Thursday, 27 March 2014

"We will fight the attack on our trade unions and will defend the right to protest" - letter from local Trade Unionists to Burton newspapers

We will fight the attack on our trade unions and will defend the right to protest


Dear Editor

The government's announcement of an inquiry into trade union tactics is further proof of its determination to undermine the right to protest against its austerity program.

The trade unions customary right to strike and the right to protest are fundamental liberties that have already been significantly restricted by anti-union laws and legislation.

As millions of people face falling real wages, unemployment, part-time or casualised low-paid work, and the rapid destruction or privatization of the welfare state, they need trade union organization and the right to protest more than ever.

The governments gagging bill will further restrict the right to protest and the operation of pressure groups..

We will fight back against this attack on the right to protest

The right to protest is a fundamental civil liberty. The right to join a functioning and effective trade union has been a result of generations of working class struggle. We have no intention of giving up this right to a government that does not care about working people.


Paul Walker - RMT Burton Branch Chair

William Walker - Derby Peoples Assembly Against Austerity

Craig Jones - GMB

Zach Wayman – USDAW

Adrian Jenkins - Labour.

Andrew Betteridge -Labour

Keith Venables - Derby Unite Community Branch Secretary

Ellen Clifford - Disable People Against Cuts

Socialist Party - Stoke Branch

Cllr Neil Tilley - NASUWT

Rick Coyle - Unite Regional Officer for Burton and Uttoxeter

Cllr Peter Davis

Cllr Ron Clark – GMB

Dave Nellist – Trade Union and Socialist Coalition

Andy Bentley - National Shop Stewards Network

Becky Lopez - Unison Shop Steward

The press release also contained these quotes:

Paul Walker Burton Branch Chair of the RMT said; ‘Currently trade unions laws in this country are amongst the strictest in Europe.’ ‘Through legislation like the gagging bill this government wants to put further restrictions on the right to protest.’ ‘The right to protest and the right to strike are fundamental civil liberties that have been won for us through struggle and sacrifice.’ ‘We must not let a government with no mandate take it all away.’


Rick Coyle, Unite Regional Officer for Burton & Uttoxeter, “The Coalition has slashed the legal aid budget, brought in hefty fees for employment tribunals, and has doubled from one year to two the waiting time before workers get access to most employment rights.  They are intent on pricing people out of justice.  Strike action is rare in modern Britain, yet still the government persists in bashing unions and promoting yet more draconian laws. “


Monday, 3 March 2014

Victory in Hobbycraft!

I was contacted by a worker on nights.   His holiday pay was always short.  The problem was the same for everyone else on nights....

This is because Hobbycraft were not taking shift allowance into account.  This meant that every time a holiday day was used,  the result was a lower pay packet. The way Hobbycraft were calculating holiday pay was unlawful. Holiday pay should reflect all elements of pay,  not just basic pay.

All the workers had tried really hard to resolve this informally. In view of this I advised them all to individually raise a formal grievance.

I was not expecting a difficult or contentious grievance meeting. But here is a taste of senior management-speak,  Hobbycraft style:

"If it is that we have to pay out this extra money,  we will have to claw it back from somewhere else ....perhaps by reducing shift pay or hourly rates.....what are your thoughts to this? "

The tone was calm,  and the meeting professional, but the night shift workers knew that they were being threatened. Each individual grievance was the same,  although sometimes the threats differed.

The night shift held firm,  and no worker withdrew the grievance. 

The result?  The night shift now get full and proper holiday pay.  A payment to each worker has been made in respect of back pay for previous underpayments.

There are some important lessons here:

* Sticking together works. The concept of strength in numbers is as timeless as it is effective.

* For many reasons,  employers get it wrong sometimes. Where this impacts on a group of workers, this means there is a problem that can only be solved by the group. In this common scenario,  Unions are the only answer.

* Hobbycraft too have just learned an important lesson.  They are now clear that members of the Unite Trade Union must receive correct holiday pay!

As a result of one group of workers joining Unite and asking for representation,  management have improved holiday pay calculations for all in the company.  This is a small-scale example, but it proves that it's still very true to say that the existance of Unions benefits all workers, not just those who are members.