Today's top stories...Barts NHS Trust workers vote to strike

Barts Health NHS Trust accused of short changing some of the lowest paid workers at the Trust

NHS workers at Barts Health NHS Trust have overwhelmingly voted for a campaign of industrial action today by a margin of 95 per cent in a dispute over low pay and safe staffing.

The workers and their representatives will meet over the coming days to agree strike dates.

Last year Unite activists and union reps secured a landmark agreement which transferred 1800 workers to NHS employment. The cleaners, caterers, porters, security guards, ward hosts and domestic staff had previously been employed by Serco.

But over 1,000 workers who transferred onto NHS terms after 31 March 2023 “are up in arms” that Barts won’t pay them a £1,655 lump sum which is part of the NHS pay deal.

To make matters even worse, a significant number of workers are losing money due to the way the NHS disregarded their length of service while employed by Serco and attempts by Barts to pay workers inferior overtime rates.

On a day-to-day basis, the workforce has to contend with the worst staffing crisis in NHS history. Over stretched and overworked, they are calling on Barts and the UK Government to address the chronic shortages blighting their hospitals.

Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham said, “The workers at Barts are up in arms over the Trust’s failure to pay them a lump sum which was agreed as part of the NHS pay deal. They’re rightly refusing to be short-changed.”

“The workforce won its rights to be NHS workers, now they’re planning a campaign of strike action to combat low pay and understaffing at the Trust.”

Scottish university workers support strike action in pay dispute

Unite the union has today (August 23) confirmed that around 1,000 members employed in five universities across Scotland are set to take strike action.

The trade union confirmed it received industrial action mandates from its members at the University of Glasgow, Dundee University, Abertay University, Edinburgh Napier and Strathclyde University. Unite’s members involved in the pay dispute include technicians, cleaners, security officers, and janitors.

The industrial action ballots were launched over a failure to reach agreement on the 2023/24 pay award. It is anticipated that Unite will release its strike action dates involving the five universities next week.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Unite has received a mandate for strike action at five universities across Scotland which could see 1,000 members taking strike action in the coming weeks. The UCEA (University and Colleges Employers Association) has not only failed to put a fair wage offer on the table, it is attempting to impose a real terms pay cut on all university workers which is totally unacceptable. Unite will fully support our university members in their fight for better jobs, pay and conditions.” 

Legacy of Douglass, Equiano and abolitionist movement must inspire trade union movement today

Today, August 23, is the International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, which Unite Equalities highlighted in a UniteLive statement here.

Pointing out that the campaign to abolish chattel slavery was driven by formerly enslaved persons such as Oloudah Equiano and Frederick Douglass, who inspired activists from Belfast to Cork to create one of the first civil society campaigns in Ireland, Unite also said today that the same determination and organisation are needed today to counter messages of hate and division.

Commenting, Unite Regional Equalities Officer Taryn Trainor said, “Today commemorates the start of the insurrection in Saint-Domingue by self-liberated slaves – an event which played a crucial role in the eventual abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and reminds us that abolition was driven and eventually won by enslaved and formerly enslaved persons.

“Earlier this year, we welcomed the unveiling of a statue to former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, funded by Belfast City Council.  Douglass, like Oloudah Equiano in the previous century, travelled throughout Ireland, and was supported by a network of determined anti-slavery activists, women and men, from Cork to Belfast.  They knew that, as Frederick Douglass pointed out, there can be no progress without struggle. 

“As trade unionists, the fight for abolition reminds us that struggle must always be informed and directed by those most directly affected.

“The impact of chattel slavery continues to resonate today – not just in monuments and the names of public buildings and spaces, but also in the ongoing discrimination faced by people of African descent.

“As attempts are made by far-right actors to stir up hatred, fear and anger against migrants and refugees, many fleeing war and oppression, trade unions must draw inspiration from the movement to end slavery and work side-by-side with those being targeted by these messages of hate to build an inclusive society.”

Compiled by UniteLive team