As the world’s leaders gathered in Glasgow to agree action to combat the climate emergency, Unite slammed the planned closure of the GKN Birmingham car component plant as a failure to seize an opportunity to support UK manufacturing on the road to a carbon neutral economy – and as a ‘betrayal of a highly skilled workforce’. The 500-plus workforce at GKN Birmingham are set to lose their jobs next year. The workforce now feels it has little option but to accept a redundancy scheme offered by GKN Melrose after the company refused to reconsider Unite’s plan to save the plant – despite the government’s request for it to do so. Unite national officer Des Quinn said, “Having failed to get Melrose to change its mind, the government must not fail the GKN workers again. The government must play a dynamic role in finding a company to take over Chester Road and save as many jobs as possible in the process because these are the skills our country needs if we're to step up to the demands of climate action.”
FCA staff – ‘Give us a voice’
Workers at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have made it overwhelmingly clear they want Unite to be formally recognised to represent them across the organisation – the first time this has happened in the FCA’s history. Following the massive growth in staff joining Unite, a staff petition was launched for formal recognition – which staff backed all the way. “The phenomenal response to the survey is a clear response to the consultation on changes to pay and grading as part of new CEO Nikhil Rathi’s transformation plans,” said Unite GS Sharon Graham. The FCA legally 10 working days to respond to Unite’s request, after which time the union has the right to apply to the Central Arbitration Committee for recognition. An answer is expected imminently.
Call for face covering return
After a surge of new Covid cases Unite has called for the return of mandatory face covering wearing on public transport . Unite believes that a return to compulsory mask wearing on all public transport, which the government ended in July, would be a simple and common sense method to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission when travelling. “By reintroducing mask wearing the danger of infection to both bus workers and passengers is significantly reduced,” said Unite national officer Bobby Morton. “This is a sensible measure the government should take that does not damage the economy in anyway. It must go hand-in-hand with the proper enforcement of such rules,” he added. Unite has also called for similar action to be taken for hospitality workers.
FIRE AND REHIRE
Unite to fight on
In October, Labour MP Barry Gardiner put forward a Private Member’s Bill in a bid to outlaw the abhorrent practice of fire and rehire – and for MPs to signal that they too are supporting working people against ‘bully boy’ practices.’ But the shamefully government filibustered the Bill out of time. On hearing the news Unite GS Sharon Graham said, “The Conservative Party has colluded to stand on the side of bullying bosses and against the interests of workers, showing their real colours. “This will not affect our resolve in any way,” she added. They can say what they like in Parliament. On the ground Unite will fight every employer’s attempt to ‘Fire and Rehire’ relentlessly.”
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HEALTH AND CARE BILL
Unite fights to save NHS and care
Celebrities and health workers will band together on November 22 demanding that MPs oppose the Health and Care Bill, which the government is trying to push through. Many have warned the move would be disastrous for the NHS and social care services. Unite is working alongside other organisations, all concerned about cuts, cronyism and yet more contracts awarded to private companies without scrutiny, at the expense of service levels and our health. Unite GS Sharon Graham said, “Our members in the NHS and social care are coping with unacceptable conditions. Ministers want to impose real-terms pay cuts. This Bill is being used to further run down the NHS. It will also lay the path for lower standards of care and further attacks on the pay and conditions of NHS staff. We will defend our health sector members and oppose these unnecessary attacks.”
OIL AND GAS OFFSHORE
Unite hailed a ‘massive win’ in a wage deal for around 100 staff working on the Canadian Natural Resources (CNR) contract for offshore contractor, Petrofac. In late October Unite began talks with Petrofac, where the company agreed to re-instate the wages and conditions it had cut, with effect from November 1, 2021. The new offer which equates to a 17 per cent increase in salary was overwhelmingly accepted by the workers. “This is a massive win for Petrofac workers which will send reverberations around the offshore sector,” said Unite GS Sharon Graham. “It is yet another example of Unite winning in the fight for jobs pay and conditions for its members. The message is clear: when workers supported by Unite take a stand we can win together.”