We need your help.
We’re getting ready to launch a new campaign for 2014, calling for fair pay and secure jobs.
We need you to help us get ready for that.
One of the things that would really help is examples and stories about how low pay and insecure work affects people’s lives.
Do you have a story to tell?
There’s a good chance that you are worse off than you were a decade ago. Average wages have not kept up with prices over the last ten years.
And it’s getting harder to feel secure at work. Over a million people are employed through temporary employment agencies, and millions more on ‘zero hours’ contracts, not knowing if they will work from one week to the next.
This Government of millionaires doesn’t understand what it’s like to worry about money, or fret about whether the job will be there next month – so we’re going to need people like you to help us explain it.
If you or your family life are affected by low pay or worries about job security, we want to hear about it.
Whether it’s living with the stress of money or work worries, missing out on family time because you’re always on call for work, or fearing that your wages won’t stretch to cover a decent quality of life – will you help us paint a picture of what working life is like for too many of us?
You can help us fight to change it.View Comments
It makes great television, doesn’t it? Watching harassed people dashing up and down aisle looking for the right item before the clock ticks down! So where is Dale Winton and his cheeky jokes? Oh hang on, this isn’t Supermarket Sweep…. It’s an Amazon warehouse filled with stressed agency workers.
The Panorama investigation highlighted the frankly appalling conditions inside an Amazon warehouse. You have to say, Amazon is a thoroughly modern employer. It takes on thousands of agency workers to deal with the Christmas rush, makes them work shifts lasting ten and a half hours, walk many miles through the warehouse, and pick out items at the rate of one every 33 seconds. Can’t keep up? Don’t come back.
The undercover reporter compared his experience to being a robot – when they were working, they were expected to function in an automatic fashion. No need to think, no need for personality, just the ability to walk. And walk. And walk. The company takes what it needs from the workforce and to hell with the rest.
I can already hear the counter argument - Well at least they’ve got a job! Except that’s not really the point. Everyone wants more jobs, and everyone wants companies to succeed. But does that give multinational companies the right to drive individual workers to the point of stress, exhaustion, and illness? When someone says they are ‘willing to work’ they do not mean they are ‘willing to be exploited’. Amazon’s line of defence was that their operations adhered to all regulations and employment standards. All that tells us is that current employment standards are weak.
I’m really pleased that the Labour Party has committed to tackling the loopholes in agency workers contracts and the abuse of zero hour contracts. Similarly, the Party is commitment to a living wage. These measures should improve the lot of workers trapped in the world of low wage insecure employment. However, there is something more than simple money. Workers are human beings too, and deserve to be treated as such. People deserve a say in how their working lives are conducted.
Whilst I sincerely believe that everyone at Amazon should join a union, the reality is that this multinational is openly hostile to trade unions and people are scared to join. When the Graphical, Print, and Media Union (GPMU) tried to organise at the Milton Keynes distribution centre, Amazon hired union-busters from the US to fight back. It’s alleged that at least four workers were victimized or sacked for their union activities.
Perhaps the solution is to give trade unions a new right of access to non-unionised workplaces. This way, with appropriate notice, a union could go into a workplace to ensure company compliance with minimum wage legislation, working hours regulations, health & safety law, etc. It ensures that companies like Amazon can’t hide behind self-regulation, and gives a voice to those workers who are too frightened to speak out or join a union. It’s not a particularly radical solution – it exists elsewhere in the world – but it would certainly sort out companies like Amazon who treat their workers like automatons and push them to the very limit.
So what am I ordering from Amazon this Christmas? A book entitled “Why Join a Trade Union?” (item number 1849540683) with a note on the order saying that it’s a present for the picker…. shame they’ll only get 33 seconds to read it…
Last week, we started our new social media campaign - from now until Christmas, Fridays will be known as #redtapeday.
Each week, we're focussing on a different area of so-called 'red tape' that risks being slashed away if Cameron gets his way on renegotiating in Europe.
European Employment Law is not the easiest thing to campaign on. It’s complicated, and almost impossible to get across in simple messaging. Terms like the Social Chapter or the Working Time Directive don’t mean much to most people.
But these European laws might be complicated, but they’re also really important.
Researching this campaign, it struck me just how many of the rights at work that we take for granted are guaranteed for us by Europe. The one that stood out for me is the right that pregnant women have to time off for ante-natal appointments. Women in the UK have that right because of laws passed at a European level.
When Cameron calls European employment rights "red tape", or when he says that people in Britain get ‘nothing’ in return for signing up to the Social Chapter, it’s rights like that he’s talking about.
That’s why we’re doing #redtapefriday - to help our activists communicate to their colleagues and friends the huge breadth of the rights that could be at risk if this European ‘red tape’ is cut away.
Last week, hundreds of people tweeted and facebooked about some of the basic employment rights that we get from Europe. Like the right to written terms and conditions. Or equal treatment for agency workers.
This week, we’re focussing on one of the starkest area of employment rights that come from Europe – the laws that limit children and young people working. It’s thanks to European law that it’s illegal to employ uner-13s, that there’s tough limits on the number of hours that they can work from 13+, and there’s specific health and safety protections in place for children and young people working.
Is that red tape? I think not. It’s pretty fundamental, isn’t it?
That’s why all this talk of red tape, worthless rights and pulling the UK out of European social and employment law is so dangerous. Because these rights are crucial.
Of course, pulling the UK out of European law wouldn’t have to mean that all these rights would go. A government could choose to pass them all into UK law.
But that’s not good enough.
If Cameron had no intention of scrapping any of these rights, he wouldn’t be asking for them to be ‘repatriated’ to the UK. In Government, the Tories have chopped away at many of our employment protections, making it easier to fire people. Their record speaks for itself.
And the then-leader of the Tory MEPs well and truly let the cat out of the bag when he said:
“Surely one of the best ways for the EU to speed up growth is to scrap the Directorate-General for Employment and Social Affairs in the Commission and repatriate its responsibilities to national governments. Then we could scrap the Working Time Directive, the Agency Workers Directive, the Pregnant Workers Directive and all of the other barriers to actually employing people if we really want to create jobs in Europe.”
And we all know the lure of the race to the bottom to the free-marketeers. A common market without common employment protections would open the door to a neverending downward spiral towards 'labour market flexibility' - lower pay, longer hours, shorter holidays, less job security.....
That’s why we’re doing #redtapefriday – because these rights matter, and we have to fight for them.
A couple of people posted on our facebook group asking what specific rights the Tories are planning to slash. I just want to re-iterate that this is not what this campaign is about. We're absolutely not saying that the Tories plan to slash every single one of these rights guaranteed by Europe. But we are saying:
- The Tories want to pull the plug on the cross-Europe guarantee to rights at work. They've said numerous times that they want these issues to be dealt with at a national level, not a European one.
- It's perfectly reasonable to ask why the Tories want to get rid of the cross-Europe guarantee. Given their record on rights at work in domestic legislation, I think we're right to be worried that without that European guarantee, some of those rights would be slashed away. Many Tories have said as much (see that quote from leading Euro-Tory "....Then we could scrap the Working Time Directive, the Agency Workers Directive, the Pregnant Workers Directive."
- Scrapping the European guarantee to these rights would make the race to the bottom worse. We would hear that in order to remain 'competative' we need to increase 'labour market flexibility'. We know this would happen because we've heard it before. As soon as other countries took the opportunity to water down pay, conditions and job security, there'd be pressure for the UK to follow suit to keep business here.
These rights are important. Cameron doesn't get that - we know that because he said that Britain got 'nothing' out of signing up to the Social Chapter. That's why we're highlighting just how fundamental some of these rights really are.View Comments
The brutal display of employer power during the Grangemouth Oil Refinery dispute has been pretty shocking. A workforce that sought to protect their union representative from employer victimisation was first locked out, and then threatened with the complete closure of the refinery unless they accepted reductions in their pay, pensions, and the virtual destruction of their union in the workplace. Faced with the annihilation of their entire livelihoods, it is unsurprising that the workforce capitulated and accepted their employer’s demands. The dispute raises serious questions about the nature of economic power in our country; how can a billionaire tax exile wield such power over the lives of thousands of workers in Britain? How can we allow such a vital piece of our national infrastructure to be at the whims of a single private individual?
But the sting in the tail of the whole affair is the announcement by the Conservative-led coalition (despite some ineffectual mutterings from the Liberal Democrats) of an inquiry into allegations of industrial intimidation by the trade union. Sorry? Who was being intimidated? The company intent on shattering the union, or the workforce faced with the loss of their jobs and livelihood?
This revolves around the perfectly legitimate work of the UNITE leverage team, who look for innovative ways to put pressure on those companies who are locked in dispute with their workers. Their role is to put pressure onto a company through their suppliers, shareholders, their competitors, and their community. It’s a novel means of protecting and defending member’s interests, supplementing existing (and heavily regulated) avenues of industrial action with the right to lawful, peaceful, and public protest. At Grangemouth, the leverage team held a silent vigil – with a giant inflatable rat – outside the homes of senior managers.
The inquiry appears to be based on hearsay evidence by one (unnamed) Ineos manager. It is to be chaired by Bruce Carr QC, a notorious employment lawyer who specialises in preventing industrial action through court injunctions. He comes from Devereux chambers, where his colleagues offers substantial legal services on tax, including ‘offer(ing) advice on the evidential implications where a taxpayer (corporate or individual) has made arrangements to mitigate tax liability’. To you and me, that’s someone who helps companies and the super-rich ensure they stay within the law when they seek to avoid paying tax.
It says something about the Government’s priorities when they are more interested in silencing legitimate protest than closing the tax loopholes that this lawyer’s colleagues seek to exploit.
Perhaps the most worrying element about all of this is what it means for our right to peaceful protest. Are trade unions to be denied a public voice entirely? What will this mean for other groups in our society who seek to campaign against corporate interests? Could Vodafone claim industrial intimidation when people protest at their stores over tax avoidance, would Costain have claimed industrial intimidation when faced with roads protests, would the anti-apartheid movement have been silenced when it targeted South African firms?
I would like to say that all of this is simply scaremongering, but we have all seen how counter-terrorism powers were abused. The attempts by the Coalition to silence trade unions are a threat to the civil liberties of all.
This post was originally published on Labour List.View Comments
Last week legislation passed through the National Assembly for Wales that will take victims of asbestos related disease in Wales one step closer to the justice they and their families deserve.
The Recovery of Medical Costs for Asbestos Diseases (Wales) Bill - brought forward by Labour backbencher Mick Antoniw AM with the support of trade unions - will not only ensure justice for the thousands of Welsh workers who have been negligently exposed to the deadly dust of asbestos simply for doing their job but also enable the Welsh Government to recover the costs of treatment to the Welsh NHS of treating and injured worker. Any monies recovered will be used to further treat and support asbestos victims and their families.
The individual Assembly Member's Bill had the backing of the Labour Welsh Government and passed through its final stages by 38 votes to 10. This legislation is an opportunity to right the wrongs of lives ripped apart across Wales by the innocent exposure of Welsh workers to asbestos by negligent employers (and their insurers). Yet despite this, the Welsh Conservatives were the only ones to vote against the Bill and securing justice for asbestos victims.
It was a proud and emotional moment for those of us in the Senedd gallery as a spontaneous round of applause broke out on both the floor of the chamber and from spectators - a decisive day for devolution as the Welsh Assembly used its recent powers for a purpose to make a real difference for workers in Wales.
Firstly, thank you for all you have done to date to support the campaign for justice for victims of asbestos related diseases in Wales.
I am humbled and proud to have the opportunity to bring forward the Recovery of Medical Costs for Asbestos Related Diseases (Wales) Bill.
Will you email your AM now?
If passed, this Bill will not only allow the NHS in Wales to recover the cost of treating an asbestos victim, where legal fault has been proven, but will also mean the monies recovered can be put back into treating and assisting asbestos victims and their families.
You may remember that you were urged to get in touch with your Assembly Member before the summer about this important piece of legislation.
Unfortunately, after this the final reading and vote was delayed from July.
But the Bill is now back in the Assembly tomorrow (Wednesday). Get your Assembly Member to act now for justice.
It is more important than ever that as many people as possible contact their Assembly Member to get them to vote for this legislation that can change the lives of many here in Wales.
Please to take just a few minutes to get in touch today. It really is time to act not to finally get justice for victims of asbestos related diseases in Wales.
Thank you for your time and support,
Mick Antoniw AM
Pontypridd Assembly Member and sponsor of the Recovery of Medical Costs for Asbestos Related Diseases (Wales) Bill
I just read this article on the New Statesman website.
It’s got a pretty scary quote in it from Cameron:
“We are sticking to the task. But that doesn't just mean making difficult decisions on public spending. It also means something more profound. It means building a leaner, more efficient state. We need to do more with less. Not just now, but permanently.”
This, I think, shows the Tory true colours for what they really are. They’ve used the cover of the economic crisis as an opportunity to push forward the agenda they have always believed in – slash and burn of the state and the services that so many people rely on.
They’re in it for the long haul. This isn’t some kind of temporary fix for them, that will be righted when growth is back on track – it’s forever.
Smaller government, “leaner” (aka meaner) services, cutting corners. Forever.
We’ve seen the impact of this already, with the number of people relying on food banks tripling in a year.
Just today, nursing unions said that there’s as many as 20,000 unfilled nursing vacancies in hospitals across the country.
And let’s not forget, it’s those ideologically-driven cuts that are causing the economy to grow so very slowly. And it’s ordinary people who are paying the price for that lost growth – with average wages worth less in real terms than they were a decade ago.
We’re really not all in it together.
I suppose Cameron’s comments don’t come as much of a surprise. We all knew that this was the Tories’ long-term plan for Britain. But it’s not often they admit it.
I can’t begin to imagine what another 5 years of Cameron’s cutback Britain would mean. If you don’t want to imagine it either, then stand with us to fight for a brighter future: http://www.unionstogether.org.uk/future
Thousands of our campaigners have been in touch with their MPs to call for a change in the law to protect frontline workers from violence at work.
Unfortunately, despite all those emails and letters, the amendment did not pass in Parliament, as the Government blocked it.
But despite that set-back, unions are still campaigning hard on this issue.
They are keeping the pressure up because of union members like Val, a shopworker, who was punched in the face for approaching a shoplifter.
We want to go back to MPs and to the Government to ask them to think again on this issue.
To do that, we need to be able to give them real-life examples of frontline workers who want this law to change.
If you work with the public, and have a story to tell about violence at work, please share it with us.
Every experience will help us to make a stronger case for why there needs to be proper protection in law for frontline workers.
Val’s attacker was never even charged. Frontline workers shouldn’t live in fear – together we can campaign to protect working people.
…up pops Grant Shapps with another attack on trade union members.
The great irony is that the slogan of Tory Conference is ‘for hardworking people’. They’re ‘for’ you, just so long as you’re not a public servant, on a low income, out of work, too ill to work or - horror of horrors - a union member.
There’s about 6.5 million union members in the UK. Add in partners and family members, and I’ll take a punt that we’re talking about 10 million people in union families. (That’s more than twice as many people as are going to benefit from the Tories’ £3.85 a week bung for their chosen married couples.)
They might be ‘for’ hardworking people, but woe betide you the minute you start banding together with others to ask for better pay and conditions. (Don’t get me started on the whole ‘hardworking’ thing, by the way – I’m pretty sure work-life balance used to be seen as a good thing, but that seems to have fallen by the wayside in the age of austerity).
Grant Shapps seems to have a thing about trade unions and their members.
In fact, he made a crackdown on those 6.5 million union members a centrepiece of his speech opening Tory Conference yesterday.
It’s worth having a read of this Evening Standard piece that came out on Friday, previewing what a Tory Government elected in 2015 would do to crack down on the rights at work that millions of people rely on: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/crackdown-on-trade-union-powers-and-perks-to-be-unveiled-at-tory-party-conference-8843987.html
These are the highlights:
- Requiring unions to be charged a full commercial rent for using public buildings and facilities.
- Ending the right to free time off for trade union duties, including for “pilgrims” who work as full-time union officials at the taxpayers’ expense.
- Banning “check-off” of fees from salaries, which some public sector unions use to maintain membership.
- Increasing the threshold before a union can apply for statutory recognition from 10 per cent of a workforce to 30 per cent.
- Insisting that strike ballots do not count unless at least 40 per cent of members vote for it.
- Axing taxpayer funding of the Union Learning Fund, currently £15.5 million, which pays for union officials to be trained.
I won’t go into each of these proposals in detail – but suffice it to say that they range from the petty and spiteful, to drastic changes to the balance of power in workplaces, making it much harder for union members to organise together for a better deal at work.
It’s clear that the Tories haven’t moved on from the time-honoured tradition of assuming that unions are ‘the enemy within’, and not a positive force in society and in the workplace.
But that’s not what many employers think. Good employers recognise that unions are a force for good. They’re in favour of good industrial relations.
In fact, in a 2009 document written jointly, by the Department of Business, the TUC and the CBI said:
“In today's difficult economic climate, it is more important than ever that all resources available to the workplace are well deployed. Union representatives constitute a major resource: there are approximately 200,000 workers who act as lay union representatives. We believe that modern representatives have a lot to give their fellow employees and to the organisations that employ them.”
The relatively low cost of time off for union duties, and providing an office, a phone and a computer is more than made up for in the savings made by having a good relationship with workers.
This excellent TUC report shows that for every £1 spent on facility time in the public sector, between £2 and £5 is saved thanks to better industrial relations.
And don’t get me started on strike ballot thresholds and making it harder for unions to be recognised – suffice to say that at the 2010 General Election, Mr Shapps won 57% of the vote, but on a 68% turnout – so 39% of the eligible electorate voted for him. I presume that in the interest of democracy and consistency he’ll be standing down from Parliament post haste. No?
Unions are a FORCE FOR GOOD – for society, employment and crucially for the millions of working people who are members.
The Tories claim to be ‘for’ hardworking people, but the truth is clear – they’re not on our side.
When it comes down to it, they’re the Party of Beecroft, the bosses and the few not the many.
That’s why we’re getting organised. Your rights at work are worth fighting for – join us now: http://www.yourrightsatwork.org.uk.
PS. You might enjoy checking out the tens of thousands of pounds of corporate donations made to Grant Shapps local Conservative Association over the past few years - http://searchthemoney.com/profile/540View Comments
We're busy, busy, busy getting ready for Labour Party Conference in Brighton. We've got a packed diary of events, and we hope to see you at some of them!
unionstogether events at Conference
Sunday 22 September
Breakfast Fringe, 'Women's Well-being at Work'
09.30-10.30 Ambassador Room, Hilton Hotel (inside the secure zone)
Join senior trade union women to discuss how unions can respond to the issues that women face at work. From equal pay to childcare to smashing the glass ceiling, how can women organise for a better deal in the workplace?
Annual Trade Union Reception
17.30-19.30 Viscount Room, Hilton Hotel (inside the secure zone)
Hosted by unionstogether and TUG (the Trade Union Group of MPs), sponsored by Thompsons Solicitors. This event is ticket only. Delegates to Labour Party Conference have been sent tickets in the post.
Speakers include Paul Kenny, Ed Miliband, Harriet Harman, Ian Lavery MP and Katy Clark MP.
Tuesday 24 September
‘The cost of being a young person’
18.00-19.30 Skyline, Brighton Centre (inside the secure zone)
Young trade unionists’ fringe meeting, with CLASS.
Speakers include Owen Jones, Ryan Ward, Ellie Mae O'Hagan, Sachin Patel and Lisa Nandy MP.
unionstogether will also be attending...
Monday 23 September
What is a Working Class MP and how do we get more of them?
12.30-14.00 Preston Room, Hilton Hotel (inside the secure zone)
Speakers include Ian Lavery MP, Jennie Formby, Lisa Forbes PPC, David Skelton.
20.00-22.00 Viscount Room, Hilton Hotel (inside the secure zone)
European Parliamentary Labour Party and S&D Group in the European Parliament. This event is ticket only. Tickets will be in delegates' packs or available from the EPLP stand.
Speakers include Ed Miliband MP, Glenis Willmott MEP, Paul Kenny and Eddie Izzard.
Tuesday 24 September
Beer, sandwiches and Tory donations
12.30-14.00 Surrey Suite 3, Hilton Hotel (inside the secure zone)
Find out who funds the Conservative Party, with searchthemoney.com.