Belly Mujinga – TSSA demands for staff safety

Following the death of railway worker Belly Mujinga who was employed by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) the TSSA union has spoken to members and reps at Victoria Station and across the company. Many are fearful for their safety.

TSSA is speaking to the company this morning (Thursday). In mourning the loss of Belly Mujinga and other frontline workers, TSSA makes the following demands to ensure greater protection of our members:

1. Feedback and concerns from staff must be taken seriously and risk assessments must not be signed off until health and safety reps, having had sufficient time to share with colleagues, are satisfied measures have been put in place to mitigate against the risks as much as is reasonable.
2. To keep staff working in the ticket office with social distancing measures and not expose members to further risk by insisting they work on the concourse.
3. Staff must at all times be kept at least two metres apart from each other and/or passengers. If this is not possible, for example when working in a crowded concourse, appropriate protection such as visors must be provided.
4. Staff must not be asked to clean Ticket Machines without protective equipment and certified cleaning products.
5. All those with underlying medical conditions to be stood down immediately.
6. Health surveillance procedures to be put in place to identify sick, asymptomatic and vulnerable workers previously unknown.
7. An investigation in to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on BME frontline workers/workers of colour.
8. A full investigation into any assault of the staff, co-operating with any criminal investigation and a full internal investigation into the way this was handled by management.

People’s Assembly Statement on The Coronavirus Crisis

The people are ahead of the government in making serious moves to combat the spread of the coronavirus. It is clear the government were pushed by organisations already taking action to close down large events, a move we very much welcome. Where government refuses to act civil society institutions, trade unions, and ordinary citizens are taking matters into their own hands. We reject the ‘herd immunity’ theory that coronavirus can simply be left to rip through society until enough people develop immunity. Not only is there no proof this will happen with this virus, it is the most deadly and careless approach the government could take. The government should be acting on World Health Organisation guidance and learning from those countries it commends for swift and decisive action. Older and vulnerable people matter as much as everyone else. We insist the government alter course immediately and implement the following measures:

1. Close all schools, universities and colleges. Government and Local Authorities to work with schools to develop plans to get food to children who would have been entitled to free school meals.

2. Mass testing and tracing, which World Health Organisation experts have suggested is more effective in the early stages.

3. Workers should be allowed to work from home where possible. Introduce a mortgage and rent freeze for the duration of the crisis for those workers denied their full pay.

4. Extend statutory sick pay to all workers. Following successful pressure on the government to give sick pay from day one for those affected by the virus. Statutory sick pay should be uplifted to a living wage.

5. Pensioners on low-incomes, low income workers and disabled people to be eligible for one-off grants to cover food, fuel and travel costs.

6. Scrap the assessment period for Universal Credit and make payments immediately. Sanctions for benefit claimants who don’t attend appointments should be scrapped. Universal Credit payments should be topped up to account for extra costs of preparing for virus and moving to shut down.

7. Price controls to be introduced on essential medical equipment and drugs. There must be no hiking of prices on masks, ventilators, isolation units, beds, basic supplies like soap and hand towels, as well as drugs to combat bacterial complications etc.

8. Private hospitals to be put under the management of the NHS. Essential equipment owned by private companies should be pooled as part of the overall effort; private hospital beds should be treated as public.

9. Cleaners are a vital frontline, as are NHS staff. They should both be given an immediate pay boost to attract more cleaners, nurses, hospital porters and administrators. All workers should have the protective clothing necessary in line with TUC guidelines.

10. No scapegoating of Chinese people, Italians, immigrants or anyone else. An emergency programme of aid and refugee resettlement should be initiated across Europe.

11. The outbreak must not be used as a pretext for clamping down on civil liberties. Frontline public sector workers, especially health workers, should be brought in at the highest level of decision making. The trade unions should be part of the conversation with civil servants and senior NHS staff.

People’s Assembly Post Election Statement

The election result has made one thing clear: the task of rebuilding the anti-austerity movement, as part of the wider project of reconstructing the labour movement, now lies before us.

The Tory government will immediately set about privatising the NHS…and it will be into the pockets of private firms that any new funding goes. They are threatening to make strikes by rail workers and others in essential services illegal. And their policies will continue to find an echo among desperate, disenfranchised working people unless the labour movement finds a way of rebuilding its roots in these communities. 

There is now a direct contest for the long term loyalty of at least some workers. Boris Johnson’s claim to want to speak at the Durham Miners Gala shows the kind of bravado that the Tories now feel is possible.

We have to be the first line of resistance. We have to ensure that no Tory proposal goes unchallenged, no community goes unrepresented, no struggle is left to fight alone.

The People’s Assembly will be redoubling our campaigning efforts. We have been at the forefront of the fight against austerity. We helped change the national conversation about what an acceptable economic system should look like. Now new struggles are ahead. Support us and work with us.

We hope you all take some time to rest over the Christmas period and come back stronger than ever in the New Year

If you would like to donate towards our campaign please see here

TUC London East and South East post election message

If you are reading this then I strongly suspect you will share in the deep disappointment about last week’s election result and be only too aware of the challenges, we will now face.

Many of you will have been out campaigning across the region in the seven weeks since the election was called, through your unions and trades councils and as members of political parties. Being out in our communities, seeing again and again why we desperately need a government dedicated to supporting our people and not to funnelling wealth and power into the hands of the few.

Throughout the election there was a huge amount of work done to focus attention on how insecure work, inequality and austerity is damaging our people. As our General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, said on Friday ‘in the face of a campaign that was shameless in its right-wing populism we stood for a radical and hopeful alternative.’

However now the result is in we have to turn our sights to the period ahead: building and growing our movement and our strength, relentlessly holding this government to account, including its next moves on Brexit and standing together against attacks on our rights and our public services, and combating the politics of hate that try to divide working people. We have also seen some great colleagues returned or coming into parliament for the first time in our region and we look forward to working with them.

As a region we will be reviewing our work-plan and adjusting it where needed in the light of the incoming government.

Our core mission remains the same: to make the world of work better;

  • By promoting trade unionism across our region – giving a voice to working people
  • Bringing our unions and trades councils together in an impactful way through; our structures, campaigning and providing information, support and training
  • And being the link/face of the TUC to and from unions and the wider public in our region and delivering on the national TUC campaign plan and regional policy.

But more than ever we will need to focus our resources on;

  • Building our capacity to engage with and share information with union officers, activists and members in the region
  • Increasing our campaigning work on issues raised by our regional council, including; the climate emergency, the housing crisis, tackling the far-right, opposing the roll-out of Universal Credit and dealing with the impact of Brexit on jobs, rights and our colleagues, friends and family from other EU countries
  • Supporting union organising, work-place campaigning and industrial action (including defending the basic right to take strike action) and doing everything we can to support reps and showcase union successes.

At our last regional council I was cautioned by a delegate for saying I was afraid of what a majority Tory government under Boris Johnson could mean for us. She rightly pointed out we had to fight for the future we wanted to see and not be scared. I’ve got to be honest and say I am worried about what a Johnson administration is planning, but I’m also confident in our ability to come together, not just to deal with whatever is thrown at us, but also to build a stronger movement that will remain in the front line fighting for a better future. Whoever is in government trade unions remain a force for good and for change.

Start by asking a friend or family member who isn’t a union member to join and please encourage other reps and activists you know to sign up to receive our regional updates HERE

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FBU response to Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 report

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary:

“The Inquiry’s interim report must finally be a turning point for fire safety in the UK. Warning after warning from previous fires were ignored; central government must now take responsibility for ensuring that recommendations are applied nationwide, not just in London; this has never simply been a matter for the London Fire Brigade. That change can only be achieved by establishing a new, credible and accountable body responsible for fire and rescue service policy in the UK.

“Firefighters stand in solidarity with the bereaved, survivors and residents and share their grief for the lives lost that night. They have an absolute right to ask difficult questions. However, we have said from the start that the order of issues to be investigated has been entirely wrong. The Inquiry’s structure prioritises scrutiny of firefighters, who did everything that they could to save lives, over investigating the critical issues of public safety that led to the fire and caused it to spread in such a disastrous manner.

“Before any firefighter arrived that night, Grenfell Tower was a death trap. Firefighters that night acted bravely in impossible circumstances, many of them repeatedly risking their own lives to save others. We welcome that this is reflected in the Inquiry’s report.

“Firefighters and control room staff are, as with any profession, only able to operate within their training and procedures. It is clear that no one had planned or prepared for an incident like Grenfell. The planning by fire service policy makers did not take account of a fire where compartmentation failed on such a scale.

“It’s disgraceful that over two years since the fire and there has been no major review or assessment of the Stay Put policy. This could have been done within months of the fire and we have raised this with government ministers on numerous occasions. Concerns about stay put policy were raised with central government years before Grenfell, the government must stop dragging its heels and recognise the urgent need to act.

“There was no other evacuation policy available to firefighters on the night, the report rightly recognises this. Those on the ground believed that a whole-scale evacuation would have been unsafe, potentially causing further fatalities.

“We strongly refute the report’s assertion that it would have been possible or safe to evacuate more than 150 people via a narrow smoke-logged stairwell with just 30 firefighters. There is no evidence to suggest that this was possible. It is particularly alarming that the Inquiry failed on this issue to seek the advice of its own expert advisor on firefighting matters. There is therefore currently no way of knowing if evacuation could have saved more lives.

“We are disappointed that the report makes no reference to the vast additional resources needed to implement its recommendations. It’s time for government to provide national leadership, to properly fund and coordinate fire and rescue services and ensure these urgent matters of public safety are addressed.

“The true culprits of the fire are those who wrapped the building in flammable cladding, who gutted the UK’s fire safety regime, who ignored the warnings from previous fires, and who did not hear the pleas of a community worried for their safety. We will be watching phase two of the Inquiry closely to ensure they are held to account. But we cannot wait for years for the Inquiry to conclude. Change is needed now.”

CWU reacts to High Court Judgement

The CWU is extremely disappointed at the ruling and we have no doubt our members and representatives will feel the same way. Following 18 months of negotiations, including external mediation, the company’s actions are nothing more than a desperate delaying tactic from a board who are increasingly out of touch with the views of its workforce.

Legal proceedings and Royal Mail’s court room politics will not solve the company’s problems. The union has nothing to fear from mediation and unless there is significant movement from the company on a range of issues and a satisfactory agreement is concluded, the union will be calling further strike action once the mediation process has been completed. Furthermore, we will not allow Royal Mail to string out the process beyond the minimum required period.

CWU General Secretary Dave Ward said “The company are deluded if they believe their court room politics will resolve this dispute. Instead the company’s actions will have the complete opposite effect. Postal Workers’ attitude towards the company will harden and it makes us more determined than ever to defend our members pensions, jobs, service and achieve our objectives.”

“Unless the company significantly shifts its position on a range of issues and we can quickly conclude a good agreement for our members then strike action is inevitable. “

“We walked into the court today with a massive 90% yes vote for strike action – we walked out of the court today with a massive 90% vote for strike action. We want an agreement and will comply with the injunction to undertake further external mediation. But sooner rather than later Royal Mail Group will have to confront the harsh reality that they are completely out of touch with the views of its workforce.“

CWU Deputy General Secretary Terry Pullinger said “We saw today that Royal Mail Group would rather spend time, money and resources playing politics than engaging with this union to reach an agreement. Our members are square behind the CWU and from this moment we are putting Royal Mail on notice of further action should the mediation fail. Let me be clear – we will not stand by and see this once great institution run into the ground. Our members will stand up and save it by whatever means are necessary.”

“We will use the mediation process to seek an agreement but also to galvanise support amongst our members and the public. Be in no doubt though, if Royal Mail Group are not serious about reaching an agreement we will not hesitate to call strike action immediately after the mediation period closes.”

Labour Councillors Support a living WAGE

Labour councillors are calling for the former Fremantle care workers that have been transferred to the Barnet Group to be paid at least London’s Living Wage. Figures from Barnet Unison show that the care workers are being paid less than the London Living Wage which is currently £10.55 per hour. The London Living Wage has been identified as the minimum rate of pay that workers in the Capital need to cover the cost of living essentials. The Barnet Group policy is to pay all its workers at least the London Living Wage.

Leader of the Barnet Labour Group, Cllr Barry Rawlings raised the issue at last week’s Policy & Resources Committee (3 October), and secured agreement from Council Leader, Dan Thomas that a feasibility report setting out the cost would be brought back to the next meeting.

Labour councillors are encouraging people to sign the Barnet Unison petition in support of the care workers.

Cllr Barry Rawlings said: “Care workers provide the most crucial services to our elderly and disabled residents, and they deserve to be paid a living wage.

“I look forward to pressing the case for all Barnet Group employees to be paid at least London’s Living Wage at the next Policy & Resources Committee meeting, and I will also be raising this at the next Full Council meeting on 29 October

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