The NSSN believes that the message of May Day as the international day of workers’ struggle is emphasised more than ever this year, during the coronavirus pandemic.
As the government and big business look to lift the lockdown, it is vital that the labour and trade union movement draws on the history of May Day of collective workers’ struggle as the most powerful means of ensuring that our workplaces are safe places of work.
That is why we are supporting the call by a number of trade unionists that we make May 1st this Friday a ‘red flag day’, where we get our union banners and flags out as work or at home, if we’re locked down. Or at the very least, wear something red on that day. The red flag is the historic banner of the workers’ movement.
That was a forceful message from the very successful NSSN public meeting last Sunday on the Zoom platform. Up to 200 trade union members took part in a serious discussion on how workers organise during the pandemic, sharing experiences on how they’ve stood up to management, winning victories on safety and pay.
Particularly during this crisis, the slogan ‘the workers united will never be defeated’ has never been more important.
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.
You can also send the NSSN your reports and queries via our website, twitter – @NSSN_AntiCuts and email – [email protected]
Watch ReelNews video: Trade Unionists pay tribute to fallen bus drivers here
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.
USA: Sign Fight for $15 petition: Tell McDonald’s: Give your workers paid sick leave NOW
Sign Waltham Forest Trades Union Council petition to Barts NHS Trust: for adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for all NHS staff particularly at Whipps Cross hospital.
Leeds TUC Public Zoom Meeting 7pm Wednesday 29th April Testing, PPE – Put our Safety First – Organise in your workplace Facebook event
Speakers include – John Ingleson, working theatre nurse and Chair of Unison Leeds Teaching Hospitals branch, Joanne Thomas, Usdaw Divisional Officer and Chair of Yorkshire & Humber TUC
To be held on Zoom:
Meeting ID: 992 2708 0107
Not Online? Dial in via telephone on: 0203 481 5240
Sign petition: To Welsh Government – For an immediate 10% pay rise for health, care and key workers. Sponsored by Cardiff County Trades Union Council, Swansea Trades Council, Caerphilly Trades Council
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)
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
RMT prepares to ballot drivers over imposition of ‘Covid-19’ timetables (23 Apr) – Dear colleague, your union notes with alarm London Underground’s intention to impose duty rosters at train operator depots that will provide for a significant ramping up of the current emergency level of service on the Tube. These rosters are being imposed while your employer continues to insist that it has no such plans to ramp up the service, yet media reports suggest that the government is briefing that restrictions on Tube use may be lifted in May read more
RMT secures major pay victory on behalf of cleaners (24 Apr) – RAIL UNION RMT today claimed a major victory in the fight against low pay on the railway after a campaign by the union forced Merseyrail cleaning and facilities’ contractor Mitie to withdraw a threat to withhold a pay increase for their staff. Mitie had pulled a pay increase to a minimum of £9 an hour for its Merseyrail staff but a high profile RMT campaign has forced them to honour the backdated award in a victory that the union says is an important staging post in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis to get all rail staff onto the Real Living Wage as an absolute minimum read more
RMT survey reveals extent of Covid-19 crisis for offshore gas and oil industry workers (24 Apr) – OFFSHORE Union RMT today released the findings of a survey of members looking at the oil and gas industry’s approach to tackling Covid-19 offshore. The survey findings coincide with the Trade Union affiliates of the Offshore Coordinating Group (OCG) taking their place on the Pandemic Steering Group (PSG) established by the employers’ body OGU read more
RMT blasts disgraceful and disgusting decision by TFL to deny staff cleaning tube trains throughout the coronavirus crisis free travel (23 Apr) – TUBE UNION RMT today blasted as disgraceful and disgusting a decision by Transport for London to deny tube cleaners, who have put themselves on the line throughout the Coronavirus crisis to keep essential workers moving, the basic right to free travel. The union has demanded that London Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan intervene immediately to right this wrong and give the brave tube cleaners the basic right to move around the transport system free of charge read more
RMT warning over May 11 transport increase (22 Apr) – RMT warns there is zero chance of agreement to government plans to increase transport services on 11th May in current climate as survey of 10,000 transport workers reveals widespread failings to protect key transport workers and passengers from COVID 19. Transport union RMT warned today that there was zero chance of agreement to increase transport services in the current climate. The announcement is in response to information provided by rail companies that Ministers want them to be ready to ramp up the rail timetable on 11 or 18 May 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
PCS secures 100% pay for many furloughed museum and gallery workers (27 Apr) – PCS, along with FDA and Prospect, has secured agreements with many museums and galleries across England, Scotland and Wales to ensure furloughed staff will receive 100% of their salaries, in spite of Treasury objections. All museums and galleries have been closed to the public for over a month in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. All unions supported the decision to close but insisted that no detriment should be faced by staff. The closure means that cultural institutions faced significant funding issues due to their mixed funding model – in which government Grant in Aid funding makes up less than 50% of income for most museums and galleries, with the remainder self-generated. PCS supported the use of furloughing across the sector, to “shore up” finances on the condition that furloughed staff receive 100% of their salary, with the 20% top-up paid by each institution read more
Read the 4th weekly PCS Covid-19 update (27 Apr) – This is the fourth of our weekly updates, keeping you informed of coronavirus related developments, and includes a video update from PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka read more
Paisley civil servants protest after Covid outbreak (24 Apr) – On Friday 24th April, civil servants in Paisley Jobcentre held an outdoors union meeting following an outbreak of Covid-19 in their office. More than twenty civil servants, whose numbers have already been drastically reduced by the need to keep home and safe colleagues with underlying health conditions, met and voted to agree that their office was not safe to work in. Among their concerns were the lack of information provided about the Covid outbreak, the failure of social distancing in the office, the inability of anyone in a position of authority to explain exactly what kind of cleaning had been carried out once the Covid outbreak had been identified, and the generally poor standard of cleaning observed read more
Tribute to Tony Reay (23 Apr) – It is with great sadness that we have to inform members that PCS stalwart, Tony Reay, passed away today. After a long, courageous battle against cancer, in which Tony remained totally committed to PCS and to our members throughout, Tony’s battle is finally over. Tony was well known across PCS, both within DWP and nationally. He was a leading activist in London, having held roles at group, regional and national level, and was admired by many for his passion and commitment which always shone through in his conference speeches read more
PCS demands guarantees staff won’t be forced into work during lockdown (22 Apr) – PCS is demanding from the Cabinet Office that as long as the national lockdown remains in place civil service and related staff should continue to work at home and more of those currently in work should work at home. It has become clear in recent days that our success in getting 80% of people working from home is coming under threat. In some departments management has asked PCS to start agreeing protocols to get from home back into work. We believe there’s a distinct possibility that the civil service will change direction in the next few days or weeks, and start trying get to people out of home back into work. This has already been attempted in the passport office read more
Support HMRC cleaners who have been on strike for 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
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
Stobart Air staff at Southend Airport to be furloughed following Unite intervention (28 Apr) – Unite has ensured that over 30 of its members employed as cabin crew by Stobart Air will now be furloughed. Earlier this month Unite reported how the affected workers were facing the prospect of at least four weeks of unpaid leave as Stobart Air, which provides cabin crew for Aer Lingus’,regional services operating from Southend Airport, had declined to place its workforce on the government’s furlough scheme. Stobart Air had declined to implement the government’s job retention scheme citing “cashflow issues”. However, following Unite’s intervention, Stobart Air has now confirmed the workers will be furloughed although the initial furlough payment will be delayed until the company has received funding for the scheme from the government read more
Covid19 testing for construction workers needed to help tackle disease (28 Apr) – Construction workers must be included in the government’s targeted Covid19 testing of key workers in order to help halt the disease’s spread, Unite said today (Tuesday 28 April). Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail has written to secretary of state for health and social care Matt Hancock calling for construction workers – many of whom have worked through the lockdown or are being brought out of furlough early – to be offered testing for Covid19 read more
Greenwich library coronavirus furlough deal could act as national template, says Unite (23 Apr) – An agreement that has been hammered out which will see more than 100 workers at 12 Greenwich libraries furloughed on 100 per cent of pay during the coronavirus pandemic could be a nationwide model. Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Thursday 23 April) that the agreement could act as a template for other library and leisure centre employers across the UK. Unite has negotiated what it calls a model agreement with Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL), which runs the library service for Greenwich borough council, that not only covers the 100 per cent pay issue, but also ‘extremely vulnerable groups’, casual workers, sickness provisions, maternity leave and carrying over holiday for the next two years read more
Kerry Foods must pay their indispensable workforce a Living Wage (Apr 23) – Unite welcomes reversal of bosses’ refusal to furlough vulnerable workers and bonus payment to Coleraine workforce. Liam Gallagher, Unite Regional Officer for workers at Kerry Foods in Coleraine, Enniskillen and Omagh welcomed recent moves by management to address outstanding issues but called on them to ensure pay reflects the indispensable status of their workforce…” read more
COVID-19 crisis exposes poor treatment of essential workers supplying major supermarkets (22 Apr) – Unite is calling on Pioneer Foods, a multimillion pound food manufacturer, to get its act together over pay and sickness. Pioneer Foods manufactures cereals, for leading supermarkets including; Aldi, Asda, M&S, Sainsburys and Morrisons. The South African owned company has a turnover of over £71 million in the UK according to its latest accounts. However, most workers at its Peterborough and Wellingborough sites normally earn the minimum wage and are only entitled to the government’s statutory sick pay scheme read more
Unite hails victory as 1,500 Marriot hotel workers go on coronavirus job retention scheme (22 Apr) – Unite hails victory as 1,500 Marriot hotel workers go on coronavirus job retention scheme The decision by Marriott International today (Wednesday 22 April) to put its 1,500 casual workers onto the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme has been hailed as a victory by Unite. Unite has been campaigning strongly for one of the world’s leading hotel chains ‘to do the right thing’ by its casual staff at its 60 managed hotels in the UK read more
Woolwich Ferry workers to receive 100 per cent of pay, if furloughed during the pandemic (22 Apr) – Unite the union has successfully negotiated that members working on the Woolwich Ferry will receive 100 per cent of their pay, if they are furloughed while there is a reduced service due to the coronavirus pandemic. Unite is currently in talks with Briggs Marine Contractors Ltd as to how many of its 56 members will be furloughed as the service is now reduced to one boat instead of two as passenger travel in London plummets. Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “This agreement shows once again the vital role that unions have to play in protecting jobs, pay and conditions. Where we are organised, we have been able to ensure that our members are protected during the course of the pandemic. This particular ‘win’ is an excellent example for contractors with public service contracts to follow – it shows that there is no excuse for cutting pay and jobs.” 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
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
National Postal Workers Day – 29th April 2020: We are writing to inform you that the CWU have designated Wednesday 29th April 2020 as National Postal Workers Day. As you know we hold this event annually and create an opportunity to promote the fantastic work our members do all year round, but it is particularly pertinent this year during this crisis. Nationally, the union will be undertaking a significant programme of work, including media articles, social media engagement, videos and working with MPs and the wider trade union movement read more
National survey confirms Covid 19 terror in contact centres (Apr 28) – Close proximity working, worries about cleaning/ sanitisation regimes – especially in hotdesking situations – and a widespread puzzlement over ‘key worker’ designations being applied to clearly non-essential workstreams have all emerged as headline findings of a major national survey of contact centre workers. Nearly three weeks after the online survey was emailed out to thousands working in call centres the length and breadth of the UK by a number of unions, including the CWU, early findings have confirmed the massive discrepancy between the best and worst responses by employers to the risk of such workplaces becoming a hotbed for the spread of the coronavirus pandemic read more
Attacks continue on Crown Post Offices despite coronavirus (Apr 21) – Post Office bosses stand accused this morning of being “irrationally stubborn” and of a “dogmatic denial of reality” for refusing to reverse plans to hive off seven vitally important Crown Post Offices. Crown Post Offices are proving to society how fundamentally important they are, with the significant increase in mails traffic and volumes during this Covid-19 crisis, and the people running the company must “totally rethink their strategy of managed decline,” argues CWU assistant secretary Andy Furey read more
GMB win as London Ambulance Service increases PPE Requirement (24 Apr) – Performing chest compressions on a Covid-19 patient requires the highest-level PPE says GMB Union. GMB members are celebrating a big win after London Ambulance Service increased the PPE requirement for staff resuscitating patients today. The union’s activists have been campaigning for weeks to have more protection during CPR procedures read more
‘Significant’ win for GMB as ISS increases pay for cleaners (23 Apr) – These brave hospital cleaners endured threats and bullying throughout their dispute says GMB Union. GMB Union has scored a significant win for cleaners at Lewisham Hospital after private outsourcing company ISS upped their hourly rate of pay. The cleaners had downed tools and walked off the job in February after ISS botched their wages – meaning they went underpaid for several weeks read more
Hospital worker could be sacked over face mask dispute (21 Apr) – It is simply staggering that a complaint about a lack of PPE can lead to a worker being disciplined. A hospital worker employed by private company ISS have been told he faces the sack after a dispute over PPE. The man – who collects rubbish from Queen Elizabeth’s hospital, in Woolwich – was told he wasn’t entitled to wear a face mask read more
Over a thousand care home deaths highlights ‘shambolic’ response to crisis, says UNISON (21 Apr) – Dave Prentis says government must ‘get act together’ to prevent more needless deaths. Responding to data published today (Tuesday) by the Office for National Statistics that show more than a thousand deaths in care homes and in the community were registered up to 10 April, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “This doubling in deaths is shocking evidence of the government’s shambolic handling of the Covid crisis…” read more
We want urgent reassurance from the UK government about death in service benefits (21 Apr) – RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary Dame Donna Kinnair has written to the prime minister demanding immediate clarity on death in service benefits and financial support for families of nursing staff who have died due to COVID-19. We want benefits to be retrospective, from the start of the pandemic, and to apply to all health and care staff, regardless of their length of service or the setting in which they worked read more
TSSA demands answers on railway reopening (22 Apr) – Rail union TSSA has this evening written to Network Rail Chief Executive Andrew Haines requesting “urgent clarification” of Network Rail’s plans to re-mobilise staff to increase the delivery of rail services. TSSA has received information that Network Rail plans to re-mobilise operational capability to deliver an increased service by mid-May, specifically including a phased ramping up of services between 11 and 18 May. This is despite government advice remaining unchanged in terms of the current lockdown and social distancing read more
Safety is top priority in opening schools in Wales (28 Apr) – For our members, parents and learners themselves, staying safe at this difficult time is critical. We look forward to hearing more details from the Welsh Government in the coming weeks read more
The EIS has noted the publication of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) framework for decision making by the Scottish Government (23 Apr) – The document outlines considerations around exit strategies from the current lockdown, including potential steps that could be taken towards re-opening schools. Commenting on the publication, EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said, “It is clear that schools will remain closed, other than the Hub Centres, for some time yet. Even after the lockdown has been lifted or partially lifted, it would be impossible for schools to operate as normal while measures such as social distancing remain in place.” Read more
Universities’ £2.5bn ‘black hole’ will cost economy £6bn and 60,000 jobs, warns report (23 Apr) – The Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing recession will lead to 111,000 fewer UK and 121,000 fewer international first-year students attending UK universities this year, resulting in a £2.5bn funding black hole, warns a report released today. The report, by London Economics for UCU, shows that the universities hit hardest by the falls in fee and grant income are those that cater for significant numbers of international students. However, the difficulties those universities face will also have severe knock-on effects for the rest of the sector read more
University of Manchester under fire for job loss plans (24 Apr) – The University of Manchester has been criticised for threatening staff with job losses and pay cuts in response to the Covid-19 crisis. In an email to staff, the university said it is considering a range of cost-cutting measures. UCU said it recognised that universities could face huge potential financial problems, but urged Manchester to halt swift plans to cut jobs and pay, and work with the union to secure vital government support read more
All COVID-19 key worker deaths must be recognised as work-related, union says (28 Apr) – Firefighters’ Union making demand on International Workers Memorial Day. Government must issue urgent guidance to employers in public and private sector, FBU says. The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is today (Tuesday) demanding that the government issue guidance to employers stating that the death of firefighters and key workers as a result of COVID-19 should be automatically recognised as work-related, allowing for their families to receive compensation. In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and devolved administrations, the FBU says that the guidance must cover all of those officially recognised as key workers by their respective governments as well as those who have been required to continue to work by their employer. The Westminster government announced a life assurance scheme for the families of NHS and care staff, but the FBU says thousands of families of firefighters and other key workers are still at risk of financial harm should they die from the virus read more
Brutal cuts to fire and rescue services being rushed through during the pandemic, union says (27 Apr) – Plans include major cuts to fire engines and staffing levels. FBU says it amounts to a ‘betrayal’ of firefighters and the public. Firefighters have warned of a major threat to public safety as politicians and fire chiefs try to sneak through cuts to the fire and rescue services while firefighters respond to the coronavirus crisis. The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) made the comments after a consultation on sweeping fire and rescue cuts was launched mid-pandemic. The union has called out the Prime Minister and other government ministers for clapping key workers on a Thursday while turning a blind eye to brutal cuts to a frontline emergency service read more
Firefighters to take government to court over pension ‘robbery’ (25 Apr) – Fire Brigades Union being supported by POA, PCS, and GMB. The Fire Brigades Union (FBU), along with three other unions (POA, PCS, and GMB), has filed court proceedings over the government’s withholding of improved pension benefits from hundreds of firefighters and hundreds of thousands of public service workers. The unions say that the government is in breach of a key part of the new public service pension schemes which came into force in April 2015 under the Coalition Government. The regulations for these schemes require that if the formal valuation of the pension schemes show the cost to the government has increased or dropped beyond its own predetermined level, then the employee benefits must be reduced or improved accordingly. The latest valuation in 2016 demonstrated that the costs of the scheme were below this predetermined level and that from April 2019, the benefits for thousands of scheme members should have been improved 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
Abuse, threats and assaults against shopworkers double during the Coronavirus emergency – Usdaw calls for action (23 Apr) – Shopworker’s trade union Usdaw has today released shocking statistics from their survey which shows that on average UK shopworkers have been verbally abused, threatened or assaulted every week during the Coronavirus emergency. The union’s 2019 survey found that average was nearly once a fortnight, so incidents have doubled in the last month read more
Sign the USDAW Activist petition: sign and share our petition around Sunday trading, especially as the government has now said they are reviewing the legislation with a view to allow supermarkets to extend trading –
Unions call for exceptional single pay settlement for civil servants (27 Apr) – Prospect and the FDA have jointly called on the government to agree a simple, fair pay settlement for all civil servants in 2020, as the civil service continues to respond to the public health emergency read more
Prospect lobbies hard for furloughed museum workers (23 Apr) – Prospect is keeping up the pressure for furloughed museum workers caught in the middle of a tug-of-war between the Treasury and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The row is over the topping up of furloughed museum workers’ salaries under the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme read more
NJC Pay Update (21 Apr) – Members please find attached to the link below document ‘Employer Circular Pay Update – 16 April 2020. This is an update on the “final offer” made today by the NJC Employers Side which will now be considered by the NJC TUS. Further information will follow when available read more
Retail workers say employers can do more to protect staff and customers from COVID-19 (23 Apr) – Mandate Trade Union has today released the results of a survey of 7,000 retail workers in 300 separate businesses which shows almost half of retail stores are not adhering to social distancing guidelines and some employers need to do more to protect staff and customers. The survey was conducted over a ten day period between 10th and 20th April with 6,942 respondents. Key findings also show that retail workers believe hazard pay should be applied at a rate of 20% on top of regular hourly pay read more
Irish police use covid-19 emergency powers to disperse Dublin shop workers’ protest (22 Apr) – …the high street shop chain, Debenhams, laid-off its entire workforce in Ireland during March. Instead of paying redundancy at six-weeks’ pay for years of service, Debenhams expected the Irish government to pay statutory redundancy which is a paltry two-weeks’ pay per year of service. Many of the workers have decades of service with Debenhams and its predecessor, Roches Stores. The workers organised a small protest outside Debenhams stores across Ireland. These protests were respectful of the social distancing requirements. Incredibly, in Dublin, the Gardaí [Irish police] saw fit to use their emergency powers to disperse the Debenham workers. The Gardaí said that the workers’ travel to the protest was not “necessary” under the terms of the covid-19 legislation read more
Protest: Stand with Debenhams Workers – 11am, Wednesday April 29 Facebook event
Equity’s Young Members Committee writes to Chancellor fpor greater support for creative workers (24 Apr) – Dear Chancellor, on Tuesday 21st April, Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work & Culture in the Scottish Government, announced a £100m support scheme for the newly self-employed and firms suffering economic hardship as a consequence of Covid 19. The scheme is comprised of three different funds, and whilst we welcome the entire package, we write with regard to the £34m set aside in order to provide £2,000 grants to the newly self-employed in Scotland read more
Blacklisting and union victimisation
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).
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
July 4 – NSSN Conference 11am-4.30pm Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, Holborn, London WC1R 4RL
September 13 – NSSN TUC Rally Brighton 1pm
PHONE 07952 283 558
EMAIL mailto:[email protected]
TWITTER – https://twitter.com/NSSN_AntiCuts
ADDRESS NSSN, PO Box 54498, London E10 9DE