Sunak’s father-in-law wants a 60hr week - Starbucks is getting a roasting - A calendar for unions
4 - 10 April 2022
When I started The Week in Work I thought it would be easy to find information on what actions unions, activists and lawyers were planning in the UK. I was certain that there was some kind of union calendar. To my surprise there wasn’t.
There are people that have plugged some of these gaps (if you don’t follow StrikeMap, you should), but there is still a need for a calendar that tells us what’s coming up - from court dates, to strikes & conferences. With your help, I’m going to try to build it.
If you or someone you know has something coming up, let me know by filling out this form, and I will try and include it in the newsletter’s “What’s Coming Up” section.
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this week’s newsletter, including the views of Rishi Sunak’s father-in-law on worker rights, the hundreds of Starbucks stores that are trying to unionise and UNI Global Union reaching an agreement across 23 countries with one of the world’s biggest care companies.
But to kick us off, in what you could call a sign of the times, here’s a video that emerged last week of an 11-year-old Prince supporting his striking teachers:
GOVERNMENT, POLITICS & POLICY
The sins of the father (in-law): In recent weeks, as he defended his and his wife’s tax dealings, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak also found time to express his “pride and admiration” for his father-in-law, Narayana Murthy, the co-founder of Indian IT firm Infosys. But does he have admiration for his views on worker rights?
Murthy has at different points said that Indians should work 60-hour weeks in order to help the economy recover from the pandemic, that they should stop working from home, and that unionisation is not good for the Indian IT industry. On the other hand, he did also speak out against huge pay rises for senior executives.
In his time at Infosys, the company faced an annual staff turnover rate of almost 20% and settled a $34 million lawsuit in the US over worker visa fraud. Controversy over visas? Where have I seen that before?
Comrade Dimon: The CEO of JPMorgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, has told shareholders that the U.S. “should immediately increase the minimum wage” & income tax credits.
Justice for Cleaners: The RMT union has accused bosses of publicly owned Southeastern Railway of hypocrisy after it was revealed that they get free rail travel while denying it to cleaning staff. Avanti West Coast cleaners have also been on strike over the weekend demanding fair pay, the RMT said. They earn just £9.68 an hour.
4-Day Week pilot grows: More than 3,000 workers at 60 UK companies will be taking part in a 4-day week pilot from June to December this year.
UBI for the arts: The Irish government has launched a basic income for the arts, which will see 2,000 artists and creative workers receive €325 a week, RTE reports.
Starbucks is getting a roasting: Starbucks workers at 200 stores have filed to unionise, and 13 stores have won union votes so far, according to More Perfect Union. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that The National Labour Relations Board is getting ready to issue a complaint against the company over the illegal firing of several union organisers. But don’t worry, CEO Howard Shultz has said he’s “not anti-union”.
Amazon’s not keen on the green: Amazon is asking The National Labour Relations Board to overturn the recent unionisation vote at a New York warehouse, the FT reports. It argues that regulators were biased against the company and that organisers manipulated voters by, among other things, giving them marijuana. The Intercept also uncovered a company policy to ban and flag messages containing words such as “union” and “restroom” from a planned internal messaging app.
But that might not be enough to hold back the tide. The organisers behind the New York union drive say that staff at more than 50 sites have contacted them expressing interest in setting up unions, and there’s even been strikes over pay at eight warehouses in France, according to Reuters.
P& oh no: A former P&O Ferries chef that worked for the company since he was 16 is taking legal action claiming unfair dismissal, racial discrimination and harassment. He claims the company treated him unfavourably because he is British and eligible for minimum wage.
P&O’s parent company, DP World, has also lost its status as a formal partner in the Solent freeport project.
Chep strike: Chep workers have entered the 19th week of strike action, making it the longest strike in Unite’s history, the union’s North West region has tweeted.
Coventry bins: Unite has lodged a trade union victimisation claim against Coventry council, over the ongoing disciplinary process against union rep Pete Randle. There was also a solidarity protest in support of Randle.
Greece General Strike: Unions representing 2.5 million public and private sector workers held a general strike in Greece, over a deepening cost of living crisis, Reuters reports.
Come strike with me: Disruption is expected in the aviation sector, as Belgian unions kick off an indefinite strike at Ryanair, Luton baggage handlers plan to strike over Easter and around 200 Heathrow cargo handlers are being balloted for strike action.
That’s Asda pay: Thousands of workers at Asda are voting on a consultative ballot over proposed cuts to their sick pay and a real terms pay cut, GMB says. Asda is the only big supermarket chain that doesn’t pay the real living wage.
Unite fraud: Police have raided Unite’s London HQ as part of an investigation into allegations of bribery, money laundering and fraud against an unnamed union employee, the Guardian reports.
Detriment appeal: Unison will be appealing the decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal which confirmed UK legislation does not protect striking employees from action short of dismissal, Personnel Today reports.
ASOS fight: Queen Mary staff say they will launch a legal claim if the university doesn’t backtrack on its threat to cut pay by 100% for action short of a strike. The university’s union branch is being backed by law firm Leigh Day.
Amnesty’s racism problem: An independent inquiry expected to be published in May has found that Amnesty International “exhibits institutional racism”, according to preliminary findings published by Third Sector.
BBC’s diversity failures: At least 15 women of colour have left the BBC in the last year over systemic failures, a Variety investigation has uncovered. One former journalist that worked in the diversity and inclusion unit said managers told her she needed to be “sensitive” about how she spoke “about race to white people”.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
A deadly gig: More than 50 gig workers have been murdered while working over the past five years in the U.S., according to a new report by Gig Workers Rising. The vast majority of those killed were people of colour. The report gathered data from various sources, including this investigation by the MarkUp which found that there had been 124 carjackings and attempted carjackings of ride-hail drivers in the space of 18 months.
HSE rejects calls for Covid probe: The government’s Health and Safety Executive has rejected calls by one of its advisors to investigate the deaths of healthcare workers arising from flawed personal protective equipment (PPE) guidance, according to a Byline Times investigation.
Sick of this pay: Statutory sick pay has increased by £3 a week, but experts say this is not enough, iNews reports.
PPE for gig workers: Legislation was updated last week to force employers to provide limb (b) workers - a middle category between employees and independent contractors which many gig workers fall under - with appropriate PPE. This follows a successful High Court claim by the IWGB in 2020.
Global care agreement: UNI Global Union and care provider Orpea have signed a global agreement covering 70,000 workers in 23 countries, establishing principles on collective bargaining, working conditions and pay, the union confederation said. This comes weeks after the French government said it was going to file a criminal complaint against the company over allegations of mistreatment of elderly patients.
Piece of cake: Workers at Riverside Bakery in Nottingham, who supply quiches, flans and savoury tarts for retailers including Tesco, ASDA and Sainsbury’s, have cancelled their expected strike action after winning a nearly 7% pay deal, Unite has said.
HGV wins: Around 100 HGV delivery drivers working at the Molson Coors contract in Burton have called off strike action after winning a 7.5% pay rise. Drivers will have the right to refuse routes that take more than 11.5 hours, which will be paid at a premium rate. DHL drivers at Aberdeen also secured a union recognition agreement and a 13% pay rise, Unite said.
WHAT’S COMING UP
11 April: An online conversation with Amazon Labour Union organisers and special guest Bernie Sanders
11-14 April: NEU National Conference
11 & 25 April: Caterpillar strike in Northern Ireland
12 April: UK monthly unemployment figures are published
12-13, 16 -17 and 21 – 22 April: North Somerset refuse workers strike
13 April: Chep strike solidarity rally in Manchester
13 - 17 April: Svitzer tugboat strike at Teesport
14 April: Fox’s Glacier Mint strike
14 - 19 April: Luton baggage handlers strike
16 -17 April: TransPennine Express strike
24 - 29 April: CWU national conference
25-27 April & 3 - 5 May: Hackney Council staff on strike over pay
25-27 April: Unison Health Service Group conference
28 April: Workers’ Memorial Day
29 April: Great Ormond Street Hospital strike and rally
Did I miss anything? Email me on theweekinwork [at] gmail [dot] com.