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Heart Unions Week: UniteLive looks at key wins in February

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It’s only just over half way through the month in February, and already Unite has secured a number of major wins for its members. During Heart Unions Week this week, we have a look at these latest wins from this month.

Abellio London

The long running industrial dispute involving over 1,800 bus drivers employed by Abellio in London has ended after workers accepted a greatly improved pay offer this week.

Following a workplace ballot, the workers, who are members of Unite, have accepted a pay increase that will see drivers with over two years’ service being paid £18 an hour. This equates to a pay increase of 18 per cent on the basic rate.

The agreement includes increases to all rates including overtime and rest day working. Negotiations over the last few weeks also saw an increase to the rate for new starters and increased rates for Saturday/Sunday working. The union also won £18 per hour for drivers who transferred to Abellio under TUPE legislation and had not previously been made the offer.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “This is an important pay victory. Workers have stood firm and with the support of their union, Unite, they have secured a richly deserved pay increase.

“Unite’s constant focus on the jobs, pay and conditions of our members is continuing to deliver increased pay awards for workers.”

Crucially, a commitment to immediately negotiate a new scheduling agreement was also secured, including early agreement regarding scheduling rest breaks and start times in order to bring the dispute to an end.  

In addition to the pay increase, the union’s campaign has resulted in one of Unite’s reps being reinstated after they had initially been dismissed on trumped up charges. The union had made clear that there would be no resolution to the dispute without the reinstatement of the rep.

The victory was hard won, with the workforce taking over 20 days of strike action beginning late last year to secure the pay increase.

Unite regional officer Guy Langston said, “This pay deal could not have been secured without the hard work of Unite’s reps and the commitment of its members. Unite will be looking to build on its increased industrial strength in future pay negotiations.

“The pay victory at Abellio is a further example of why those wanting better wages and working conditions should join Unite and get their colleagues to join as well.”

University of Dundee

Unite announced on February 9 that around 30 estates workers at the University of Dundee have been paid thousands in a dispute over unpaid holiday pay.

Despite representations made to the University of Dundee it was only after the threat of legal action by Unite which resulted in the workers receiving approximately £16,500 in total.

Some estates workers including joiners, plumbers and electricians will receive up to £1,000. This group of workers contractually do overtime regularly and are on call.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “The strength of our membership ensured that the University of Dundee paid out what our members were owed in unpaid holiday pay. It’s a classic example of workers showing resolve along with the importance of being a member of a trade union. Unite does what it says on the tin, we deliver better jobs, pay and conditions for our members.”

Bear Scotland Limited Hertel (UK) Limited and Amec Group Limited v Fulton Woods, Law and Others 2014 ruling confirmed that regularly worked overtime and other regular payments must be included when calculating holiday pay.

Unite industrial officer Susan Robertson added, “Unite should not have had to threaten the University of Dundee with legal action in order to get them to comply with the law. It’s a poor state of affairs that our members have been forced to fight for what is rightfully theirs. However, it’s a testament to collective power and by standing together they have held this employer once again to account.”

Unite has also been in a long running pensions dispute with the University of Dundee. The dispute stems from the University’s decision in March 2021 to propose the closure of the Defined Benefits Scheme and replace it with a Defined Contribution Scheme.

The University then changed their original proposal following strike action by Unite Members in October, 2022 and they remain within a Defined Benefits Scheme. New members of the pension scheme will automatically go into a Defined Contribution Scheme.

Welwyn and Hatfield grounds maintenance workers win

Workers employed by Continental Landscapes, on Welwyn and Hatfield council’s ground maintenance contract, have secured a pay increase of at least 13 per cent, following a lengthy industrial dispute, Unite announced in February.

The 13 members of Unite began strike action in November in order to secure a pay increase, the introduction of pay differentials based on skills and knowledge and the assurance that temporary agency staff would not receive higher rates of pay.

Under the agreement, pay will increase on 1 April from £10.12 an hour to at least £11.44 an hour (a 13.1 per cent increase), there will be two further skills based pay bands at £11.60 an hour (a 14.6 per cent increase) and £11.75 an hour (a 16.1 per cent) increase.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “This is an excellent result for a group of workers who stood together in unity and in doing so secured a fair pay increase.

“This result demonstrates how Unite’s commitment to fight for the jobs, pay and conditions of its members, no matter how large or small the workplace, is securing direct financial dividends.”

As part of the deal to end the dispute, Unite secured a commitment that in future agency workers will not be paid a higher rate of pay than permanent staff.

Unite regional officer Richard Gates added, “Unite will now be looking to engage constructively with Continental Landscapes going forward to ensure that the agreements that have been reached are fully implemented in the best interests of the workers and the company.”

By UniteLive team