Category Archives: Workers Rights

Barnet Unison: Barnet Group to begin privatizing services at the same time cutting wages and terms and conditions of staff

Barnet UNISON is currently in negotiations with The Barnet Group in relation to the recommendations below.

Needless to say, Barnet UNISON is opposed to cuts to this vital front line service and opposed to the night operator service being outsourced.

The proposed recommendation to move to bench marked salaries would have grave implications for ALL Barnet Group staff irrespective of whether they are employed on a traditional Barnet Homes contract, which is protected by the 2006 TUPE agreement from LBB, or, a TBG Flex contract.

If Barnet Group Management continue with the intention to break with the current nationally agreed pay structure in the Barnet Homes and the TBG Flex paystructure, Barnet UNISON will be left with no alternative other than consult with ALL employees that would potentially be effected.

It is fully acknowledged that Assist is an essential and greatly valued service and the focus will be on how the service is supported to grow. However, the current cost base does not support the services ability to bid for new business and cannot continue to be provided in its existing form if the growth aspirations are to be achieved.

The proposed changes are not made to cut costs just to make the numbers balance, but are made to modernise the service. The result of the changes are lower costs as we plan to combine our call centre functions and tender the current night operators service. Jobs will be offered in the call centre where they are available but they will be different.

The measures that need to be taken if Assist is to continue to provide an operator and mobile response service to its current customers and to win additional services to support the growth imperative are stated below.

There have been 4 different options that have been consulted on with the Assist staff and following feedback the following is recommended.

  • The Assist service provides a limited operator service during office hours and buys in the out of hours call monitoring.
  • All Assist daytime operators, mobile response officers, management and admin teams will be matched to the bench marked high rate salaries, aligned to NJC Outer London Spinal points.
  • Enhancements and shift allowances will no longer be paid.
  • 3 full time equivalent operator posts (125 hours) will be co-located to work within the contact centre carrying out the same duties as they currently do, during office hours (8am-6pm), this option will add another facet to the Barnet Homes Call Centre further supporting the diversity of work that this service area carries.
  • The current night operators will be consulted with and will either be TUPE’d to the procured provider, be redeployed within The Barnet Group, or be made redundant.
  • Where the impact of the changes to individual’s salaries and contractual obligations are impacted negatively by -10% (gross) or higher they will be offered redeployment or redundancy if a suitable alternative cannot be found.
  • All mobile response officer (MRO) work patterns will be reviewed to ensure that there is full cover for the service and capacity for growth.
  • There will be a reduction of one senior post.
  • The standby rate will remain at £26.76, this will be cost neutral for the Barnet MRO’s and an increase for the Brent MRO’s.
  • Removal of the car allowance with all mileage paid at 60p per mile.

Report from A New Lucas Plan Workshop

Attendees at the Trades Council conference workshop hosted by The New Lucas Plan group heard introductions from John Routley former Lucas Shop Stewards Combine and Steve Schofield researcher for Lessnet (The Local Economic Sustainability and Security Network) and author of Oceans of Work: Arms Conversion revisited. Discussion centred on the original Lucas plan and its relevance for today. By the end there was agreement that with long term planning and investment, particularly in High-Tec growth areas like wind and marine energy, the creation of alternative, sustainable, socially-useful, high skill, high value employment was possible and desirable but only achievable by a Government prepared to invest time, money, with sustained political will and a Labour Leadership that reflects our values-as we now have!

However, success was only possible if there was engagement with defence workers and their Unions and representatives at the very start and heart of the process. They are the ones to identify their needs, capacity and to initiate ideas for the drawing up of practical arms conversion plans whilst protecting skilled employment and pay levels, in the same way that Lucas Aerospace workers did over 40 years ago. It was felt given the sensitivities around this issue Trades Union Council’s, based in their local communities, were well placed to initiate, and develop those discussions locally.

You can see John and Steve’s introductory workshop speeches on https://www.facebook.com/greatermanchester.cnd/videos/804404266416772/.

Following on the film THE PLAN – that came from the bottom up tells the story of those pioneering Lucas workers and the ideas that were the motivation for the Arms Conversion/Defence Diversification motion passed at the TUC Congress in 2017.

Frances O’Grady has written this about the film “Throughout the union movement’s 150-year history, our cause has been to make working lives better. But there are times when we have gone further, we have challenged the very nature and the purpose of the work that we do. The Lucas Plan was created during one of those times. It holds out hope that production can be transformed to create a fairer, greener world. And it is testimony to the wealth of genius to be found on the shop floor. This will be a must-see film for every trade unionist – please support it.”. You can do so by donating through crowdfunding using this link https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-plan-community/x/11054043#/ or get more information via http://www.theplandocumentary.com

Of course, a key means in developing any industrial strategy would be the National Investment Bank proposed by John McDonell who has stated that such a bank could support the development of diversification plans in the local economies of areas heavily dependent on the defence industry, in consultation with local Unions and businesses.

In addition, a shadow Defence Diversification agency would also help deliver a future Labour Government’s goals of an ethical foreign policy and secure sustainable jobs, guaranteeing as Jeremy Corbyn said in his 2015 Labour Leadership statement “A just transition for communities whose livelihoods are based in those defence sectors, so that engineering and scientific skills are not lost but transferred into more socially productive industries”.

Building on from the workshop there are a few public meetings taking place on Defence diversification/arms conversion-Labour CND AGM; Parliamentary launch of Nuclear Education Trust report; Labour CND fringe at Unite conference; Yorkshire CND meeting with Fabian Hamilton.

You can continue discussion with both Steve Schofield on steveschofield@phonecoop.coop

And John Routley through john.routley@hotmail.co.uk

Thanks Moz Greenshields workshop chair

Report on a useful TUC London, Eastern and South Eastern regional meeting

LESE, as it is now known, had a pretty useful meeting today, so those of us that were willing to not be at the football or Pride were able to say it wasn’t a wasted morning.

In addition to some good motions on abortion rights (pushing for women in Northern Ireland to gain these rights following the success of the Irish referendum) and setting up a homes and housing sub-committee, my own union, TSSA, moved a well-received motion on ‘climate jobs’. As the world sweats in a record-breaking heatwave, our regional TUC has now resolved create a sub-group on environmental sustainability and just-transition for workers and create a detailed plan for creating climate jobs. A further TSSA motion, urging a reconsideration of hugely controversial third runway at Heathrow, was ruled out-of-order because the TUC nationally supports the runway, but a long-standing TSSA activist with air traffic experience did get the opportunity to explain the union’s concerns that, in addition to the serious environmental case against the third runway, the employment and transport infrastructural case are also questionable. Ultimately, Heathrow has a bloated air traffic agenda because airlines are businesses that chase profits: a third runway does not fix this.

The first guest speaker was Phillipa Harvey, an NEU executive member and leading activist with Palestine Solidarity Campaign. She urged that the unions’ support for Palestinian rights remains as essential as ever. The relocation of the US embassy by Donald Trump in to Jerusalem has resulted in a massive crackdown in paltry autonomy Palestinians had up to recently had in the West Bank, as witnessed by the recent brutal destruction of a traditional Bedouin village. Imprisonment of children, currently highly controversial in America, is extremely common in Israel. But no situation is more serious than that of Gaza, the scene of so many killings of unarmed people by the Israeli army, which is estimated to become unliveable in just 18 months. Without urgent action by the international community, things will undoubtedly reach new levels of horror in Palestine.

The last guest speaker was particularly interesting. Victor Figueroa is former LSE academic who has been working with the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) to produce a study of the impact of new technology on transport work and workers worldwide. The full report will be out in September, but Victor gave us a digested preview. His finding is that the main narrative – that new tech is primarily about automation, that 100% automation is unstoppable and that this either the best or worst thing ever (depending on who you ask) – is largely a marketable fiction. In reality, automation is constantly running into limitations (no, crew-less freight ships aren’t coming) and never completely eliminates labour (‘fully automated’ warehouses have almost 50% of the staff they had pre-upgrade). Automation and AI are also not as important, in many ways, as data, but not enough people in the international labour movement have considered data and they need to talk about it more. The most important thing said to us about technology is that whether it is a good or bad thing is absolutely dependant on who uses it and how they use it: capitalism will not create a utopia with technology, it will use it make profits and this will mean that new tech it introduces will exacerbate existing inequalities. It is with this knowledge that our movement should seek to create it’s own alternatives and this has to be a combination of worker’s organising and progressive governments and movements demanding strong regulation of how tech is used. The extract report is here:ITF – Transport Workers Building Power

The TUC Transport Industry Network, which I attend, is looking to hold a major event on automation in September, and the sorts of findings that the IFT have produced can hopefully feed into this, as can the ideas about transition to sustainable jobs.

Politics for the Many: The Trade Union Case for Electoral Reform

The trade union movement has always been at the vanguard of political change in Britain. And furthering economic equality goes hand in hand with political institutions that deepen political equality. To ignore the role of the political system (which concentrates political power in a minority of voters in a minority of seats) in driving political inequality, is to miss the potential for radical political change.
To truly shift power closer to the people on a long-term basis requires more than changing the underlying economic structures. Embedding changes in the political system would allow for a change in the very way we do politics, securing better social and political outcomes.
Politics for the Many: The Trade Union Case for Political Reform sets out the opportunities for the labour movement as a whole in uniting behind a broad platform of progressive political reform.
Key findings:
  • Proportional representation is linked to greater economic equality and democratic quality
  • The Westminster model of government has allowed for sweeping legislation, eroding trade union rights in the UK.
  • The Westminster voting system is increasingly working against the progressive
  • majority forming the next government

 

Briefing here: PFTM-Briefing-Final

Report here: The-Trade-Union-Case-for-Political-Reform-report1

Support TGI Fridays staff striking for fair pay!

After a genuinely rousing talk at Hendon Labour Party from Charlotte Bence, Unite the Union organiser, about the staff at TGI Fridays, Barnet activists will be heading down their picket line on Friday, 5pm at Covent Garden.

TGI Fridays workers have recently been hit with a huge reduction on their very low incomes, because the employer is taking 40% of the services charges that customers believe are going to them and using it to cover other costs. They are standing up for the right to a decent living, in sector where poverty pay and insecure condtions are the norm.

Facebook event here.

Details and material from Unite here.

Support the UK TGI Friday’s workers fight for fair pay!

Workers at two UK restaurants of the US-based franchise chain TGI Friday’s struck for 24 hours on May 18 after being given two days’ notice that they would be stripped of 40% of their income from tips – a loss of up to GBP 250 per month. Workers at two other TGI Friday’s locations have voted 100% in favor of possible strike action on June 25, with other locations set to follow.

As the strikes commenced on May 18, The IUF-affiliated Unite held lunchtime rallies at the restaurants to support the strikers before moving on to a mass low-pay rally in Central London including McDonald’s workers.

You can support the fight back against exploitation and low pay – CLICK HERE to send a message to CEO Karen Forrester, telling the company you support the workers’ demands and urging talks with Unite.

France: Rail unions fight against privatisation

The French railway workers have expressed their strong disapproval of the proposed reform of the railway system leading towards privatisation. They have been taking part in massive numbers in national mobilisations. The government has chosen not to open any serious negotiations with them. The unions want to guarantee high social standards within a future unified public group in the rail sector. The unions argue that competition is not a solution designed to improve the rail system, but instead enriches private companies and firms. They are calling upon the government to open real negotiations covering such issues as debt and funding, the relaunch of goods rail transport, employee benefits, the social rights of railway workers, taking workload back in-house and the organisation of production. Please show you support by sending your message to the French government.

Act now.

Rana Plaza 5 year anniversary panel discussion

This year marked the 5th anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy where 1,100 Bangladeshi garment workers, mostly women, were killed when their factory building collapsed. They had been producing clothes for some of the UK’s high street fashion brands.

To mark this, War on Want is hosting a one-off panel discussion on Rana Plaza, the Bangladesh Safety Accord and key issues for garment workers’ rights. Join us.

This year marked the 5th anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy where 1,100 Bangladeshi garment workers, mostly women, were killed when their factory building collapsed. They had been producing clothes for some of the UK’s high street fashion brands. Rana Plaza focused the world’s attention on the horrendous conditions garment workers were producing clothes for the likes of Gap, Topshop, Primark and other fashion brands.

Following Rana Plaza and together with the campaigning efforts of international and Bangladeshi trade unions and NGOs, the Bangladesh Safety Accord was put in place. It was the first tripartite, binding agreement between fashion brands, trade unions and government to ensure that garment workers’ health and safety were secured in factories in Bangladesh.

This year the Accord is up for renewal. Questions are being raised as to whether the Accord was able to achieve much needed improvements for garment workers in Bangladesh. Could it have done more? Did it set garment workers back? Is it still a mechanism that can be and should be replicated in other countries? And was it sufficient to ensure corporate accountability?

War on Want will be hosting a panel discussion to try to address these questions. On the panel will be:

  • Stephen Russell (TUC) – will reflect on the Bangladesh Safety Accord using his insights from recent field visits to Bangladesh
  • Alessandra Mezzadri (SOAS Development Studies) – will reflect on the Bangladesh Safety Accord taking into account the global garment industry, corporate impunity and NGO complicity

The panel discussion will be followed by a screening of a short documentary film made by the Rainbow Collective. We will also have on display photographs from our Women are the Resistance exhibition. Drinks and snacks will be served thereafter.

This is a critical moment for NGOs, trade unions and campaigners who are working on corporate impunity and workers rights to have this conversation. So please do join us!

TUC London, East and South-east Annual General Meeting

The AGM of what was formerly known as South-east Region TUC (“SERTUC”), took place on Saturday and did have some very worthwhile content, as well as seeing the beginning of a discussion about how to take the campaigning strategy of the movement forwards. We got two big name speeches to start us off: Mayor of London Said Khan and TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady.

After paying tribute to Workers’ Memorial Day (a minute’s silence was held), Sadiq focused on some of the pro-worker policies that he has enacted in City Hall. A London living wage of £10.20 per hour is being rolled out, to contractors as well as employees, and the London government will pushing for a Good Work Standard throughout the city. He also spoke about housing, revealed the shocking statistic that people in the 30s currently fleeing the city because they simply cannot afford the cost of living. To combat this, the Tory definition of “affordable housing”, which was 80% of market rent, has finally been scrapped. Sadiq’s definition now consists of:

  • Council housing
  • Living rent of 33% of average
  • Part-ownership

Much to my satisfaction as a transport worker, Sadiq confirmed that his administration will be fighting to get to London Transport a proper government maintenance grant, as was agreed as policy at London Labour regional conference in November.

Frances O’Grady started her speech with the contrast with last year’s AGM, which had been days after the calling of the snap general election and when we were anticipating a very poor result. She called on comrades to celebrate the success of the “best ever Labour manifesto… that had many of our policies”. She then proceeding to talk about Carillion, which she described as the sign that we should now demand that outsourcing as an entire model comes to a final end. Briefly mentioning Brexit, she reiterated that our movement will blame bad businesses, never workers, for cuts and low wages, a clear reference to the Windrush scandal.

Once the elections and business were done, there were four motions, which all passed:

  1. A motion from Oxford trades councils calling for greater scrutiny of the safety and conditions in youth and immigration detention centres.
  2. A motion moved by RMT and supported disabled activists calling for solidarity with all rail workers engaged in industrial action to stop the creeping and totally excessive expansion of automation in our transport systems. This is now Labour policy and represents a real step forward in the discussion on this issue from last year.
  3. A motion moved by RMT and seconded by TSSA on the now severe funding crisis in Transport for London.
  4. A motion against DWP office closures from PCS.

The next major event of the TUC is the demonstration on May 12th, but numerous speakers, including Saidq Khan and Fraces O’Grady, referenced that we must all protest the invitation of Donald Trump to London on July the 13th. What I think is starting to take shape, though, is a view that the TUC needs to do more focused work on things like McStrike or the Picturehouse strikers that will support our unions in recruiting and organising workers in new sectors.

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