The NSSN is continuing to report on how workers are organising during the coronavirus pandemic. The NSSN is opening up our weekly email bulletin, website and social media platforms of Facebook and twitter to provide a public forum for workers during the Coronavirus/COVID-19 crisis. We want to be a place where we can all share queries and experiences that workers are facing in their workplaces. These include reports of action taken by workers to defend themselves from their employers.
You can read about many of these actions in our weekly bulletin and out social media groups, especially our Facebook group: NSSN – defend workers’ rights under Coronavirus. This is just one of those reports:-
From Keith Gibson, senior GMB union steward (personal capacity)
The government says “stay at home” yet leaves the bosses to decide whether their profits are more essential! At the Tricoya site in Hull, steel construction workers employed by Engie Fabricom, are building a wood chip acetylation plant.
We have always worked in pairs for safety reasons. We share cabins that hold around 16 workers. The cabins are 5×2 metres and are air-tight tested to protect against any chemical release incident. The government guideline on Covid-19 of a two-metre distance rule is therefore impossible to implement while working on site, and even during break times.
On 23 March the 100-strong workforce decided to withdraw its labour until it received reassurances from the company that our idea to split the tea breaks, and work start and finishing times, would be implemented. This would halve both cabin and changing room occupancy. This was agreed, and the workforce went back on site.
That night Boris Johnson announced the need for everyone to stay at home. ‘Necessary and unnecessary’ work entered the fray. The next morning the workforce again refused to start work, demanding a lay-off on the agreed 38-hour week national trade union agreed pay rate.
Believing our work unnecessary, another refusal to risk worker health and safety saw a unanimous agreement not to return to work. I put forward that workers should only return to the site to put all the equipment back in the stores, to store tools away, and then return to the cabin area to await a response from management.
We put together a written collective grievance which included putting the company on notice that it had a duty of care to the workforce.
After explaining the content of the grievance to a manager, he informed us that the head of HR was coming down to the site to address the workforce. He told the workforce that as of 25 March we would be sent home, and would be paid 80% of our wages through the furlough scheme until further notice.
All the workforce agreed to this proposal, and were relieved to be going home to their families.
Although the provision for lay off has temporarily been replaced by the furlough, an actual 20% cut in pay, workers are proud to have collectively united to protect the health and safety of the workforce, their families, and the wider local community, which in turn gives support to NHS workers on the front line
We’ve also made a brief video from NSSN Chair Rob Williams to give an update on how workers are organising during the current crisis.
Join the weekly #ClapForOurCarers at 8pm every Thursday to salute all those emergency and key workers caring and providing essential services for us at this time
Join the NSSN forum to defend workers’ rights under Coronavirus
The NSSN is opening up our weekly email bulletin, website and social media platforms of Facebook and twitter to provide a public forum for workers during the Coronavirus/COVID-19 crisis. We want to be a place where we can all share queries and experiences that workers are facing in their workplaces. These include reports of action taken by workers to defend themselves from their employers.
Join our Facebook group: NSSN – defend workers’ rights under Coronavirus
You can also send the NSSN your reports and queries via our website, twitter – @NSSN_AntiCuts and email – [email protected]
We welcome the information being sent to union members concerning the spread of coronavirus, including the TUC, Unison, Prospect, Unite, RMT, PCS, ASLEF, TSSA, CWU, EIS, UCU, Mandate, NUJ, NIPSA, FBU, POA, NEU, NASUWT, BFAWU, RCN and the GMB.
But it is absolutely vital that unions retain their ability to organise and act independently in defence of their members and workers generally. This includes the right of unions to take industrial action. We are already aware of workers being forced to take unofficial action on health and safety grounds. We also believe that unions should have oversight of any government bans on protests and picketing. This is the same Tory government that tabled more new anti-union laws in December’s Queens Speech last December and cannot be trusted.
We believe that it is essential that workers are protected during this worrying period and are not impacted, whether in terms of their safety as well as their pay and employment rights. The Tory government have announced measures that if implemented would include some workers receive 80% of their wages. However, we believe that no worker should pay the price for any spread of the virus. Any worker who is required not to attend work or is unable to do so because of childcare or transport closures should receive full pay and not be forced to take annual leave. But unions have to remain vigilant that any government payments actually happen and also covers all workers, including those in precarious employment such as zero-hour contracts and in the gig economy.
We have drafted this model motion which we’ve made into a bulletin that can be downloaded and printed off to be distributed. Feel free to use in your union and trades council, in totality or partially to highlight the issues that need to be addressed.
Keep an eye out for other Facebook and social media groups and pages that are being created. The Coronavirus Support Group for Workers has been set up on Facebook and is a useful forum.
Follow how unions are facing up to coronavirus globally via LabourStart and ReelNews
USA: Sign Fight for $15 petition: Tell McDonald’s: Give your workers paid sick leave NOW
Union Coronavirus resources
Most TUC-affiliated unions have dedicated sections or pages of their websites to coronavirus/Covid-19 advice. Here are those where such information is available without entering special member portals. We will keep updating them
BECTU Sector of Prospect
College of Podiatry
National Society for Education in Art and Design (NSEAD)
Blacklist Support Group coronavirus statement
Blacklist Support Group supports 2 linked demands for the construction sector:
- #ShutTheSites – Close all non-essential building sites to keep workers and their families safe
- #PAYEveryworker – Ensure every worker gets paid to ensure their families are not put into destitution
Blame greedy bosses, clients and the government NOT the workers
The vast majority of construction workers are decent hardworking people. None of them want to put their own or their family members’ lives at risk by working in a situation where coronavirus infection is likely. Yet despite the apparent lockdown, photographs of packed building sites have been all over the media for days. When construction workers go to work, they share minibuses, travel on packed tubes, eat in crowded canteens, go up in full hoists, use palm print entry systems and live in barrack style accommodation on site. Construction is a dirty dangerous place at the best of times with notoriously poor welfare facilities, where the very process requires people to work in close proximity. Coronavirus will spread like wildfire in these circumstances.
Blame for this giant threat to public health lies with the greedy major contractors and clients continuing to enforce penalty clauses for delays; forcing building workers to come into work. Blame also lies with the government for not ordering all non-essential construction work to close. Ministers make speeches from lecterns emblazoned with the slogan ‘Stay Home Save Lives’ but building workers are still expected to go to work. There appears to have been orchestrated lobbying by the large contractors who are also major financial donors to the Tory Party. Its all about the money.
A culture of fear
There are also widespread reports of construction workers being sacked or told not to return to site if they complain or take the decision to leave unsafe sites. Construction News even reported workers being worried about blacklisting and being told to “F*ck Off, if you don’t like it”. One electrician in central London was sacked for gross-misconduct for posting a tweet about lack of social distancing.
As blacklisted building workers, we know from personal experience that the spectre of blacklisting is still very real in the construction industry. Big firms claim it’s a thing of the past but everyone knows it’s still going on. If safety reps get sacked, it’s no surprise that other workers keep their heads down. It’s a climate of fear that’s putting public health at risk.
Coronavirus Risk Assessment for the construction industry would highlight:
- Repeated prosecutions for breaches of H&S laws
- Blacklisting of safety reps by major contractors
- Workers being sacked where they complain abut safety
- Highest workplace fatality rates of any sector
- Intrinsically dirty work involving heavy lifting, often as a team
- Working in close proximity in confined spaces, hoists, scaffolds and trenches
- Often non-existent welfare facilities
- Almost universal bogus ‘self-employment’ where workers won’t be paid if they don’t come in
Using the Law
Every worker should stay safe and put their own and family member’s safety above the profits of their employer. Blacklist Support Group urge all concerned workers in non-essential workplaces to talk to your fellow workers and collectively approach the boss to keep staff safe. If management refuse to positively respond to reasonable requests, then legislation provides protection to employees who move themselves from an unsafe workplace.
Section 44 (1) of the Employment Rights Act 1996, specifically states:
An employee has the right not to be subjected to any detriment by any act, or any deliberate failure to act, by his employer done on the ground that:
(d)in circumstances of danger which the employee reasonably believed to be serious and imminent and which he could not reasonably have been expected to avert, he left (or proposed to leave) or (while the danger persisted) refused to return to his place of work or any dangerous part of his place of work, or
(e)in circumstances of danger which the employee reasonably believed to be serious and imminent, he took (or proposed to take) appropriate steps to protect himself or other persons from the danger.
Using this health and safety law, coronavirus walkouts have already been organised in construction, factories, distribution depots, Royal Mail. In the US walkouts by autoworkers have closed car plants and in Italy and Switzerland the unions led strikes to close down non-essential workplaces. Construction workers do not want to be working, with the potential of brining the virus back home to their loved ones. The mood of the industry and the whole nation is to shut non-essential building sites.
Any union officials or safety reps who are negotiating with managers about how to keep non-essential workplaces open should first and foremost talk to their members about what they actually want to happen. Then reconsider whether continuing production is likely to ensure the safety of workers and their families, or primarily benefit the company financially. Any union perceived by the workers as siding with management to keep non-essential businesses open, may suffer a backlash if the overwhelming mood of the workforce is to stay safe at home.
However agency workers and anyone classified as self-employed are not covered by this legal protection. Employment law is stacked in favor of the employers. So rather than merely quoting the law, groups of workers should join a union and approach their boss collectively. This will increase the likelihood of success and decrease the chance of any victimization.
The majority of construction workers are also classified as self-employed, which means that if they decide to self-isolate they will not be paid by the firm they’re actually working for. If they go off sick, they won’t get sick pay. This allows the big firms to extert pressure on building workers who need money to put food on the table.
The government scheme for self-employed workers is a joke. No one gets a penny until June. How are people supposed to pay their bills? People have every right to keep a roof over their heads.The government position is changing by the day and concerted pressure can bring about further changes. Rather than the hopeless self-employed scheme or Universal Credit of £95 a week, it would be more useful if the government made universal income payments of around £1000 to everyone in the country (as has happened in Hong Kong). No landlord or bank has a God given right to make a profit: the law of the land grants them that right, and the government can suspend that right. If the government suspended all rent, mortgage and interest payments for the next 3 months no one would be in fear of losing their home (as has happened in Italy).
Below is a short selection of the media coverage relating to the construction industry:
Dan Dobson on Radio 5 Live: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000gmqp (starts at 21:29hrs)
Dan Dobson – Tribune article: https://tribunemag.co.uk/2020/03/coronavirus-crisis-exposes-construction-industrys-bogus-self-employment
Dave Smith: Morning Star article: https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/o/covid-19-couldnt-be-more-dangerous-so-shut-construction-sites
Dave Smith at Coronavirus Support Group for Workers virtual meeting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wT1YtAeu-SQ&t=16s
Construction News: https://www.constructionnews.co.uk/health-and-safety/onsite-coronavirus-cases-kept-secret-scared-workers-told-to-fk-off-31-03-2020/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter&fbclid=IwAR1GduuF9SlkV7X4rQ93kMrCtqvt6S3uyeTI5Z8pTH8YHXtYJDXqiSS3BCo
Union News: https://www.union-news.co.uk/pressure-grows-on-government-to-shut-building-sites/?fbclid=IwAR00FKDIuhHB8uFJpRHvFUrwKM2SC5upNDGy5XcgSlLPwjgYMJjLB4Eb-E4
Construction donations to Tory Party: https://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/tories-buouyed-by-construction-donations?fbclid=IwAR17aA1pMLIh99hg3HLqwDeqAeUIcHOjauoHrs3T0JE1h7Pl77AQ5ZBqDMk
Le Monde on Hinckley Point https://www.lemonde.fr/economie/article/2020/03/31/nucleaire-sur-le-chantier-d-hinkley-point-les-travaux-continuent_6035068_3234.html?fbclid=IwAR2FU_GHX2XUbRehVmuK2s-BKzg5vwJrc5zmq4eFdWUMrcdfF5jRhkv9Iro
UNITE Appeal for evidence: https://www.union-news.co.uk/unite-issues-appeal-for-evidence-of-over-crowded-construction-sites/?fbclid=IwAR1iY5EBhNk4F-rlKvFuV-vSqAZ-ETLzfgSrox4DPaGL-ikoVHJP3HHp3XY
Punk Poet Steve White has even given the hashtag #ShutTheSites its own theme tune: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hU1js5bmHnA
Blacklist Support Group financial appeal: the Blacklist support group is desperately short of funds, to continue the incredible work we need more finance, would you please consider making a donation, raise it at your branches and trade councils. Please make cheques payable to Joint sites committee and send to 70 Darnay Rise Chelmsford Essex CM1 4XA. Please forward onto your contacts many thanks Steve Kelly (JSC Treasurer)
Blacklisted t-shirts available at: https://shop.hopenothate.org.uk/component/hikashop/product/78-blacklisted-t-shirt
Fight victimisation of union reps
Since the new year, a whole number of union reps and members have been sacked, suspended or disciplined. This is becoming a pattern. So much for ‘all being in this together’ during the coronavirus pandemic”. This comes on the back of the Tories’ planned new anti-union laws.
The NSSN will continue to highlight every such case and build support and solidarity so that these workers and others get their jobs back. Please send a message of support to those being attacked and invite them to your union branch and trades council. Keep letting us know about any other acts of union victimisation and we’ll publicise.
Clara Paillard PCS victory – We are delighted to announce that the threat of dismissal has been lifted and Clara, PCS president in the Culture sector, is ‘back at work’ (although from home during the current pandemic).
Reinstate Percy Yunganina UVW union – Percy is a cleaner at King’s college with 5 years on the job, and a UVW executive committee member, who’s just been sacked after a disciplinary hearing he refused to attend due to observing the government’s social distancing guidelines but which King’s College proceeded with anyway in his absence without even letting him know or inviting him to attend via phone. The hearing would have had 8 people cramped together in a small room in complete disregard of the government’s instructions about social distancing. Percy has explained the reaons for not attending and asked for the decision to be overturned and the hearing to be reconvened via phone or in person after Lockdown. However, King’s have scandalously refused this request and have insisted on upholding his dismissal which now leaves Percy out of work and out of pocket in the middle of a pandemic! He will formally appeal but it could take months to hear and deliver an outcome. We will also take King’s to tribunal but that could take over a year. This is utterly shameless conduct by King’s HR team, led by Nigel Smith, the Head of People Services. They need to be held to account. Everyone deserves the right to a fair hearing and should not have that right denied them for respecting the government’s public health guidelines about social distancing. Please repost this and write to Nigel Smith at the following address telling him to reinstate Percy – [email protected]
Sign the petition: Reinstate Ezra Christian RMT – We, the undersigned, are appalled at the treatment and summary dismissal of our Bakerloo Line colleague Ezra Christian. Ezra has been treated very harshly and does not deserve to be sacked. We call on London Underground to do the right thing in this case and Reinstate Ezra back into London Underground Employment immediately
Reinstate Clive Walder Unite: the campaign continues – Unfortunately, we have to inform you that the appeal by Unite against Clive’s dismissal by National Express in Birmingham was unsuccessful. In the hearing on 5 March, the company downgraded his offence from gross misconduct to misconduct and altered the penalty from summary dismissal to dismissal with four weeks’ notice. We believe dismissal is totally disproportionate and Clive should be reinstated. Clive and his union Unite the union will shortly decide the next steps in his campaign against his sacking. Clive would like to thank all those who have expressed solidarity with him, including supporters of the National Shop Stewards Network who took part in the protest leafleting of his workplace before the appeal hearing. It was successful enough for National Express to report it to the Unite full time official. Please continue to send protest emails to [email protected]. The NSSN has produced a flyer which can be downloaded and printed off to give to National Express employees and customers in support of Clive. We are appealing to our supporters to take photos of any solidarity protests and post on social media
Support Danyal Aziz Unite – Daniel was a Unite rep at London City Airport, who was recently sacked. Labour MP Sam Tarry has tabled a Parliamentary Early Day Motion in support of Danyal. Email your local MP to get them to sign the EDM
Defend Paul Williams PCS – Stop the victimisation of senior PCS rep Paul Williams – Paul Williams has a long and proud history of defending his colleagues at the Department for Transport, and predecessor departments, for nearly 40 years but as a result of his union activities is facing compulsory redundancy even though there are vacancies at his grade read more
Support Tony Smith Unison – Tony Smith one of the leaders of the successful FCC dispute which won sick pay for nearly 2,500 workers is being victimised. charged with gross misconduct over health and safety charges, his hearing is on Thursday. Please send messages of support to Hull Trades Council c/o [email protected]
Sign the petition: Reinstate UNISON rep Peter Moorhead and stop victimising trade unionists at Alternative Futures Group (AFG)
Support the ASDA workers and reinstate Michael Hunnum – 12,000 workers faced being sacked before Christmas by scrooge bosses ASDA, who are now owned by US superstore giant Walmart. This threat hanging over them was unless they agree to the new ‘Contract 6’ which will see them lose all their paid breaks and forced to work bank holidays. The same employer is sacking North East GMB member Michael Hunnam. Michael’s fight is part of the same struggle to resist the offensive of the ASDA bosses. Michael’s supporters believe that his determined opposition to Contract 6 is what has put him in the ASDA firing line. Support the ASDA workers and reinstate Michael!
Defend Moe Unite – support Moe Muhsin Manir, a hardworking Unite rep on London buses, working for Abellio. We are delighted to report that Moe is back at work. We will keep everyone up to date on any developments. Moe would like to thank everyone who sent support and solidarity.
Get your trade union branch or trades council to affiliate to the NSSN – it only costs £50. Already affiliated? Please think about renewing it. Also, many of our supporters pay a few pounds a month. You can set up a similar standing order to ‘National Shop Stewards Network’, HSBC – sort code 40-06-41, account number 90143790. Our address is NSSN, PO Box 54498, London E10 9DE. Feel free to use this affiliation letter
Date for your diary: 2020 NSSN Conference Saturday July 4th 11am-4.30pm Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, Holborn, London WC1R 4RL
This leaflet advertising the 2020 NSSN Conference can be downloaded and printed off
And if you can, come to one of our regional Conferences. If there is not one in your area, get in touch to either assist in organising or have a speaker at one of your meetings or events. Contact Rob or Linda on [email protected]
Follow us on twitter via @NSSN_AntiCuts and Facebook
Watch NSSN TUC Rally video
BREAKING NEWS!! RMT reacts with fury to P&O all-out assault on jobs, pay and working conditions in midst of Coronavirus pandemic (7 Apr) – MARITIME Union RMT today reacted with fury at P&O Ferries proposals for restructuring the business during the Coronavirus pandemic. In a consultation document issued to RMT, the union organising Seafarer Ratings on P&O Ferries’ Irish Sea, North Sea and Dover-Calais fleet, the company proposes a series of changes to Ratings’ terms and conditions, including pay cuts, replacement of UK seafarers with foreign crew, no strike clauses, statutory redundancy, cuts to the sick pay scheme, scrapping benefits for long service, leave restrictions read more
RMT on Stena Line announcement to furlough staff and issue redundancies (6 Apr) – STENA LINE union RMT reacted to today’s announcement that some 600 Stena Line staff from its 2000+ strong seafarer, docker and port service workforce in the UK and Ireland will be furloughed and a further 150 redundancies will be sought, despite a lack of certainty over seafarer access to the UK Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Schemes. RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “This is another major employer of UK seafarers reacting to flat lining demand by gambling with key workers’ jobs and future at a time of national crisis. Redundancies are a serious development and must not be used to avoid other alternatives that would save jobs. We seek further discussions on that as part of the mandatory consultation process…” read more
RMT appalled at bus and rail giant FirstGroup plans to “maximise substantial returns to shareholders” and profit from Coronavirus crisis (3 Apr) – TRANSPORT UNION RMT today expressed its disgust and dismay at revelations that rail and bus owner FirstGroup is taking steps to maximise pay outs to shareholders and will also profit from the Coronavirus pandemic. It was announced today that FirstGroup is set to benefit from millions in taxpayers’ cash to prop up its bus business on top of being bailed out by the government on its rail operations, including a new direct award contract for the Great Western Route. FirstGroup shares were up by 3.86% on the back of today’s announcement read more
RMT slams damaging and divisive approach to industrial relations from South Western Railway in midst of coronavirus emergency (31 Mar) – Rail union RMT today slammed rail operator South Western Railway for adopting a deliberately provocative, damaging and divisive approach aimed at pitting worker against worker when maximum unity at a time of national emergency in the midst of the coronavirus crisis is absolutely essential. RMT is angry at moves to drive through new operational and pay agreements for traincrew that sideline the biggest rail union, breach previous commitments, and roadblock negotiations aimed at settling the long running dispute over guards and safety on SWR trains. RMT has written to the company today demanding that they call a halt to their “divide and rule” approach and has also written to ACAS calling for all-party talks, while recognising the logistical difficulties in the current environment read more
Sign petition: to The Mayor of London and the London Assembly – End the privatisation of cleaning at Transport for London
RAIL UNION RMT has suspended strike action on South Western Railway in good faith to allow further talks to take place read more
Donate to the RMT strike fund on South Western Railway – The NSSN is appealing for financial support and solidarity for the RMT and their members on SWR, who have just voted to renew their mandate to take mote strike action. Send messages of support and requests for speakers for your union branch and/or trades council to RMT NEC member and SWR guard Geoff Kite – [email protected]
To make a donation to the hardship funds set up for RMT members striking against Driver Only Operation:-
National Dispute Fund:
Transfers can be made directly into the account using the details below:
Account name: RMT Head Office National Dispute Fund
Account no: 20113524
Sort Code: 60-83-01
Alternatively, you can send cheques to the Finance Department at Head Office – Unity House 39 Chalton Street London NW11JD
RMT Wessex DOO Dispute Fund:
Transfers can be made directly into the account using the details below:
Account name: RMT Wessex DOO Dispute Fund
Account no: 20399461
Sort Code: 60-83-01
Read the latest update on PCS-Cabinet Office talks on coronavirus (3 Apr) – Our second weekly video message reflects the progress that has been made in talks with the Cabinet Office for members working in the civil service and related bodies read more
A third of government departments still not observing social distancing measures, a 2nd PCS members’ survey finds (3 Apr) – PCS members are still encountering multiple problems at work around the coronavirus, including no clear policies on handwashing, sickness policies and general dissatisfaction within the civil service. In the second survey from 31 March there were 9,651 responses. This was a repeat of the survey sent out on 18 March which received 15,000 responses. 37% of members said their employer doesn’t have social distancing for all staff. This compares to 67% in the previous survey. 14.5% don’t have clear polices on handwashing at work whereas it was 16% in the first survey. And dissatisfaction with employers is at 20% – down from 28% previously. The full list of opinions employer policies is as follows
PCS campaign to end pensions robbery continues (1 Apr) – Today – 1 April – is the start of the new pensions year and the date when PCS believes civil and public servants should be paying less for their pensions, but the government continues to make tens of thousands of workers pay more. PCS members in the civil and public service are currently paying 2% every month for their pension than the schemes’ independent valuation says that they should. The start of the new pensions year would be an ideal time to repay members what they are owed but instead, government ministers told us, well before the current coronavirus crisis, that they plan to ask parliament to give them the authority to make our members carry on paying pension contributions at the current rate. This is totally unacceptable. Every month that our members get their pay packet, 2% that they’re giving to the government should be theirs. It’s completely unfair and we’ve told the government they need to give that money back as soon as possible read more
Support HMRC cleaners who have been on strike today Living Wage – Contracted out cleaners at HMRC have recently been on strike in a dispute over the Living Wage. ISS staff who are employed to clean tax offices at Bootle and Liverpool will take 14 days action with colleagues in Birmingham taking 2 days. Workers are angry at ISS over poor pay and conditions and the refusal of ministers at HMRC to take the cleaning contract back in-house. The real Living Wage is £10.75 in London and £9.30 for the rest of the UK is based on the cost of living and is voluntarily paid by nearly 6,000 UK employers who believe a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay. The strike received a 97% yes vote on a 90% turnout read more
Show your support
- Donate to the strike fund
- Send messages of support to [email protected]
Support Interserve strikers – Interserve workers at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, were on strike for the whole of February. You can support the workers in the following ways:
- Sign and publicise the E-action
- Donate to the PCS fighting fund
- Send messages of support to [email protected]
- Visit the picket line at Whitehall/King Charles Street, London, SW1A 2AH. Read more
BREAKING NEWS!! Wirral refuse workers stop work due to coronavirus health fears (7 Apr) – Members of Unite employed by Biffa Waste Services employed on Wirral council’s outsourced refuse collection contract, have today (Tuesday 7 April) refused to work due to coronavirus health fears. The workers have for over a fortnight been demanding that Biffa introduces strict social distancing measures to help ensure the workforce is not exposed to the coronavirus. Biffa has failed to take the workforce’s concerns seriously, and is still instructing workers of up to three crew members to share a cab on refuse rounds. The attitude of Biffa on the Wirral is at odds with the measures taken on other contracts, including by Newham council in London initially leading the way in introducing measures to ensure workers socially distance, followed by other councils and private contractors. Unite regional officer Steven Gerrard said: “For over a fortnight Unite has been trying to ensure that Biffa introduced measures to protect our members and they have failed to do so. We have been calling for an urgent meeting to find a safe workable solution to our member’s health concerns, but these calls have been ignored. Our members have informed us that enough is enough and they will not continue to have their health and the health of their families placed at needless risk. Residents of the Wirral will be alarmed that their refuse workers, who are playing a key worker role, are being treated with such disregard. Other councils and contractors have introduced measures to ensure social distancing, it is not rocket science and Biffa must take immediate measures to ensure the safety of its workforce.” The walkout today is entirely unconnected to the separate ongoing pay dispute
Balfour Beatty must delay ‘cruel’ Crossrail Whitechapel redundancies and furlough workers (7 Apr) – Balfour Beatty must furlough workers at its Crossrail site in Whitechapel, London, instead of carrying on with the redundancy process in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, Unite, the UK’s construction union, said today (Tuesday 7 April). The union said the building giant’s decision to begin redundancy consultations with around 30 construction workers this week, instead of including them under the furlough scheme until the end of the lockdown period, was ‘cruel’. The redundancies were planned before coronavirus crisis began. However, Unite said that it is ‘very possible’ the workers will need to be taken back on after it has passed, because of the volatilities in the labour market that will follow in the wake of the emergency read more
Jobs saved at Halewood on Merseyside following Unite intervention and local MP (6 Apr) – Over a 100 workers, employed on the DHL logistics contract at Jaguar Land Rovers’ plant at Halewood in Merseyside have had their jobs saved thanks to the intervention of Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union. The workers who are employed by the employment agency Staffline were informed they were to be ‘let go’ after the JLR site announced that it was temporarily ceasing production during the coronavirus crisis. However following the intervention of Unite and the support of local MP Maria Eagle, Staffline has reversed its decision and the workers will instead be furloughed on 80 per cent of their pay read more
MTVHA – Stop the Sackings! Sign petition: To: Geeta Nanda, Chief Executive Officer, Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing Association – Please cease all compulsory redundancies during the recruitment freeze caused by Coronavirus restrictions which would make it impossible for anyone to find alternative employment read more from Unite Housing Workers branch
Unite statement on coronavirus deaths among London bus workers (4 Apr) – Commentating on the tragic news that five London bus workers have now died of the coronavirus Unite regional secretary, Peter Kavanagh said: “Each of these deaths is a terrible tragedy and the thoughts of everyone at Unite goes to the families of the bus workers who have died of coronavirus. Unite will assist the families of our members in every possible way during this terrible time…” read more
Health and Safety Executive told to up its game in coronavirus battle (3 Apr) – Len McCluskey the general secretary, of Unite the UK and Ireland’s largest union, has written to the government and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) demanding the safety regulator ups its game, to ensure that workplaces remain safe and enforce social distancing rules during the coronavirus crisis. Workers from a large number of sectors have expressed increasing concerns that employers are failing to respect the government’s advice in all sectors but particularly health and social care, construction, food production, road haulage and logistics. The concern about the HSE’s lack of action has been highlighted in the construction sector, where government ministers have directly said that the industry should continue to operate, yet HSE inspections are not making proactive (unannounced inspections) to sites as they are considered to be non-essential activities read more
Unite statement on whistleblowing in the NHS during the coronavirus emergency (3 Apr) – Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “At this time of national emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic, it is right that the legal protections covering whistleblowers in the NHS are highlighted. Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, will be monitoring the situation very closely in the weeks ahead and will give maximum support to any member who may face disciplinary procedures as a result of raising legitimate concerns, for example, the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE)…” read more
PSA and JLR drawn into row over Faurecia’s refusal to guarantee Staffordshire workforce wages (2 Apr) – Staffordshire firm Faurecia Interiors is under increasing pressure to commit to registering staff under the government’s job retention scheme, which guarantees 80 per cent of wages, during the coronavirus lockdown, Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Thursday 2 April). Following repeated attempts to engage with the auto-interiors firm, which has refused to confirm that laid off workers will be registered under the scheme, Unite has contacted Faurecia shareholder PSA and its customer JLR. The union has asked the car makers to pressure Faurecia ‘into following the example of many other companies in the automotive sector by issuing a guarantee’ read more
Anger as London local authorities bulldoze through powers to discipline workers (2 Apr) – Unite has expressed serious concerns over plans seen by the union which will give local authority employers in London new powers to redeploy workers under the threat of disciplinary action. Rather than harnessing the growing spirit of volunteerism, Local Government employers in London are attempting to bulldoze through excessive new measures during the current COVID 19 crisis. But Unite will oppose these changes at a time of great anxiety amongst local government workers across the capital. Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “We understand that the capital faces a health crisis and local government workers are rising to the challenge but this is the wrong approach. It’s a poor way to treat public service workers who are providing vital services day in, day out…” read more
Victory for Unite the union Medway bin workers (1 Apr) – Action works. Unite reps are pleased to announce that we have won in our dispute at Medway Norse and have ensured a safe environment for the staff and the local community. Thanks to the strength of workers who stood together and the support of people like you who signed our petition, Medway Norse have agreed to pay all staff for yesterday and today regardless if they went to work or not, they have implemented social distancing measures, PPE (such as hand Sanitizer, Gloves, Wipes and Masks) have been made available, and all staff are guaranteed toilet access even if they close the toilets to the public. On behalf of Unite the Union, we would like to send a big thank you to everyone who signed and shared the petition and backed our members to get this victory
Union action secures social distancing for waste collection workers (31 Mar) – Waste disposal workers providing services to Thurrock Council have forced their employer to introduce social distancing after Unite, Britain’s leading union threatened action. The essential workers raised concerns that their working practices meant they were unable to social distance during the current health crisis whilst providing waste disposal services to the residents of Thurrock. In correspondence with the council, Unite regional officer Onay Kasab warned that the union would “support any and all members who refuse to begin work.” Thurrock council has now agreed to Unite’s proposals read more
Newham highway operatives to be balloted in grading dispute – Newham council, which has been dogged by industrial disputes recently, faces another one – this time over the failure to pay highway maintenance staff the rate for the job. Unite said that its highway members at Newham council would be balloted for strike action from Friday (20 March). The ballot closes on 3 April. Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “The issue is that members have not been properly graded and, as a result, have not been properly paid. We estimate individuals have lost £8,000-a-year over a period of time. Negotiations with management have dragged on for months and now our members have lost patience with this foot-dragging local authority.” Read more
Support Westex Carpets staff strike – Westex Carpet strike reaches two month mark: Members of Unite at the Westex Carpets factory in Cleckheaton are about to reach the two month mark in their ongoing dispute over pay. The strike began on November 20th after workers rejected a minimal pay rise which was then withdrawn by the company, which has since refused further dialogue read more Westex Carpets ‘won’t win battle of wills’ as strikes head into ninth week after talks collapse (22 Jan)
To make a donation to the hardship fund:-
Account name – TGWU
Account number – 20175407
Sort code – 60/83/01
Reference – WESTEX STRIKE FUND
Royal Mail workers voted 94.5% in re-ballot. These are video updates from CWU GS Dave Ward and DGS Postal Terry Pullinger
Southampton posties win safety victory – from CWU Wessex South Central branch on Facebook: Hedge End back in, hand sanitizers turned up within 10 mins of them removing themselves from the office due to workplace safety concerns, more PPE coming directly from OPs manager today, they are now bringing in staggering starts and have put a bullring outside to free up space in the office
‘Put workers’ safety and essential service first’ demands CWU (Apr 1) – CWU leaders are urging Royal Mail to change the nature of the service during this national emergency, with the strongest possible focus on essential deliveries across the country – while ensuring the safety of all postal workers. Speaking to the union’s Royal Mail members yesterday evening, our general secretary Dave Ward and deputy general secretary postal (DGSP) Terry Pullinger set out a robust agenda ahead of top-level talks with the business read more
‘We’re sitting ducks’: Edinburgh postie urges Royal Mail to provide PPE for staff
The CWU has labelled lack of PPE a ‘disgrace’ (3 Apr) – An Edinburgh postman has said staff do not feel safe to work due to a lack of PPE provided by Royal Mail. The postman, who works in Edinburgh but does not want to be named, said he and colleagues do not have access to antibacterial wipes, and have only sporadic access to hand sanitiser and gloves. “We get told the golden rule is to wash hands but when you’re out on delivery everywhere is shut so it’s impossible to do, and it’s impossible to keep two metres apart.” he said read more on Edinburgh News
Agency triumph for CWU as ‘Swedish Derogation’ loophole is finally closed (Apr 6) – Almost a decade of CWU campaigning against exploitative ‘Pay Between Assignment’ contracts has today (Monday) secured the belated abolition of the notorious legal loophole that allowed employers avoid paying agency workers the going rate for the job. Nearly two years after the union finally persuaded BT to phase out PBA contracts – following seven years of campaigning under the ’Closing the Loopholes’ and ‘Close the Gap!’ banners – legislation tabled under Theresa May’s premiership to outlaw these contracts once and for all has finally come into force – securing justice at last for tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of agency workers across the UK read more
Ambulance driver with Covid symptoms refused test as ‘too expensive’ (6 Apr) – A worried GMB ambulance driver with a sore throat and no sense of taste and smell says he was not referred for COVID-19 testing at Croydon NHS because they are ‘expensive’. The driver is employed by outsourced company HATs, who hold the non-emergency patient transfer contract for the trust. He reported his manager said ‘tests are expensive’ and ‘everyone is going to get it anyway’. The worker expressed his concerns about spreading COVID-19 to his patients but says he feels under pressure to remain at work read more
Sign petition: Requisition private hospital beds to help NHS with coronavirus
Swindon M&S workers stage walkout over coronavirus safety fears (1 Apr) – GMB demands Marks and Spencer steps in to ensure safe social distancing is enforced. GMB Union has called on Marks and Spencer to protect workers from coronavirus after distribution staff staged two walk outs over safety fears. The union has condemned DHL, which runs the Swindon warehouse on behalf of M&S, for its cavalier attitude to health and safety. Around 80 GMB members downed tools on March 24 and 26 to remove themselves from dangerous working conditions, and lack of precautions over coronavirus read more
UNISON wins U-turn for trainee nursing associates (3 Apr) – Sheffield trust had planned to axe training and cut the pay of its TNAs. UNISON won an important victory today, after the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust reversed a decision to cut the pay of trainee nursing associates and end their training. The trainees received letters on Monday telling them that, because of the coronavirus crisis, their training would be ended, with no resumption guaranteed. They would also be expected to take a pay cut of up to £1,700 – even as they were deployed to the frontline in the fight against COVID-19. Nursing associate training primarily involves on-the-job learning. However, after a quick response by UNISON, and with members showing “great solidarity and resilience,” the planned move has been scrapped. The trust has announced that trainees will be paid at the proper rate for the duration of the crisis and that, when training can restart, they’ll be able to take up their places once more read more
‘Callous’ Warrington Primary Academy Trust criticised as it presses ahead with plans to make staff redundant during Coronavirus crisis (1 Apr) – Warrington Primary Academy Trust (WPAT), which runs six schools in Warrington and Halton, has come under fire as it has ploughed on with a controversial staffing restructure process in the midst of the ongoing national health crisis. The controversial restructure process, which affects staff working at Beaumont and Alderman Bolton primary schools (Warrington) and Ditton primary school (Halton) could lead to school staff facing cuts to their pay and conditions, or even lose their jobs. Many school staff are currently supporting the effort to stop the spread of the virus by attending work in order to ensure that key workers’ children are cared for. The consultation, which ran throughout March, has placed undue stress on staff during the current health crisis, says UNISON. As well as the anxiety created by potential job losses and cuts to working conditions, the union says that is unfair to expect staff to express their interest in a post and go through competitive interviews against their colleagues in the current climate. Local UNISON branches have raised their concerns with WPAT CEO Louise Smith, who has refused to pause any of the restructure processes ongoing at the three schools. Subsequently, the issue has been raised with WPAT by Warrington Borough Council Chief Executive Steven Broomhead and the council’s Director of Education and Early Help Paula Worthington. Meanwhile, three other education unions issued joint advice last week stating that it was “not possible to proceed on matters such as reorganisation/redundancy … which require meaningful consultation in order to meet the law’s requirements”. This advice had been sent by Warrington Borough Council to all schools in Warrington, but it appears to have fallen on deaf ears read more
Community-based nursing staff are being failed by lack of PPE (1 Apr) – We’re demanding that nursing professionals in care homes, hospices and other community settings receive the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need read more
NUJ responds to Reach plc crisis proposals (6 Apr) – Reach plc (formerly known as Trinity Mirror), one of the largest newspaper, magazine and digital publishers in the UK, has announced today the plan to put a fifth of its workforce on furlough and cut pay by 10 per cent for the remaining staff. Reach plc has approximately 4,700 staff, meaning around 940 employees being furloughed, and at this stage the company has not made specific figures available on how many editorial staff will be affected. The company has said furloughed staff will receive 90 per cent of their existing pay. So far the NUJ is aware that a number of local union reps will be furloughed. The union will endeavour to come to an agreement with Reach plc about the implementation of the proposals read more
Bring buses into public ownership says TSSA (3 Apr) – Transport union TSSA today welcomes funding from the government to support bus services but the union says the government should now go further and “take the logical step” to bring buses permanently into public ownership. Passenger numbers have plummeted on buses – as they have across all modes of transport – but it’s vital that services are maintained for key workers during the coronavirus pandemic. The government has now set up a £167million fund to cover bus companies’ costs read more
London Underground: Tube drivers plea (6 Apr) – ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, is demanding that London Underground drivers are provided with masks and gloves to help protect them from contracting covid-19. “Our members are risking their own safety to provide a service for essential workers,’ said Finn Brennan, ASLEF’s organiser on the Underground. “But every day brings fresh news of friends, family members and colleagues being struck down by this terrible virus. Unlike politicians and managers, frontline transport staff can not work from home. Everything possible must be done to protect their safety…” read more
Free School Meals available over the Easter Holidays – We are pleased to see that Government has listened to the NEU and others who have asked for FSM to be available throughout the holidays read more
An appeal from supply educators for urgent support (from blog of Martin Powell-Davies 2 Apr) – from Niall Bradley Chair, NEU Supply Teacher Network: I am one of many agency staff who have been told that our services are no longer needed because of the closure of school and colleges during the coronavirus lockdown. Of course, once laid-off, the chances of any of us finding work as teachers or TAs over the next few months are also slim. If unfairly denied continuing employment alongside the rest of our colleagues in schools, we will be left having to pursue agencies and umbrella companies to win ‘furlough pay’. Even if successful, that still means a cut in income for many weeks ahead. To explain the situation, I am posting the letter below which was drafted following an online meeting of members of the NEU Supply Network yesterday and sent to the NEU General Secretaries here
Disadvantaged students most likely to miss out under exam plans, warns UCU (3 Apr) – Disadvantaged students could be the big losers under new assessment plans to replace exams this summer. The union was responding to news from Ofqual about how GCSEs, AS and A-levels will be awarded this summer. Research shows that high-achieving, disadvantaged students are more likely to have their grades under-predicted than their wealthier contemporaries read more
300 London firefighters to help ambulance coronavirus response (3 Apr) – Hundreds of firefighters have agreed to drive ambulances and assist paramedics to aid the London Ambulance Service’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The London Fire Brigade agreed on Wednesday that 300 firefighters would assist paramedics after last week’s national agreement between the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), the National Employers, and the National Fire Chiefs Council. Firefighters are taking on the additional roles voluntarily and the London Fire Commissioner has been clear that no firefighter will ride an ambulance or support other services unless they are supplied with the right personal protective equipment (PPE) read more
Fast Food Workers at Burger King, KFC, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Wetherspoons and others are joining together to demand #100Percent pay during the Coronavirus lockdown. We can’t afford a 20% cut, we need #100Percent BFAWU union
Dunnes Stores agree to pay workers COVID-19 premium following worker pressure (30 Mar) – Management in Dunnes Stores have confirmed the company will pay workers a 10% COVID-19 premium payment backdated to the 9th March 2020 following pressure from a Mandate Trade Union petition signed by more than 3,000 workers. This brings Dunnes in line with other retailers including Aldi and Tesco, who were the first retailer to agree to a premium payment on March 21st. Dunnes Stores have agreed to increase the staff discount card to 20% for all workers and it appears the company have also agreed to a COVID-19 sick pay scheme read more
Following the security guards COVID-19 walk out at St George’s Uni last week, the contractor, following discussions with St George’s, has responded by trying to slash their pay by up to £750 a year in some cases (31 Mar). This is disgraceful and shows the true colours of St George’s and contractors such as Noonan. We will not let them get away with this. In order to cover their backs, they have also been offered 3 weeks full pay sick pay. This is welcome, albeit inadequate & was not a demand of the walk out which carried no demands & was done solely to protect themselves & other from the serious, imminent & unavoidable danger posed by COVID-19. The fight for the security guards to be brought in house at St George’s continues. There’s no excuse to continue to outsource them. It’s discriminatory, exclusionary, and leaves the workers in the hands of cutthroat contractors such as Noonan which in times of crisis like these poses an unacceptable risk to the workers and the St George’s community read more
TUC courses at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CoNEL) at the Tottenham Campus
Please see here, our course flyers for TUC courses starting in April and September 2020. Please note that there are two new Certificate courses that we have developed entitled Health & Safety Essentials Certificate and Equality Certificate. The Trade Union Education Department of the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CoNEL) at the Tottenham Campus is delivering these courses. If you have any issues applying online, please give us a call on 020 8442 3075 with your email address and we can send you an application form. It would be appreciated if you could also speak to your branch secretary or other branch officers and reps to promote these courses. Many thanks colleague.
Chile: Support Vilma Alvarez (3 Apr)
Response to vote of censorship by the union executive against me and my expulsion.
Dear fellow members of the national board, last night (22.42) I read in the WhattsApp of the National Board, a statement sent by the president of the confederation Don Manuel Díaz, where I am intended to expel from the organization.
- My only intention as a union leader has always been the strong defence of the rights and life of workers. My behaviour does not violate any duty as a member of the Board.
- As a leader it is my duty to denounce the laws and opinions emanated from these governments and corrupt parliamentarians.
3 Proposing general strike is my right to free speech and I cannot be censored for that.
- Since the social burst, two roads have become clear, one is the street struggle and the general strike and the other the agreement of tripartite tables, entrepreneurs, workers and governments on shift.
- It is the first path I have defended inside and out of the confederacy and that is the big problem that today the executive led by Lord Diaz do not like.
- It is unacceptable, to be censorship for having different opinions and proposals, to which the executive committee has, is totally undemocratic and unconstitutional.
- That I have every right to belong to a political organization but never to use a trade union position for interests other than the defence of the rights and the lives of workers.
- as if Mr. Manuel Diaz does, participating in the name of the Confederation in the Socialist Party, a party that is seriously questioned by all citizenship as a narco party.
- It is public knowledge, that if he has endangered the unity and permanence of the organization has been Don Manuel Diaz, in the past has already been questioned for not abide by the agreements of the Walmart federation who has used his charge to back Mrs. Bachelet in exchange for who knows what benefits.
- It is very clear that we enter a new stage after the social outbreak and today amid a serious international economic and health crisis.
- Old methods of union make crises and it is the task of all honest leaders to make a turn otherwise we go straight to the cliff.
- The only unity is one that is made around a clear plan of struggle and claims, and for this we need truly resolute and honest leaders.
- Partners and colleagues after all the above, I request, not to consider my censorship or expulsion requested by the executive.
Jumbo Portal La Dehesa union President.
Director of the Coordinating Confederation of Trade, Financial and Brokering Services.
Send emails of solidarity to Vilma at: [email protected] and the trade union at her supermarket Jumbo [email protected]
And protest emails to the union confederation where they are trying to expel her – the Co-ordinadora de Sindicatos del Comercio y Servicios Financieros at: [email protected]
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