In this issue:
Public Services Alliance
It's been a busy month for the PSA coalitions with a number of activities and campaigning opportunities taking place throughout the region. At what is being heralded as the biggest (and perhaps the hottest) ever Durham Miners' Gala unions were out in force to promote the work of the public services alliance and show the public that there is an alternative.
Across the region coalitions supported demonstrations against the bedroom tax, the plight of Churchill cleaners, the proposed privatisation of the Probation Service, the Keep East Coast Public campaign, and the Save Our Royal Mail campaign as well as a number of local area initiatives.
And as the NHS celebrated its 65th Birthday events took place in hospitals and social care workplaces where people were encouraged to tell the government what the NHS means to them by adding their message to giant birthday cards - and in South Tyneside hospital and South Bents Park to post it notes on an extremely large three tier mock birthday cake.
999 Call for the NHS
There was strong support for the march and rally which took place in Darlington on Saturday 27th July. The rally was organised by Joanna Adams, a mother of two, in response to the excellent care her family received from the NHS during terminal illness.
The TUC and a number of unions promoted and supported the rally and a further event is planned in Middlesbrough on Saturday 5th October.
In Defence of the NHS - Built to Care
Ahead of the Tory Party Conference lobby the PSA has organised a regional health conference and rally for Saturday 21st September at County Hall in Durham. The NHS was built to care for Britain and is what makes our country great. As the NHS turns 65, we are facing a fight to expose the cuts and privatisations that threaten to break it up. The Northern Public Services Alliance is raising awareness of the impact the Coalition's policies is having on the NHS and the subsequent impact it will have on health in our region.
This conference will be a chance to find out more and have your say in the next steps of the campaign to defend the NHS.
Save our NHS - Tory Party Conference Lobby
Plans are also well under way for the TUC lobby of the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester on Sunday 29th September. The protest will highlight the impact of huge job losses and spending cuts across the health service, as well as the rapid sell-off of the most lucrative parts of the NHS to private healthcare companies. A number of unions and groups are organising transport to the rally and trades councils can apply for funding via the TUC to assist with travel to the demo.
Campaigners turned out in force at Newcastle, Darlington and Durham rail stations at rush hour on Thursday 1st August in support of the Keep East Coast public campaign organised under the banner of Action for Rail.
Postcards were handed out to members of the public encouraging people to write to their MPs and voice their concerns about the government's plans to privatise the East Coast Main Line - currently a publicly owned service that reinvests every penny of profit back into the service and which will return over £800m to the taxpayer by the end of this financial year.
The government wants to hand our public service over to private companies, lining the pockets of corporate shareholders.
The trade union-led Action for Rail campaign aims to raise awareness of the attacks on rail services and the workforce from the Coalition government, the rising cost of fares for commuters and to make the case for a return to public ownership.
Action for Rail will be campaigning with a whole range of partners to fight the government's plans. Log on and join our campaign at www.actionforrail.org
A follow up demonstration took place at rail stations throughout the country on Tuesday 13th August protesting against the rise in rail fares which are set to be 40 per cent higher from this January than in 2008. In the North East campaigners were at stations in Alnmouth, Berwick and Newcastle.
A fairer deal for Churchill Cleaners
There was some good news for Churchill Cleaners contracted to work on the Tyne and Wear Metro system; they secured a major victory at an Employment Tribunal held in Newcastle upon Tyne after their union, RMT, took up the case. The judgement will bring a dramatic improvement in cleaners' terms and conditions on the Metro as for the first time they will receive double time for working Bank Holidays, a day in lieu and time and a quarter for working Sundays.
This is a massive victory for these low paid workers, however, they will still be paid the minimum wage whilst private contractor Churchill cleaners allows board room executives to cream off profits for their own pay packets.
Analysis: Painful pay day loans and the financial alternatives
Austerity, real term wage squeezes and rising prices have all made working people poorer. Northern TUC analysis earlier this year showed that the average full-time worker in the North East is £1200 worse off in real terms since 2010. This is a combination of years of below inflation pay rises, pay cuts and relatively well paid jobs made redundant and replaced with jobs with far worse pay, terms and conditions. Together this £100 monthly pay squeeze has meant growing numbers of working people struggle to get from one end of the month to another. Its important trade unionists explain that we're not fundamentally experiencing a crisis of personal financial management as some have suggested, but a crisis in pay.
A recent ComRes opinion poll for BBC Radio 3 revealed 42% of adults often or sometimes struggle to make it to pay day with 50% of adults worried about their level of personal debt. Of those adults who have taken out a payday loan, 50% of these have used it to buy food and 35% have used it pay for a gas or electricity bill. Pay day loans companies have ruthlessly exploited the wage squeeze and are charging interest rates in excess of 5,000% APR which makes the least well off even poorer and takes much-needed money out of our regional economy.
The Northern TUC has policy committing us all to campaigning against the growth of pay day loans, the rise of poverty pay and to promote credit unions as an affordable alternative. We have worked closely with organisations such as FINCAN (the North East voice for financial wellbeing) and have developed a series of Fair Finance Pledges for councils wanting to make a difference in this area. Newcastle City Council was the first council to support the pledges and are currently rolling out a number of external and internal measures, including a union-led financial health check survey of employees. A model survey is available from the Northern TUC for unions to use and adapt in other workplaces. At a national and local level unions are identifying creative solutions to help their members better access more affordable support.
There is growing political opposition to pay day loans with North East MPs such as Chi Onwurah MP, Ian Lavery MP and Ian Mearns MP regularly speaking out against pay day loan companies such as Wonga alongside campaigner Stella Creasy MP and former Bishop of Durham and the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. This is all to be welcomed and supported, but Northern TUC will not allow pay day loans to be seen in isolation to pay - they are symptoms of a much wider illness. That is why the TUC nationally is for a range of measures involving unions to increase pay and for a wage-led recovery. You can find out more of the early stages of the campaign at http://www.tuc.org.uk/britainneedsapayrise.
Jobs, wages & manufacturing growth: Responding to Cumbria LEP
The Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has recently consulted stakeholders on its economic growth plan. The Northern TUC emphasised the importance addressing the low wages in the county. Currently jobs in Cumbria pay £20 less than the British average (£488 per week compared to £508 per week). In real terms average pay for full-time jobs in Cumbria has declined by £39 per week between 2010 and 2012. We emphasised how this will have a considerable impact on the local economy as well as people's living standards and that the LEP should work to reverse this trend. The Cumbria LEP should not just measure progress by the quantity of jobs created but also the quality and the level of associated wages.
We highlighted the huge industrial importance of offshore wind to the future of Cumbria's economy and the draft growth plan's lack of reference to this and the Walney Offshore Wind Farm, currently the largest offshore wind farm in the world and sited off the Cumbria coast. Our submission also highlighted the importance of keeping a full order book at BAE Systems in Barrow, both as a large employer and an integral part to a large number of high value manufacturing supply chains.
Our submission also reminded of the importance of the role the public sector has with private sector economic growth and to encourage partnership work at all levels. The Northern TUC will continue to emphasise to LEPs the importance of unions to improving skills, health in workplaces, economic growth and creating a fair and prosperous society.
Tees Valley Unlimited
Is currently in the process of preparing for the next round of European Structural Funds for 2014 - 2020. LEPs need to submit the first drafts of their Structural & Investment Funds Strategies (SIFS) by 7 October 2013. TVU is also in the process of negotiating a Growth Deal with Government to enable the area to focus resources in areas that create jobs and growth. As part of this, TVU will need to develop a Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) with the first draft to be submitted to Government by December 2013. There will be significant overlap between the SEP and the SIFS, with SEPs expected to draw on a range of resources including EU funding.
The Northern TUC participated in a task and finish group to map out existing and potential future activities in the thematic area of employment and skills and set out the evidence base/rationale for the activities. The outcome of these facilitated sessions will be a series of actions and potential areas of activity that will help to inform the Tees Valley Skills Strategy and Action Plan and the SIFS and SEP.
North East Conservative MP is first to back a living wage
Hexham MP Guy Opperman has become the first Conservative MP to fully support a living wage. Writing in the New Statesman he argued 'for too many people in our society, a hard day's work no longer means a fair day's pay' and 'why did we let it become acceptable for a full-time job not to pay enough to live on?' Mr Opperman also emphasised the potential business benefits to morale, productivity and staff retention as well as saving the taxpayer money through tax credits. He urged the Treasury to take on board the findings of the new independent Living Wage Commission chaired by the Archbishop of York which Frances O'Grady represents the TUC on.
In response, Beth Farhat said "I'm pleased that Guy Opperman MP is the latest supporter of a living wage and today's announcement is a really positive step forward for the campaign. It's something I've made a priority as Northern TUC Regional Secretary and I hope some of his Conservative colleagues in government will now consider joining him in pushing to end poverty pay. The living wage is something that should command cross-party support because ultimately it is good for business, good for the individual and good for society. It gives people fair reward for the work they do and helps to tackle in-work poverty and inequality. We urgently need to end the culture of low pay in the North East and a living wage is one way of doing that.' Beth Farhat - Regional Secretary Northern TUC
Guy Opperman's article 'the Conservative Case for a Living Wage' is available to read online:
Health and Safety News...
Managing and working with asbestos
A consultation on the draft revised version of an Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) on 'Managing and working with asbestos' began on 8th July.
The consultative document seeks views on HSE's proposed consolidated version of the ACOP (L143) - 'Work with materials containing asbestos - Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006', incorporating the ACOP (L127) - 'The management of asbestos in non-domestic premises'. The consultation closes on 30 September and you can respond to this and other current public consultations via the HSE http://www.hse.gov.uk/consult/index.htm
Northern TUC Asbestos Support and Campaign Group
The Group, formed a little over three years ago, is a partnership between Northern TUC, trade unions and Macmillan Cancer Support. It offers free, confidential information, advice and support to anyone with an asbestos related disease in the North East and Cumbria.
Following discussions with key partners and stakeholders a dedicated website is being developed and it is hoped to launch this very soon. Further information will be circulated in due course.
Draft Code of Practice on Settlement Agreements
The TUC recognises that compromise agreements are widely used in workplaces to resolve disputes swiftly and to avoid potential employment tribunal claims. However, we are seriously concerned that the new legislative provisions on the admissibility of settlement offers and discussions in unfair dismissal cases will send a signal to employers that they are free to sack staff for arbitrary reasons without needing to follow a fair disciplinary procedure.
Safeguarding TUPE Rights
The TUC is fundamentally opposed to the government's plans to revise the TUPE Regulations. The measures represent a major attack on basic rights at work and the ability for unions to protect their members' interests through collective bargaining. If implemented, the proposals will do nothing to generate growth. Instead they will heighten job insecurity, and lead to a major erosion of pay and conditions and increased inequality for millions of employees affected by TUPE transfers each year.
Ending the Employment Relationship
The TUC is firmly opposed to the government's proposals on ending the employment relationship. The government claims that the measures will encourage a more flexible labour market, enabling employers to recruit staff and employees to remain in employment. In practice the main effect will be to make it easier and cheaper for employers to sack employees.
GLA Application and Inspections Consultation
It is well-established that to date the GLA has played an important role in raising standards, increasing compliance with basic legal standards and in reducing the exploitation of workers. However, independent research has also revealed that abuses of vulnerable workers in the food and agriculture sector remain prevalent.
To see the full response by the TUC to the above go to the Employment Rights section of the TUC website www.tinyurl.com/EmploymentRights
Priced out of justice
The TUC has slammed new laws that will force employees to pay upfront fees if they want to pursue complaints against their employer.
It will now cost someone £1,200 if they want to take their boss to an employment tribunal. The measures are part of a wider campaign by the government to reduce people's basic rights at work and stop bad bosses from being held to account. Other measures introduced include 'settlement agreements' that will make it easier and cheaper for an employer to get rid of someone.
The government has already raised the qualifying period for an employee to take an unfair dismissal claim to two years. This means that nearly three million employees can be sacked on a whim if they have been employed for less than two years.
TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said: 'These reforms are part of a wider campaign to get rid of workers' basic rights at work. Its only achievement will be to price vulnerable people out of justice.'
Trades Councils Directory
The revised on-line version of the 2013 Directory of Trades Union Councils and County Associations is now available on the trades union councils dedicated website at www.unionsinthecommunity.org.uk
International Development Matters Issue 124
International Development Matters Issue 124 August 2013 IDM - Monthly newsletter reporting international development matters and issues affecting trade unionists around the world - including reports, statements, interviews and events. www.tuc.org.uk/international
From China to Vietnam via Germany...
Once again the Northern TUC played host to a six person delegation from the Jiangsu Federation of Trade Unions (JFTU). The mixed delegation were interested to hear about how British trade unions negotiate on collective bargaining and how this is used to agree terms and conditions of employment such as pay, holidays etc.
Our next group of visitors were a group of 20 students from the Hans Böckler Foundation. The Northern TUC have a long standing relationship with the Foundation and were pleased to welcome the delegation on what has become an annual event organised in conjunction with the DGB - Confederation of German Trade Unions. As well as meeting with the Northern TUC we were able to organise a visit for them to the state of the art training facility at Siemens in Byker.
They were also able to participate in the Action for Rail demo at the Central Station and attended a UNISON Young Members Meeting.
Also in August, we were pleased to welcome two visitors from the Vietnam National Union of Building Workers who were in the region as guests of UCATT.
Two young Cuban activists are coming to the UK in September as part of a national speaking tour organised by Cuba Solidarity. They will be guests at TUC Congress in Bournemouth and hope to be in Newcastle to meet with trade union colleagues, visit workplaces and attend a Northern TUC International Forum on Thursday 19th September. Details are being finalised and will be circulated shortly.
Safety fears for trade unionists
Also in Colombia - Frances O'Grady, TUC General Secretary, has written to the Colombian Ambassador in London expressing her concern for the safety of trade unionists.
We understand that on 4 August, an announcement was emailed by a paramilitary group containing death threats to 30 named people, and their families. A number of people on this list are trade unionists from SINTRAMIENERGETICA and also part of a union delegation involved with labour negotiations with the mining company Drummond Ltd.
We ask you to urge the relevant authorities to provide protection, agreed with the named individuals; support the call for a full and impartial investigation into the death threat, the publication of the results of the investigation and bringing those responsible for the threat to justice.
If unions would like to write in support of the above details are below:
HE Mr Mauricio Rodriguez
Embassy of Colombia
3 Hans Crescent
TUC Charter will help employers provide high quality traineeships for young people
A new Charter launched by unionlearn - will provide assistance for young people, union reps, employers and training providers to ensure that the government's new Traineeship programme offers young people the best possible introduction to the world of work.
The Traineeships programme - which will be launched nationwide this August - is targeted at 16-24 year olds who are unemployed and who need to gain additional skills to find an Apprenticeship or employment.
The TUC agrees with ministers that high-quality work experience is an important factor in helping young people into work. However, it is concerned that poor quality schemes could lead to exploitation, with trainees being used as free labour and possibly even displacing existing workers.
Young people can also become disillusioned with schemes if they are not given relevant high-quality training and work experience or any chance of a job at the end of a placement, warns the TUC.
The TUC has therefore launched its Traineeships Charter - designed for union reps, but also useful for employers, training providers and young people looking to start a traineeship - that sets out several key points to ensure that a Traineeship is high quality.
The Charter says that young people should expect the following from a Traineeship:
- Where work of value is done by a trainee, employers should pay them. This will also help prevent trainees displacing existing workers.
- Placements should give young people the skills relevant to their aims and the needs of the local labour market to raise their chances of future employment.
- Trainees should be offered careers guidance and advice on other work-related issues such as health and safety and employment rights.
- Qualifications received on a traineeship should count towards an apprenticeship framework.
Having a break? Take an eNote
Interactive updates for union reps
It's hard to keep up to date with the key issues facing your members in the workplace. That's why TUC Education has developed eNotes - they're a great new resource to help you keep up to speed with key workplace issues.
Facility Time, Universal Credit, Vulnerable Employment and Equality Law are just some of the issues you can get-to-grips with.
Each module is a mix of text, video and quizzes. In not much more time than it takes to have a cuppa you will gain a good understanding of the subject. Plus you can share thoughts and ideas with other users online.
Register now at www.tuceducation.org.uk/enotes to start using eNotes.
Union Reps Courses
TUC Education provides training courses for union representatives across the Northern region through a network of TUC approved providers. The new course brochure for the Northern region is now available and includes details and dates of Union Rep, Health and Safety Rep and Union Learning Rep courses as well as the Diploma programme and many short and specialist courses.
You can apply directly online for your chosen course. Courses available include:
- Union Reps Stage 1
- Stepping Up: Union Reps Stage 2
- Health & Safety Stage 1
- Next Steps for Safety Reps Stage 2
- Union Learning Representatives Stage 1 and Stage 2
- TUC Diploma in Contemporary Unionism
- TUC Diploma in Employment Law
- TUC Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety
- TUC Diploma in Equalities
Bitesize Briefings September to December
The latest round of Bitesize Briefings takes place between September to December 2013. Briefings covered in this round are:
- GoON North East Digital Champions: Thursday 26th September, TUC Newcastle, 1pm-4pm.
- Changes to Employment Law: Friday 11th October, TUC Newcastle, 1pm-4pm
- Exposing Loan Sharks and Learning about Fair Finance: Wednesday 23rd October, TUC Newcastle, 1pm-4pm
- Living Wage: Monday 4th November, TUC Newcastle, 1pm-4pm
- Apprenticeships - Quality and Equality: Wednesday 27th November, TUC Newcastle 1pm-4pm
Full details on what the briefings cover and how to apply is available at www.tuc.org.uk/northern
1st - Sunderland Pride
2nd - PSA Steering Group, TUC Regional Office, 5pm
4th - TUC Executive, TUC Regional Office, 10am
4th - Teesside PSA, St Mary's Centre, Middlesbrough, 5.30pm
9th - Gateshead PSA, Blaydon Room, Civic Centre, Gateshead, 5.30pm
9th - 11th, TUC Congress, Bournemouth
14th - People's Assembly, Northern Stage, Newcastle, 10am-5pm
18th - Sunderland PSA, Civic Centre, Sunderland, 5.30pm
19th - International Forum, TUC Regional Office, 5.30pm
21st - Built to Care, Regional Health Conference, County Hall, Durham
24th - Durham PSA, County Hall, Durham, 5.30pm
25th - Asbestos Support Management Group meeting, TUC Regional Office, 2pm
26th - South Tyneside PSA, South Shields Town Hall, 5.30pm
7th - PSA Steering Group, TUC Regional Office, 5pm
12th - Regional Council, Centre for Life, Newcastle, 10.30am
14th - Gateshead PSA, Blaydon Room, Civic Centre, Gateshead, 5.30pm
16th - Sunderland PSA, Civic Centre, Sunderland, 5.30pm
29th - Asbestos Support Trustees Group meeting, TUC Regional Office, 4pm
30th - Teesside PSA, St Mary's Centre, Middlesbrough, 5.30pm
31st - LGBT meeting, TUC Regional Office, 5pm
4th - 8th, Living Wage Week
4th - PSA Steering Group, TUC Regional Office, 5pm
5th - Durham PSA, County Hall, Durham, 5.30pm
7th - Northern Wage Summit (details to be confirmed)
11th - Gateshead PSA, Blaydon Room, Civic Centre, Gateshead, 5.30pm
20th - TUC Executive, TUC Regional Office, 10am
20th - Sunderland PSA, Civic Centre, Sunderland, 5.30pm
Newsletter (4,300 words) issued 19 Sep 2013