Message and Welcome from Unite South West Regional Secretary Steve Preddy
Dear South West Member,
Happy New Year to all
I believe all of us, reflecting on the profound difficulties faced throughout the past year, yearn for the potential of brighter opportunities and renewed hope as 2021 unfolds.
The first edition of our Unite South West 2021 Newsletter, will reflect on the excellent services available through your union. Including the professional representation of our volunteer army of Workplace Representatives, Staff and Regional Officers. In subsequent sections of the newsletter you will read about just some of our region's many successes in support of South West members.
Health and Safety
On 3 December 2020, at approximately 11:20 AM a silo containing biosolids exploded in Avonmouth, Bristol, killing three men and a 16-year old apprentice as well as injuring another person.
On behalf of Unite the Union may I again extend our deepest sympathy to the families of those employees who lost their lives. Additionally, to those injured or emotionally impacted by this shocking event, our thoughts and solidarity remain with you all. Unite would also like to thank the emergency services for their rapid, brave and professional response to this major incident.
Additionally this past year, two First Bristol bus drivers, Unite members, lost their lives through Covid-19. Again my deepest sympathies to the families friends and colleagues impacted by these tragic losses.
A total of 111 workers were killed at work in Britain in 2019/20, 13 of whom worked here in the South West. Among the most dangerous sectors, construction, agriculture, manufacturing, transport and the storage of waste & recycling; falls from height, struck by moving vehicles or by a moving object remain the most common cause of fatalities at work.
Our amazing trained cohort of health and safety representatives provide a robust service, protecting millions at work every single day. Thank you for their efforts, and the high quality training and education support to our reps provided through Unite education, the training provider and it's tutors.
Concerns over safety are not limited to physical injuries.
The Coronavirus pandemic has further highlighted the crisis surrounding Mental Health and Well-being
Unite provides training for workplace representatives through our Mental Health Awareness course and a support guide is also available for reps who should contact their local office for one if they have not already received it.
Additionally more information can be found using the following link to our useful online mental health guide:
MOURN FOR THE DEAD. FIGHT FOR THE LIVING
Covid-19 and its impact
The pandemic remains a life affecting feature for all of us. On the day I wrote this introduction for our Newsletter, (5th January 2021), Government figures record another 60,916 positive tests and 830 people having lost their lives to coronavirus. A further 14,987 patients are in hospital with debilitating symptoms of the virus.
On the evening of Monday 4th January 2021, the Prime Minister announced that England would go back into a National lockdown. While details were still emerging, it was evident we would be back to the kind of work and domestic restrictions first introduced in March 2020. In addition to the life and well-being risks to people, family and social restrictions, millions of workers face continued uncertainty around their future.
In due course, as we hopefully emerge from this catastrophic episode, there will come a time to reflect and hold Government to account through an independent inquiry. Unite will engage in any meaningful inquiry to ensure members interests' are fully represented.
On a positive note, the realisation of two vaccines provides the best reason for genuine hope in over a year.
Brexit and the economy
As we know, as of 31st December 2020 the UK left the EU. All of us want the UK to develop into a successful modern world class economy. A nation growing together, retaining and developing progressive socially responsible policies and rights, benefiting everyone in society.
The following report compiled by the TUC can be accessed through the following link.
The report includes government department & independent financial analysis as Britain moves forward into an uncertain future. It is imperative that workers in this country do not pay the price. Either for the cost of the global pandemic, nor in discussions between uncaring politicians and greedy corporations looking for a lower labour cost UK as part of any future trade deals.
On employment status the report references the following statistics:
Most recent furlough data from the ONS BICs survey (dated 19th October to 1st November 2020) shows that 9% of the workforce (over 2 million employees) remained on partial or full furlough, and with the extension of lockdown measures and the Job Retention Scheme this number is likely to increase. Latest labour market stats show redundancies hit an all-time high of 314,000 in Jul-Sep 2020. Unemployment increased more this quarter than any other time on record.
Unity Over Division
In November the South West were pleased to hold the first virtual Unity over Division event.
Unity over Division is a Unite campaign launched in response to the rise of the far right in Britain and across Europe.
Far right political parties and groups are trying to gain a foothold in our communities. They are using people’s unhappiness at the loss of services and affordable housing to try to divide our communities and set neighbour against neighbour. Unite are working together with our members and community groups to combat this.
Members Benefits and Support
@unitesouthwest will continue to provide every support to workers in struggle. Our workplace representatives and officers will challenge any unscrupulous employers looking to take advantage of workers in these challenging times, whether through unjustified job losses or attacks on workers terms and conditions of employment.
We continue to see the very worst employers, like BA and others using fire and rehire tactics to re-employ on lower pay & conditions or Rolls Royce at its Barnoldswick plant looking to exploit the current situation to offshore work from Britain to Singapore.
Unite the Union will use strong workplace organising to optimise our members position at the negotiating table. If those bad employers fail to listen to reason, Unite will utilise every resource at its members disposal to fight back, including Unite legal resources, Unite organising & leverage campaigns or Unite will support direct industrial action as examples.
NEWSFLASH! Unite supports members to victory!! The Rolls-Royce factory in Barnoldswick, Lancashire, has been saved, along with 350 jobs and a community protected from ruin, thanks to a ground-breaking deal struck by Unite the union and the company's management. Read more here:
Still Here for you
The expectation is that 2021 will continue to provide many challenges for workers, their families and communities. Unite the Union have launched a Union Funded Subscription rate for members finding themselves made redundant due to Covid 19. Unite the Union South West will be here for you.
Thank you for your continued membership and support. We always welcome innovative ideas and feedback to help us further improve the range of services to Unite South West members.
Stay Safe and Stay Well
Unite Winning for Securitas Workers
In December last year, Securitas workers found their terms and conditions under attack.
Proposed strike action by first responders, employed by Securitas at the Airbus Filton site, following the proposed imposition of less favourable terms and conditions on the employees, was called off at the eleventh hour after a breakthrough in negotiations between Unite and the employer, leading to the members voting overwhelming to accept the new offer. The offer would see members receive 85% of their redundancy pay as a lump sum to transfer over to the new roles while retaining their length of service, as well as finalising the terms of an annual skills based payment of £3,300 per member who switches over, which, was put for forward at an earlier consultation.
Unite Regional Officer, Matt Allen, told us
“This shows what happens when people are prepared to stand together and take on their employer when they behave in such a way that causes widespread anger amongst the workforce. It was this strength of feeling that brought Securitas back to the table and allowed for the deal to be negotiated, which the members were happy to accept.”
Unity over Division Virtual Event
In November, Unite South West were pleased to hold its first online Unity Over Division Conference with Steve Turner, Unite Assistant General Secretary.
The Unity over Division Campaign was launched in response to the rise of the far right in Britain and across Europe. The Conference was arranged to equip our members to be able to provide counter arguments to challenge the far right’s narrative, including myths around immigration and migration in Britain, the welfare state, NHS, education and women’s rights.
Steve Turner and Steve Preddy, SW Regional Secretary both spoke at the event (snippets below) highlighting Unite's campaign aimed at ensuring that the government’s vicious austerity policies are exposed and that progressive solutions are argued in every workplace where our union organises.
Barry Faulkner, National Political Education Coordinator and Brett Sparkes, Regional Community Co-ordinator and Officer hosted the two workshops with the attendees sharing ideas and providing them with the tools and knowledge to take away with them from this event.
Also co-ordinating the event, Karen Cole, SW Unite Equalities and Political Officer, said
I was delighted to see so many Unite members participating in our Unity Over Division Conference in November. The rise of far right organisations and campaigns is a huge issue for Unite and must be stopped. We can do this if we all stand together to condemn far right activity and the hatred and lies that they propagate. I am pleased to say that as a direct result of this Conference the South West will now be taking the Unity Over Division campaign into our workplaces and communities with the support of our hard working activists to promote it
Far right political parties and groups are trying to gain a foothold in our communities. They are using working class people’s unhappiness about poor pay, insecure work, lack of services and affordable housing to divide our country.
In workplaces across trade union platforms we must use every opportunity to inform and guard against cynicism towards racism, however it is repackaged.
Let’s celebrate what we have in common and respect our differences. Let’s reject hatred in favour of hope. Because we are the many and those that seek to divide us are the few.
You can find more information about the campaign below
Still Here for you
New Union Funded Subscription Rate - Free to Members!
Covid 19 has impacted all our lives and the economic consequences of the pandemic has resulted in many job losses. As a union we have been lobbying the government to do more to protect jobs however we are still seeing many employers cutting jobs and closing sites.
Being a union member is largely believed to be associated with having a job and whereas unions are representatives of the working people we also are able to offer many other forms of support for members whether they are in or out of work.
We know the cost of unemployment in terms of lost income, worry over bills and expenses, concerns for your family and your own mental and physical well-being. This is why we have devised a membership package that will allow you to retain your membership with Unite at no cost to you.
If you have been made redundant due to the consequences of Covid 19 you may be eligible for the new Unite subscription rate enabling you to maintain your membership for free for up to 2 years (terms apply) and we will work to help you back into employment.
It is important however to inform your district office as soon as your employment circumstances change and you are back in work to ensure you are still covered for accessing all the unite and legal services available to you.
To find out more contact your local district office or our Unite South West Regional Office. Contact details can be found on our website by clicking the button below.
Political Fund - Why Opt in?
When members join Unite they are asked if they want to pay an extra 10p a week on top of their membership subscriptions to opt in to Unite's Political Fund.
But why should members opt in? What if I don't share the same political views? How does it benefit me as a member? These are some of the frequent questions we get when members are asked if they want to opt in.
Unite's political fund ensures your union has the funds to campaign on your behalf on many issues such as improving the minimum wage and family living standards. It is a vitally important element of what we do as an organisation.
Watch the video below to find out more, you may be surprised at the answers.
If you are not paying into the political fund and now wish to, please contact your district office.
Unite the Union Christmas appeal
Unite the Union members, branches and employees have raised over £100,000 for poverty linked charities with its 2020 Christmas appeal. The money raised will be shared between The Trussell Trust and Fairshare who provide foodbank support.
With the Covid crisis deepening and its subsequent impact seeing unemployment figures rise significantly, the dependence on foodbanks to ensure those adversely affected do not go hungry is escalating.
Len McCluskey, Unite General Secretary, stated on the launch of the appeal
We know all too well that food banks and charity are not the solution to the hunger children face. As a union we will continue to put pressure on the Government to address the issues that cause poverty. Higher wages and a fairer social security system must be part of the way forward. But for now, our members, our neighbours and our communities need our help to get through this winter. Your help, no matter how small, will make all the difference.
Our sincere thanks to everyone who donated to support the communities of Britain and Unite aim to continue with the campaign encouraging industrial branches to link up with community branches.
Unite Legal Services - Meet our Panel Solicitors
Unite South West's legal services consists of four panel solicitors. In this edition Thompsons and Viberts (for our Jersey members) tell us a bit about themselves.
Catherine Cladingbowl, Partner and Branch Manager for South West and Wales, Thompsons, introduces some members of her team and their recent achievements:
Unite’s Legal Services provider Thompsons, always proud of their commitment to members, are delighted their achievements have been recognised with a string of award nominations in 2020
Community Award for Unite Postman
Unite member, Paul Gibbons, a Postman at the West Swindon Delivery Office, has been awarded a Community Champion Certificate as part of Volunteers week for the support and assistance he gave to one of the vulnerable members of the community on his round.
Over the last 6 months I have been caring for a man on my round who has terminal cancer. I've been doing his shopping, collecting his medical needs and generally keeping his spirits up as he as no immediate family in Swindon.
Unite wishes to congratulate Paul on his well deserved award and thank him for going above and beyond to support those vulnerable in society.
Dorset Community Kitchen Project launched
Colin Rolfe, a Unite member in Dorset, has launched a Community Project along with Jane Colmley, to provide advice and support to communities in his local area.
Our project, supported by Inspire Dorset, is to produce a Facebook page as a platform to encourage individuals and groups to build their cooking skills to ensure produce is used to its full potential particularly in this difficult time of Covid-19. To inspire healthier communities by providing residents in need with programs that provide food, promote the value of nutrition and increase self-sufficiency.
If you would like to engage with the project then please contact them via their Facebook page
or email address firstname.lastname@example.org