyond his own actions”. The judge commented that, contrary to PP’s claims, the manner in which Gray undertook his trade union activities, was not “unreasonable, extraneous or malicious”.
8. Unless wages rise in social care, the sector’s problems will never be fixed, says UNISON
Commenting on reports from Skills for Care and the Health Foundation published on Tuesday this week, that low rates of pay are at the heart of problems in the social care sector, UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said:
“Put simply, wages are much too low. The social care sector won’t get back on its feet and deliver the support needed by millions if it can’t pay the rates needed to attract, keep and promote experienced care workers.
“This is a government which promised to fix social care, but ministers seem to have fallen asleep at the wheel.
“Previously, the government was happy to intervene and force care employers to sack unvaccinated staff. Ministers should get involved again and ensure all staff are paid at least the real living wage immediately.
“But that requires grown-up decisions on funding. Without proper action to arrest the decline in social care provision, the NHS will never clear its backlog. “
9. Energy companies must not cut off pre-payment customers, demands SNP conference
Energy companies have been urged by delegates at SNP conference not to disconnect customers who fall into arrears, especially those on pre-payment meters.
SNP conference has sent a demand to energy companies to find a solution that means that no one is disconnected from their energy supply as we head into winter amidst the Tory cost of living crisis.
The conference also asserted that no one in an independent Scotland should be forced to choose between heating or eating.
Commenting, SNP MP Anne McLaughlin said: “Scotland is an energy rich country but because our resources have been squandered and wasted by countless Westminster governments, we are in the completely unacceptable situation of households facing being cut off by their energy supply. In an independent Scotland no one should be considering whether to heat their homes or put food on the table.
“The UK Tory government must do so much more to protect households, their energy price measures will not stop spiralling bills. Instead of providing real help on bills, they are giving tax cuts to the richest and removing the cap on bankers’ bonuses.”
10. UK constitution under strain warns monitoring group
The United Kingdom Constitution Monitoring Group (UKCMG) has warned that the UK constitution is under increasing strain, threatening the quality and stability of our democracy.
The group is composed of leading constitutional experts including former permanent secretaries of the civil service, professors of public law and a former lord chief justice of England and Wales.
In a report covering the first seven months of 2022, the UKCMG highlighted almost 90 instances where constitutional norms of the United Kingdom had been degraded or eroded. While some of the issues identified pre-dated the Johnson administration, the report found that Johnson’s government had frequently exploited and worsened them.
Revelations of failures to adhere to basic norms of conduct among ministers and civil servants, a raft of ill-considered constitutional legislation and attacks on the independence of the judiciary all contributed to a decline in the strength of the UK constitution. The report calls for greater integrity and a return to standards in public life.
Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward
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