Category: Industrial Action

Northumberland home staff could take industrial action over pay cut

> Another example of what happens when NHS services are privatised…

Staff in homes for people with learning and physical disabilities in Northumberland could take strike action over what they describe as a “savage cut” to their terms and conditions.

The majority of 36 workers in five homes run by Lifeways are being balloted amid claims their pay is to be slashed by £2.30 an hour to £7.65 – below the National Living Wage.

They also say the company is cutting paid sickness leave to five days per year, reducing its contribution to workers’ pensions from 14% to 4% and removing death in service benefits.

The workers are based at three homes in Bedlington and two in Choppington and are represented by the union Unison.

It claims staff who transferred to Lifeways from the NHS are seeing their maternity provision replaced by the statutory minimum and that holiday entitlement has been reduced by seven days.

Unison spokesman Trevor Johnston said:

“They are faced with losing between a third and half of their income and a savage cut to their other terms and conditions of employment.

“The staff are very concerned about their financial security. They are very committed to caring for the residents and appreciate that disruption is unsettling for them. However, they feel that they are faced with no alternative.

“Unison has offered to undertake meaningful negotiations with the employer, especially as Lifeways made a profit last year of £14m.

“Other not-for-profit organisations faced with similar cuts have offered their staff buy out arrangements while continuing to pay the Living Wage.”

The company has blamed a 30% cut in the money it is given to run the homes by Northumberland County Council.

A Lifeways spokesperson said:

“We recognise the impact that any changes to terms and conditions will have on our staff and we are holding talks with Unison in order to avoid industrial action.

“Our service users remain our number one priority and we will maintain a high level of care at all times.

“However, like all other providers of adult social care, we are having to reduce our costs as a result of local authority budget cuts.

“Despite a 30% reduction in fees, we are required to deliver the same level of service as currently.

“The fee decrease is being absorbed in part through a reduction in our operating costs, mostly through the proposed changes in employment terms and conditions, but also in part by Lifeways directly.”

The services now run by Lifeways were operated by the Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust as residential care homes until 2012.

A Northumberland County Council spokesperson:

“The trust made a decision a number of years ago that they no longer felt it appropriate for them to continue providing this kind of social care service, and consulted their staff in relation to this.

“The county council, which was the funder of the services, therefore advertised in 2012 for a new provider to take over the services and work towards supporting the service users in a less institutional way, changing the services from residential homes to a ‘supported living’ scheme, in which service users would become tenants with enhanced rights and greater independence.

“The contract offered in the original tender is the contract that was agreed would operate from April 1.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 09 Mar 2015

Teesside : Police accused of ‘witch hunt’ amid claims union members were ‘targeted for questioning’ over foreign labour dispute

A trade union has accused police of carrying out a “witch hunt” in connection with a long-running dispute over the building of a Teesside power plant.

The GMB union claims its members were “targeted for questioning” and a member was visited by police at their home.

The criticism of Cleveland Police’s actions is linked to the union’s ongoing row with Sita Sembcorp over the levels of foreign workers used to build a £250m energy plant at Wilton.

The GMB union is seeking to know how the force learned the names and private mobile telephone numbers of union members.

It has also asked why a member was visited by officers at their home last Sunday to be questioned about a protest held at the Wilton industrial site on Monday.

Phil Whitehurst, GMB national officer, said:

“The Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger needs to ask the police to answer some basic questions on this activity by the Cleveland Police on this protest over discrimination by Sita SembCorp against Teesside workers.

“We need to know who instigated this witch hunt, why were unemployed construction workers targeted for questioning, how the police got their names and private mobile telephone numbers and home addresses.

“Above all we need to know why Cleveland Police devote resources to targeting peaceful trade union protest rather than fighting criminal activity in the area.”

In response, Chief Superintendent Adrian Roberts of Cleveland Police said:

“Officers were made aware of a number of posts on an open social media profile, which discussed protests planned at the Wilton site on the morning of Monday, February 23, and that this would potentially involve large numbers of protesters congregating at the entry and exit gates to the site.

“Police identified that the protest would coincide with rush hour and due to existing road works on the A174, that there would be substantial congestion.

“Public safety is paramount and with a site of this nature, there was an absolute need to ensure the ability of emergency service vehicles to enter and leave the site in the event of an emergency.

“In line with national best practice, officers from Cleveland Police openly sought to identify and engage with the organisers in advance, to explain the role of the force and open a dialogue to ensure the protest went ahead peacefully, lawfully and safely.

“This involved contact with one of the trade unions who were known to be connected to the dispute. They indicated that they were aware of the individual who appeared from social media to be organising the protest but that the protest had nothing to do with them.

“In order to establish a working dialogue with protesters, officers made direct contact with an individual via telephone, but having generated no response, the person was visited at his home address by an officer.

“There was no suggestion whatsoever that the right to protest would be improperly impeded, however, the individual was unforthcoming. To be clear the police had no knowledge of any current affiliation between this individual and the GMB trades union.

“As in all situations of this type, Cleveland Police’s role was to objectively and impartially balance the rights of individuals to engage in peaceful protest with the rights of affected businesses and members of the public to go about their lawful activities.

“Cleveland Police would very much welcome the engagement of GMB or any other trades union involved in the planning of any future protests, and would invite contact.”

Also responding to the comments, Cleveland Police and crime commissioner, Barry Coppinger said:

“I have not received any correspondence or complaint from the GMB or any other individual or organisation with regard to the matters reported in the local media.

“If I do receive such correspondence I will act appropriately.”

Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 26 Feb 2015

Hundreds join FBU Newcastle rally in protest against changes to pensions and retirement age

Hundreds of firefighters gathered in Newcastle for a rally against changes to their pension and retirement ages.

The protest at the Monument today formed part of a national 24 hour stoppage in the long running dispute over Government proposals the Fire Brigade Union described as “unworkable”.

Officials say that under the government’s plan, firefighters will have to work until they are 60 instead of 55, pay more into their pensions and get less in retirement.

The latest industrial action in the four year dispute followed claims by the FBU that fire minister Penny Mordaunt had mislead parliament over the matter.

It says in a parliamentary debate last December she gave a guarantee that any firefighter aged 55 or over who failed a fitness test through no fault of their own should get another role or a full, unreduced pension.

The union said fire authorities across the country had failed to back up the minister’s “guarantee”.

However a Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said:

“We have been clear that firefighters get an unreduced pension or a job and have changed the national framework through a statutory instrument to do so.

“If fire authorities do not produce processes which yield this, the Secretary of State has said he will intervene.”

Fire Brigades Union Rally at Monument in Newcastle
Fire Brigades Union Rally at Monument in Newcastle

In Newcastle, Pete Wilcox, regional secretary for the FBU in the North East, said:

“We don’t want to be taking action because we’re aware of the consequences as we deal with them day-in and day-out.

“But we have been misled. The government talked of giving guarantees to those who fail a fitness test through no fault of their own to get an unreduced pension. Then it spoke of setting up an appeals process on it. Why do you need an appeals process when there’s supposed to be a guarantee?”

He said improvements to pension arrangements had been made in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland which meant no strike action was taking place there.

 

Mr Wilcox added: “We hope the Government will be back around the table and start negotiating again.”

As well as the firefighters and their families who attended the Newcastle rally, representatives of other unions including Beth Farhat, Northern regional TUC secretary, turned up to give their support.

The strike began at 7am on Wednesday and saw pickets at fire stations across the North East.

Meanwhile a number of North East FBU members joined thousands of colleagues in London for a lunchtime rally in Westminster addressed by MPs and union officials.

Firefighters later lobbied MPs for support in their campaign against changes to pensions and retirement age.

The Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman added:

“Strike action is unnecessary and appears to be over a point which is a vast improvement on the 2006 scheme which required firefighters to work to 60 with no protection.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 25 Feb 2015

Nestlé Fawdon staff secure pay rise following strike threat

Unhappy workers at a Tyneside sweet factory are close to striking a deal with bosses.

Staff at the Nestlé factory in Fawdon, Newcastle have had “constructive” talks with management over restructuring plans.

They expressed concern when proposals understood to include changes to paid break entitlements and shift patterns were put forward last year.

No redundancies are thought to be planned as part of the changes but unions claimed pay packets could be slashed for full-time employees.

The confectionery giant insisted changes were necessary “in order to ensure the longer term security of the site”.

More than 450 factory floor staff have been locked in talks with bosses since last summer and threatened to strike if no resolution was found.

A ballot was held by the trades union asking staff to vote on the company’s pay offer, with all 377 workers who voted rejecting it.

 

But now it appears that a pay deal has been struck, with changes to shift patterns to be finalised later.

A source said:

“We are being given a 2% pay rise and another one in July. The factory is also looking at taking on more staff, although shift patterns probably won’t be sorted until a later date.

“Staff are happier now than they were a few months ago, when there was real unrest. They were threatening to strike but that is not the case any more.”

The Fawdon plant, on Rowan Drive, is second only to York as the company’s largest factory in the UK and opened in 1958.

It was the centre of a police probe earlier this year when unidentified pink tablets were found among Jelly Tots on the factory’s production line.

As well as Jelly Tots the other popular brands manufactured at the plant include Fruit Pastilles, Rolo, Blue Riband, Breakaway, Yorkie, Drifter and Caramac.

It is thought to produce around 40,000 tons of chocolate a year.

A Nestlé spokesman said: “We have had a number of constructive discussions with the trades union and these will continue.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 19 Feb 2015

Gateshead Barbour staff accept new deal from bosses after being re-ballotted

Barbour staff have accepted a new deal from their bosses after being re-balloted on the offer of a shorter working week.

Workers at the clothing firm’s Gateshead-based warehouse went on strike earlier this month over the introduction of a two-shift system.

The industrial action came to an end last week after the company agreed to offer increases in pay and day shift working for those with family and caring responsibilities.

However members of the Unite union were re-balloted on Monday over an offer of a shorter working week.

Unite said its members were concerned about the deal and had proposed staff work for 37.5 hours a week, instead of 39 hours, and bank around 78 hours which would be worked off during the firm’s busiest periods of the year.

However bosses at Barbour said the additional hours offer was never on the table, and union members have now agreed to a 37.5 hour contract, with no additional working during peak times.

Unite regional officer Fazia Hussain-Brown said:

“There was another ballot on a revised offer from the company and members have agreed to a 37.5 hour contract.

“There will be no banked hours which would have been worked during the firm’s busiest period.

“With a heavy heart, our members have decided to work fewer hours and thus have a cut in wages. The members are going to be losing 78 hours worth of payments through the year.”

Brenda Readman-Bell, IT and finance director at the firm, said: “We are pleased the latest ballot of the workforce by the union on a shorter working week has been accepted.

“When this condition was put on the table last week by the union we agreed to incorporate it into the final deal for an acceptance of a two shift system in the warehouse from April 2015.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 19 Jan 2015

Barbour Dispute Settled

Durham Community Support Centre

Striking Barbour workers at the famous jacket maker in Gateshead will be going back to work after accepting a significantly improved offer following talks at Acas, their union Unite announced today (Tuesday 13 January).
A majority of the workers, who had been on strike following forced changes to their contracts, accepted a deal which sees substantial increases in pay and day shift working for those with family and caring responsibilities.
J Barbour and Son Ltd had given warehouse workers a ‘sign or be sacked’ ultimatum over changes that included the removal of the unsocial hours payment and the introduction of a requirement to work until 11 o’clock at night.
But after four days of strike action in December and one week into a four week stoppage, management agreed to talks at Acas.
Commenting, Unite regional officer Fazia Hussain-Brown said:
“A majority of members have accepted this improved offer which sees…

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Striking Gateshead Barbour workers to vote on new offer from company

Striking workers at a top clothing brand will today vote on whether to continue their walk-out after crunch talks.

Staff at Barbour are in the second week of industrial action in a dispute over contractual changes which would require employees to work more late nights and early mornings as part of a new two shift system.

But yesterday, Acas talks between union chiefs and the firm’s bosses were described as “constructive” and union members will be balloted on a new offer today.

A spokeswoman for Barbour said:

“Following constructive talks at Acas today, Barbour, which has been subject to industrial action by a number of its warehouse staff, has said progress has been made. Union members will be balloted on the offer.

“The need to implement a two shift system in the warehouses reflects the continued growth and expansion of the business.”

The company, which has its headquarters in Barbour House, South Shields, told employees about the shift changes in May last year, affecting three warehouses which employ 180 people.

 

The industrial action involves two warehouses, and of the 160 people employed in those, 65 are union members.

Workers first walked out for six days in December, before striking again from last Monday and holding a rally outside Barbour House.

Unite regional officer Fazia Hussain-Brown attended yesterday’s meeting, having called for staff not to be forced unfairly into working unsociable hours.

She said:

“We will hold a union meeting in the morning to discuss the company’s offer with members.

“Progress was made and this is positive, given that it was a difficult decision for our members to stand out in picket lines in the coldest temperatures of the winter.”

On Friday, local MPs Stephen Hepburn and Emma Lewell-Buck were invited to the Barbour headquarters to be briefed on the dispute and to help find a resolution.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  13 Jan 2015

Call for Dame Margaret Barbour to intervene in strike dispute

Barbour warehouse staff picketing outside Beacon House, Follingsby Park, at the start of a three week strike.

Striking workers are to call on Barbour’s chair Dame Margaret Barbour to help resolve a dispute over changes to employees contracts.

A letter is to be handed in to the firm’s headquarters in Simonside, South Shields, tomorrow, following a march by those taking industrial action.

A rally will also be held outside Barbour House.

The march, which will set off from the Tesco car park at 9.30am, comes as Barbour management have agreed to Acas talks on Monday, according to union Unite.

They are calling on Dame Barbour to ensure the company’s management enter the talks in a positive and constructive manner.

Speakers at the rally will include Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn and South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck.

Unite regional officer Fazia Hussain-Brown said:

Barbour’s actions run contrary to the family values the company says it holds dear. We hope that Dame Barbour listens to the workers’ concerns and ensures that the company’s management enters Monday’s talks in a constructive manner.

“Workers have shown through their solid support for the strike that they are prepared to stand firm to get a just settlement.

“Management should be under no illusion of the workforce’s resolve and we urge Dame Margaret Barbour to intervene and help resolve a dispute which is damaging the Barbour brand.”

January’s four week stoppage by the Gateshead based workers started on Monday 5 January and follows six days of strike action in December in a row over contracts.

Members of Unite are unhappy at changes in their contracts, which, they say, will see the removal of unsocial hours payments and the requirement to work until 11pm.

However, the company, says the new proposed shift pattern would be from 7am to 3pm, and 2.30pm to 10.30pm, and that the deal offers workers substantial pay rises.

Source – Shields Gazette,  08 Jan 2015

Strike action kicks off against South Tyneside based clothing firm Barbour

Factory workers have kicked off four weeks of strike action in a row over contracts proposed by a South Tyneside based clothing firm.

Warehouse staff at the clothing firm J Barbour and Sons had hoped the start of the new year would bring fresh negotiations to avoid industrial action.

However, according to Unite regional officer Fazia Hussain-Brown no communication has been forthcoming and workers took their place on the picket line, yesterday.

The row is being taken by members of the Unite union who are unhappy at changes to their contracts which, they say, will see the removal of unsocial hours payments, and the requirement to work until 11pm.

The company says the new proposed shift pattern would be 7am to 3pm and 2.30pm to 10.30pm, and no one was available to comment on the industrial action.

The dispute centres on the firm’s warehouses in Wardley, Gateshead, and involves 134 of its 600 North East workers.

Source – Shields Gazette, 05 Jan 2015

Gateshead : Barbour staff set for four-week strike

Workers at one of South Tyneside’s longest-established firms are set to walk out in a row over new contracts.

Warehouse staff at the clothing firm J Barbour and Sons will embark on a four-week strike action from Monday.

The action is being taken by members of the Unite union who are unhappy at changes to their contracts which, they say, will see the removal of unsocial hours payments, and the requirement to work until 11pm.

The company says the new proposed shift pattern would be 7am to 3pm and 2.30pm to 10.30pm, but no one was available to comment on the industrial action.

The dispute centres on the firm’s warehouses in Wardley, Gateshead, and involves 134 of its 600 North East workers.

The three-week strike follows a six-day stoppage in the run-up to Christmas.

Unite regional officer Fazia Hussain-Brown said:

“Many of the workers struggling to get by on less than the living wage and are the sole breadwinner with family or caring responsibilities.

“For a company that prides itself on ‘family values’ to seek to railroad through cuts and unsocial changes to contracts is hypocrisy of the highest order.

“The company should not underestimate the resolve of the workforce or the impact that four weeks of strike action will have on supplies.

“Barbour management need to negotiate a fair deal for its workforce.”

Barbour has been a successful family-run company for 120 years and its famous wax jackets are a favourite with showbusiness stars and the British Royal Family.

The threat of strike action has been a rarity for Barbour.

In November, 2007, industrial action was narrowly averted after machinists accepted an improved 4.1 per cent pay increase.

Source –  Shields Gazette,  30 Dec 2014