Workers in Struggle

Across Britain workers in the public and private sectors are always engaged in numerous disputes with their employers. Here are just a few examples of current battles.


Hundreds of Unite members in the construction industry took part in a protest against exploitation at Park Adfer in Deeside on Wednesday morning in protest against a “race to the bottom”. At the energy from waste site their French contractor employer refuses to adhere to recognised construction sector agreements. As a result the workforce is paid as little as £8.75 an hour, potentially 63 per cent below the agreed standard construction rate of £17.39 for this type of mechanical engineering construction work

CNIM has been appointed by American firm Wheelabrator to deliver the project for the North Wales Residual Waste Treatment Partnership led by Flintshire county council and other county councils.

Unite has applied pressure on the local authorities involved to demand the companies involved to begin paying the correct rates and abiding by the correct construction agreement.

When the site is fully operational there will be roughly 300 workers employed on the project. Additionally to paying below industry rates, Unite believes that the contractors are undermining safety, welfare provisions, training and failing to recruit local workers.

Unite’s regional officer Steve Benson said: “It is appalling that workers are being exploited through low pay on a project ultimately funded by the taxpayer.

“Workers are receiving a pittance compared to what they should be receiving for the work they are undertaking. Local authorities need to stop pretending to look the other way and to take responsibility for the exploitation and misery that is being created on their watch.”

Health Workers

At Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust hospital staff took part in a 48 hour strike last week s over plans to outsource their jobs to wholly owned private company UNISON members voted for the strike to prevent the trust from moving them to a new employer called WWL Solutions — which would be a private company wholly owned by the trust as a subsidiary.

Staff are fighting to remain direct employees of the trust and of the NHS, and correctly fear that the proposals would put their jobs, pay and conditions at risk.

Wigan Infirmary domestic Amanda Grimes said “We have won awards for being the cleanest hospital and I am very proud to work here. The proposal isn’t fair, the NHS should provide jobs that are good and secure. We don’t want the next generation of domestics and porters and catering staff in Wigan to have worse pay and conditions than we have.” The UNISON members voted by 89 per cent for strike action. Regional organiser Sean Gibson declared: “The staff are determined to stop the WWL Solutions plan and they have done themselves proud in standing together against it.”

Taxi Drivers

GMB has won a legal victory over rogue taxi cab firm Uber. As a result of GMB’s efforts in the courts drivers have won the right to sick pay and parental pay, despite Uber previously denying that the drivers were employees.

After a long struggle the company has finally conceded that drivers will have access to medical cover, compensation for work-related injuries, sick pay, parental leave and bereavement payments.

This was a long time coming, in October 2016, the Central London Employment Tribunal ruled that Uber drivers are not self-employed, but workers entitled to basic workers’ rights including holiday pay, a guaranteed minimum wage and an entitlement to breaks. Uber appealed to an Employment Appeal Tribunal but it upheld the ruling last November. GMB’s National Officer Mick Rix, said: “At long last it seems Uber are starting to listen to GMB members complaints regards the company’s treatment of drivers and denying them their rights. This is a major step in the right direction, but our successful court victories, winning workers’ rights for Uber drivers, could have all been avoided if they had sat down and talked with GMB from the start.

Disabled Workers

A new disability and “hidden” impairments survey report and campaign resources was published ahead of the Wales Trades Union Congress. A major survey of more than 1000 workers in Wales which found that many disabled workers want to see a change in the way that disability is treated at work. The resulting statistical evidence showed that 28 per cent of disabled respondents felt their employer views disability as a “problem” while 33 per cent said work colleagues thought the same. Almost the same numbers reported that disability had been treated as a “joke” topic in their workplace, many reported experiencing harassment. Over three-quarters of all respondents said that their workplace had policies in place to help disabled workers but a significant number reported that these did not work in practice due to poor, non-existent or inconsistent implementation.

Museum Warders

Workers at Royal Museums Greenwich went on strike last Friday for the third time as they protest against changes including the removal of paid breaks and shorter breaks for visitors and sales assistants working at the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory Greenwich. Staff calculated that reducing breaks by 40 minutes a day, they will work three extra weeks a year. These changes have become a sticking point with the staff who a members of civil service union Prospect.

Management has also claimed to be committed to working towards paying the London Living Wage in the next four years Prospect negotiations executive Sharon Brown said: “Prospect has been working hard to ensure that our members concerns are addressed. However, members are still hopeful that management will be able to change their policy on breaks and make real progress towards achieving the London Living Wage.

Telecoms Engineers

Members of the Communication Workers Union are angry at the amount of Saturday work they are required to at Openreach, a division of BT. At the CWU Annual Conference members protested at having to work far more than the 12 Saturday attendances per annum allowed under their agreement. But they ruled out calling on the union to serve notice on the SDT package in its entirety by September or ballot for industrial action. The company was given until the end of June in the event, to fall into line with the previously agreed ceiling of 12 Saturdays per year by the end of June — or face industrial action.

A Coventry worker said: “We need to fight back because Saturdays should be as voluntary as possible. There are a lot of football, rugby and netball players who want to play on a Saturday and a lot of people who simply want to spend time with their family. This is really affecting people’s work/life balance.”