Health & safety

Ballot for action on job cuts

We’re balloting our members working across the four Tate galleries, in London, Liverpool, and St. Ives, for industrial action to resist job cuts. The ballot runs from 22 July to 3 August. A consultative ballot of members has already returned a 93% vote in favour of action on a 99% turnout. The employer wants to cut 200 jobs, as part of a cuts package aimed at saving £1 million this financial year. That’s part of a wider picture in the culture sector, which has taken a significant financial hit in the pandemic, which bosses will be looking to recoup via cuts. Our reps and branches have done...

Isolation pay for all!

To suppress Covid-19, and avoid or minimise a resurgence, we need to win decent isolation pay and sick pay for all workers. Protect your workmates; public health test-and-tracing; work or full pay for all! Editorial article and video. In the Ministry of Justice, the United Voices of the World union has won an agreement with the contractor OCS for full sick pay for workers covering time taken off since April, for a period of up to 14 days. In care homes, after months of campaigning, some 40% now give isolation pay; the government has set up a fund explicitly designed to allow isolation pay for all workers; and a government report has recognised officially that absence of isolation pay increases the Covid-19 death toll.

The UK has the lowest sick pay of all rich countries

On average, across all the 34 OECD (richer) countries, workers receive about 70% of their last wage as statutory (or mandatory) sick pay (SSP). It is as high as 100% in a significant number of countries. This sick pay has to be paid by employers for a period of time. In the UK it is up to 28 weeks. But the UK’s £95.85 per week statutory level is now the lowest, as a percentage of earnings, of all OECD countries. In the UK as elsewhere some workers are covered by agreements with employers which provide much better sick pay, but the low level of statutory sick pay is a scandal. Since the...

Jobcentres reopen

Jobcentres have re-opened to the public. Management have stated to the civil servants’ union PCS that just over half of jobcentres in London and Essex are open, although footfall remains extremely low. PCS provided members with advice on their legal right to withdraw themselves from serious and imminent danger. As the national risk assessment, and therefore the risk assessment for each office, had not been signed off, PCS stated, “ (we are) not satisfied that the risk assessment is safe. PCS do not believe that all necessary safety arrangements are in place and the level of risk remains...

Victory on sick pay (John Moloney's column)

Outsourced workers at the Ministry of Justice, organised by the United Voices of the World (UVW) and PCS unions, have won a significant concession from OCS, the outsourced contractor. After a substantial campaign, spurred on by the tragic death of UVW member Emanuel Gomes, who died after working through his symptoms due to being refused full sick pay, OCS has agreed to retrospectively pay full sick pay for workers who’ve taken time off since April, for a period of up to 14 days. There’s still more to fight for, as OCS is still refusing to make an open-ended commitment to pay full sickness and...

Threat to rail jobs

Extracts from Tubeworker and Off The Rails On London Underground [LU], we hear a manager in Stations Structural Maintenance has been appointed to conduct a “headcount review” of the entire department. Tory-appointed auditors KPMG may be recommending similar reviews elsewhere. The unions need to prepare to fight job cuts wherever they’re proposed. Boris Johnson has suggested in an interview that one condition of ongoing government funding for Transport for London and LU should be a move towards driverless trains. “Let’s not be prisoners of the unions.” Although the real technical barriers to...

Make Labour fight for “grand schemes”!

Both the government and the scientists who criticise it say that finding people with Covid-19 symptoms, testing to confirm, tracing their close contacts, and getting sufferers and contacts to self-isolate, is central to controlling the virus. Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds told the Marr show on Sunday 5 June: “I’m not going to say to you that Labour is going to be advocating some massive grand scheme right at this moment when social care is in crisis”. But we need grand schemes exactly at this time of crisis! The Tories’ floundering has imposed a massive grand Covid-19 death toll, threatens a massive grand risk of a whole new second wave of the virus, and is generating massive grand job cuts.

The right to refuse (John Moloney's column)

The government is pressing ahead with its plan to reopen job centres and driving instruction centres to the public from 6 July. We’ve given advice to our members in those sectors that we thinking this return to public-facing work is unsafe, and have reminded them of their rights to refuse unsafe work. We’ll back up groups of members who take that action. We don’t know exactly how things will play out. 60% of staff in the Department for Work and Pensions are already working from the physical workplace, rather than from home. DWP workers have continued to see particularly vulnerable claimants...

PCS tells members: you have the right to refuse unsafe work

On 29 June, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced that it was re-introducing benefit conditionality, or sanctions, from 1 July. Conditionality was suspended at the start of lockdown for all claimants as it wasn’t practical to look for work. This also meant that staff could be redeployed on processing the millions of new Universal Credit claims. Secretary of State (and arch right-winger) Therese Coffey announced her intention that 14 Jobcentres would open on 2 July. As it happens only one opened, Marylebone. That was going to open come what may so Coffey could get her photo op...

Schools: recovery, not catch-up

According to the Daily Mail on 27 June, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson used a speech to Tory backbenchers to describe the largest and most vocal schools union, the National Education Union (NEU), as “the No Education Union”. This follows attempts by Boris Johnson to blame the NEU for the low numbers of children returning to school after 1 June, the date announced as the start of wider reopening. The government know there is huge frustration at the lengthy closure of schools and the lack of any clear idea as to when that might change. They understand the risk that, if parents blame them...

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