Issue 19 When we produced the first Here for You newsletter, at the start of the pandemic, we could not have foreseen that a year later, our country would be in its third lockdown and that so many lives and livelihoods would have been lost to this dreadful disease. Nor could we have predicted the tremendous toll that the pandemic would have on our members’ safety, jobs and wages, or how tirelessly our officers, stewards, reps and members would have to fight the greedy employers hell-bent on using the cover of Covid to rip up pay, terms and conditions.
And we couldn’t know then how hard we would have to fight to prevent the government abandoning millions of working people after its initial bold wage support measures back in March 2020.
Above all, who could have anticipated how heroically our Unite members would serve this country, working throughout to care for the sick, to keep food on the shelves, our streets clean and our communities moving?
It has indeed been a turbulent year, a year like no other. But when I look back on the first coronavirus video message I recorded, I do so with tremendous pride in how far we’ve come together and what we’ve achieved.
I said then that our solidarity would get us through this. I don’t pretend it has been easy, and I know how much you, your families and your communities have suffered, and continue to suffer, through this crisis. But now, with the vaccine programme roll out, there is real hope that we will soon be able to see our loved ones and go about life safely again. That we return together to a more equal society remains my and Unite’s overwhelming campaigning priority.
Thank you for all that you do.
Unite fights for jobs
Ending fire and rehire
Thousands of Unite and other union members are currently taking industrial action against disgraceful attacks on their pay and conditions – from overtime bans to all out, indefinite strikes.
Using the cover of Covid, employer after employer, in all sectors and parts of the economy, have been following the terrible trend started by British Airways of ripping up employment contracts and forcing workers to accept swingeing cuts to wages and hard-won benefits, or not be re-employed – the practice known as “fire and rehire”.
Up to 4,000 Heathrow Airport workers, who have held intermittent strikes since last December, start 41 days of strike action over a 23 day period from 2 April. Over 400 bus drivers in Manchester employed by Go North West have been on all out strike since the end of February, while 200 members at SPS Technologies in Leicester have been taking discontinuous strike action throughout March and will be on all out strike from 29 March through to June. More than 20 Unite members at lettings agent software provider Goodlord in London have also been on continuous strike this month and nearly 300 of our members at Douwe Egberts in Banbury, who have worked hard to keep the country supplied with coffee throughout the pandemic, are balloting for strike action over the company’s imposition of a vastly inferior inferior pay and employment conditions.
And we hear, almost daily, of more employers across our nations weighing up the “opportunities” to attack their workforces too.
Fire and rehire is outlawed in much of Europe and Unite will soon be launching a major campaign to get the law changed here to protect working people from attack. Watch this space – we’ll update you with more information as soon as we can.
No compulsory redundancies “great news” for Airbus Broughton
Airbus has announced there will be no compulsory redundancies across their UK operations, including at Broughton, North Wales where Unite members overwhelmingly agreed to an innovative shorter working week in order to save jobs – an agreement that paved the way for the announcement.
Government commits to further talks on future of GKN’s Birmingham factory
We’ve established a team of senior officials, shop stewards from the factory and local politicians to develop a rescue plan to secure the future of the GKN factory in Birmingham. Members of the team have already met with business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, who committed the government to further talks.
A Plan for Jobs in UK manufacturing
Unite has been working with economic experts, Acuity Analysis, to pull together job-creating programmes that could give the best, quickest and greenest return on direct government intervention and investment in the economy.
We have identified seven manufacturing projects which are ‘shovel ready’ – that is they could start now to help recover our economy and provide enormous benefits in terms of how we live and work. This manufacturing jobs plan points to a positive way forward for working people. Join our Facebook Live event on Tuesday 23 March, 7pm, to find out more: https://www.facebook.com/events/435928217664666
Stay Safe – Get a jab
Unite has played a huge role in supporting the people of this country throughout the pandemic, and our members are also involved in the production, distribution and administration of the life-saving vaccines that are offering us a bridge to a safer world. We’ve now launched a major initiative to promote vaccine take-up in the UK’s workplaces.
Find out more about our #GetAJab campaign and the raft of campaign materials that can be downloaded, including workplace posters, videos and graphics that can be shared with colleagues and on social media.
And wins wages
Housing workers victory in London Living Wage battle
Hestia Housing and Support workers have succeeded in their campaign to force their employer to pay the London Living Wage, after a five-month campaign during which Unite membership more than doubled and continues to grow in a testament to the workforce’s hard work and solidarity.
Unite legal action secures pay-outs for over 2,000 Thomas Cook staff
We’ve secured compensation of up to £4,200 each for more than 2,000 Thomas Cook staff who lost their jobs when the travel firm collapsed in September 2019. The claim was brought on behalf of cabin crew and engineer members across the UK and reflects four to eight weeks pay for each member.
Payment for Wales NHS and social care workers
Unite Wales has welcomed a one-off payment of £735, separate to the annual pay award, for NHS and social care staff in Wales which recognises the incredible work they have done during the pandemic.
Victory as Frimley NHS trust suspends tax-avoiding wholly owned subsidiary plan
Victory against the increasing break-up of NHS services and the undermining of pay and conditions has been chalked up as bosses at Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust have suspended plans to transfer workers to a wholly owned subsidiary designed to avoid paying tax. The trust’s decision was the culmination of a two-year campaign by staff, including industrial action, against increasing NHS fragmentation.
Watch and share our Unite Wins video short
Unite has been here for you throughout the pandemic, protecting jobs and incomes and keeping you and your families safe. We’ve produced a series of video shorts telling the stories of the jobs saved, the furlough payments won, the sick pay secured, the pay rises procured and the health and safety measures implemented. Together, they make the powerful case for why the only defence working people have against employers determined to exploit this crisis is to join a trade union.
We’ve put them all together in a YouTube playlist. Please watch and share them 👇
Don’t lose your voice
Register to vote in 6 May elections
Across the UK we’re heading to the polls to vote in councillors, mayors, police and crime commissioners and the Scottish and Welsh parliaments, along with a new MP for Hartlepool. Don’t lose your voice. Make sure you’re registered to vote for the 6 May elections and, to make sure you can vote safely, register for a postal vote too.