Passenger transport

‘Excellent result’

Planned London bus strikes set to begin on May 25 were called off after members agreed plans to halt bus company Metroline’s controversial remote sign on scheme.

The dispute involving over 4,000 bus drivers was over a new system whereby drivers did not report to a depot but met their bus along a route, such as at a bus stop.

Following the threat of industrial action, the company has guaranteed that the measure will not be introduced on current or new routes until December 21, 2022 – and should it wish to consider the plan again it must consult Unite first. The result, achieved through workers’ solidarity was hailed as ‘excellent.’

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Local authorities

‘Insulting, derisory and shameful’

Unite’s local government members slammed the employers’ pay rise offer of 1.5 per cent as ‘insulting, derisory and shameful’. The members rejected the pay offer as following 11 years of pay freezes and below inflation pay increases, in reality it equated to yet another pay cut. Unite members were particularly incensed when the offer was described as a ‘well deserved pay rise.’

The offer is only just over half of the current Retail Price Index (RPI) rate of 2.9 per cent for April – and for the lowest paid workers is worth just over £1 a day.

Unite officials said the employers should ‘hang their heads in shame’. In an industry with serious retention and recruitment problems, Unite believes the offer will only increase members voting with their feet. Unite added it will now work with the other local government unions to ensure a pay award which meets workers’ true worth is made.

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‘Flagrant and wasteful use of taxpayers’ money’

Wasteful bosses could spend three times as much undermining a strike by biomedical scientists at a Lancashire NHS trust in an upgrading pay row than it would cost to settle, Unite said in May.

Management at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust could spend up to £150,000 in trying to mitigate the impact of the strike by the 21 biomedical scientists when it would cost £50,000 to settle the 2019 pay upgrade deal that the management had reneged on.

Unite estimates that if the industrial action went on for three months the trust would spend over £40,000 a month in paying overtime payments for additional shifts to non-Unite biomedical scientists, as well as to managers who are being brought in to break the strike.

Unite added that the tens of thousands of pounds being spent at the Royal Blackburn Hospital and the Burnley General Teaching Hospital was ‘a flagrant and wasteful use of taxpayers’ money at a time of national crisis in the health service’.

The biomedical scientists, who analyse patients’ blood samples will step up their action by striking continuously from just past midnight on Monday, May 31 until 6.59 am on June 21 – the new action means they will be striking all day for three weeks.

Unite has said that management “playing hard ball is a flagrant and wasteful use of taxpayers’ money at a time of national crisis,” and has called for “constructive talks to settle this dispute.”

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Food and drink

‘Decisive victory’

Following 11 days of strike action in May, Northern Ireland Hovis workers voted to accept the improved pay offer from management. The deal was welcomed as a “decisive victory achieved through collective organisation and industrial militancy.”

The Hovis workers strike came about when reps rejected management’s offer of a three per cent pay increase – because it did not deliver on pay parity with Hovis workers in Great Britain – which would require a 10 per cent pay increase.

But following the members’ action management increased the offer to an 8 per cent increase over two years, with the first increase backdated to January 2021, as well as a commitment to address wider workforce issues of concern.

Unite said the “strike should never have had to occur; it reflected a total failure on the part of a management who repeatedly underestimated their own workforce.”

It added, “The action by Hovis workers is a shining example of how, through standing together, working-class people can improve their lot even during a pandemic.”

Local authorities

‘Victory for the workers who stood firm’

Unite members who provided essential services during the height of the pandemic have voted to suspend their six week strike after ongoing talks with Thurrock Council delivered a breakthrough, it was announced in May.

Around 90 workers in the waste and recycling department at Thurrock Council faced losing between £1,200 and £3,800 a year – but the Council has now made positive changes to the original proposal which means members will not have their pay slashed.

Unite said the result was a “victory for the workers,” determined to defend their pay. “These essential workers, who were applauded for their work through the pandemic, now deserve to be applauded for the solidarity and determination they showed. When workers organise, workers win.”

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