Pay, hours, conditions

Stop Tory plan to scrap Working Time Directive!

What Brexit means is demonstrated clearly by fresh Tory plans to assault workers’ rights. The government fought hard for the right to diverge from EU standards for a reason: and workers’ rights are among its first targets. The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is putting together plans to scrap the 48-hour week “working time directive”; cut rest break entitlements; cut holiday pay entitlements by excluding overtime pay from how they’re calculated; and end the requirement for employers to keep proper records on working hours. Labour movement leaders, both unions and Labour...

British gas workers strike again from 20 January

At a public online rally on 18 January for the British Gas engineers striking against “fire-and-rehire” attacks on their pay and conditions (see page 24), Paul Vowles, a British Gas striker from the West Midlands, said he was “bursting with pride” at the action he and his workmates have taken so far. He criticised British Gas bosses for “hiding behind the pandemic” in order to force through cuts. He also highlighted the effectiveness of the social media campaign in support of the dispute, especially messages of support from strikers’ families which emphasise the impact the proposed new...

Couriers: push the courts, organise at work

An important legal case is in the works. A claim for holiday pay and the minimum wage for couriers working for food delivery app Stuart (the delivery arm of JustEat) is being brought to court by law firm Leigh Day. In December 2019 a judge found that a courier employed by Stuart was not an “independent” contractor, but a “dependent” contractor, also known in legal jargon as a “limb (b) worker” — the reason being that a courier working for Stuart is obliged to accept a food order if no other worker picks it up. That means that theoretically, all couriers working for Stuart have a claim on...

Care workers strike 15-17 January

Hundreds of people, including workers and supporters, attended a “virtual picket line” and strike rally organised by the United Voices of the World union, in support of striking care workers at the Sage care home in north London, on 15 January. The workers struck from 15-17 January, demanding a pay increase to £12/hour, parity of conditions with NHS staff, including equal sick pay, and union recognition. UVW had planned a physical, safely-distanced picket line, but received last-minute legal advice that changes to the latest lockdown legislation could be interpreted as outlawing picketing and...

Fight "fire and rehire"!

Members of the RMT union in the offshore industry, working for the Vatenfall wind farm company, are facing a “fire and rehire” attack. They say their employer has threatened to sack workers and re-engage them on worse terms and conditions. The new contracts will involve a number of detrimental changes, including cuts to annual leave. Vatenfall bosses have denied making “fire and rehire” threats. “Fire and rehire” is all the rage at the moment, as it offers bosses a straightforward and direct way to make cuts and level down conditions. British Gas workers are currently striking against such an...

British Gas out again from 20 January

British Gas workers will strike again on 20, 22, 25, 29 January, and 1 February. Engineers in the GMB union are resisting attempts by Centrica, British Gas’s parent company, to sack workers en masse and rehire them on worse terms and conditions. Workers estimate that the new terms would lead to engineers working up to an additional 156 hours unpaid each year. Despite insisting the new contracts are a financial necessity, Centrica recorded operating profits of £901 million in 2019, and an adjusted operating profit of £229 million in the six months to 30 June 2020 on the domestic heating side of...

To beat the pandemic, beat poverty: good sick pay for all!

There is growing noise in the labour movement and more widely around the issue of sick pay. We urgently need a bigger campaign on this issue. Despite right-wing agitation about people flouting lockdown regulations, the evidence suggests something like 90% general compliance (British Medical Journal). But much lower numbers of those infected or in contact with the infected are self-isolating fully: more like 20%. Unlike hand-washing and social distancing, self-isolation often requires material resources and support, particularly sufficient space and an income. Data from the first lockdown...

Support British gas workers!

British Gas workers struck from 7-11 January, resisting their employer’s attempts to level down conditions by sacking workers en masse and rehiring them on worse contracts. The strike was extremely solid, with activists reporting that its strength grew as it went on. The workers’ union, GMB, is set to announce further strikes. Workers’ morale is high, bolstered by significant engagement with and support for the strike via social media. Workers report numerous instances of self-employed gas contractors committing on social media to take no work on British Gas strike days. British Gas bosses are...

Towards telecoms strike in BT?

In December, BT Group workers in the Communication Workers Union (CWU) voted by a 97.9% majority for industrial action to defend job security and conditions, in a consultative ballot. A BT Group worker and CWU activist explains the background to the dispute and other struggles in BT. The national consultative ballot against job cuts and compulsory redundancies across BT is the logical result of the failure of industrial leadership by the CWU Telecoms Executive for over a decade, and also of the disastrous outcome of the 2019 general election for communication workers. The current faction in...

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