Unite Scotland Newsletter - APRIL 2017

The Battle of Grangemouth: A Worker's Story

Grangemouth: A Worker's Story

'The Battle of Grangemouth: A Worker’s Story', by Unite convener Mark Lyon, reveals how a rich tax exile was able to take control of a vital part of the UK’s fuel and petrochemical industry – and how workers at Grangemouth and Unite fought back.

The book was launched in Grangemouth on March 17, with workers from the Grangemouth plants, friends and family joining Mark, alongside our Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty and general secretary Len McCluskey.

Len McCluskey, Mark Lyon and Pat Rafferty

Unite members can buy the book using the special discount code UNITE17. All proceeds go to The Trussell Trust, helping food banks in Falkirk and beyond.

Does pipeline sale leave us over a barrel?

Some 40 per cent of North Sea oil flows through the Forties pipeline

Unite is calling for the Scottish and Westminster parliaments to carry out urgent inquiries into the sale of the Forties Pipeline System from BP to Ineos.

As outlined in Mark Lyon's book (see above), we were involved in two major disputes with Ineos over the treatment of workers at the Grangemouth refinery in 2008 and 2013. During the second dispute, the company – owned by billionaire tax-avoider Jim Ratcliffe – threatened to close the facility forever.

The Forties Pipeline System is made up of roughly 100 miles of pipeline and is one of the most important strategic pieces of infrastructure in the North Sea. It carries nearly half a million barrels of oil each day, which amounts to 40 per cent of UK oil production, from 80 different oil fields. At maximum capacity it can bring one million barrels of oil ashore.

Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: “Unite firmly believes that this sale is bad for Scotland and the UK. We demand that both the Scottish and Westminster parliaments carry out inquiries, and that every MSP and MP in Scotland has a responsibility to make their position clear. Do they believe this sale is in the national interest?”

Nuclear base staff suspend industrial action after talks

Civilan workers at Faslane & Coulport take action

Members of Unite the union at the Coulport and Faslane naval bases have suspended industrial action against their employer Babcock Marine.

The decision was taken at a meeting of Unite shop stewards and workplace representatives on Wednesday 12 April. It followed talks held in London on Monday 10 April, involving Unite general secretary Len McCluskey and senior executives from Babcock Marine.

Civilian staff at Coulport and Faslane started industrial action on 24 March, after allegations that Babcock Marine were undermining workers’ rights as part of a campaign to outsource work.

A new proposed accord by Unite and Babcock Marine acknowledges that there has been a ‘breakdown in the relationship’ between management and trade unions, and makes a series of proposals to resolve the problems.

The accord will now be put to a mass meeting of Unite members on Tuesday 18 April, with a recommendation from shop stewards that it should be accepted.

Unite regional officer Stephen Deans said: “Our members at Coulport and Faslane have a real commitment to their work supporting the Royal Navy. The suspension of their industrial action is another sign of their goodwill.

“As always, it’s our members who will make the final decision on whether this accord goes far enough in meeting their concerns, but Unite believes it is a solid foundation to build a better partnership in the future.”

Offshore members vote to reject pay deal

Our members employed by OCA contractors reject pay deal

Members of Scotland’s biggest offshore trade union have voted to reject a pay offer.

In a consultative ballot, 81 per cent of Unite members voted to reject the latest deal put forward by their employers, represented by the Offshore Contractors Association.

This is the second pay offer rejected by members. In December, 85 per cent of Unite members voted to reject a previous OCA proposal that would have seen no increase in their pay and no improvement to their terms and conditions.

Unite is seeking a significant wage increase for members, along with improved sick pay and paid travel time to an employer’s onshore base.

Unite regional officer Tommy Campbell said: “We have repeatedly warned the OCA employers and other offshore employers that we cannot simply have a race to the bottom, with companies competing with each other to suppress the pay and conditions of offshore workers. We will now consult with our union members and Unite workplace representatives about the way forward, given they now have a mandate for an industrial action ballot following the rejection of the pay offer.”

‘Scotland’s Navy’ votes for industrial action

Scotland's fisheries could be left wide open

Unite is warning that Scotland’s seas could be left wide open to illegal fishing, after members at Marine Scotland voted in favour of industrial action in a dispute over fair pay.

Marine Scotland seafarers have been taking part in a long-running campaign for pay equality, after discovering that they are being paid thousands of pounds less than other workers. A chief steward for Marine Scotland can earn up to £29,579 a year while at CalMac the same post is rewarded with £37,675.

Both Marine Scotland and CalMac are wholly owned by Scottish Ministers. Marine Scotland operates Marine Protection Vessels and research ships to protect the seas and fisheries around the country - leading to them being nicknamed 'Scotland's Navy'.

On 13 April Unite announced that 100 per cent of its Marine Scotland members had voted in favour of industrial action in a consultative ballot.

Unite regional officer Alexander Smart said: “Our members at Marine Scotland do a difficult job, safeguarding our seas on behalf of all of us – and often spending long periods of time away from home. It is completely unfair that they are being paid less than other seafarers in the public sector.

“They want fair pay now. If they don’t get it, then industrial action is a real possibility. That would leave Scotland’s seas unprotected, with no checks on fishing vessels to make sure they are respecting quotas and net sizes.

“It would also mean that two science vessels would be tied up at dock – unable to carry out research that is used by the Scottish Government, the UK Government, and the European Union. That’s vital when it comes to setting fishing quotas.

“Our members want to avoid that situation – but unless there is movement from Marine Scotland and the Scottish Government to deliver fair pay, they will take action.”

In December last year the Scottish Parliament passed an amendment put forward by Scottish Labour, stating that Marine Scotland staff should receive a fair pay settlement that recognises their experience and skills.

Bus drivers ballot over ‘exhausting’ shifts

Stagecoach drivers are being asked to work 'exhausting' shifts

Bus driver members employed by Stagecoach are balloting on strike action over shift patterns that could leave them ‘exhausted’ at the wheel.

Over 120 drivers at Stagecoach’s Cumbernauld depot are expected to take long breaks of between two and three hours between running services – effectively forcing them to work split shifts.

Unite says these shifts will badly affect the work-life balance of drivers, as well as creating major health and safety concerns.

Unite regional officer Wendy Dunsmore said: “Our driver members at Stagecoach already work hard to make sure that people across the west of Scotland can get to where they need to go. They deserve a decent working life, which allows them to have proper rest and proper time with their families. Having a rest break of two to three hours in the middle of a shift will massively lengthen the drivers’ working day, and our fear is that it will leave them exhausted at the wheel. How is someone supposed to get proper rest when they are still effectively at work?"

Workers need action on windfarm safety and welfare

We need action to improve workers’ welfare and safety on windfarms

Unite is calling for action to improve workers’ welfare and safety on windfarms after two workers died in a fortnight.

The first tragedy occurred on March 15 when Antonio Linares a 37 year old Portuguese worker, was killed from a fall at Scottish Power’s Kilgallioch Windfarm in South Ayrshire. Mr Linares was working for contractor Gamesa.

The most recent tragedy occurred on Wednesday 29 March. A Spanish worker fell from a turbine at Scottish Power’s Whitelee Windfarm in East Renfrewshire.

Unite regional co-ordinating officer, Steve Dillon, said: “These two deaths are terrible tragedies and our thoughts go to the families of the two victims. In recent years there have been far too many deaths and injuries involving windfarms. These installations are usually in remote locations and there is a concern that these tragedies have not received the same focus if they had occurred in more populous areas."

One worker injured “every week” on Aberdeen bypass

More than 100 workers have been injured during the construction of the north-east’s long-awaited £745million bypass.

The Press and Journal newspaper revealed that on average at least one labourer a week has been hurt since the commencement of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) project.

Unite the Union officer John Clark said: “The figures are unacceptable. I believe these figures are on the conservative side because I know of more incidents where people have been injured and it has not been recorded and workers have continued going into work because they fear losing their job.”

Unite anger as RBS ‘turns its back on communities’

Unite has expressed anger over plans by RBS to cut even more branches in Scotland.

On 23 March, RBS announced that it plans to close 30 more branches across the whole of Scotland, with an impact on 219 staff and up to 82 full-time equivalent jobs at risk.

Unite regional officer Lyn Turner said: “RBS is turning its back on the communities that have been the foundation of their business for generations. That’s bad news for our members who now have to live with the threat of redundancy – and it’s bad news for customers and businesses.

“Banks have a duty to the wider community and that is especially the case for banks like RBS that have large taxpayer-owned shareholdings.

“Scotland’s financial sector is going through a jobs crisis. We’ve lost more than 20,000 posts since 2008. If those jobs had been lost in any other sector, we believe there would be a national outcry and massive government intervention. But for some reason, the financial big boys are given a free pass, slashing jobs and closing branches. That has to stop.

“We again call on RBS and the government to pause and reflect on the bank's current path, which risks cutting too far, by putting a moratorium in place on further branch closures."

Unite has also expressed anger and concerns over plans to close 24 Bank of Scotland branches across the country. Unite national officer Rob McGregor said: "The industry must halt these endless branch closure programs and open their eyes to what these closures are doing to rural communities, their disabled customers and the small business customers who depend on access to a local branch.”

Unite Community activists say no to sanctions

Scottish campaigners from Unite the union protested outside job centres on Thursday 30 March as part of a UK-wide day against benefit sanctions.

Unite Community – the section of the union for people not in work – has taken up the issue after hearing first-hand stories of how people are being left destitute as a result of having their social security taken away for ‘ridiculous reasons’.

Campaigners held #No2Sanctions protests outside job centres in Irvine, Dundee, Edinburgh and Dunfermline, highlighting what they say is the horrific consequences of sanctions, as portrayed in Ken Loach’s award-winning film ‘I, Daniel Blake’.

Unite Scotland Community co-ordinator Jamie Caldwell said: “More and more people are facing benefit sanctions. Last year an estimated total of 25,000 benefit claimants were sanctioned across Scotland - many of whom were left with nothing.

“What kind of a country are we living in, where a government can deliberately set out to leave children without enough to eat? It’s heartbreaking for that to happen in developing countries, but it’s a source of national scandal and shame in a rich country like the UK.

“Rather than punishing the unemployed for not having a job the government should be helping people get jobs. People need a hand up – not a slap down.”

Unite Community are inviting people who have been affected by sanctions to share their stories, by going to their campaign website at www.unitetheunion.org/no2sanctions.

Unite Community campaigners saying #no2sanctions in Irvine

International Workers Memorial Day - 28 April

28 April is International Workers’ Memorial Day, when workers come together and remember those who have been killed and injured at work. The slogan for the day is “remember the dead – fight for the living” and the symbol is the purple ribbon.

Sadly, it is all too likely that know someone who has died at work, has been injured in the workplace or is suffering from an occupational diseases.

This year Unite is highlighting the message that an organised workplace is a safe workplace, while also recognising the vital work of Unite safety reps in ensuring that their fellow workers are safe at work.

There are Workers Memorial Day events taking place across Scotland on 28 April, including Aberdeen, Bathgate, Coatbridge, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hamilton and Inverness.

❤Unions week

Thanks to all the Unite Scotland members who took part in this year's #HeartUnions week. ❤Unions week is timed to coincide with Valentine's Day, and is a chance to celebrate everything that is great about trade unions - and especially Unite.

Special congratulations go to the NHS Ayrshire & Arran Branch, who held a special #HeartUnions event and got lots of staff involved.

If you're interested in organising a #HeartUnions day of action next year, drop us a line and we'll help get you the materials you need. It's a chance to talk to your colleagues, family and friends about why being part of Unite matters to you. Email david.eyre@unitetheunion.org

Unite members across Scotland joined the #HeartUnions campaign

Concern over Dounreay jobs announcement

Unite the union says it is ‘disappointed’ over plans to cut jobs at the Dounreay nuclear site, and believes there is enough work to support all the existing jobs.

The union was reacting to the news that site owner DSRL is to open a voluntary redundancy programme for staff.

Unite regional officer Ian Ewing said: “We are very disappointed and concerned that the company have announced redundancies, when we believe there is enough work to sustain the resources presently employed.

“We will work with the company to minimise the numbers at risk and we will not entertain any compulsory redundancies."

More strikes at Fujitsu

Fujitsu members on strike in Edinburgh

Unite members working for the IT giant Fujitsu are taking part in further strike action.

Workers at sites including Edinburgh are taking action on Thursday 13 April and Monday 24 April.

There will also be a 48-hour strike starting at 00.01 on Thursday 20 April.

The dispute centres on pay, pensions, job security and union recognition - and takes place against a background of Fujitsu’s plans to axe and offshore 1,800 jobs in the UK.

Fujitsu is highly profitable in the UK, making £85.6 million profit in the last financial year. Unite argues that an ill-considered move to cut and offshore jobs jeopardises the viability of the existing business and runs contrary to its image as a ‘responsible business’.

The previous four days of strikes took place on 28 February and 17, 24 and 27 March, generating strong support and hitting services to customers.

Unite national officer Ian Tonks said: “The previous four days of strike action generated strong support from workers determined to stand up for their jobs and livelihoods.

“The way Fujitsu is treating its workforce and keeping them in the dark over its plans for the future is beyond contempt.

“This is a workforce that has worked hard to make Fujitsu in the UK highly profitable, yet their reward is job cuts and pension reductions, while the company frustrates Unite’s attempts to minimise compulsory redundancies.

“Fujitsu needs to start seriously engaging with Unite to avoid further industrial action, which could stretch into the summer."

Members benefiting from legal services

So far, in the first quarter of 2017, Unite Legal Services have obtained £1,159,025 damages in Employment cases and £2,245,687 in Personal Injury compensation for its Scotland members through our three panel solicitors – Allan McDougall, Dallas McMillan and Thompsons Solicitors.

There have been 269 free wills prepared and 179 members have received free legal advice. Members do not pay any legal fees when pursuing a claim through Unite Legal Services and retain 100% of any compensation awarded.

Council budget cuts

Councils face an overall shortfall of at least £55 million

Councils across Scotland have set their budgets, following the approval of the Scottish Government's budget.

It's not good news. Even with the last-minute concessions made by the Finance Secretary, councils face an overall shortfall of at least £55 million. That means further cuts at a time when the public services we all rely on are already cut to the bone. Since 2010, more than 40,000 council jobs have been lost across Scotland.

We've been calling on the Scottish Government to use new powers on taxation to protect our public services. If we want strong, sustainable services that allow us to care for each other properly, we need progressive taxation to pay for it, where those who can afford it make a bigger contribution. Everyone benefits from a stronger society.

And we're also calling on the Scottish Government to get behind our Drop the Debt campaign, taking some of the weight of historic debt from around the neck of our councils.

Here's a film we made of our budget protest at Edinburgh City Council.

Unite activists brings miners play to Scotland

In the build up to May Day celebration, Unite Scotland Area Activists and Unite Community are bringing a play about the miners' strike to Scotland.

Inspired by the accounts of miners who lived through the strike, Undermined depicts a year where friendships were strengthened and communities came together. Experience events like the infamous Orgreave through the eyes of young miner Dale, as he takes you through his personal story inviting you into the action.

This one-man show explores the humour and struggles of the miners’ strike through energetic and gripping storytelling. With a classic soundtrack, one chair and a pint of beer, Danny Mellor presents a youthful and contemporary approach to one of Britain’s most controversial disputes. Undermined is a reminder of how much things have and haven’t changed.

Performances will take place in Aberdeen on Wed 26 April. Dundee on Thu 27 April, Edinburgh on Fri 28 April, and Glasgow on Sat 29 April.

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