Radical Roundup: 10 stories that have got buried – Week 1, June 2022


The news you didn’t see this week…

1.Unite warns airport chaos will last entire summer season

Unite, which represents tens of thousands of aviation workers, expects that the delays at most major airports that have occurred during the half-term holidays will be even worse during the summer holidays.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “During the pandemic, when airline operators and others in aviation slashed jobs to boost corporate profits, we warned this corporate greed would cause chaos in the industry. The aftermath of mass sackings is now chronic staff shortages across the board. Aviation chiefs need to come clean with the public. This is a crisis of their making.

“We are determined that workers will not pay for this crisis. Current pay and conditions in the industry are so poor that workers are voting with their feet. It can only be resolved by offering higher wages and better working conditions for staff. Unite is utterly determined to fight for that.”

2. Further Education unions reject Association of College’s 2.25% pay offer

Unions representing the further education sector have rejected the Association of College’s 2.25% pay offer for the year 2022/23. The offer is not binding, meaning individual colleges are under no obligation to implement it.

The UCU said in a statement: “During an unprecedented cost of living crisis, and with inflation currently at a 40 year high and set to rise further, this offer is insulting. The employer body has chosen not to use significant increases in core central government 16 – 19 funding to invest in college staff, despite unions campaigning alongside AOC to secure it.

“In March, the unions jointly submitted a claim for a pay rise of 10% on all points with a minimum uplift of £2000, all colleges to become accredited Foundation Living wage employers and for significant movement towards agreements on workload in colleges.

“As well as failing to meet the unions’ pay demands, AOC refused to commit to ensuring all colleges become Living Wage employers and on workload offered only to set up a working group to investigate further.”

3. Road haulage bosses must act on pay and conditions as damning report issued on state of industry

Unite the union said the transport select committee report out today was ‘another flashing warning light’ for the UK’s haulage sector.

The union, which represents thousands of haulage drivers, says that the industry can no longer drag its heels on the need to tackle driver shortages, poor pay and a lack of decent on the road facilities that are causing workers to walk away from the sector. 

Unite gave evidence to the select committee, which is quoted several times in the report.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This report is another flashing warning light on the state of the road freight industry in this country. 

“Unite has been at the forefront in driving up wages for the UK’s lorry drivers with a host of above-inflation awards since I took over as general secretary last August.

“But much more needs to be done to stop drivers deserting the sector. The logistics giants need to stop hoarding the profits and start investing in the workforce.” 

4. Majority back independence referendum this parliamentary term

The SNP has welcomed a new poll which shows strong public satisfaction with Nicola Sturgeon, the cost of living crisis as a priority and support for an independent Scotland at 50%.

A majority back an independence referendum in this Parliamentary term – with a referendum by the end of 2023 the most popular option amongst those polled, while Yes support is 5% higher than the 2014 referendum at 50%.

Nicola Sturgeon has the highest satisfaction rating of any party leader of Scottish and UK wide parties – with a satisfaction rating nearly 30% higher than Douglas Ross. A clear majority –  64% of Scots – think they will be worse off under Boris Johnson.

SNP Depute Leader Keith Brown said: “Following the SNP’s resounding council election victory last month, this poll confirms that the people of Scotland continue to put their trust in First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP Scottish Government to deliver for Scotland.

“A year ago, the SNP was re-elected by the people of Scotland with a renewed, cast-iron mandate to hold an independence referendum in this parliamentary term. A majority of Scots support a referendum – and the majority of people expressing an opinion wanted to see that referendum take place during this parliamentary term.”

5. Cost-of-living crisis shows failure of energy privatisation – Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru’s Treasury spokesperson, Ben Lake MP, has called for a discussion about what role the state and the public sector play when it comes to the generation and distribution of energy and electricity.

Speaking on BBC Wales’ Sunday Supplement programme, Ben Lake said that the Chancellor’s announcement last week of a £400 rebate for households will still leave people experiencing an average increase £950 as compared to last year: “Even after this generous package, on average people will still see their total fuel costs increase by some £950 as compared to last year. It’s still a significant increase.

“Although this package is generous, it has taken quite a long time, there’s been a lot of concern and alarm caused by the uncertainty of the Chancellor’s dithering, it’s still going to mean that people will pay a lot more than they did last year.”

He referenced work by Sky’s Ed Conway showing that wholesale gas prices in the UK are at the lowest level for nearly 18 months, yet the UK market is struggling to benefit from lower prices.

Mr Lake said that privatisation is to blame for this inability to take advantage of low wholesale prices.

6. Dalston Couriers and Community Groups Protest Over-Policing Following Immigration Raids

Food delivery couriers from the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) and other community groups protested outside Hackney Town hall last week over the harassment of BAME couriers picking up orders at Ashwin Street by police and civil enforcement. Couriers in the area report a sudden spike in the issuing of anti-social behaviour (ASB) notices on Ashwin Street since April, when loading bay times were extended.

The protest follows two recent immigration raids targeting majority-BAME couriers in the area, under the guise of routine vehicle checks. At the most recent raid, which took place on Saturday 14 May, hundreds of Dalston locals gathered to support couriers. Police quickly became violent, and both this raid and an earlier raid in January have been condemned by Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville.

Couriers launched a campaign last year in Dalston for a legal, safe and free space to wait for orders in the area, after the council forced couriers to move away from Ashwin St to Bentley Rd, where couriers receive fewer orders and lack shelter or toilet access. Following a recent action, nearby Wingstop restaurant has guaranteed couriers toilet access and put in a planning application for its own waiting area.

Alex Marshall, President (IWGB), says: “For gig-economy couriers, the streets is their place of work. Like everybody else, couriers deserve dignity, respect, and safety in their workplace. Apps like Deliveroo and UberEats have completely failed to facilitate access to restaurants for couriers, denying them the adequate support and parking solutions this majority-BAME workforce needs to work safely.”

7. Stop ‘dangerous assault’ on higher education, UCU urges education secretary

The University and College Union (UCU) today wrote to Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi urging him to act now to stop a ‘dangerous assault’ on arts and humanities provision.

In a letter from UCU general secretary Jo Grady, sent on the first day of UCU’s annual Congress, the union urged Mr Zahawi to reverse the Office for Students 50% cuts to funding for arts and creative subjects and to stop attacking so-called ‘low value’ courses. The union also slammed plans to restrict access to courses that do not meet arbitrary graduate outcomes data.

The letter comes in response to announced job cuts and course closures at De Montfort University, the University of Roehampton and the University of Wolverhampton. These include 226 academics facing the sack at Roehampton and a cull of 146 courses at Wolverhampton across the areas of performing arts, fashion, social sciences, interior design and fine art.

8. DWP underpay almost £3 billion to people on benefits in cost of living crisis

New figures show that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) underpaid people on benefits by £2.6 billion in the year 2021/22, following the pandemic and amidst a cost of living crisis.

The Department also overpaid £8.6 billion – 4% of the total benefit expenditure – as a result of their own errors and fraud.

The SNP has blasted Rishi Sunak’s words as hollow as the DWP continues to fail to get financial support to those who need it most.

Commenting, Work and Pensions spokesperson, Kirsty Blackman MP said: “The Tory government’s talk of targeting financial support for those that need it most rings hollow when we see that those very same people have missed out on almost £3 billion immediately after a pandemic and amidst a cost of living crisis.

“The Department for Work and Pensions needs to get its act together – we cannot afford errors or mistakes that lead to millions missing out on vital cash at a time when people are struggling to afford the very basics. It could have made all the difference to someone who was having to choose between eating and heating their home. It could have allowed them to do both, or given them, or their family, an extra meal.”

9. British Airways strike ballot begins as Heathrow faces summer holiday havoc

British Airways workers have served notice of a strike ballot today in anger at a pandemic pay cut.

Hundreds of GMB members working as Heathrow check in staff and ground staff will ballot over whether to walk out during the summer holiday period. The ballot ends on 23 June with the result expected the same day.

The Heathrow workers are furious because a ten per cent pay cut imposed on them during the pandemic has not been reinstated – despite bosses having their pre-covid pay rates reinstated.

While other BA workers have been given a 10 per cent bonus, the check in staff have had nothing.

Nadine Houghton, GMB National Officer, said: “All these workers want is the pay they had taken from them during the pandemic thanks to BA’s cruel fire and rehire policy.

“Bosses have had it back, other workers have been given it back so why not these loyal Heathrow workers?

“These loyal workers have suffered terrible abuse while keeping passengers moving as staff shortages and IT failures nearly brought the airport to a standstill.”

10. ASLEF executive committee rejects Scotrail pay offer

The National Executive Committee of the train drivers’ union ASLEF has rejected ScotRail’s pay offer to its members. 

Last week’s talks between the union and ScotRail ended with a pay offer of 4.2% but today ASLEF’s executive committee rejected the offer and the union will now proceed to a ballot for industrial action if ScotRail refuse to engage in further talks.

ASLEF Scottish Organiser Kevin Lindsay said: “ASLEF wants to negotiate a fair deal for our members, we are once again calling on ScotRail to return to the talks, so we can negotiate a fair pay offer that we can put to our members”.

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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