Friday, 18 November 2016

Imagine if we'd been told the truth....

It's 1980, and here's the truth about what's coming:

"There's going to be a huge power grab.

We are going to start with the "non-core" workers. Cooks, cleaners, security guards and so on.

They won't be employed by your employer.  They will be sold to a third party provider.  The new employer will have two ways of making profits: cutting corners, and attacking the workers.

We realise you won't want this, so new laws will prevent you from taking industrial action to support them or stop us.  The new laws will help us carve up public services so our mates can
profit from them,

We'll issue new entrants with worse contracts and lower pay.

Over time we'll replace the permanent contract with a temporary one.   Union solicitors will spoil our fun with those, so we will move to using agencies.

Unions and left leaning politicians across Europe will eventually force through agency worker regulations, but we will find ways around them.

By 2000, we will have completely defeated the millions of "non-core" workers,   Pay and conditions will be nailed to the floor.  They will have no security and no prospects.  We will expect full flexibility and the right to impose whatever changes we want.

But absolute victory - bordering upon humiliation - will not be enough.

Our development of "zero hour contracts" will be remarkably successful.  By 2015 we'll have well over one million people on them.  And the beauty is, we will widely introduce them into core workforces across the private sector. To get away with it, we'll ensure unions are kept out of the emerging new private sector.

These awful contracts will attract publicity, so we'll work hard at persuading the public that people really do like, want and need them.

In 2016 there will still be around 1.4 million people on an agency contract.  Many of these workers
will stay on the same placement for years.  But we will get away with it, plus it will be years before anyone notices our tax dodges.

We won't manage to kill the permanent contract.  But our friends in parliament will
give us the right to sack at will for the first two years in the job.,  We will be irritated by EU workplace discrimination laws, but we'll lobby hard and continue to move things our way.

But there will still be millions of people on permanent contracts with access to justice.  To stop this we will get close to bringing in "no fault dismissals", but the Tories bottle it. This will
trouble us, but as an interim measure we do get given the introduction of fees for Employment Tribunals. With fees, hardly anyone will be able to afford to claim so most bosses will have not worries.  Union members will still be able to take us on, but we will manage to de-recognise lots of them following TUPE transfers.

Best of all, our friends domination of the media will mean that most people will be ignorant of our sweeping power grab.  Our plan is brilliantly clever, and will all happen so gradually that you lot won't notice.  By 2016, over seven million people will be exploited.  Coordinated pro-business action will take place across the globe, particularly in the English speaking countries. There will be concerted efforts to use popular media across the world to demonise Trade Unions.

As for unionised permanent workers, we are delighted that new laws for 2016 will further weaken the right to strike, Better still, new laws will squeeze the cash unions can give to the Labour Party.

For at least the next 35 years or more, global corporations will pull the industrial strings of the UK. Our work will never be done.

Any political challenger will be ruthlessly savaged.

Overall, we will be very satisfied indeed with the way things are going."



It's great that Zero Hour contracts are unpopular, and there's a chance of them getting banned or scaled back.

But banning them completely is little more than applying a plaster at a time when major surgery is needed.  There are growing calls to overhaul employment law to take account of the gig economy. There are also calls for union protection for foreign workers.

But employment laws have been constructed to enable a miserable and never ending race to the bottom, There's downwards pressure on terms and conditions across all sectors of the economy. This trend has continued in good times as well as bad. This is not market forces, it's a market stitch up. The market is only "free" for those parts of it that global capital likes.  A truly free market would not have regulated Trade Unions.

The balance at work between worker and employer has moved way, way too far in the employers favour.

So what should be done?

We've been attacked on so many fronts for so long, I favour two very simple changes to redress the balance.

1. As things stand, it is assumed you won't be in a Trade Union. You must positively opt in to join one. I believe we should flip this the other way: all workers to be automatically enrolled into a union, with the right to leave whenever you like.  A small change yes, but one that would restore the ability of workers to be paid and treated properly.

2. For anyone not on a permanent contract, I believe they should be exempt from any Trade Union legislation & free to take any collective action they choose.   Dodgy contracts would soon disappear.....

Saturday, 20 August 2016

The calamity facing every Care Assistant & Support Worker

Quite rightly, a national blacklist exists of care workers who have abused or mistreated a resident or service user.

Workers in this sector are at high risk of being drawn into a serious investigation.  Service users make complaints - and by no means are all of them well founded.  The families of service users complain. Same as anywhere else, your colleagues can complain about you.

Because of the importance of any care home, the employer cannot ignore any complaint and must investigate all of them.   It's rare to find an experienced care worker who hasn't been involved in a disciplinary investigation.

So here's the really scary thing.  It's not just your job on the line when there's an investigation. It's your name and reputation.  A dismissal from the care sector carries with it the very real possibility that you will never work again doing what you love. In other words, your career can be completely destroyed....permanently.

I dealt with a hearing this week in a care home for adults with learning disabilities.  A service user with aggression issues opened an internal door where he shouldn't have been. A very decent care worker held up her hands in front of him to gesture he should not come closer.

To the colleague standing behind, it looked like a push. Because she is also a decent and caring support worker, she felt it her responsibility to report the incident.   I believe that both were being sincere.

The support assistant loves her job and has been devastated at the prospect of being banned from caring for others. The investigation has taken months (no good reason for that, but not unusual) and has made her unwell. So has been so upset and horrified by the allegations that she was in no fit state to represent herself at the most important meeting of her life. As with most cases I've done in the care sector, I believe the outcome would have been very different had the union not been involved.

Employers never need to prove something, they only need a "reasonably held belief" of guilt.  They look at "the balance of probabilities".

Faced with the calamity of dismissal from the care sector, it is extremely unwise not to be a member of a Trade Union.

Because so many are not, there are decent people on the blacklist who shouldn't be. Decent people whose lives have been needlessly ruined.  Residents have been deprived of quality carers.

Worse, some employers are spiteful when it comes to the blacklist, and use it as a threat. Some workers even end up on the list before any hearing has been heard. Because union membership is low in the sector, nobody has any idea how widespread this abuse of the workers is.

Like the old legal saying goes, "the client who chooses himself as his lawyer is a fool."

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Exhausted lorry driver told to carry on working...after 14 hr shift

There was still one more run to do.   But the shattered driver had already done over fourteen hours, and didn't feel safe to do anymore.

He pulled in and rang the transport office.   "There's only one job left, you can be back here in 45 minutes if you get going now."

"I'm shattered, I'm not safe to do anymore. I'll be back in five minutes so I can go home."

"Let me be very will complete the next job now or you will be failing to follow a reasonable request."

The driver stuck to his guns and refused to do the unsafe job.

The next day, he was suspended and placed under investigation for "gross misconduct".

Luckily, these are union drivers.   Understandably, the Snr Steward has been livid about the injustice of this.   Attempts to resolve the matter informally failed.

Last week - following a long suspension, the dismissal hearing was held.

About five minutes before kick-off, the Snr Steward had a quiet word with the transport manager.

"Obviously, I can't stop you from sacking ***.  But please understand that if you do, I will be forced to hold a general meeting outside of work for all the drivers."

I'm sure this little chat helped a lot, and probably contributed to the old line, "of course we may need to investigate further, so won't be able to give you a decision today."

I'm pleased to have learned that the charges have been dropped.  I honestly think we'd have balloted for action if the outcome had been different.

Unfortunately, the employers ego will not allow a 100% retreat.  They are suggesting a "performance improvement plan".  The Snr Steward has told them where they can put it :)

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

"Casework"? No, this was love, compassion and decency

I witnessed something deeply sad last week.  A female worker was in the workplace reception, clearly withdrawn, disturbed and unable to communicate.  Colleagues had thought there was a serious mental health issue and had reported the concern to management four hours previously.

When I arrived there was quite a commotion. Different managers and HR officers were each trying to persuade the worker to leave the building and go home.  One of them starting shouting things like "you are failing to follow a reasonable request....your refusal to leave the building is placing your job in jeopardy...we have phoned the police and they will be here soon".

The Unite Snr Steward was amazing.  He calmed everything and everyone down, and eventually managed to persuade the lady to give her car keys to a friend and accept a lift home.

I called back a few days later to see how things were.   By then, our member had been admitted to hospital with a serious mental health condition.

Today was the first time I'd been back to the workplace, and I am stunned by what I've heard.

This unfortunate woman lives on her own in a flat, and has no family in this country.  She was admitted (sectioned) with nothing other than the clothes she was wearing.    The branch bought the lady clothes and toiletries, which they gave to her during visiting hours on the first day of admission.

One of the senior Reps is visiting the lady every day and will continue for as long as required.  The branch has put credit on her mobile phone so she can speak to her Mum.   A plan of support for home visits will be put in place for when the discharge happens.

The lady remains very uncommunicative and unwell, but smiles when our Rep visits.  The Rep has told her that the union are like family and will stand by her everyday until she is well, and that we will support her 100% at work to ensure she is properly eased back, treated fairly and with respect.

The employer has seen an entirely different side to us.  The local branch has been sharply critical of the way management dealt with the issue. and has made it crystal clear that this was not misconduct, and that the Union expects nothing less than a caring, supportive employer to help the lady back into work when better health returns.

This sort of thing is what union officials like me call "casework". Today, that feels like a cold word. Casework is generally passed to me by the Reps when it's something they couldn't sort out themselves.  Only because I visited by chance last week do I even know about this.

Like so much of how unions help people, the word "casework" is woefully inadequate. What I've heard today has been about love, compassion, and decency.

I was speechless as I heard about the amazing support these wonderful Unite Stewards are giving to this very poorly member. Still now, I really don't have the words.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

The silent scandal of "PBA" contracts

It's now three years since I blogged about the Swedish Derogation

I wondered then how many "PBA" contracts there were. 

In 2014 the government decided it also wanted to know.  The government has surveyed 3000 Agencies to find out, but only 129 responded.

Estimates vary as to how many Agency workers there are in total.  There are at least 1.3m in the UK, most of them doing a permanent job.

Within my own patch, I would say that perhaps 20% of Agency workers are "PBA's".  If I'm right, that roughly means we are talking about more than 300,000 people nationally. It's a scandal that hardly anybody knows about.

So what are "PBA" contracts, and why are they used?

Well, the Agency Worker Regulations ensure that Agency workers get the same pay as perms after twelve continuous weeks on the "placement".   But a PBA contract is a loophole allowing an employer to pay the worker less than the perm.

The disadvantage for the employers are that the PBA worker becomes an employee of the Agency, and has better employment rights than the usual "contract for services" Agency worker. When work is genuinely temporary, or if a reputable employer is OK with paying Agency workers the same, then PBA contracts aren't used.

PBA contracts are used where there the role is permanent.  These contracts enable employers to pay less than the permanent workers already doing the job.  Where a role is permanent, then there should always be a "proper job", ie permanent contract. Unfortunately, PBA contracts give employers a get-out from doing the right thing.

These contracts are a clear abuse of what "temping" is supposed to be about.  PBA contracts are not about filling temporary roles with temporary people. They are filling permanent jobs with people who want permanent jobs....but with worse pay. And in the cases I've seen, it's much worse pay.

The PBA contracts only guarantee a low amount of weekly hours. This varies, although is typically around fifteen.  If there is a break in the "placement" then your full time pay goes down to half of what you are used to. Because you are employed, you have no access to benefits.   It really is dire for people in that situation.

I'm certain that many Agencies are illegally calculating holiday pay based around the fifteen hours rather than an average of the previous twelve weeks actually worked.  I don't think this has been legally tested yet, but it's a campaign I'm planning to run in a local workplace very soon.

I'm not aware of any PBA worker getting company sick pay.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I'm dismayed about lack of media coverage for workplace issues. Hardly anyone has heard of the "Swedish Derogation" or "the PBA's", but there's no way anyone could dismiss these issues as trivial.

PBA workers are systematically exploited.

I can think of no reputable reason why PBA contracts are needed. I can think of no reputable reason why UK law permits them to be allowed.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Our unhappy children - why is there no outcry?

One year ago, a major study found that the UK's kids are "among the unhappiest in the world".

This was news for one day. A few weeks later, there was a Huffington Post blog on this issue, which was only shared about 100 times.

The Guardian reported on shocking levels of violence at school, with 38% of 10-12 yrs old being attacked each month.  How much pressure "to succeed" our we putting on kids with all the tests and exams? New "Academy" schools are turning kids away with special needs, robbing them of the education they deserve.

In January, Childline raised the issue with it's own evidence.
The charity conducted 23,530 counselling sessions for kids in 1986-87. In 2014-15 they did 286,812.

The reasons are complex and need to be better understood.  Money doesn't explain all of it, but appears a fair place to start as around 30% of our kids are brought up in poverty. As for the two-thirds of kids not in anxious are teenagers about how they will afford a home, or avoid mountains of debt?  

But it's not just the money.  

An epidemic of insecure work is placing intolerable pressure upon our families.

For years it's been known that girls are under lots of pressure about body shape. But the help available is getting worse and not better. It's perverse that girls with anorexia are being turned away because they are "not thin enough".

Our government has responded to all of this by slashing the funding for kids mental health services.

It's obvious that domestic violence and other forms of abuse will make kids extremely unhappy. Why then are we allowing extreme cuts for the already inadequate services that help? Refuge, the largest provider of services for domestic abuse, has seen funding cut by 80% since 2011.

Cuts to legal aid are removing access to justice for parents fighting for safe homes. 

The happiness of our kids is something most of us care about a lot.  These problems require radical political solutions. Meanwhile, our children are growing up fast under a government that doesn't understand and doesn't care.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

The jaw-dropping difference a Union can make in a redundancy situation

Redundancy pay over £60,000 ? Most of these union members have exceeded that.

I posted a few days back about a win of £6400 , split amongst 32 people.

Well, I've just helped secure a similar win for 28 members sharing £15,000.  But the difference here is that the £15,000 is small change compared to the money the union had already negotiated.

Many years ago at this factory, you had your annual holidays in arrears.  In other words, you had to work a year before you had paid holidays.  When the company was taken over, these workers were all owed a fair bit of holiday pay. At that time, the union didn't want to cause the company a problem by making them pay it all out at once.  A nice little deal was done so that workers would get four weeks holiday pay whenever they left the business. 

Twenty eight of these long service workers have left (or are about to leave) under voluntary redundancy.

The employer is paying this outstanding holiday pay on top of the negotiated redundancy pay.

The workers get an unsociable hours allowance on top of basic pay. The employer has not included this in it's calculation of the historic holiday pay, although it had included it for all other holiday pay.

The calculation had not been an error.  HR argued that as the unsocial hours element didn't exist at the time of the original deal, they needn't pay it now.

After several weeks of reluctant conversations, the employer has come round to Unite's point of view.

On average. the workers had each been underpaid by between £500 and £600.

Few of these members would have noticed the underpayment.  Why? Because thanks to Unite, the basic redundancy payments (for workers with long service) were in the region of £50,000 to £55,000 each.  (It's very rare indeed to find a good redundancy agreement where there's no collective bargaining.)

Add on four weeks historic holiday pay.....add contemporary outstanding holiday pay.....add notice pay....and these workers each received a considerable sum.

As HR have accepted Unite are right about the calculations for historic holiday pay, they've now paid up.  So that's the extra £15,000 or so between 28 people. I have written this blog to show the hard work and eye for detail Unions have in securing the best possible outcomes for members.

The union members have signed a legal agreement which includes a confidentiality clause. This means I can't say who the employer is, or give names etc. But without doubt, the union has delivered an astonishingly good deal for these members.

Between them, these 28 workers have had over 1.6 million pounds.

Unions. Still winning.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

£6400 attendance bonus win today....

A factory I deal with pays a £200 attendance allowance each quarter, provided there has been no "absence".

A manager decided to interpret the word "absence" differently.  This quarter, thirty-two workers have been denied the payment, despite having had no sickness.

The workers had not been paid for a variety of reasons, eg

Bereavement leave
Attending a funeral
Pregnancy related reason
Emergency carer leave
Emergency parental leave

The Senior Steward spoke to me yesterday about this. I said that the attendance allowance is an "agreement" with Unite. A manager cannot change an "agreement" without our consent - the clue is in the name! I asked the Rep to speak to senior HR and get it sorted himself.  A "failure to agree" could trigger my involvement if that didn't work....

Fast forward to today, and it's been agreed that all thirty two workers will be paid in full, at a total cost to the employer of £6400.

Imagine if the Union wasn't there.......the workers would each have had to fight this through individual grievances.

If you look at this from the senior management perspective, we have really helped them out.  The business has made "an unfortunate error". Without the union, it would have taken far longer to realise the full extent of the bricks middle management had dropped...including potential exposure to discrimination claims.

Without the union, people would have become more upset and it could have become a resented wider issue within the workplace. Thanks to the union, senior management only needed to speak to our Rep and the problem was sorted in a flash. None of the thirty-two people needed to do anything. No tempers frayed, no difficult conversations, no stress. Payment by BACS for all this Friday. No legal letters, no grievances, no hassle. Just common-sense.

This is a typical Trade Union bread n butter win, the likes of which are secured daily across the country.

The most anti-union employers are the ones who have never dealt with us.  They genuinely have no idea how good for business we are.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

"Private sector workers have rejected Trade Unions"

This is a charge casually made by politicians, or written about in the media.  I can understand why the lay-person to may think the same, as only around 15% of private sector workers are in an independent union.

But the 15% figure really doesn't tell us the story.

The statutory procedure for union recognition has been in place for sixteen years.  Since that time, several hundred recognition agreements in the private sector have been achieved in this way.  

The CAC have confirmed a consistent trend during this time.  In every year of the CAC, around 65% of private sector workplaces voted YES and achieved union recognition when they were balloted.

But that doesn't mean that 35% of workplaces voted no. Overwhelmingly, the vast majority of these workplaces also voted YES, but the 40% turnout threshold wasn't met. Overall, it is clear that private sector workers do want unions to negotiate pay and conditions.

It is extremely misleading to say that "private sector workers have rejected Trade Unions.". The vast majority of them are simply denied the choice. As things stand, it is incredibly difficult for unions to enable a non-union workplace to have that choice.  Without political change, the vast majority of private sector workers are never going to be asked.

It's not just the UK where workers want unions but can't have them. For example, polling on this issue shows a very similar situation in America. Meanwhile, the media narrative is that unions are suffering terminal decline.

The view that private sector workers don't want representation is a convienient excuse for the likes of the CBI to dismiss unions as irrelevant. That is one thing that unions could never be.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Has Labour become a "hard left" political party?

Anthony Painter has just articulated why Labour may split.  Anthony is an influential figure within the party. His book, "Left without a future?" contains many thoughtful and interesting ideas, particularly around "predistribution". Anthony is very much a pragmatist.  His assessment of where the party currently is appears to be widely shared, and as such is deserving of scrutiny.

He makes two key points in his latest blog- a post that the Guardian is linking to.

"The evidence is that the Labour Party is now a far left socialist party. It was previously a soft left social democratic party.... This leadership election – whether Smith or Corbyn wins – is likely to reinforce this fact."

Anthony uses the word "fact". So what factual evidence is there that Labour is now a "far left socialist party"?

To answer this, we need to ask "what is the far-left?"

The UK left has always been dominated by those of us who believe in a mixed economy. These people believe in reforming and shaping capitalism.   Then there's the "hard left" - the "revolutionary left" of the SWP, or the democratic Marxists who want the complete eradication of capitalism.

There is not a single MP or Labour affiliate that wants capitalism completely abolished.  The "hard-left" in 2016 is a fragmented assortment of bitterly divided small groupings.

There can be no more than 5000 "hard left" activists across the UK. There are perhaps a dozen or so "hard left" activists in each constituency. They are being very vocal indeed and may be making some "coup" MP's feel very uncomfortable.  There are (and have always been) SWP banners at mainstream left gatherings....perhaps giving some the impression they are well supported...when in truth they are far, far from it.

Jeremy Corbyn is currently talking about tax-breaks and equal pay audits.  The stuff of revolution?

What are the "hard left" policies or long term Marxist ambitions of the Labour Party? No, I don't know either!

The "hard-left" is wholly absent from mainstream UK politics. In view of this fact, it can only be nonsense to say that Labour is now "far left" or "hard left". OK, we've got large differences on foreign policy and defence, but within the Social Democratic tradition, that's nothing new.

The terms "far" or "hard" left are being very casually used, causing untold electoral harm to our prospects.  The frightening sounding charge that we are "hard left" is unhelpful and untrue.

But Anthony's sincere belief of "far left" takeover leads him and others to a dangerous conclusion:

"For members and party representatives a key question will emerge: do you want to remain in a far left party or do you believe you can change it back to its social democratic ethos?"

I'm a bread and butter Trade Unionist, proud that in private sector workplaces we deliver a fairer share for workers of the wealth they create. That's a part of what makes me a Social Democrat / Democratic Socialist.  I haven't changed, and I've been in the party 19 years.  The affiliates haven't changed.

Members haven't changed either, albeit that there's now shed loads more of them.  Widespread talk of "entryism" is greatly wide of the mark, and is not supported by rational evidence.

We are still a Social Democratic party, albeit one that's building a clearer identity about who we are and why we are so passionate.   Passion and direction have both been absent for a long time, yet both are a necessary part of any movement.  

For twenty years, the party has been dominated by decent pragmatists - the ones who are 100% focused on electability, and how best we manage the Social Democratic society our movement built. It's been about seriously and authentically being a party of government, or a serious party of opposition that is ready to govern.

Labour is now controlled by those who felt airbrushed and excluded from the party during this time.  Now we have vision, and talk about "why" rather than "how".   Without the "why", core support has drained away (still is draining), and millions don't know what we are for. We've lost two elections, lost Scotland, and it's obvious to most members that the party establishment has no answers.

Pragmatic / moderate centre-left parties across Europe are losing support at an alarming rate.  It's politicians with clear and passionate beliefs that are surging in popularity.

Finally we are talking about what we are for, and the big issues that need addressing. Why we are passionate.  What sort of society we want. Vision. What we are against. People are flocking to join.  It isn't a cult based around one evidenced by almost the same thing happening in America.

I can understand why many feel they are getting their party back, and why others feel they are losing it.  But I see this as a yin and yang situation. A campaigning movement or a party of government? tTimes change, and to my mind it's clear that we must be both.

There's a real power struggle over the extent to which policy rests with the members or the PLP.  But this debate does not mean we are no longer a Social Democratic party, nor does it mean Labour suddenly disagrees with the parliamentary route to power.  Mass membership may mean that we can begin to build new ways to influence or set the political agenda, irrespective of whether the LP is in power. Mass membership is the strongest possible bulwark there is against entryism, and all of us ought to be delighted at the dramatic surge in ordinary people joining us.

The public and the party need to see the visible yin and yang of sensible moderates and passionate socialists working together. We don't have to like each other, but the millions that need us demand we work respectfully together. We need a split like we need a hole in the head.  Whatever the outcome of the leadership election, there will be no good reason why Social Democrats should leave the party.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

I can't think of a reputable reason why we don't have full employment rights from day one in the job

The man I spoke to today faces a horrible dilemma.

Six months into the job, and only today has the employer provided a contract of employment.

It states that the man has agreed to opt out of the Working Time Directive. He hasn't.

It doesn't say how many hours work per week are guaranteed.  During the last six months, hours worked have varied, but are seldom less than 50pw.  The pay is always the same.

It does say that overtime when required (including weekends) is compulsory.  It appears that the employer expects it to be unpaid, just like it has been during the last six months.

I've advised him of his rights to address these issues.  And yes, I can help him get paid for the hours he's worked...get the company to agree he hasn't opted out of the WTD....and get confirmation of the correct weekly hours etc.

What I can't do is be sure they won't respond spitefully.

If they dismiss him for "poor work" or "misconduct" after he raises these things, the likelihood is that the law will be fine with that.  This poor guy now has a very stressful decision to make about his next steps.

It's awful that there is a wait of two years before getting most unfair dismissal rights. Even under the last Labour government it was one year, and these things still happened with depressing regularity.

The following words are from this employers solicitors website:

"You may be aware that if you sack an employee, they only have the right to claim unfair dismissal if they’ve been employed for more than 2 years.  This minimum length of service is known as the qualifying period. This means that it’s relatively safe to sack someone who has not yet been employed for the qualifying period, even if you don’t have a fair reason for dismissing them."

My phone call today wasn't about a zero hour contract or an Agency contract. This is a worker with a "proper job"; a permanent contract. I feel for this man. Why should he be forced to choose between being exploited or the risk of being punished for objecting?  He's got eighteen months to go before he has proper employment rights, and that's a long, long time with a bad boss.

This sort of thing causes great anxiety, and can make people ill.

I can't think of a reputable reason why we don't have full employment rights from day one in the job.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

The surge in popularity for "the movement" #themovement

The extraordinary surge in membership of the Labour Party is easily explained.

A very simple something is being done....for the first time in decades. 

People are starting to hear about what the movement actually is!

It shouldn't be a surprise that tens of millions of people have no idea what it is. So why vote for it? Why support it by getting involved in a Trade Union or the Labour Party?

Ours is an essential, permanent mission to deliver everything decent that unregulated capitalism never will:

* Steady jobs, providing reliable incomes for stable, decent family lives.

* Fair distribution of the wealth created by capitalism.

* Dignity and safety when falling on hard times.

* Improving health and education, provided universally and free.

* Working towards first class public services, transport and national infrastructure.

* Leisure, leisure time and access to leisure for all.

Supporters of our movement differ on how we deliver.  I favour universal collective bargaining and free Trade Unions working towards the first two of these objectives, with a committed Labour government working towards the rest.  I think capitalism would then deliver on leisure, with the state stepping in for the bits the market won't do, eg public parks, libraries etc.

Our work will never be finished. When we are strong, we deliver social progress. When we are weaker, we do our best to resist the rolling back of previous progress.  We've largely been in "resist" mode since 1980, allowing those threatened by the movement to dismiss us as a protest movement.  This is nonsense.

In the UK, the Labour Party is the main political voice of our movement, although of course it must also reach out far beyond to gain power.  Together we are the only possible vehicle for positive transformation of society.  The very idea that our movement wants protest over power - a common criticism, indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of what our movement is for.

Our movement is permanently necessary and permanently relevant. It will still be here long after the death of anyone just born. With the exception of the Royal Family, Unions are the most enduring institutions this country has ever known.

Now that some people are managing to articulate what we are for, very suddenly Labour is the biggest political party in Europe.

The better understood our global movement is, the less people tolerate the daily abuse thrown at it by the media.  Wherever our movement is weaker, the attacks upon us are bolder.

Be it flag waving nationalists or foreigner bashing right-wingers, the political groupings doing well across Europe are the ones who very clearly stand for something.

For far too long there's been woefully little promotion about what the labour movement is, or what the Labour Party is for.  That's helped enable a gradual unpicking of our historic achievements. The return of mass poverty, a severe housing crises and ever creeping privatisation being just some of the awful consequences.

Those of us who understand our movement are hugely proud of it, so let's shout it from the rooftops and keep growing.

What does #themovement mean to you?

Friday, 15 July 2016

My complaint to the BBC about it's industrial coverage

BBC Complaints,                                                                                                      
PO Box 1922, 
DL3 0UR.                                                                           

15th July 2016.

Dear Sir / Madam,

I am writing to raise a formal complaint.

Several years back, the BBC stopped employing industrial correspondents.

This is a crucial role. Without it, workplace trends and developments are absent from our media.

There have been profound developments in our workplaces during the last quarter of a century. Occupational sick pay is becoming rare. Overtime is often unpaid. Bullying is rife. Job security has been greatly, greatly reduced. Workers with less than two years service have virtually no rights at all, and are routinely sacked at will. Hundreds of thousands of Agency workers are in a permanent placement, but never get a permanent job. A seventeen year old owed £15 in unpaid wages is now expected to pay a small fortune to take the matter to a Tribunal.

The vast majority of workers aged under forty face an inadequate pension when they retire. The new “pensions” are not even pensions, they are a risky savings plan. The “pension” may be taken as a lump sum, thus not necessarily providing an income in old age. Even the smartest and most sensible people have no way of planning for the future, as the value of the “pension pot” is impossible to predict.

The impact of technology is blurring the divide between work and leisure, resulting in longer hours and additional pressures upon family life. However in other ways these developments can be positive.

None of these issues are trivial. My complaint is that all of these issues are woefully under-reported, not reported, or misreported, largely due to the absence of industrial correspondents.

It’s not all doom and gloom. Unions do some astonishingly clever work, and in 2015 delivered record amounts of compensation for members. For Unite The Union, the figure was £165m in 2015 alone. Great legal victories have recently been won by Union solicitors, which have resulted in major improvements to the way holiday pay must be calculated. The new laws on holiday pay remain widely flouted by the employers. It’s quite a complex story, and who in the media other than a specialist industrial correspondent could tell it?

Industrial disputes are usually complicated, and as such are very difficult for any well intentioned reporter to cover fairly. The nation is considerably less well informed without the industrial correspondent. Given the well known hostility to workers organisations in other UK media, the withdrawal of the BBC from serious and proper coverage is something that is clearly against the national interest.

The BBC still finds value in employing a team of Royal correspondents. I am unclear as to what particular complexities are required of the role. I am unclear as to why the BBC feel that general reporters cannot cover royal stories about the latest baby, choice of dress, public appearance, health news or other story. I am not saying that there should not be Royal correspondents, rather, I am observing that there appears no justification on grounds of cost that there can be no industrial correspondents.

Democracy is cheapened by the failure of the BBC to bother covering workplace trends. Most people simply don’t know about massive changes such as hefty charges to get your injustice heard in a Tribunal. If that particular change had been properly covered during the days of the industrial correspondent, the controversial policy would likely have resulted in a national outcry.

To resolve my complaint, I am requesting the BBC undertake a high-level review to examine the case for re-establishing this vital public service. If you are prepared to do this, I trust that you can confirm that the conclusion of the review will be made available to the public.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Mr R Coyle.

Further reading :

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Another "kitchen sink dismissal" hearing...

This what I call a dismissal meeting where the employer cannot hide it's feelings, and throws everything it can think of at the person they want shot of.

I'm dealing with one, and it's been extremely time consuming - with over 100 pages of A4 to take in before I got actively involved.

In this case there's five disciplinary charges, each very serious.  If done properly, any four of these could potentially be a "safe" dismissal.

Charge 1:

Bullying, backed up by three witness statements.  The statements just happened to surface about a week before the disciplinary letter was sent.  We now have a statement from one of the three admitting that they were forced into making the statement!  This matter is now subject to grievance, so the employer couldn't talk about it at the dismissal hearing.

Charge 2:

Not content with "gross misconduct", the employer has also tried "dismissal on grounds of capability". They say the objectives set via performance management have neither been met, or attempted, thus making this charge "gross misconduct" and "capability" -  a typical kitchen sink line to take!

A grievance has been raised, as my member has never seen the objectives and did not agree to them. The company claim it was emailed, but no record of any discussion or email appears to exist.

I was able to prevent this issue from being discussed at the disciplinary.

Charge 3:

"Colleagues complain you are unhelpful". Again, very recent witness statements just happened to have surfaced during the previous week.  I pointed out that it was inappropriate that the first occasion to discuss was the dismissal meeting, and insisted they track back and have a proper investigation before going down this path.

So this became another thing they couldn't talk about...

Charge 4:

To my amusement, this was the same charge that had already been heard under gross misconduct three weeks previously, where the worker was downgraded. That's still subject to appeal.

I pointed out that you cannot be disciplined for the same thing twice, and after discussion they agreed we couldn't talk about it again, and the allegation was withdrawn.

Charge 5:

The detail escapes me now, but I do remember that I didn't let them talk about it!

The employer agreed to adjourn the hearing.  In the meantime, the lady in question remains suspended on full pay, and the matter looks set to drag on for several weeks, possibly much longer. Hopefully I've helped pave the way for a settlement agreement, which potentially will be the best solution for all.

In the meantime, it's a real mess.

I can't think of any good reason why "kitchen sink" dismissals are attempted. Driven by unpleasantness, they cause great distress to the person getting the letter, and often end up making a dismissal less rather than more likely. Usually, there's no winner.

Employers.  A fair number of them really are useless.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

A very busy week of collective bargaining......

I've (hopefully) helped resolve two "failures to agree" during the last week.

Company 1

The workers are contracted to work a minimum of 45 hours pw, although typically they do more like 55.  Through negotiations, a 2% rise was possible on basic pay.   The company does not pay overtime.

Our plan to is to improve conditions of service.  Rather than go for the 2%, we've managed to secure the establishment of an overtime rate.  Overtime will now kick in at 47.5 hours, payable at time and a quarter.   Over the course of this year, that will be much the same as getting a 2% increase.  But for every year in the future, the workers will gain.    The members would like time and a half, kicking in at 45 hours.  But we have to start somewhere, and we can build on this.  Collective bargaining is usually the taking of progress in achievable steps....

In return, we've recommended an offer that includes a low cost of living rise of just 0.7%. There's a small number of part-time workers who won't benefit from the overtime, but we have got them a one-off cash sum equal to 1.3%, which they will get in addition to the 0.7%.

We've also secured some small "bread n butter" wins.  Eg a contractual right to full payment for a shift if it's cancelled within 12 hours notice.   Over time, these little wins really do add up to a much better job....

There's no company sick pay scheme, and that will be a large focus of our efforts in future negotiations.

Last year there was no minimum length of the working day, meaning that you might get a 4 hour job, leaving you with extremely long days the rest of the week.  We secured a minimum day of 8 hours, even if the day was actually less than that.

There's so much good that can be done, without it costing an employer a fortune.

Company 2.

Negotiations dragged on months before I was asked to intervene.  A miserable 1% had been offered, and management were sticking to it.

Company poverty was being pleaded, but our stewards had no financial information about the employer. It appears that this particular division of the company is very profitable.  This employer hides it's great wealth very well as part of tax avoidance. I had a look at the info available at Companies House, and it revealed absolutely nothing of any use.

I put a collective bargaining disclosure request in.  This would have entitled me to details of profits and other info.  This sort of employer hates these requests, and will stop at nothing to avoid giving the info.  I'm told that some will even de-recognise a union rather than give the info.   With membership at over 70%,  I had little fear of that in this situation, but I didn't seriously expect the request to be complied with.  I calculated it would pressure them into the ballpark of reasonable, and so it has proved.

All our members wanted was a rise of 2%, as that's pretty much what other union workers in Burton have had.

It took a long meeting (six hours!) with ACAS to get to what I thought was a reasonable place. We've come away with 2% for this year, and 2% for next year.  Now that the bargaining for this negotiation is complete, the employer is no longer required to process the disclosure request.

Both offers are subject to members voting to accept.  I hope they will.  Neither of these offers could be improved by negotiations alone.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Secured win for drivers...but feel sad

Two months back, a driver told me he'd had his hours cut from 40 to 30 pw.  No conversation, no consultation, just a note on the board informing all ten drivers.  The cut was with immediate effect.

I wasn't that surprised, as charities can be awful employers.

It's taken a long time. but finally this week the grievance hearing was heard.  At first sight, it looks like I helped secure a rosy ending:

* The mans hours have been restored to 40.
* Full back pay is agreed, so that the man hasn't lost a penny.
* The employer has decided to extend this result to the other nine drivers, who are not union members.

Normally, something like this would keep me going all week.

But this vital charity is suffering the effects of the cuts.  It's just lost a third of it's revenue, as the council has been forced to slash financial support.  It's a brutal cut, implemented without phasing.

So cuts to these workers hours and pay are still a possibility...although I'm sure management will do things properly next time.

Charities are suffering savage cuts in the Burton area, and very few people seem to know about it.  I understand that over 40 charities have been hit, with many of them providing vital services to vulnerable and elderly people. I will be talking to East Staffs TUC to see what can be done to change this. I also want to look deeper into this so that I better understand the scale of the crises.  Efforts are also underway to create a Unite Community branch in Burton.

Edit: have just dealt with a Burton charity worker who is expected to give about 10 hours unpaid overtime each week. This charity is financially secure.  The contract of employment states that they can do this.  They have been insisting that they can do this.  I've emailed the Unite member some advice, which she has shown management.  In a nutshell, I've said that a contract of employment cannot override there must be payment (at least the minimum wage) for the hours worked. The employer has backed down.  Don't feel sad about that one!

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Thoughts on the #BMA16 plan for "two weeks self-cert".

Workers are well aware of the "self-cert" system when you are off sick.  It's supposed to be seven days, then you need a doctors note. In practice, it's often five days, and I've even seen some employers insist you go to the GP on day one of absence.

The BMA want this to be increased to two weeks.   They also say that GP's are spending 20% of time on non-medical work.

In a world of reasonable people, the government would want to listen.  Business would want to listen.

But no.

The government has already dismissed the idea.  This is despite the fact that the BMA has not even had the chance to raise the issue with them and present it's case.

I think this tells us a lot about the government.

But what about business?  The CBI have also dismissed the idea.

Neil Carberry, director of employment and skills at the CBI, said: “When someone is sick enough to be off work for a week, they should try to see a doctor. Self-certification is only appropriate for short-term absences, when a doctor’s visit may not be required.”

Has Neil tried to get into his GP surgery lately?  Perhaps he has.  Is this why he has carefully used the word "try" ?

After three days self-cert with a terrible throat (the type with horrible white spots!) you might ring the GP. Typically, the GP will say,  "These things often go away by themselves, and I'd rather that than prescribe anti-biotics.    If you are no better in a week, ring the surgery and we'll see you. If it gets worse in the meantime, ring us."

So that's ten days of absence before the GP will see you.   But the GP is still required to write a note for work after seven days.

There are two problems:

1.  Employers asking for the note earlier than seven days are placing unnecessary pressure on the GP, the worker, and the relationship between the GP and patient. This is a wholly avoidable cause of stress upon workers and GP's.  This could be resolved even if the period of self-cert isn't extended as suggested by the BMA.

2. Employers are bound to ask for a note after the self-cert expires, yet the GP may well not have wanted to see the worker yet.  It would be sensible to change that,

How is a GP supposed to assess "fit for work" for a patient they are not ready to see? Is this ethical?

In practice, a call to your surgery for a note for work does not get you an appointment. It may get you a "triage call back", or you may be told to come in to collect the note tomorrow.  Where the GP does the note the following day, it may not be back dated to when the request was made.  This can land workers on the wrong side of strict absence management policies, and often results in the worker making a further request for the surgery to correct it's note.

So let's go back to the words of Neil Carberry.  He is saying that self-cert is only appropriate when a GP visit is not required.  I agree with that.   However, I think Neil would really struggle if asked to justify his view that seven days self-cert is always adequate.

Clearly there is merit in the BMA plan. At the very least, I think workers should be able to extend the period of "self-cert" where they report that they have contacted the GP, but the GP has stipulated a time beyond seven days before they want to see them.

Perhaps the government and CBI could give listening a chance.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

The misery of "protected conversations" #ukemplaw

"Sign this settlement agreement, or you will be fired at your disciplinary hearing next week"

Workers faced with this pressure used to be able to complain to an employment tribunal.  The government decided to stop protection for workers in these situations, and in July 2013 introduced "protected conversations".

I believe the thinking behind this change was to bring about back door "Beecroft proposals" so as to enable no-fault dismissals.

Thankfully, solicitors for the employers have tended to advise caution, and the impact of "protected conversations" isn't as widespread as I feared.

But when I do come across it, I really feel for the worker concerned.

I've seen three this year.  Not many, perhaps, but for me that was three families too many thrown into unexpected turmoil and distress.

The last one was typical of all that I've seen.  The conversation went like this,

"'ve been implicated in an investigation.  Things aren't looking good for you.  I really like know I do....but I can't see any other outcome other than dismissal if this gets to a hearing. Look John, none of us want that....please take a look at this and take legal advice. "

The worker is then handed a lengthy settlement agreement, which includes a payment.  The payment varies.  The ones I've dealt with have mostly been for workers on average earnings, and the settlement agreements have tended to be for about five grand.

The family then has some horrible thinking to do.  What on earth could the disciplinary situation be? In the cases I've seen, the worker genuinely didn't know. In two of the cases I've seen this year, the worker had stress/mental health issues, and was unable to face the prospect of being the subject of a disciplinary investigation.

I am very sceptical that these workers genuinely had committed any misconduct. In the cases I've dealt with, the workers had absolutely no idea of what they'd supposed to have done.

A "protected conversation" leaves the worker in no doubt that the employer doesn't want them anymore. That hurts. A lot.

So yes, I can assure them of full support.  I can point out they can't be forced to accept the settlement agreement.  I can assure them that the union will fight any disciplinary proceedings as strongly as we can.

But in the cases I've dealt with.....leaving the company feels inevitable after the "protected conversation".  Who wants to work for a company that doesn't want you?

"Protected conversations" : not nice, and not necessary.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

My thoughts on "The great wages grab", and what should be done about it

It's scary but true - the amount of the UK's wealth that goes into wages is falling, and has been since the mid 1970's.  The problem is very real, and even right-wing commentators have expressed worry that this could "lead to capitalism's undoing".

During the same period, the decline is linked to a dramatic decline in collective bargaining coverage:

The "Gini" index refers to inequality.

These graphs are grim.  Deliberate attacks on collective bargaining have reduced the amount of wealth going into wages,enabled greater inequality, and enabled out of control executive pay.  And as the next graph shows, the top 0.1% do perversely well where collective bargaining is lower:

It’s VERY hard to get a union going. In order to have your Human Right to bargain collectively for pay and conditions, you have to go through loads of hoops, often in a stressful environment as the employer applies it’s pressure.  

How ridiculous it would be if other Human Rights, eg trial by jury, was something you only got if you were well informed enough to register to opt-in? 

It would be laughable to say “people should have the right NOT to want trial by jury” – or indeed to allow people to opt out of other Human Rights. The point about rights is that they are supposed to be universal. UK law makes it much much easier to opt out of union rights than it does to opt in.

The is no justification for the way UK employment law is structured. The default position is that there will be no union and no collective bargaining. What we have got is a statutory recognition procedure that sounds reasonable, but isn't. In practice, the odds are stacked against achieving collective bargaining.  

The law doesn't even guarantee union organisers reasonable access to the workers so they can make an informed choice.  Normally, a "recognition campaign" starts with leafleting outside the workplace gates.  Not a fair start...

When it comes to union recognition, both the union and the employer run a campaign. This process creates a range of emotions in workers, eg excitement, stress, pressure. The nastier the employers campaign, the more stressful it can be for people.

Why should a basic matter of Human Rights be forced upon people as a controversial choice they have to make? 

Our law is upside down. Here's how I think it should look:

All workplaces should automatically fall under a collective bargaining agreement, with Union recognition the automatic assumption.  A de-recognition procedure is not necessary. If workers don't want collective bargaining, the workplace union will either fail to submit a wage claim, or to do so would be pointless if the workers did not support it. The "right" not to have collective bargaining is nonsense and the idea deserves contempt.

Smaller workplaces could be serviced via pooling them together into local union branches. (Currently, our weak recognition laws do not even apply to "bargaining units" of less than 20 workers, although the issue can be forced by industrial action.)

As part of a new law, all workers would be automatically enrolled into the recognised union via salary checkoff (but given the right to leave.) 

What is astonishing is just how fantastic for Britain the effects of this would be:

* All working people would have a collective voice at work, with access to advice from day one of employment.

* Sexual Harassment would be greatly reduced.

* Wages would go up. This would help economic recovery and social justice far better than any living wage policy ever could.

* Sick pay would gradually improve, reducing the need for workers to get into trouble with loan sharks. This would relieve pressure upon families.

* Society would become fairer and more equal.

* The pressure upon families of insecure work would ease as jobs become more secure.

* Things would get much better for "non-core workers", such as guards, cooks, cleaners etc, most of whom are treated terribly.

As wages go up, so do tax receipts.

The national share of wealth earned by workers would start to increase, delivering fairness, delivering justice. We would be building a Britain to be proud of.  There would be a floor you cannot go below, but also a capped ceiling you cannot go above. Social cohesion, increased equality and a happier population would undoubtedly be the outcome.

What's not to like?  Without a dramatic shift in law and policy on Trade Unions, the problems will only get worse. Pro-union policy is the only way to deliver a fair share of wages, stability of employment, and an improved economic system that's less prone to the reckless behaviour of the few.

Further reading:

LSE on the reduction of GDP going into wages.

NEF - "UK paying price for decades of anti-union policy and law"

TUC - Report, "The Great Wages Grab"

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Workers being charged for PPE, "short shifting" and the rise of exploitation

The Clipper warehouse uses an Agency for the hiring and firing of warehouse operatives.

On day one, you *have* to pay £2 for your Hi-Viz.  But really you are only renting if for the time you are there.  Yes, you have to give it back to the Agency on your last day!   Employers are legally required to provide all PPE.  Unfortunately, this unlawful practice has become widespread, as employment agencies have realised this is something they can get away with.

Lots of dodgy Agency practices are going on, and who can stop them without a workplace union onsite?  We are even seeing workers being charged an an admin fee for getting paid.

The Amazon warehouse in Rugely does this thing called "Short Shifting".  That's when they text you to say what time they want you the following day.  So the worker sorts out child care / transport etc and turns up for work at the correct time.  Then they are told they are not needed, and are sent home without pay.  The worker is out of pocket for having turned up for work as requested. Workers who fail to turn up when asked are likely not to be asked back again.

Sickeningly, I am aware of a warehouse involving managers promising young women extensions to temporary contracts in return for sexual favours.  It was the warehouse HR manager who told me about that in confidence on the day of her resignation.  Her efforts to make management behave more reputably had not worked well.

Thanks to Unite, the shameful goings on at the Sports Direct warehouse have been well documented. But Sports Direct is not a one-off, far from it.

Wherever there is unchecked power, there is abuse.  And there is widespread abuse in non-union warehouses across the UK.

"Sack that fat b*****d by lunchtime, I don't like the way he walks", said the warehouse manager to the Team Leader.  The TL rang me in confidence - crying - unable to continue in this environment as what he was asked to do each day was sickening him.

There are quite a number of efficient warehouses, where workers at least have stable shifts.  But many are chaotic, with workers forever getting messed about.

It's the norm in unionised workplaces for reasonable notice of forced changes to your shift pattern. Between 14 and 28 days notice is typical.  But for workers in a non-union warehouse, notice may well be less than 24 hours. Obviously, this places terrible pressure upon families.

The employer has three choices.  They use an agency, or they follow the growing hoards of employers employing over 800,000 people on miserable zero hour contracts.

The third choice is to directly employ the workers on a proper contract, and treat them properly. Evidence of this option is becoming difficult to find.

Unions are doing what they can to show that things will get much worse if the UK leaves the EU.  If only the public understood how bad things are already are...

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

The treatment of security guards is false economy, unnecessary and cruel.

John and Graham both started work at the local factory more than twenty years ago.  They both agreed to an internal transfer and became Security Guards in the gatehouse.

That wasn't a good decision...

During the last ten years, they have been "TUPE'd" to several different employers.

There were ten of them when the factory first contracting out security to a third party / dodgy employer.  John and Graham are the only remaining guards from that time.

So why have 80% of these workers quit since 2006?

Quite simply, they've been treated appallingly.  This pair have doggedly used their union to defend what decent terms and conditions they have, including an enhanced overtime rate and modest sick pay scheme. Sometimes these things get paid,,,sometimes they don't....sometimes it's not done properly. Everything in every direction is always hassle.

Despite constant pressure to attack these things, the duo have held firm and resisted.  But most walked away because they didn't want or need the grief.

In ten years, they haven't had a pay rise.

There have been too many injustices to list here.  I will simply chose one...

Two years ago, Graham hit his 20 year anniversary of continuous employment at the factory. He was contractually entitled to a payment of £400.  Factory workers still directly employed by the factory also get a framed thank-you, plus a meal out.

Graham got nothing.  Quite rightly, he raised a grievance.  The employer agreed the £400 was an entitlement, and blamed the factory for not paying it to them so they could pass it on.  I thought it was very sad that Graham wouldn't even raise the thank-you or meal.  He wanted neither from them,

The grievance outcome was that the employer promised to get the £400 sorted ASAP.

It's still not sorted now.

Even the HR at the factory became disgusted at the behaviour of the security firm.  They could show that the payment of the £400 wasn't their responsibility. However, they eventually took the extraordinary decision to pay the money directly to the security firm. They instructed them in writing to pay the money to Graham ASAP.

The security firm simply kept the £400 ! Words fail me.

Understandably, the factory management are annoyed.  I will be extremely surprised if a contract extension is awarded to this abysmal firm.

But that won't be the end of the story, it will simply be the beginning of a new chapter, and a new attempt to get these men to sign a terrible new contract.

So where is the sense in all of this?

Ten years ago, there were ten highly motivated guards who knew the factory inside out.  They were proud to work there. They undertook more patrols than was required. They were friendly and helpful to visitors.

Now there are ten miserable, demotivated guards, all going through the motions and wishing they were somewhere else. Only John and Graham have a proper, permanent contract. Some of them would turn a blind eye to a security issue. I don't blame them.

Ten years ago they were part of the factory xmas party. Now, like the cleaners, they have become invisible.  Now they are excluded from all factory social functions.

I wish this story was a rarity.  But this sort of shoddiness applies to thousands of businesses across the UK, and are found in most sectors of the economy.   It means hundreds of thousands of unhappy people, and thousands of less secure businesses.  What major business has kept it's guards in-house? I can't think of any.

The treatment of security guards is false economy, unnecessary and cruel.

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