Unite will leave no worker behind — that is the message workers are hearing as they turn to the collective protection of their trade union in this time of unprecedented turmoil.
Across Britain and Ireland many workers are facing uncertainty over the future of their jobs and their income, while many more are facing a battle to ensure their workplaces are safe during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Over 16,000 workers joined Unite in March as the lockdown took hold. You cannot ensure the security of your job or income, or maintain the safety of your colleagues and the public on your own. To do these things you need the collective strength of a union of workers.
Not every employer has negotiated honestly or taken its responsibility to its employees seriously. Where employers abdicate their responsibility to workers – we will push back. Our shop stewards and reps have been holding these employers to account, alongside officers and organisers.
Many of these workers who have joined Unite have done so in workplaces where our reps have been actively leading campaigning efforts on these issues. Refuse workers, including in Newham, Southampton, Greenwich and Thurrock have negotiated, and stopped work where necessary, to ensure that workers aren’t being sent out three to a cab and working without PPE, and that those sick or self-isolating have proper sick pay.
Food workers at ABP in Northern Ireland walked out to secure their safety, inspiring others to do the same, and they won social distancing measures, screens and visors and hand sanitiser so they can keep producing the food we need.
NHS workers from Kent to Lothian have been joining Unite and organising for safe working to protect staff and patients.
Unite members working for Transport for London at Victoria Coach Station and Leeds Bradford Airport are among many to have negotiated lay-off payments at 100 per cent – well above the 80 per cent government scheme.
And workers have had to innovate in order to organise. Sheffield University Students’ Union reps used Zoom for organising meetings, collected petitions online and used social media to pressure the employer, growing the union by 50 per cent and winning sick pay and furlough pay for casual workers as well as permanent staff. Collective grievances have been collected online and by phone, negotiations have been held by conference call, and picket lines have been spaced out to ensure social distancing.
While the way we organise, like the way we do just about everything, has had to change, we continue to organise and support workers. While the country may be in lockdown, Unite the union is very much still open for business. We must ensure that no worker is left behind.
- Sharon Graham is Unite executive officer, organising and leverage
Find out more https://unitetheunion.org/work-voice-pay
- Take a look at Unite the union’s website here and visit our Work, Voice, Pay guides as part of our industrial strategy https://unitetheunion.org/work-voice-pay/work-voice-pay-guides/
- If you need to check your company’s economic status, Unite reps can use our Employer Profile Generator at https://unitetheunion.org/work-voice-pay/employer-profile-generator/
- If you need to see your company’s accounts please email firstname.lastname@example.org
- If you are negotiating a lay off agreement in your workplace, you can download a guidance template to help you from here https://unitetheunion.org/work-voice-pay/work-voice-pay-guides/
And the latest Work Voice Pay Monthly contains essential bargaining advice on Covid 19, plus a round-up on successful campaigning for changes like safer working and better sick pay, and usual RPI data etc. See more https://bit.ly/2yoksp3