Unite

Unite, schools and 1 June

The big union Unite has signed up to the “education unions' statement on the safe reopening of schools". This statement calls on the government “to step back from 1 June” and identifies the following core principles:

• Safety and welfare of pupils and staff as the paramount principle

• No increase...

Make the schools safe!

The government’s aspiration to partially open schools on 1 June is likely to be largely unrealised. While we all want children back in schools, as soon as safe enough, that is good. Success in resisting unsafe reopening is dependent on union strength on the ground. We must fight for rank-and-file school worker control over the strategy, locally and nationally.

Organise against university cuts

Coronavirus is intensifying the fault lines in UK higher education, and huge cuts are coming to our universities. Universities are announcing job cuts and hiring freezes to mitigate the huge predicted loss of income from international students’ fees. Staff on casual, fixed-term or hourly paid contracts will be the hardest hit, and their workloads will be pushed onto permanent staff. Lots is still unclear. On Sunday 24 May, Student Strike Solidarity held a meeting to discuss how students can organise with university workers to stop these cuts. We heard from activists involved in local campaigns...

Factory gate meeting

Unite members working for Great Bear distribution recently organised a factory gate meeting at the Unilever Port Sunlight factory to protest at the dismissal of a Unite shop steward and the company’s refusal to pay full sick pay for workers self-isolating. The meeting, organised by Unite North West, showed how protests and workplace meetings can still be organised safely and effectively. Everyone observed social distancing rules. When the organisers were explaining why the meeting took place, they made sure that they explained to local residents who were watching and listening why the meeting...

Unite, schools and 1 June

The big union Unite has signed up to the “education unions' statement on the safe reopening of schools". This statement calls on the government “to step back from 1 June” and identifies the following core principles: • Safety and welfare of pupils and staff as the paramount principle • No increase in pupil numbers until full rollout of a national test and trace scheme • A national Covid-19 education taskforce with government, unions and education stakeholders to agree statutory guidance for safe reopening of schools • Consideration of the specific needs of vulnerable students and families...

Right to protest

After a leaked Treasury paper suggested a two-year public sector pay freeze, a group of London nurses held a socially distanced protest outside Downing Street, wearing their PPE. This is one of a number of protests health workers have organised around the country. In response NHS England and NHS managers in London have issued a statement saying workers should not join protests as it would “adversely affect public confidence”. It also suggested support for police repression of demonstrations! Over two hundred health workers have died from Covid-19 in eight weeks – more than the number of...

Fight the epidemic - yes. Back the Tories - no

The Labour Party has made some important demands for the Covid-19 crisis, including improving the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which underwrites part of wages and extending it to the self-employed; insisting employers guarantee to keep people in work; and increasing a range of benefits. The problem is that the party shows no sign of campaigning around these demands. Its leadership acts as if that the epidemic obliges it to express positive support for the Tory government. Big demonstrations and crowded public meetings are obviously out at the moment. But Labour wasn’t going in for those...

Green New Deal, not airport expansion!

Existing plans for Heathrow airport to be expanded with a new third runway have been ruled unlawful by the Court of Appeal, in the latest move in a battle stretching back the best part of two decades. On 27 February the court ruled that in June 2018 Chris Grayling, then the transport secretary, was acting unlawfully by not taking into account the government's commitment - under the Paris agreements - to tackle the climate crisis. The Government said it would not appeal, though Heathrow airport itself will. Air travel is extremely emissions-intensive, releasing a much higher quantity of...

Industrial news in brief

CWU ballots until 17 March By Ollie Moore As Solidarity went to press on 3 March, Royal Mail workers were beginning a new ballot for industrial action, after a successful ballot last year was injuncted by the High Court. The ballot will close on 17 March. It is about action to prevent a restructure that could see the postal and parcel delivery aspects of Royal Mail’s business separated into distinct companies, a move which the Communication Workers Union (CWU) says could threaten up to 20,000 jobs. The CWU is also demanding that Royal Mail honour an agreement reached in 2018 which included a...

Industrial news in brief

Council pay: unions must move now The local government unions (Unison, GMB and Unite) have rejected a 2% offer in response to their claim for 10% and £10 per hour starting salary (as well as an extra day’s leave, a two-hour reduction in the working week, and action on workplace stress). The unions’ claim is based on recognition that local government workers have lost 22% on real wages since 2009. The GMB on its website helpfully explains that since 2009, teaching assistants have lost £4000 a year on average, nursery workers £5900, refuse collectors £4800, social workers £9,800. But the claim...

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