Unite -Because you deserve better -Collectivity is needed now more than ever- Work Voice Pay Unites industrial strategy
Posted on May 14, 2020
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Collectivity is needed now more than ever
Unite reps win furlough on 100% pay
Bite Sized Bargaining: Crisis Disclosure & Disclosure of Info for Collective Bargaining
Cost of Living – RPI shows inflation at 2.6% All in Work Voice Pay Monthly
Collectivity is needed now more than ever
“Together with an industrial plan to deal with what comes next” says Sharon Graham.
Soon the health crisis will turn into an economic crash. This seems almost certain. What we don’t know is how bad it will get and how many jobs will be at risk. One prominent think tank has predicted almost 6 million jobs will go in the UK alone, whilst McKinsey has suggested a total of 59 million will be lost across Europe.
This is why we need to be preparing now for when the bailout stops, as the public money tap is turned off or at least slowed to a trickle. It is then, after the furlough arrangements and the temporary measures that we must be prepared. We know some employers are already using this time to speed up plans to automate certain tasks or bringing forward pre-planned restructuring. Others may make short term, rash decisions that have long term impacts on workers and the economy.
Unite, our Shop Stewards and experience will be needed more than ever. Collectivism of workers will be needed more than ever. We will need to be very much alive at the workplace as well as in Whitehall.
Many Shop Stewards hold long established and well-oiled negotiating machinery, based on their power at the workplace and are already well underway agreeing the longer term priorities. But many employers are less accommodating and in many Union workplaces this culture just does not exist. Here we are going to have to demand that they ‘open the books’.
As with Leverage we now need to move beyond specific tactics, that is why we are preparing in a similar vein as we would for comprehensive campaigns, gathering key information and practical support in defence of jobs.
Unite reps get employers to furlough workers on 100% pay
We all know by now that employers get 80% of normal wages back from government (up to £2,500) when they furlough workers under the Job Retention Scheme. But that is no reason for workers to accept a pay cut during the lay-off. Many Unite reps up and down the country, supported by officers and organisers, have already negotiated for and won the right to 100% of normal pay on furlough. Of course, some employers may really struggle to pay much above the bare minimum of 80%. But if they are claiming poverty that is something worth fact-checking (see our article on COVID-19 Impact Disclosure below). When an employer can afford to pay full wages then they should.
Plastic Omnium (a Jaguar Land Rover supplier), is just one of many recent examples of an employer whose Unite members have negotiated lay-off payments at 100%. As Shaun English the Senior Steward at Omega explained “We have grown the union, fought off shift changes & now negotiated 100% furlough and shift allowance, because we have backing of members & the Organising Department.”
Other recent examples include transport workers. Unite members at Victoria Coach Station and Leeds Bradford Airport have won similarly good deals. Those who are still at work have got deals to protect them later on. For example, at Woolwich Ferry workers will receive 100% of their pay if they are furloughed while there is a reduced service due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Down the road from Woolwich at Greenwich Libraries more than 100 workers at 12 libraries will be furloughed on full pay during the pandemic after negotiating a really good agreement with Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL), which runs library services for the London borough. As Unite Officer Onay Kasab says “unfortunately, leisure workers employed by GLL in non-organised workplaces across the country have suffered cuts to wages, even where they have been furloughed.” So the message for all workers is get organised and negotiate the best deals possible.
Having an accurate assessment of an employer’s ‘ability to pay’ is crucial when it comes to collective bargaining. If there is plenty of money being made workers need to know, so they can get their piece of the pie. If an employer is having genuine financial difficulties workers may decide to shift their focus to defending jobs and other issues on the bargaining agenda.
In normal circumstances we use the most recently registered company accounts to asses this ability to pay. However, in the exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, the latest accounts are much more likely to give us an outdated and inaccurate impression. We know that some employers are making much more money due to this crisis. Others are claiming poverty and some of these claims will be more genuine than others. However, very few employers will have submitted audited accounts to Companies House recently enough to give us a true and accurate picture of what their ability to pay now looks like.
Disclosure of Information for Collective Bargaining Purposes
In workplaces where we are recognised there is a solution to this. Sections 181 and 182 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 have rules about disclosure of information for collective bargaining purposes. They say that recognised unions have a right to relevant information from employers if:
- Without it we would be ‘materially impeded’ in bargaining (in other words, we need it for the formulation, presentation or pursuance of pay claims); and
- It would be in accordance with good industrial relations practice for employers to disclose it for collective bargaining.
There is a strong case that up to date financial information at a time of crisis is exactly the sort of thing this regulation was created for. So we have drafted a new template letter to employers demanding key figures that we could normally get from company accounts. We have also included a request for information about the exceptional COVID-19 related government subsidies that could have a significant impact on ability to pay.
You can get a copy of the Crisis Disclosure Template and Glossary here:
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