John Quigley regional secretary address
Unite has been doing some intense lobbying over the last few weeks to try to persuade the SNP government to award an £150m rail contract to Bombardier which employs 1,800 people at a site in Derby and uses a predominantly UK supply base, involving key Scottish suppliers. The union fears that the SNP will give the First Scot Rail contract for 120 new train carriages to train manufacturer Siemens which builds trains in the Czech Republic and fits them out in Germany. This is a prime opportunity for the SNP to back UK plc. If they award this lucrative contract to Bombardier thousands of Scottish and UK workers will benefit but if they give it to Siemens, jobs may even be lost. On top of this Siemens’ is fiercely anti-union and resists trade union representation in its plants. Unite is also supporting a private members bill by John Park MSP to increase the amount of apprentices in Scotland. At the moment we have a situation where employers complain there are not enough skilled workers. Take construction, bosses have been importing migrant workers to fill the skills gap, while at the same time, thousands of keen young people are being denied the opportunity to receive apprenticeship training. We want the government and employers to act now to start to provide our young people with the training and skills they need for their’s and Scotland’s future success.
Private equity threat to pensions lifted
Unite’s campaign for legislation to protect pension schemes from raids by private equity style companies has born fruit. The government has now agreed to ensure changes in the law are put in place to stop pension schemes being used for short term profit for private investors.
Unite officials met with pensions minister, Mike O’Brien following the takeover of telecom company Telent, by Pension Corporation to gain control of its’ £3bn pension plan and in addition, access to the assets of a further pension account worth £520m. Peter Skyte, Unite national officer, said: “We pressed the government to take quick and decisive action to stop raids on pension schemes by companies seeking to make a fast buck. Thankfully the government has acted and given the pensions regulators new powers to stop this type of pensions injustice.”
Unite welcomes government’s commitment to skills
Unite has welcomed a statement from Skills Secretary John Denham urging more businesses to sign up to the government’s skills pledge. The government is targeting its own suppliers to take up the skills agenda and sign a pledge to carry out education initiatives with their workers. Unite deputy general secretary, Graham Goddard said: “It’s great the Secretary of State is encouraging employers to adopt a proactive learning agenda. Unite already plays an active part in encouraging further education both in and outside the workplace. It is our experience that firms that embrace a learning agenda benefit hugely in increased productivity and in improved staff loyalty and morale.
Public sector workers lobby Parliament
On 9th June thousands of public sector workers will descend on Westminster to challenge the government’s 2 per cent pay cap. The TUC public sector pay lobby and rally will continue the ‘Speak up for Public Services’ theme, this time arguing for ‘Fair Pay for Public Servants’ and a rejection of another below inflation pay award. Event details will be available soon, including transport arrangements and campaign materials. Keep an eye out on the TUC and Unite websites.
Vehicle safety body being sized up for privatisation
Unite is campaigning to oppose plans to privatise the organisation responsible for ensuring that vehicles on our roads are safe. The Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) is currently under review with a view to ‘out-sourcing’ as many functions as possible. VOSA oversees the MOT system as well as inspecting heavy goods and public vehicles. Unite is concerned that if the private sector takes over the agency’s functions then the pursuit for profits will take precidence over safety. Unite regional officer, Jerry Pickford said: “This is another example of the government’s continuing policy of privatisation of the public sector. Expensive consultants have been brought in, not to look at how the agency can be improved, but to see how it can be handed over to the private sector, more interested in making profit than ensuring public safety.”
Northern Rock job losses
Unite has told Northern Rock that it will oppose any plans for compulsory redundancies at the publicly owned bank. Following the announcement that the Northern Rock restructuring plans will mean a reduction in employee numbers, the union is seeking assurances that the workforce will be reduced through voluntary means only. Graham Goddard, Unite deputy general secretary said: “News that staff numbers will be reduced as part of the restructuring plans for Northern Rock has caused further uncertainty for the workforce. The employees of the bank have already faced months of insecurity and anxiety about their future.” For information on the Unite campaign to safeguard the future of Northern Rock please visit:
Solidarity with Iranian workers
Unite joined an Amnesty International day of action in March to support imprisoned Iranian bus driver, Mansour Osanloo. Mansour is imprisoned because the Iranian authorities claim that he along with other trade union activists are a “threat to the national security” although in reality, it is genuine trade union activities they want to crush. Since the day of action, another activist from the baker’s union, Mahmoud Salehi, has been released. Unite is very concerned about the oppression faced by trade unionists in Iran and union members can show support by: signing the online petition; wearing the campaign badge and joining the facebook group. To show your solidarity for Iranian trade unionists please sign this online petition: For more information on this campaign please visit:
European Court judgement could lead to social unrest Unite warns
Large construction projects such as the London’s Olympics could beset with industrial unrest from the fall out of a recent judgement made by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) giving foreign firms the right to ignore collective agreements and legally pay workers below agreed wage levels.
Unite is warning that the ECJ’s decision that a Polish subcontractor operating in Germany can lawfully pay construction workers less than half the German construction industry’s agreed wage could have a devastating affect on the UK building infrastructure. Unite is calling for the powers of the ECJ to be curbed to allow national governments and national courts sovereignty on collective agreements and collective action. Derek Simpson, Joint General Secretary of Unite trade union, said: “This decision effectively means that foreign companies working here in the UK, or in any other EU country, can flout domestic laws and collective agreements with regard to pay. This is a recipe for disaster and, if applied here in the UK, will cause massive industrial unrest and threaten the delivery of major projects including the Olympics. “We are calling on the UK government and the European Parliament to act to ensure that minimum industry standards are upheld and we want the role of the ECJ, which has greater powers with regard to these vital issues, to be revisited.”
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Unite members and their families shouldn’t settle for less
Did you know that if you have an accident you are entitled to independent legal advice? As a Unite member you and any member of your family can obtain this legal advice free from the union.
You may be entitled to compensation, Unite has found that claimants who do not get independent legal representation and instead deal direct with insurance companies sometimes get less than their injury deserves or may get nothing at all. Last year, Unite won over £125m in compensation for members. Please promote the union’s legal services to your colleagues – they are a great recruitment and organising tool. For information on the Unite legal services please visit: A legal services leaflet can be downloaded from this page.
Offshore Workers Win Right to Paid Leave
Unite hailed an employment tribunal’s judgment on paid leave for offshore workers as a victory for 25,000 workers. Unite (Amicus Section) brought the case against offshore employers who were refusing to allow their employees to take paid holiday under the Working Time Regulations 1998.
The Aberdeen employment tribunal ruled that all offshore workers are entitled to paid holidays under the Working Time Regulations. Offshore workers work two weeks offshore and then spend two weeks onshore. Significantly, the tribunal ruled that the paid leave should be taken when the workers should be at work offshore rather than during the periods that they are onshore.
Unite Regional Officer, Graham Tran said, “Paid holidays for offshore workers is no longer a gift from employers but a legal right. This judgment is a victory for 25,000 workers undertaking tough work under difficult conditions. Our members have had to wait almost five years for this judgment and the tribunal has given them their full support.”
The tribunal has ruled that all offshore workers are entitled to paid holidays, which on a pro rata basis out of four weeks, is equivalent to 14 days’ paid leave under the Working Time Regulations.
Graham Tran added: “I call on all companies operating offshore to accept this ruling and to meet with the recognised unions to discuss how best to implement the ruling. Whilst it is accepted that a number of offshore workers get paid time off, the significance of this ruling is that never again can a company withhold paid holiday entitlement from their employees.”
Lynda Norbury of Rowley Ashworth confirmed: “This Judgment marks a significant development in the application of the Working Time Regulations to workers with unusual working patterns. It confirms that employees must be allowed to take holiday at a time when they would otherwise have been at work.”
HBOS Partnership Agreement
Unite, HBOS and Accord (the single company union within HBOS) signed a Partnership Agreement in the summer of 2007. The main aims of the partnership agreement was to strengthen the relationship and commits the company and the union to:
- Positive support for growth of union membership with a target of 70% by 2012
- The introduction of an HBOS wide workplace reps facility that recognises the value of union involved in reps performance reviews
- Early union involvement in the decision-making process – this will make a difference for Unite members as HBOS will now pro-actively seek the unions view, therefore allowing us to influence business strategy and its implementation
- Regular meetings with Heads of business areas to discuss future strategy
As part of HBOS’ support to grow union membership, HBOS has agreed to issue a union application form with letters of contract offer to all new starters with a statement that begins with an opening quote from the Company’s Chief Executive Andy Hornby – ‘At HBOS we want maximum union membership. We want as many people as possible feeling they are part of a union and part of a really productive working relationship.’ The Company has then demonstrated this commitment by offering those who join at that time, to reimburse the union subscription through salary for the first six months of employment so that during this time union membership will cost nothing.
Wendy Dunsmore, National Secretary stated that ‘This initiative to encourage new entrants to the Company to join the union is groundbreaking and it shows that there are employers who genuinely are promoting union membership and by offering to reimburse union contribution fees demonstrates that commitment.’
Since the launch of the Partnership Agreement, Unite has been successful in electing 80+ new workplace reps.
Organising plans are being worked through to identify and recruit new members and workplace reps from the existing HBOS population.
Equalities Young members course
There are still places available for the 2008 Young Members Course being held at Esher Place and Coleg Harlech, Wales from the afternoon of Sunday, 8th through to Friday, 13 June.
Part of this course involves Outward Bound Activities and you should be aware that you would require appropriate clothing whilst you are taking part. You will require training/walking shoes or books and warm clothing. Transport will be provided to get you to and from the Outward Bound Activities.
Any young members wishing to attend this course, should contact email@example.com for further information and an application form.
Amendments to Sex Discrimination Act 1975
The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (Amendment) Regulations 2008 have now finally be published. These new regulations come into force on the 6th April 2008. The regulation make various changes to the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 so that this now complies with the Equal Treatment Directive (76/207/EEC).
For further information or a copy of the Regulations please go to the website:
STUC Black Workers’ Network
The STUC produces a regular E-Brief, with trade union news, events, consultations and information. If you want to receive the E-Brief from the STUC, please send an email to Kevin Buchanan.
2008 Dates for your diary:
Black Workers’ Network Autumn Meeting – Saturday 6 September 10.30am – 1.00pm. STUC Centre, 333 Woodlands Road, Glasgow.
2008 STUC Black Workers Conference – Saturday/Sunday 4-5 October 2008, Salutation Hotel, Perth.St Andrew’s Day Anti Racism March and Rally, Glasgow. – Saturday 29 November 2008.
For further details STUC:Tel: 0141 337 8100 or email H. Carson.
Abortion – A Trade Union Issue
An overwhelming three quarters of people in Britain support a woman’s right to make her own abortion decision. Yet, unlike many European countries, British women still do not have that right. They have to persuade two doctors to agree to their decision on the basis of restrictive legal criteria. This allows the one in ten doctors who are opposed to all abortion the opportunity to delay, obstruct or even veto women’s decisions. NHS services vary widely across the country resulting in a ‘postcode lottery’ of intolerable delay and restrictions. As you may be aware, there are currently attempts to reduce women’s rights and access to legal abortion through the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. The TUC and STUC women’s committees have been campaigning strongly to oppose any restrictions to abortion. Abortion is a Trade Union Issue, please support this issue. To find out how you can support this issue or for further information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or contact them at 18 Ashwin Street, London, E8 3DL
Rape Crisis Scotland Helpline
Rape Crisis Scotland has a helpline number open daily from 6pm to 12 midnight. This is a free telephone number and is here to support anyone aged 13 and over who has experienced sexual violence. They also support family, friends and workers of survivors to help them in their supportive role.
This is a free and confidential services offering support and information. For further information please contact Rape Crisis Scotland Helpline on 08088 01 03 02
Balls To Poverty
Some of you will be aware that the Amicus foundation is, for the third year running, sponsoring the Balls to Poverty trip to South Africa. On March 28 students from South Nottingham College will be going to townships in the Cape Town area where they will be distribution 8,000 Unite braded footballs and providing football coaching sessions to 8,000 school age children.
The aim of the trip is to give the students an insight into how other developing countries work to improve their own communities through grass roots projects and they can take those experiences back to their own communities.
The students wear a Unite branded kit when carrying out training sessions at local schools and will be wearing the kit on their trip to sough Africa.
Each football costs £3.50. If you can help with the Buy a Ball campaign then please send a cheque (write ‘buy a ball’ on the back) payable to south Nottingham College to:
South Nottingham College
Diary Dates – April
18-20 April – TUC Black Workers Conference, Eastbourne
20-27 April – Pesach (Passover) – Jewish
21-23 April – STUC Congress
28 April – Workers’ Memorial Day
If you require any further information on Equalities or on any item in this bulletin, then please contact email@example.com or telephone 01382 226 268
WORLD BOOK DAY – 6TH MARCH 2008
Unite reading the way
NAG Workplace Reps reported the Union sponsored World Book Day Events in Yorkshire Bank and Clydesdale Bank a great success. Senior Rep, Sally Hill, said:
“Members were delighted to receive their free ‘quick read’ and it raised the Union’s profile”.
The reps also encouraged anyone taking a book who was not a member to take a membership form with them.
Unite supported World Book Day’s efforts in encouraging people to read more for the first time this year and the Reps got the Company to agree to match the Union’s funding for four events held in Leeds (2), Glasgow and Clydebank.
Similar events took place at HBOS
Unite working in Partnership with HBOS, Unite had a number of stalls in some of Company’s Corporate sites. This was well received by members with many remarking that this was a great initiative and appreciated the diversity of the Unite offering.
It is with deep sadness that I have to inform you of the sudden death of our Branch Secretary, Brother Jimmy Flanagan at home on 9th March 2008.
Jimmy was 80 years old and had been a member of the union for most of his adult life. He had been Cumbernauld Branch Secretary for over 30 years, also Delegate to the Cumbernauld Trades Council.
He was convenor of a local factory Burroughs/ Cumbernauld for a number of years and was successful in negotiating Equal Pay for women. He will be sadly missed.
Yours, Alex Bremner on behalf of Branch Committee and branch members
Remember if you want to raise a story or an event please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or Elizabeth.Cairns@unitetheunion.com