5 major wins for Unite the Union in the past month

Recent double-digit pay rises for workers reflect union successes

Unite the Union

Across all sectors of industry, unions are fighting to improve the conditions of their members at work by settling disputes to achieve impressive wins in pay and conditions.

Unite the Union resolved 460 disputes in the last two years involving over 137,000 members, with a win rate of 81%. Over the last month a number of disputes have concluded, resulting in double-digit pay rises and improvements in employee conditions. Marking the holiday season, the most significant recent settlements have been in aviation.

1. British Airways workers

In 2020, BA launched a controversial ‘fire and rehire’ scheme for its entire workforce which saw thousands of long-serving crew members suffering substantial pay cuts, as they were forced to reapply for a similar job at a lower pay or accept redundancy.

However, following detailed negotiations, a new deal overwhelmingly accepted by employees will see their pay restored and increased. Workers, not including pilots and management, will now receive a 13.5% pay rise over 18-months and a £1,000 one-off payment.

An agreement has also been settled that means no member of staff will have the pay increase applied at a lower rate of pay than they were receiving in 2020. Unite general secretary Sharon Graham called in a ‘sizeable pay increase’ for the 24,000 airline staff.

2. Gatwick employees

Talks with multiple employers at Gatwick have resulted in success, halting strings of strike action at the airport this summer. First to accept a pay increase were 120 ICTS employees working in baggage screening and aircraft guarding who secured a 16% pay rise. Heralded as a ‘tremendous result’, the company also agreed to curtail zero hour contracts and bring in an unsocial hours enhancement.

DHL workers will see their hourly rates increase between 15 and 31 per cent, and a wage increase between 23-43 per cent for hours worked between midnight and 5am. More workers for ASC and Menzies have also accepted double digit pay rises and enhancements to annual leave and sick pay. Workers at GCS accepted a 10.3% pay rise.

However, strikes at the airport still loom as members for a further three companies have now voted for industrial action over pay.

3. 300% bonus raise

Strike action was called off by construction workers at the Stanlow oil refinery in Cheshire after they were offered a major increase to their hourly bonuses.

The operating company National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry (NAECI) agreed to increase the worker bonus rate from 80p an hour, to the maximum £2.37 an hour representing a rise of just under 300%.

This reflects another case of a union pushing an employer with a large pocket, in order for workers to gain their fair share.

Graham said: “Unite had been clear from the outset that the employers and the client could fully afford to increase the bonus payment and that proved to be entirely the case.”

4. Birmingham airport staff

150 airport security officers and terminal technicians cancelled strike action after accepting a 13.25% pay increase. The deal also helped strengthened union power in the workplace, seeing two new Unite workplace reps, a wider collective bargaining agreement and increased union organising access across the airport.

However disruption at Birmingham airport has not been avoided, as refueller drivers and operators are taking strike action this month after rejecting a 9% pay increase offer by their employer Menzies.

5. Bin workers

A stinky summer in South Gloucestershire was predicted when bin loaders announced they were taking strike action back in June.  

It came as their employer Suez, hired on behalf of the council, recorded profits of £80.8 million in 2021, whilst bin loaders were earning just £11.53 an hour amid cost of living demands.

A 10.1% pay rise was accepted by workers who, ‘stood firm in their union and secured a significantly improved offer,’ said Graham.

Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward

Left Foot Forward’s trade union reporting is supported by the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust

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