Tag: unite the union

Pizza Express is still cheating staff

Six years ago Unite’s fair tips campaign lifted the lid on restaurants misusing tips to top up poverty wages. The law was changed but that hasn’t stopped some restaurants still profiting from customers tips. When you leave a credit card tip Pizza Express deducts a 8% ‘admin charge’. That 8% goes into the company coffers and not to the staff who it was intended for.
Unite hospitality members held a protest outside Pizza Express flagship restaurant in Charing Cross Road.
Unite hospitality workers would appreciate any support you can give – if you eat at Pizza Express leave the tip in cash and tell the manager why – you want the tip to go to the waiting staff for good service.

Sheffield anti-austerity demo, May 16 2015

The anti-austerity protest in Sheffield at the weekend was well attended with a great party atmosphere. Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green party attended the march and spoke at the rally along with many others including Barbara Jackson of Orgreave Truth & Justice and Tony Wright of Barnsley band, The Hurriers.

UNITE NATIONAL POLITICAL SCHOOL: DURHAM 2015

This year’s Durham National Political School is upon us once again and we need your help in identifying potential delegates for the event. Details of are included in the attached invitation letter. Places are limited to 100 and will be shared across the regions and countries; with priority given to those applicants who best meet the criteria.

This year’s event will have a strong emphasis on building for the future; we would particularly appreciate applications from members who are under 30 years of age. This is in addition to all other equality strands including gender but also BAEM members who are almost always under-represented. Finally, we are encouraging Unite Community members to apply as well as applications from people who are already activists, whether in their workplace or in their community/other organisations as well as from those whom you believe have the potential to become activists.

With these criteria in mind we would ask you to send the attached letter and application form to members and activists whom you feel would not only develop personally but more importantly who would also be willing to give a commitment to get more involved in delivering our political strategy in the 12 months following the course. The closing date for applications to be received in our office is Tuesday Noon 9th June 2015 following which we will write to all applicants no later than 11th June 2015 to let them know whether or not they are successful.

We are hoping for a productive and positive event. There is no specific need for applicants to be in the Labour Party, we nonetheless will be looking for activists who support Unite’s political strategy (which of course includes ‘building broad alliances’ to defeat the Tories) and understand that our National Political School will not be a forum for trying to oppose or change our policy in respect of support for Labour.Download the invitation:

Durham 2015 invitation to apply 2015
Download the application form: application to attend the national political school 2015

 

New short film: Stars urge missing voters to take part ‘for yourself, for humanity, for democracy’

Leading British actors Sue Johnston and Ricky Tomlinson are among the household names to share their voting stories in a short film launched today ( Tuesday 14 April) by Unite, the country’s biggest union, urging the country’s millions of missing voters to go out and vote: ‘for yourself, for humanity, for democracy.’

With 22 days to go before the 2015 general election – and under one week left to get onto the voter registration roll – the film is the latest initiative from the union in its efforts to persuade disconnected voters to have their say in how our country is run.

Falling voter turnout among women, young people and ethnic minorities is of particular concern. A total of 9.1 million women did not vote at the general election in 2010 and only 39 per cent of 18-24 year olds voted, compared to 68 per cent of over 65s.

In a direct plea to the country’s young voters, Ricky Tomlinson says: ‘There are some bright kids out there who given the chance can change things.’ He urges them ‘to get together with your mates, go along, do it together. Talk about it.’

Broadcaster Terry Christian tells viewers that ‘for democracy to work everybody’s got to take part’, while artist Bob and Roberta Smith says: ‘The link between human rights and voting is absolutely central,’ while award-winning director Mike Leigh says, ‘to have the vote and not to vote, is a terrible, terrible crime.’

Changes to the voter register system introduced by the government in September mean that around one million people – many of them young and working class- have fallen off the electoral roll. Many won’t even know. The deadline to register to vote is the 20 April.

Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, said: “Millions of people go unheard in this country because they don’t vote. But in a tight election like this one and arguably one of the most important in generations, every vote really does count.

“The truth is, when you don’t vote you’re not heard by the politicians. 9.1 million women did not vote in 2010, they were hardest hit by the coalition cuts. Young people also stayed away from the polls in 2010 and they too have lost out under this coalition.

“People who vote get stuff. Those who don’t get stuffed. The only way to change this is to get out there – get registered and vote.”

 

Tax avoidance ‘at the very core’ of firms bidding for major NHS contracts, Unite reveals

Many of the major private health companies bidding for NHS services have tax avoidance measures ‘at the core of their activities’, research from Unite the Union has revealed.

The shocking report exposes ten major health companies including the four biggest private hospital chains in the UK, and Virgin Care and United Healthcare both currently bidding for major clinical contracts.

Tax expert Richard Murphy analysed ten private health firms actively bidding for and running privatised sections of the NHS. The research revealed that all ten make use of tax havens and extremely complex corporate structures to lessen their potential tax bill, while only two pay any significant tax in the UK at all.

Key Findings:

The companies analysed by the research are: Care UK, Circle, General Healthcare Group, HCA, Bio Products Laboratory Holdings, Ramsay Healthcare, Spire Healthcare, The Practice, Optum (United Health) and Virgin Care.

Only two of the 10 companies (HCA and Ramsay) pay any significant tax in the UK because most of the others have structures that involve the payment of significant interest, much of it to offshore companies.

However, all ten companies have links to offshore tax havens, including the Channel Islands, British Virgin Islands and Luxembourg, and all but one employ extremely complex corporate structures to potentially lower their tax bill.

To make matters even worse many of these companies are US companies, or have strong US investment links, which means that the Government could be prevented from taking their NHS contracts back into the public sector unless the NHS is exempted from the trade deal TTIP.Virgin Care, a subsidiary of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group Holdings Ltd is revealed to have paid no tax on its last reported profits. Virgin uses 13 intermediate holding companies to distance the firm’s healthcare division from its parent company, based in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands.

Despite this arrangement Virgin Care provides 30 primary care services across England including GP practices, GP out of hours services, walk-in centres, urgent care centres (UCCs) and minor injury units (MIUs). Virgin is  allowed to bid for a contract worth £280 million in East Staffordshire to treat patients with long term ailments such as diabetes and heart disease.

Similarly Optum UK, a subsidiary of US giant United Healthcare, is bidding for a Staffordshire-based NHS cancer and palliative care contract worth £1.2 billion. Optum has paid zero tax on its reported profits and is linked to tax havens including the Cayman Islands though its parent company.

Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey said: “It’s a national scandal that firms can bid for cancer treatment contracts while scheming how to siphon their profits out of the country into far flung tax havens.

“To make matters even worse many of these companies are US companies, or have strong US investment links, which means that the Government could be prevented from taking their NHS contracts back into the public sector unless the NHS is exempted from the trade deal TTIP.”

“Good government should do everything possible to protect  taxpayer funded public services like the NHS from companies with links to tax havens. But the Tory government’s warped health and social care act has opened up the door to private companies with dubious tax arrangements.

“Despite the NHS being under huge financial strain the Coalition government is behaving like an accomplice to private companies with  tax avoidance structures in place.

Richard Murphy said: “What the structure of many of these businesses shows is that tax planning is at the very core of their activities. This is the wrong priority for companies working in the state funded NHS where the tax contribution everyone makes, including from those who supply NHS services, is vital to the continuing health of the nation.”

Spire Healthcare and General Healthcare Group, both registered in tax havens, received tax credits from HMRC wiping out payments they had made over the previous three years.

Despite these arrangements, none of the companies surveyed have been excluded from bidding for NHS contracts. Since the Health and Social Care Act passed in 2012 billions of pounds worth of NHS services have fallen into private hands. Of the total contracts awarded since April 2013, more than half have gone to non-NHS providers according to the NHS Support Federation.

A new EU-US trade deal, known as TTIP, could prevent the government from cracking down on these practises. Seven of the firms including Virgin and General Healthcare Group have US subsidiaries or investors, potentially allowing them to use the deal to prevent the government blocking their future bids or terminating existing contracts.

For more information or a copy of the research paper contact Ciaran Naidoo on 07768 931 315 or Richard Murphy on 07775 521 797.

 

Len McCluskey speech: We are preparing for Tory attacks – they will force unions outside the law

The country’s biggest union is preparing for a future Tory government to destroy the remaining freedoms of UK workers, the leader of the country’s biggest union warned tonight (Thursday 20 March).

In a major speech to the leading professional body for the country’s lawyers, the Industrial Law Society, Len McCluskey says that decades of attacks on workers and their unions have allowed power and wealth to be accrued by a few like never before. But, he warns, the Tory party has not finished yet – further attacks are planned to silence opposition to attacks on jobs and public services.

Such are Unite’s concerns, the union’s executive is recommending to members that the words “so far as may be lawful” are removed from the rules governing the union’s actions in recognition that a Tory government will introduce laws to prevent working people mounting a decent defence against employer abuse.

In a far reaching speech covering the journey from the Margaret Thatcher’s assaults on unions to the present day, whereby a single judge can deny hundreds of workers the ability to take lawful industrial action mandated by legal ballots, Len McCluskey warned that the fundamental human right to strike is “hanging by a thread”.

Emphasising that Unite is committed to operating effectively within the law, he says that the time has come to ask “can unions stay within the law any longer?”

Delivering the Bill Wedderburn lecture, Len McCluskey said:

“This proposed change in the constitution of the biggest union on these isles marks the sorry place we have reached in our national democracy.

“These words will go not because we are anarchists, not because we are suddenly planning a bank robbery – but because we have to ask ourselves the question, can we any longer make that commitment to, under any and all circumstances, stick within the law as it stands?

“Unite remains determined to operate ever more effectively within the law, even when that law is an ass and ill-serves our people. But restricting the right to strike, attacking the capacity for trade unions to organise and conduct our own business in line with our own rules, belong to last century’s consensus.  They fail working people today.

“Other aspects of that ‘consensus’ – a deregulated financial sector, a flexible labour market, being intensely relaxed about the filthy rich – have been discredited since the global crash. Yet trade union law remains untouched and politically untouchable; the great unmentionable of British politics.

“The ugly reality is that widening inequality, wealth concentrated at the top, a shrinking percentage of GDP going into the pockets of workers, and governments unable or unwilling to confront the vested interests necessary to bring about change is the world in which trade unions now operate.  It is not by chance that these trends have accelerated at the same time as the role and function of trade unions have been restricted and diminished.

“It is not trade unions who need a change in the law – society as a whole needs a change in trade union law, or little else can change for the better.

“Labour’s victory in 1997 was one of the happiest days of my life, but that first Labour government, with its huge parliamentary majority, did nothing to alter the legal superstructure that allows the skewed accrual of wealth and power in our society. Tony Blair even boasted to business audiences that Britain’s labour laws were the most restrictive in Europe.

“It is no exaggeration to say that the right to strike in this – the first country of free trade unionism – was and is hanging by a thread. But should there be a Conservative majority in May, there will be a new attack on trade union rights and democracy.

“The bar for a strike ballot will be raised to a level which hardly any MPs would get over in their own constituencies, by a government which has refused our requests to use modern, more effective balloting methods.

“Agency labour scabs will be licensed to break strikes. Restrictions imposed on our campaigning role in the Lobbying Act will be followed by laws to make picketing nigh on impossible too.

“Further Tory attacks on unions will come because they can only get away their desired assault on our national fabric if they neuter any potential opposition, reducing us to the role of concerned spectators while they tear to bits every advance working people have secured, every protection we have built up, over the years.

“People have intrinsic rights but sometimes these are violated even by democratically elected legislatures – the right of working people to combine, to organise, is one of those rights. So if partisan legislation is driven through parliament, designed to push the legitimate democratic work of trade unions outside of the law, then we in Unite will not go gently into the night.  We will rage against the dying of the light.

“A union’s job is to fight for working people’s rights. If in the year we mark the anniversary of Magna Carta, the government wants to challenge fundamental rights of the citizen, then I believe they will be facing not just the trade union movement, but a huge section of our civil society too.

“When the law is misguided, when it oppresses the people and removes their freedoms, can we respect it? I am not really posing the question. I’m giving you the answer. It ain’t going to happen.”

Unite activists will decide on the change of wording to union’s rules at a conference later in the year.

 

Unite holds day of action in the North East calling for end to ‘grotesque cruelty’ of benefit sanctions

Britain’s biggest union, Unite, will hold protests across the North East of England during a national day of action (Thursday 19 March) opposing benefit sanctions which are now being used on an industrial scale.

Punitive sanctions have resulted in over two million people having their welfare payments cut or stopped without warning over the past two years, leading to increased poverty, misery and even death.

In the North East area the total number of sanctions dealt out by the DWP from October 2012 to September 2013 was 53,883 and 52,420 between October 2013 and September 2014.

Gill Thompson, whose brother, David Clapson, died after being sanctioned will be handing in her 211,822-name petition at the DWP – calling on the Prime Minister to investigate the widespread use of benefits sanctions.

Mr Clapson, a vulnerable diabetic ex-soldier, died starving and destitute in 2013 because he was penalised by the job centre for missing a meeting. His sister is demanding answers, saying:

“Benefits sanctions are completely out of control. I want to know how ministers who state everything is done to support the vulnerable can justify their actions leaving people destitute, driving them to food banks, and leading to starvation and death. Do we want to live in a society where the vulnerable are victimised – I certainly do not.”

As things stand money can be cut for arriving late at a job centre, missing an appointment to go to a funeral, or even failing to apply for a job – while waiting to start a new job.

Unite is not prepared to stand idle while this failed coalition government mercilessly targets those already struggling to make ends meet, with ideologically-driven and needless cruelty.

Commenting Joe Rollin, Unite community regional coordinator, said:

“This government is attacking the unemployed for unemployment and treating claimants worse than criminals fined in the courts. Decisions on guilt are made in secret with the claimant not even allowed to be present to explain their case.

“Far from helping people back into work, sanctions undermine physical and mental health. They cause hardship, damage relationships, create homelessness and drive people to food banks, payday lenders, and to crime.

“There is no justification for this grotesque cruelty by the government. Unite is calling on the DWP to end benefit sanctions as this situation can’t be allowed to go on in the 6th richest country in the world.”

 

Unite holds day of action calling for end to ‘grotesque cruelty’ of benefit sanctions

WHEN: 15:00 to 17:00 Thursday 19 March 2015
WHERE: DWP, Caxton House, Tothill Street, London SW1H 9DA

Britain’s biggest union, Unite, will demonstrate outside the Department for Work and Pensions in London. This is part of a national day of action (Thursday 19 March) opposing benefit sanctions which are now being used on an industrial scale.Punitive sanctions have resulted in over two million people having their welfare payments cut or stopped without warning over the past two years, leading to increased poverty, misery and even death.

In London the total number of sanctions dealt out by the DWP from October 2012 to September 2013 was 130,442 and 103,679 between October 2013 and September 2014.

Gill Thompson, whose brother, David Clapson, died after being sanctioned will be handing in her 211,822-name petition at the DWP – calling on the prime minister to investigate the widespread use of benefit sanctions.

Mr Clapson, a vulnerable diabetic ex-soldier, died starving and destitute in 2013 because he was penalised by his job centre for missing a meeting. His sister is demanding answers, saying:

“Benefit sanctions are completely out of control. I want to know how ministers who state everything is done to support the vulnerable can justify their actions leaving people destitute, driving them to food banks, and leading to starvation and death. Do we want to live in a society where the vulnerable are victimised – I certainly do not.”

As things stand money can be cut for arriving late at a job centre, missing an appointment to go to a funeral, or even failing to apply for a job – while waiting to start a new job.

Unite is not prepared to stand idle while this failed coalition government mercilessly targets those already struggling to make ends meet, with ideologically-driven and needless cruelty.

Commenting Liane Groves Unite Community national organiser said:

“This government is attacking the unemployed for unemployment and treating claimants worse than criminals fined in the courts. Decisions on guilt are made in secret with the claimant not even allowed to be present to explain their case.

“Far from helping people back into work, sanctions undermine physical and mental health. They cause hardship, damage relationships, create homelessness and drive people to food banks, payday lenders, and to crime.

“There is no justification for this grotesque cruelty by the government. Unite is calling on the DWP to end benefit sanctions as this situation can’t be allowed to go on in the 6th richest country in the world.”

Unite community members will be taking part in protests across London before moving to the Department of Work and Pensions, Caxton House, Tothill Street, SW1H 9DA for a demonstration from 15:00 to 17:00. Regional protests are also being held up and down the country on Thursday 19 March as part of the national day of action.

 

Quarter of Clinical Commissioning Group board members linked to private healthcare

Over one in four governing members of the Tory designed NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), which have responsibility for a budget of £65 billion, have links to a private company involved in healthcare.

The comprehensive study carried out by Unite, has uncovered how financial interests are ‘running amok’ threatening the trust between GP and patient and the NHS because of the Health and Social Care Act.

The Health and Social Care Act gave CCGs ​ responsibility for commissioning services and in doing so opened the door to conflicts of interest on a massive scale. CCGs are clinically led groups with GP representatives from their geographical area, managers and lay persons.

This is the first comprehensive study of the new NHS commissioners’ external financial interests in private healthcare and proves that vested interests lie at the heart of the government’s Health and Social Care Act.

Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey said: “The Tory designed Health and Social Care Act handed the NHS budget, worth tens of billions, over to Clinical Commissioning Groups and in doing so, created a monster, where personal financial interests run amok.

“As a result our NHS is being privatised and unless David Cameron uses his veto to get the NHS out of the EU-US trade deal TTIP, the government’s sell-off will be irreversible.

“The £3 billion redesign has not only wasted taxpayers’ money and benefitted Tory donors but damaged the very fabric of our NHS. The Health and Social Care Act must be repealed and Cameron must use his veto to get the NHS out of TTIP.”

Dr Ron Singer, chair of the Doctors’ section of Unite said:The Health and Social Care Act forced GPs into a business model that the vast majority did not want.

“Most GPs want to spend their time caring for their patients not tendering out services and being part of a bidding war.

The government’s health act has created opportunities for exploitation by some CCG board members. At the same time some  GPs have decided to become CCG members as a way to defend NHS services from privatisation and fragmentation. 

​“The government’s HSCA is a disaster and is fit for the dustbin of history​.”

Unite looked at the registered interests of 3,392 CCG board members, the most extensive research of these interests undertaken.

Of the 3,392 Board Members, 932 (27%) of CCG board members were found to have a link to a private company involved in healthcare including: 513 Company Directors, 140 business owners, 105 external work, 17 Partners, 15 Chairs, 10 Company Secretaries, 5 CEOs, 1 Trustee, 1 Financial Officer and 125 others including consultants.

The study also found 409 (12%) board members are shareholders in such companies; a combination of businesses they own and external private companies, including providers of ‘Out of Hours Services’.

Come and add your voice to the Save the NHS demo in Leeds on March 28th.

Unite supports day of action against Work Capability Assessments

Members of Unite Community, part of the UK’s largest trade union, will be supporting Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) in a national day of action against the government’s Work Capability Assessments (WCA) and the corporation Maximus which has replaced ATOS as the contractor to carry out the assessment of disabled people for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

American for profit corporation Maximus take over WCAs on 1 March after previous contractor ATOS pulled out of the contract following a hugely successful campaign which highlighted that Work Capability Assessments were not fit for purpose and thousands of disabled people were put through huge hardship by a brutal tick-box regime that is designed to take people off benefits.

Unite equalities national officer Siobhan Endean said: “Unite disabled members are sending a message to Maximus. The company should realise it has taken up a poisoned chalice and pull out of this contract with the Condem government.

“The dreaded Work Capability Assessment costs lives. We supported disabled people in the campaign to convince ATOS to withdraw from the WCA contract, we will continue to support disabled people in the campaign against the Maximus until the government scraps the Work Capability Assessment and starts treating disabled people with dignity and justice.

“Maximus is taking over the WCA contract worth £500m, meanwhile little has changed: Maximus will be based in the same inaccessible buildings and the fundamental flaws of the assessment remain the same. At the heart of these assessments is the Tory governments drive to take people off benefits with a brutal and humiliating tick-box regime.

“We are calling on this government to stop this degrading policy and introduce a fairer transparent single assessment, operated within the public sector that restores dignity to the sick and disabled.”

In 2013, in cases where people have been deemed fit to work, and had their benefits’ cut over 40% have had their appeals upheld. However the appeals process can take months while some of the most vulnerable disabled are plunged into poverty.

The ‘tick-box’ nature of the tests does not cater for the complex nature of people’s illnesses, particularly for those with mental illness. This has also led in many cases to those with long term degenerative and terminal illnesses, such as Parkinson’s and cancer being told they were fit for work.