Solidarity Magazine » GMB Fri, 01 Mar 2013 19:29:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 George Goodenough – GMB activist at Hinkley Point Thu, 13 Oct 2011 14:09:49 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Another interview that was too long to be included in its entirety in the print edition.

Interviewed by Dave Chapple, 12th August 2011


I’m an ex-soldier, and I spent eight years after I left the army in the security trade-the international ‘circuit.’ This is basically ex-servicemen working as bodyguards to international dignitaries, often billionaires from theGulf States. I wanted to come home, and during 2002/3 I took up a 12-month fixed term contract at ‘The Point.’

I went back on the circuit for another four years, but at the age of 40, married and keen to settle down, I went back to Hinkley Point as a security guard: I felt it offered me the best standard of living using the skills I’d acquired on the circuit. This was July 2007 and this time my contract was permanent.

I served in the first Gulf War, and I’m a member of the Gulf War Veterans and Families Association. I do suffer from Gulf War syndrome: my prime suspect is the anthrax jab which is the single most likely cause of the syndrome.

EDF is a huge company: it runs eight stations in Britain, and about twenty over inFrance.

At Hinkley Point there is a security group head, but the guard’s senior manager is the overall plant manager who can hire and fire us. The station director runs the site, supported by the plant manager and the operations manager. All these senior staff would have been engineer trained, unlike the finance or training managers. The whole question of managers and their status is difficult for an ex-squaddie like me, because I’ve never worked anywhere else: so the station director would be a lieutenant-colonel; plant and ops managers would be majors; other senior managers would be captains, and desk engineers sergeant-majors.

Managers might be personal contract holders, while engineers would tend to be on national pay scales. Engineers might be earning up to £75,000 basic at pay scale 44. National pay bands consist of platforms and pay points. There is no local or plant pay bargaining. The highest pay point a security guard can reach is twelve, but they go up to 44. So we are a long way down the food chain: those higher up earn a lot of money!

The station cleaning staff have come under several contractors since they were directly employed, they now come under Balfour-Beatty. I was an industrial cleaner during the ‘outage’-plant shutdown in 2006 and I was on £7 an hour basic. So cleaners are on less than us guards.

On site as a whole we have 45 GMB members. The majority of manual staff is in Unite, while Prospect have the managers and engineers. Security staff are in Unite or the GMB. Total workforce at both A and B stations must be over 1,000, with a 90% take up of trade union membership. There are also many contractors on both sites at any one time, especially at the Magnox de-commissioned station. Doosan-Babcock is a major contractor: they are the engineers, the riggers and the fitters who maintain the reactor on B Station.

‘Nuclear Security Technicians’

Hinkley Point security guards-our official title is ‘security technicians’-are direct employees of EDF Energy at B Station, except once every few shifts when we work on contract at the de-commissioned A Station. I can say that I work for a nationalised firm-a French one! EDF are good payers, and in my time in the nuclear industry pay hasn’t really been an issue.

I didn’t take a large drop in salary going to Hinkley Point, for the simple reason that uniformed security in the nuclear industry is one of the few to compete with the London-based private security firms. My P60 says that my salary last year was £31,000: £23,000 basic, £7,000 for shift allowances and a further sum for emergency scheme membership. Overtime is of course on top of that. I’ve been there for four years and one month. We work two days followed by two nights followed by five days off.  This means we owe the company 176 hours a year. EDF claim this back by four training days at eight hours a day: you can pay this back by taking hours off your annual leave, or, on a quarterly basis, working three extra twelve-hour shifts. The system is called ‘option hours’: it’s a bit like flexible working, and we are the only section in the only EDF power station to do this.

Hinkley has a core gate staff, including five or six women, which is supplemented by overtime: we never have agency or casual staff. This is because we have to be licensed by the Office of Nuclear Regulation: staff clearance can take a good six months. This is a clear collective bargaining strength. Apart from the radiological factor-you have to have an understanding of health physics-staff training isn’t that rigorous. We have to understand how radiation works, its dangers, and how we manage the risks to ourselves. When we go into a reactor there are many safety measures we have to observe. This sets us apart. We are not necessarily more intelligent than other security careers-five C passes at GCSE is the minimum-but nuclear security jobs are sought after: we have just recruited three new staff from interviewing two hundred, so, inevitably, the interviewers will tend to go for the better educated.

As a security guard I am pigeon-holed: we are not allowed to have brains. I will never come over their radar because I don’t fit their idea of an intelligent person. What drove me into trades unionism in the first place was that we were being treated as second-class citizens: overworked, misunderstood and undervalued and, yes, underpaid compared to other grades on site.

When we won our standby fight last year, we are now fully consulted on everything. There are still occasional problems with other staff: the other day we had abusive comments when one was stopped and searched, but higher management supported us when she complained.

There is a fairly intensive identification regime for getting people on site. Security guards work at the gatehouse, inside the plant and outdoors, with most time spent indoors. I’m an old hand and the old saying is that if you’re not bored then something’s gone wrong. I love patrolling and I’m never happier than when I’m out checking the external perimeter fence and getting some exercise.

The main security grumble is that we are always running short-staffed: we have four vacancies on shift at the moment, and two on days, because some people are willing to work all the overtime god sends so EDF keep some vacancies running. The planning, advertising, interviewing and vetting processes for new starters take so long that they never seem to catch up with themselves.

There is no preference given to ex-service personnel. In the recent past, when Hinkley B Station was downsizing after the CEGB was privatised, the gatehouse was filled with staff who were not security trained. Staff who were otherwise going to be made redundant, but knew the site and its people well. Since the Security Industry Authority was established, there has been a preference to recruit license holders.

Because of the prolonged entry process for new staff, EDF are very reluctant to let people go, so you have to do something serious to be sacked from Hinkley Point-falling foul of the drugs and alcohol policy for example. The last security guard to be sacked failed a random drugs test. Over at Magnox someone was sacked when he was caught re-handed nicking copper piping, even after a plant warning that management knew this was going on.

National and local negotiations

We have national pay bargaining across allUKnuclear sites through the EDF National Joint Council. Last year I was invited up to GMB HQ to have my input into how national pay talks which had broken down could succeed. Contractors like Doosan-Babcock andCapethe scaffolders run with the Blue Book agreement-this was the battlefield of the unofficial strikes in construction a year or so back. As we saw, these workers have tremendous power and they have used it. In the GMB we have one national shop stewards meeting a year with our national officer Mick Rix. I’m quite unusual as most of these stewards are from grades working in the plants. The GMB has several good experienced stewards from stations up north andScotland, who are more militant than us southern softies!

Peter Lawson is the NJC Unite Officer, and he meets up with the Prospect and GMB lead officers. However, there is no cross-union EDF convenors’ or stewards’ forum below this.

Geography might be a problem but this could be overcome. I already know GMB stewards at the other stations. Most of them are probably socialists but ‘Labour socialists.’ The best way forward would be an internet forum as we could use the computers on site to connect between all theUKplants:Hartlepool, Hunterston, Heysham 1and 2, Torness, Sizewell, Dungeness, and Hinkley Point. I think the GMB would support such a stewards’ forum, but I’m not sure if there would be official support for a joint forum with Unite: there are trade union politics there!

I don’t think there have been any collective bargaining integration between us and the French EDF nuclear workers yet: I did hear that they got a higher pay rise than us last year, so the need for connections is obvious. TheUKand French unions are talking, but only at the highest level. It would be great to have an international activists committee! As a French speaker, I could have a role to play. There is huge scope, although it would be very difficult to get parity across the two nations.

The three trade unions do work closely together on site. Prospect recruit solely among managers/desk engineers, engineers, IT technicians and planners. I did ask a few years ago, out of interest, whether they recruited-I used the official term for guards-‘security technicians.’ It didn’t fool them: I was told ‘We really don’t deal with your sort of people!’ They see themselves as a skilled white collar union and, perhaps, look down their noses at us. Unite as a general union compete directly with us, and when they had a big recruiting drive some time ago the GMB lost a lot of members to them. At Hinkley we have a LJC-Local Joint Council. The GMB has one seat on this: the other two unions have two seats each. The LJC has a chair and secretary, meets formally a few times a year and as and when required. Clive Morris is currently the GMB rep. I was a GMB rep for three years: though never on the LJC. I stood down for health reasons but I still represent members and of course I am still an activist.

If management try to change working practices, members in that section will have an ad-hoc meeting. The steward will then thrash it out with the company, and if there is agreement, which needs to be ratified at a LJC meeting and signed off by the trade union. If there is a major issue there will also be a ballot of the membership affected.

Standby and pay battles

In my time at Hinkley Point the security guards biggest problem was lack of recognition: we were definitely considered the country cousins, and not just by management. That all came to a head last year when they attempted to change our standby system. Every time we were on standby for 24 hours, eight of our option hours were written off. EDF said that was far too expensive, and offered us £24-a pounds a day! I argued that as the system had been there for two years it was now established custom and practice. They countered this by comparing us with outside security rates-then about £18,000. We replied: ‘You keep drumming into us that we are special, but do you want us to be nuclear professionals or just security professionals?’ We finally agreed that guards would have a £1,000 one-off payment, and the new standby would not be compulsory, and paid at £24 for 12 hours.

In 2009 there was a real pay battle: EDF offered all grades 1.7%, when we had had 5% the year before. The unions had a consultative ballot for strike action and had a 90% take up. Clive Morris and I ran the GMB ballot and we had a near 100% for a strike. Even Prospect had a ‘yes’ vote. As we were organising the actual strike ballot, EDF came back and offered us a flat 3%. The company were in negotiations with the government about the new generation ofUKplants, so a strike at that time would have been disastrous for them. As an aside, I have issues with this percentage thing, as within EDF it makes the ‘rich’ richer and the ‘poor’ poorer!

Politics and nuclear power workers

Older members talk about the good old days of the CEGB/Central Electricity Generating Board, the 1970’s, the pre-Thatcher period, when Hinkley workers would down tools on a regular basis if the shop steward said ‘All out.’ A few years ago, nuclear station contract workers up and down the country, including at Hinkley, downed tools to support the unofficial construction strikes, so it is not true that there are no nuclear industry stoppages in the present day.

I don’t think nuclear workers had a loyalty to Thatcher as such: certainly there was and is resentment that the nuclear industry was sold off. But the best of a bad job has resulted, with pay and conditions better than most workers have. There are workers who are dyed in the wool conservatives, and a previous GMB shop steward took up the role because he felt the Tories needed representation within the GMB as a Labour Party-affiliated trade union! Many if not most workers are apolitical: politics is not often discussed.

Hinkley Point workers know that they have that extra bargaining power and up to a point they are prepared to act on that to increase or protect their living standards. But a strike of directly employed nuclear workers is very unlikely: it’s not in EDF’s interest to back us into that corner. If the unions ever called EDF’s bluff and went out, I think there is an agreement that we continue to provide the bare minimum of safety cover.

I don’t actually think that this government is that pro-nuclear: yes they have agreed new stations, but only if they have no financial input. They can’t be overjoyed that they are dealing with a French nationalised company-Electricite deFrance- with no shareholders except one company, Centrica, with a minority shareholding.

I don’t hide my political views: my fellow workers all know that I’m a member of the Socialist Party. They indulge me when occasionally I get on my soapbox and go on about Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, but we do have discussions: I’ve had comments when I’ve used the word ‘comrade’ on the gatehouse union notice board!

There seems to be little overt racism at Hinkley Point, perhaps because the industry, the professional expertise, is so obviously international. There is however, cynicism that most of the ordinary jobs with the proposed C Station will not be local at all: if they are planning a contractors village like they had before, how many workers will be coming from their Bridgwater home?

A safe place to work?

Workers do die of brain tumours and leukaemia after they retire from Hinkley Point: whether this is higher than in other industries I really don’t know. Health and Safety in the nuclear industry is like OCD/obsessive compulsive disorder: it is hammered into you all the time. For example, when you walk in the plant, there is this great big sign: ‘What will you do for nuclear safety today?’ There is a different safety message every day and every week: today mine was fire safety. There is a site Joint H&S Committee, which Roger Stendella from Unite represents security guards on.

Yes, it’s good that management are so Health and Safety orientated, but to be cynical, health and safety incidents in nuclear power plants give massive publicity for the anti-nuclear campaigns. Therefore, the message goes, we have to be on guard all the time, if we wish to keep electricity being generated and if we wish to keep our jobs, and management their huge bonuses and their very comfortable lifestyles. So you can look at this from a humanistic view that they are looking after us, or a capitalist view that they are protecting their assets. Either way, they are fanatical about health and safety.

Three years ago there was a significant incident when there was a release of gas and seven workers had to be taken away for de-contamination. It was officially reported that none had ingested radiation. I believe that was true, as those guys ARE still out there working. Security guards think that from day to day their working environment IS safe.

As we’ve seen atFukushimaandChernobyl, nuclear safety is all or nothing: when it’s going right nuclear is the greenest possible power source. You should see the wildlife around our perimeter fence: the rabbits are practically tame because there is no one to shoot them. You can get really close to badgers and within ten metres of the deer: the place is teeming with wildlife because there is no human threat. But when it goes wrong, yes, it’s a massive threat to human life! Potentially you are working in a nightmare environment, but you feel that from day to day it is safe.

Nuclear and other workers

One thing that might prevent a Hinkley Point worker who promotes alternatives to nuclear power being condemned as a traitor is that EDF itself promotes alternative energy sources: for example, we had a road show from the EDF solar energy branch the other day, encouraging us to fit solar panels: and we are ‘Electricite de France’ not ‘Nuclear de France.’

I happen to have a great interest in the prospects for solar power in the Sahara desert andEgyptin particular. Two weeks ago we had one of those ‘happy-clappy’ worker participation sessions: the EDF leader asked us: ‘What one thing could we do that would make you really happy to work for EDF?’ She was surprised by my answer: ‘Follow me to an oasis inEgyptand enable solar power to be installed there.” Not an answer she expected from a security guard! The EDF community liaison officer there was so relieved: he was bricking himself that I was going to launch a militant attack on the company. I also said that as a socialist I had no problem working for EDF because it was nationalised.

The nuclear safety issue has been a great barrier to workers outside nuclear plants coming together to fight with us on general working-class issues. One way would be to have effective local branches that cover other workplaces. I also think the trade union movement could gain enormously if there was more encouragement from national unions for nuclear shop stewards to become delegates to local trades union councils. Pro and anti-nuclear trades unionists meeting and learning from each other. I don’t think our Prospect reps would be interested, but I’ve tried to get the Unite reps interested in becoming delegates to Bridgwater TUC.

If nuclear workers just find trades councils being dominated by anti-nuclear delegates, then that will alienate them back into isolation. That in turn will mean that to the detriment of many trades councils the largest local employer with the best pay and conditions will not be represented. Hinkley Point workers might see any local discussion about nuclear power not as a challenge to nuclear power but as a challenge to their livelihoods. That has to be faced. It is not the place of any trades unionist to try and lose another trade union member their job. This is where that defensiveness comes from. However, I do believe that trades councils should not shy away from properly arranged debate and discussion about nuclear power: as you know, as an ex-squaddie I’ve spoken to the Bridgwater Peace Group.

One last thing: the nuclear industry is still male-dominated, although Chloe, my step-daughter, is one of the first female de-commissioning mechanical engineers in the industry. She has got her HNC, has finished her apprenticeship fromBridgwaterCollegeand has her graduation ceremony in September. She’ll be earning more than I do soon!

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Interview with Carole Vallelly, Trades Council and GMB activist Thu, 13 Oct 2011 13:05:02 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Sadly there wasn’t enough room in the magazine to print the full interview, so it is available below.

Interview with Dave Chapple, Chippenham, August 9th 2011

1. The Wiltshire and Swindon General Branch GMB

I joined the GMB a three Tolpuddle festivals ago through a friend, who was working as an ‘accompanying rep.’ What she was doing really interested me: how a trade union really helped workers, standing up for those in small or unorganised workplaces who otherwise wouldn’t have had a voice. People like me! At the time I was working as a pub assistant manager in Corsham, Wiltshire, where I live.

Just before I joined the GMB I supported the Corsham protests against the election of a local BNP councillor. The youngster who organised it was a school friend of my daughter. Corsham is not the sort of place that protests: we’re very quiet! There were rumours of coach loads of BNP, rumours of street fighting, but loads of us went down to the demonstration. We were so angry that a fascist had been elected unopposed: no one had voted for him!

When I was younger my mum, my dad, my brother and my sister all worked at Westinghouse at Chippenham. When you joined Westinghouse you joined the TGWU-no question about it!

So I was aware of unions, but because I’ve been a single parent with four children I’ve done a lot of part-time jobs, been self-employed. I never joined a union myself because I associated them with the bigger industrial places-like Westinghouse. Of course now I’m in the GMB I know there are a lot of workers who are the only union members in their workplace.

My friend took me to a branch meeting. There were only eight members there but everyone as really friendly. This is really important, especially if you’re a woman in a male-dominated group. So now, whenever we have a new member come along I go over and talk to them and offer them a drink.

I wasn’t used to formal meetings, so there was terminology used that I didn’t understand. My first couple of meetings I didn’t say anything: quite unusual for me! Then the GMB sent me on a couple of training courses and I found my feet.

The GMB has school support staff; care home staff; working-class women who need representation. Southern Cross care home staff are in our branch. Now, I’m an accompanying rep as well as an activist in my Branch, Wiltshire and Swindon General GMB, which is 3,200 strong and growing.

The GMB in Wiltshire has many large workplaces that are very well organised: for example, Nicholas and Harris, a bakery inSalisburyor D and S Packaging in Devizes. Nicholas and Harris stewards just won a national TUC shop stewards award, and the publicity from that might have been the reason we are recruiting even more members there. These large firms are represented by stewards and sometimes ourSwindonfull time officers. So a steward would take the dismissal interview and an officer would take the appeal if a sacking resulted.

We have been supporting several workplaces who have requested strike ballots, and we are currently making sure our branch records are absolutely up to date and accurate, to prepare for a national public sector pensions ballot.

2. GMB campaigns: schools, pubs and hospitals

Personally, as a GMB branch activist-accompanying rep and training co-ordinator- I spend a lot of time representing people: at disciplinaries, redundancies, or grievances. I have undergone redundancy consultations in very stressful situations where are members are basically being bullied. One school in Chippenham, had 27 GMB support staff members who we being made redundant because of restructuring and it’s been a complete cock up! The head had given assurances that these staff would be paid until December 16th and did not have to attend: then an HR manager said they had to attend after the break of they would only get the statutory redundancy pay. I had to threaten to have every member occupy the school reception on the first day, demanding individual redundancy consultations, to get justice.

Quite often I find managers like head teachers actually breaking the law in how they are treating their staff. One member had a disability, and was blatantly turned down for a suitable job: I had to remind the head of the case law which stated that if you have a redundancy situation and you need to redeploy someone who is disabled, then you have to make every reasonable adjustment to positively discriminate and redeploy them first if at all possible: of course they hadn’t! We are still fighting this through our GMB solicitor.

In the last few weeks we’ve been having a recruitment drive at theGreatWesternHospitalinSwindon: all grades, from Carillion cleaners, porters to nurses. What has helped is our Branch president is a member there in the computer section. Most of the staff, believe it or not, aren’t in a union, although Unison and the RCN obviously have members. We thought about this campaign carefully. Even though the GMB is a recognised NHS trade union, we needed to get the GMB name linked locally  with this particular hospital, because there is a perception that we are not a hospital union. The campaign was simple: a stall in the reception area, with our leaflet about changes in the local NHS: the Great Western Trust has just taken over, and there is a lot of fear and uncertainty. Our stall also had GMB carrier bags and pens. There was also an offer on a GMB watch, and a free mug if you joined up another member: things like that. Many inquirers just wanted an assurance that the GMB’s Indemnity insurance cover was just as good as the RCN’s! (It is, provided you are not self-employed). It was very useful to us that we could offer local reps and officials in a locally-based office that could get to the hospital quickly. We had twenty members to start with; we signed up another twenty from the stall, and GMB forms are still coming in.

The GMB does our in house reps branch training days twice a year and get solicitors down to give talks on workplace law. Obviously we are in regular touch with all our stewards, but not enough of them come to Branch meetings, even though we circulate these around the county.

We take Union Learn very seriously. It really does give people so much confidence. They walk away empowered. They know what their rights are; they know the language and the jargon; they know how to talk to management. For example, at Nicholas and Harris they have some very good learning reps, they organised English Second Language courses. Staff became active in the union through this: now all the shop stewards as well as the majority of the workforce are Polish.

Health and Safety courses are also important to give reps a positive plan to just go in and tell their manager they are going to have a safety inspection, whether they like it or not.

3. Women and the Trades Unions

Through the White Horse Trades Council I’ve also become a delegate to the South West Regional TUC, its executive and women’s committees, and the national trades councils conference. I became the chair of the women’s committee a few months ago, and we produced a good leaflet for Tolpuddle, highlighting how women are under attack from this government. The sisters on this SW TUC Women’s committee bring along their own different strengths and we work effectively together. On Tolpuddle Sunday I MC’d in the marquee, introducing the bands. I hadn’t done it before, but it went well!

The South West TUC Women’s Committee, with GMB, Unite and Unison, put on a 2011 International Women’s Day event in Exeter which was brilliant: 80/90 women came, and there were some great speakers. The women’s committee were thinking about how to fund this, and I thought: ‘I’ll ask the GMB.’ So I e-mailed our regional secretary Richard Ascough and asked him for £2,000: he said OK! Later I asked him if that sort of request usually turned down, and Richard said: ‘No: it’s just no one has ever asked me before!’ We are having another day of workshops in November, but we don’t want to just preach to the converted, so the committee is looking at getting women’s input and issues into all the South West Regional TUC events. There is still under-representation: Some trades council shave no female delegates at all. I’ve frequently been on courses when I’ve been the only woman in the room. I went to a GMB meeting inPlymouthrecently, and out of thirty people in the room there were just two women. We are chip chip chipping away. Women are now just under 50% of the membership in the GMB, and a lot of that is just in the last couple of years. So, yes, I think women are improving their position in the trade union movement all the time.

4. White Horse (Wiltshire) Trades Council

At a GMB Branch meeting it was announced that there would be a meeting to set up a trades council in West Wiltshire and I volunteered to attend. This was October 2009. There were twenty-odd trades unionists that night in Trowbridge: it looked promising, so I volunteered to become secretary. My branch colleague Andy Newman said: “Go on! Go on! You’re MORE than capable!” My first trades council meeting, only a couple of months after I’d joined the GMB, and I was secretary of one!

I found the idea of activists from different unions, different workplaces in an area was brilliant: I still think it’s the way forward! Trades unions have been great in setting up anti-cuts campaigns, working with community groups, and, especially, mobilising support for the March 26th TUC demonstration.

White Horse (Wiltshire) Trades Council was a huge learning curve for me: I had to find out about and tailor-make our constitution and model rules; get a bank account; then contact all the local trade union branches; chase up affiliations and delegates. For a new trades union activist to join a trades council would have been unusual, but to become secretary of a brand new one was quite a challenge.

So far we’ve had affiliations and delegates from GMB, CWU, Unite, RMT, UCU, NUJ, POA, USDAW, and Unison. We’re working on the others!

There is lethargy with union branches affiliating to trades councils: it can be quite hard. Unfortunately, getting a branch officer just to put pen to paper is the tricky bit. People do get home at night and think to themselves: ‘Can I be bothered to go out to a meeting?’ Also, it can be the same people who do everything, so if they get overstretched they can burn out.

Full-time union officials need to be more aware of the work trades councils do.

Working-class history has been just as important to us in our first two years as our current struggles. The first thing we did was organise a wreath-laying ceremony at the tomb of the Trowbridge working-class martyr Thomas Helliker. Thomas was a 19 year-old at the time of the machine breaking in the early 19th Century. There was a fire at Littleton Mill where he worked. Although witnesses stated that he was elsewhere at the time of the arson attack, Thomas refused to name names of those who were there, and for this he was hanged at Salisbury Jail on his 19th birthday. His comrades carried his coffin all the way back acrossSalisbury plain and he was buried in Trowbridge churchyard.

Many people in Corsham and Trowbridge itself didn’t know about Thomas Helliker, so when we got the town mayor to attend the wreath ceremony with us trades unionists and local historians, thousands of people read and heard about it for the first time in the local media.

White Horse trades council followed this up with a 2010 day conference on Wiltshire working class history. We are now raising the money to publish the proceedings as a book. (See advert, ed.)

We organised a successful Village Pump folk music evening at the Lamb Inn, Trowbridge. I think socialising, getting to know one another, trades unionists building personal relationships as well as discussions at formal meetings is so important. We’ve run coaches for March 26thLondon demo, and to Tolpuddle: filling a coach is enjoyable hard work! We’ve shown solidarity to local workers on strike, though, sometimes, the local full time official forgets to inform the trades council of their dispute.

We lobbied County Hall at Trowbridge against public sector cuts: sometimes only a small lobby can get a great deal of good publicity if it’s well organised, and give some encouragement to local council trades unionists who are too demoralised or plain scared to attend themselves.

My own branch is an example of the difference real support for a trades council can make: whether it is a large donation for our banner, or a subsidy for a coach to a demonstration, the GMB in Wiltshire, and our Branch Secretary Andy Newman in particular, has been brilliant. We affiliate and send delegates not only to White Horse but also Swindon andSalisburytrades councils. I’m still trying to reel in the more reluctant union branches: bringing them over to the dark side. In the GMB nationally, there is not a lot of discussion about trades councils, although some of our Remploy stewards are also trades council activists. What would help are articles in GMB magazines, and an annual national meeting for GMB trades council activists.

The idea of ‘community’ is important: not only the community of people who live and work around you, but also the local community of trades unionists. Links between trades councils and good community groups: for example, we had a speaker come to us from the Trowbridge Storehouse Food Bank. They put food on tables through social referrals: so if you have lost your job, with no benefits coming through for a couple of months, and you have no way of feeding your family; someone who has gone sick from work with no sick pay: they step in. That speaker took away donations from our trades council and my GMB Branch.

The media have been very helpful: they are starved of news around here! For example when we brought our new banner to the Justice for All protest, with the local Citizens Advice Bureau, the TV, radio and press all came. This protest brought to people’s notice the Government’s ideological drive to ensure justice will only be available to people with money.

Events like these mean that trades unionism is no longer underground. On March 26th this year I did radio interviews in the morning and evening.

The key to a successful trades council isn’t so much the money but getting enough people involved: people who are comfortable with protests!

5. What we have to do

When I first joined the GMB I was distrustful of all politicians, and now I found myself a member of the Labour Party. What has persuaded me is that I have never hated a government like I’ve hated this one: Lib-Dems in particular. A lot of trades unionists I know did join the Labour Party after the last election: the thinking is, ‘The Labour Party should be the party that represents working class people: it’s not! I know it sounds silly, but if enough people like me join it, perhaps it could be dragged back to its working class roots. I still don’t like politicians!

There is still a problem of the perception of trades unionism back in our own communities. Corsham is not a hot-bed of socialism and I don’t know a single other woman trades unionist in the town! I do have to travel!

One Corsham woman said to be, when I told her I was a trades unionist: ‘Oooh, that sounds harsh!’ As if I was a kind of terrorist or something!

I think we are winning. I’ve said how the GMB is increasing its membership. With everything that’s happening, people are going to realise that they do need the unions behind them. I think we have a great opportunity to recruit. People are fearful: because of the economic climate, employers are trying to drive down terms and conditions: ‘If you don’t like it, you know where the door is.’

A lot of young people, perhaps a majority, just don’t know what a trade union is. We need to get back into schools and colleges and explain what we are about. When they get a job, at least they’ll know we’re here!

I think the working class needs a political party to represent them; there are also a lot of industries that really do need organisation: I’ve worked in a lot of pubs and you don’t have contracts, you work too many hours, you don’t have holidays you should or get paid for bank holidays. But if we recruit these workers, you have to look after them afterwards! If we can use this economic opportunity to recruit, the more noises we make about the rights of the working classes, the more other people are going to see unionisation as necessary.

It needs to go back to the days when my parents, my brother and sister worked at Westinghouse, and you joined the union: no question about it!

We need to normalise trades unionism.

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Hosepipe Ban Sun, 12 Jun 2011 18:00:02 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Wednesday 8th June 2011

GMB congress told that parts of Midlands will see hosepipe ban in weeks unless there is persistent rain due to mismanagement of water resources in region

The management will blame the weather and will seek to divert attention from their own mismanagement that will lead to a hosepipe ban in 2 weeks unless we get heavy rain.

GMB Congress was told today that households in parts of the East and West Midlands, supplied by Severn Trent, would face a hosepipe ban n two weeks unless there is sustained heavy rain in the meantime. The parts of the region facing the hosepipe ban in two weeks are Staffordshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire.

The Congress was told that the mismanagement of the water resources in the region by the senior management that was primarily to blame for the shortage of water. The introduction, by the Chief Executive Tony Wray of a new computer system called SAP (System, Application, Products) at a cost of £70millon had led to complete confusion in the scheduling of repair work and dealing with leaks has led to massive losses of water from the reservoirs since last June when it was introduced. On Monday 6th June senior management had to introduce a work around/ bypass to SAP system in order to address water leak repair lead times currently running at approximately 30 days against the target of 3 days.

The mismanagement has led to fines for delays in repairing dug up roads, under the Traffic Management Act, increasing by 25 times on the level before the system came in. Severn Trent has failed to meet the OFWAT target for interruption of supply. Over 80,000 customers lost supply for up to 6 hours in 2010/11. Often water pressure has been reduced to the bare minimum rather than the company finding and fixing the significant leaks.

The Congress was told that it would take 4 weeks of persistent rain to get the reservoirs back to where they were this time last year. Severn Trent supplies 3.7m households and businesses in West and East Midlands and Mid Wales.

Gary Smith GMB national secretary said: “Introducing the SAP system has led to water draining out of the reservoirs as the delay in fixing the leaks stretched out to 30 days compared with the target of 3 days. The management will blame the weather and will seek to divert attention from their own mismanagement that will lead to a hosepipe ban in 2 weeks unless we get heavy rain. The morale of the 6,000 workers at Severn Trent is an all-time low due this mismanagement. A recent survey showed that only 38% of the employees think the senior managers are providing effective leadership. The workers have co-operated with significant management led changes despite being getting rises below inflation for the past three years. Now the management want to close the final salary pension scheme on the grounds that they cannot afford it. What a blow to a loyal workforce in this monopoly service transferred to the private sector where the executives and shareholders have gouged themselves at the expense of their customers and workers. Mismanagement and greed are a poor combination when running vital services for the public. They take us for “Saps”.”

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1 in 4 Not In Council Pension Thu, 05 May 2011 10:34:35 +0000 Continue reading ]]> One in four council workers already opted out of pension scheme shows proposed contribution increases to local government pension schemes would be a disaster.

Government proposals to increase contributions by 3.2% to 9.6% will make this worse, jeopardising the entire Local Government Pension Scheme for its four million members says GMB


A new GMB study shows that the participation rate in the Local Government Pension scheme (LGPS) ranges from a low of 46% in Central Bedfordshire to 99% in Sheffield. In 46 councils one in four or more of all council workers including low earning care workers, teaching assistants, cleaners and support staff are not members of the pension fund. The study also shows that in the five years to 2011 these has been a 7% overall drop in workers participating in the LGPS. Overall 1 in 4 workers elegible to be in the scheme are opted out of the scheme concluding that they cannot afford to be in the Local Government Pension Scheme. The overall participation rates for 118 Councils in England are shown below.

GMB established that data on participation rates in the current Local Government pension scheme using the Freedom of Information Act. GMB says that this data proves that increasing the contribution rate by 3.2% from 6.4% to 9.6%, as part of the proposed £1billion Osborne Pension Tax which is the target Treasury yield from the higher employee contribution rate of 9.6%, will drive thousands more away from pension saving while doing nothing to increase the funding level of the scheme. See Note 1 and 2 below.


Percentage of eligible employees participating in the Local Government Pension Scheme according to responses received from 118 Councils by GMB to a Freedom of Information request.


Central Bedfordshire 46%
Enfield 50%
Darlington 55%
Stockton on Tees 55%
Kingston 56%
Middlesborough 57%
East Sussex 58%
Tower Hamlets 58%
Hertfordshire 59%
Portsmouth 59%
Lancashire 60%
Isles of Scilly 61%
Barking & Dagenham 64%
Dudley 64%
Essex 64%
Plymouth 64%
Bradford 65%
City of London 65%
Slough 65%
Newham 66%
Swindon 66%
Worcestershire 66%
Bristol 67%
Hartlepool 67%
Cornwall 68%
Greenwich 68%
Sandwell 68%
Rutland 69%
Sunderland 69%
Bracknell Forest 70%
Camden 70%
Haringey 70%
Leeds 70%
Luton 70%
Walsall 70%
Bolton 71%
Durham 71%
Liverpool 71%
Windsor & Maidenhead 71%
Brighton 72%
Halton 72%
Hull 72%
West Sussex 72%
North Tyneside 73%
Herefordshire 74%
Lambeth 74%
Hampshire 75%
Isle of Wight 75%
Leicestershire 75%
Redcar 75%
Wandsworth 75%
Kent 76%
Manchester 76%
Warwickshire 76%
Barnet 77%
Bedford 77%
Cheshire West & Chester 77%
City of York 77%
Leicester 77%
Wolverhampton 77%
Kirklees 78%
Medway 78%
North East Lincolnshire 78%
Rochdale 78%
Staffordshire 78%
Telford 78%
Blackpool 79%
Cheshire East 79%
Gateshead 79%
Hammersmith & Fulham 79%
Oxfordshire 79%
Surrey 79%
Waltham Forest 79%
Wokingham 79%
Solihull 80%
South Gloucestershire 80%
Bath & NE Somerset 81%
Buckinghamshire 81%
Milton Keynes 81%
North Yorks CC 81%
Redbridge 81%
Gloucestershire 82%
Sutton 82%
Wirral 82%
Barnsley 83%
Bournemouth 83%
Islington 83%
Northumberland 83%
Peterborough 83%
Sefton 83%
Stoke 83%
Trafford 83%
Birmingham 84%
Doncaster 84%
North Somerset 84%
Ealing 85%
Harrow 85%
Lincolnshire 85%
Nottingham City 85%
Wakefield 85%
Bromley 86%
Calderdale 86%
Cambridgeshire 86%
Rotherham 86%
Southwark 86%
Westminster 86%
Hackney 88%
Hillingdon 88%
Derbyshire 89%
North Lincolnshire 89%
Nottinghamshire 89%
Newcastle 92%
Derby 95%
Lewisham 95%
Somerset 95%
Richmond 96%
Bexley 97%
Sheffield City 99%


Brian Strutton, GMB National Secretary for Public Services, said:


“Low paid council workers have had a two year pay freeze and are finding it increasingly hard to save for their retirement as our survey shows. Government proposals to increase contributions by 3.2% to 9.6% would make this worse, jeopardising the entire Local Government Pension Scheme for its four million members. We need sustainability and fairness that encourages people to invest in their retirement and not be reliant on welfare benefits.


The Chancellor is insisting on raising £1 billion from the LGPS in a tax that will see central government grants to local authorities cut and contribution income to the scheme plummet as members leave the scheme. In a survey of more than 2,000 scheme members 39% said they would leave the scheme if the average contribution rate increased to 9.6%.


The LGPS pays out on average £4,200 a year to LGPS pensioners, the lowest in the public sector and has an annual positive cash flow of £4 billion. Yet the Chancellor seeks to wipe this out overnight with a doomed policy that will destroy what should be a viable, sustainable means of funding retirement for millions of front line public sector workers.


Government has said that it wants people to save for retirement but is failing to ensure low paid workers stay in their pension scheme. This causes the legacy of under saving that the Turner Commission warned about five years ago, a legacy that will leave millions in poverty in later life.


As the government prepares to introduce auto-enrolment in the private sector it should be examining why 20 years of auto-enrolment to a good quality scheme still leads to a quarter of local authority employees opting out.”


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430 Workers Locked Out Thu, 17 Mar 2011 17:14:14 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Wednesday 16th March 2011


GMB call on BP, Du Point and British Sugar to join with unions in order get engineering construction members back to work on £200m bio fuel ethanol plant at Saltend, Hull.

GMB wants BP,Du Point and British Sugar to intervene to allay increasing fears that the £200m engineering construction project to build a bio fuel ethanol plant for them at the Saltend Site in Hull will be the scene of another Lindsey type dispute with the project manager Jacobs replacing the UK based labour force building the site with exploited overseas labour. In 2009 Lindsey Oil Refinery was involved in a dispute over the exclusion of UK workers from the site to be replaced with lower paid overseas workers.

BP, Du Point and British Sugar make up a consortium Vivergo Fuels Ltd which is client for this project. Vivergo Fuels Ltd awarded the contract to manage the project to Aker Process part of the US Jacob Group. The role of the project managers is to source tenders for the contract to build the plant.

The engineering construction workforce is employed by a range of contractors under the National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry. Redhall Engineering Solutions Ltd was awarded the contract for mechanical piping within the scope of work in February 2010 with 316 manual workers and 134 staff workers. Other contractors are DSL (Deborah Services Ltd) Scaffolding with 63 manual workers, SEC Electrical 40 manual workers, Syntex Engineering Services with 17 manual workers, FB Taylor with 10 manual workers and Mammoet Cranes with 15 manual workers .

On 11 March notice was served upon Redhall Engineering Solutions Ltd by Vivergo Fuels Ltd for performance related issues, thereby terminating any agreement between themselves and Redhall Engineering Solutions Ltd. Redhall Engineering Solutions Ltd issued a communiqué to the workers stating that as from 07.31 on Monday 14 March 2011 they will no longer be employed by them and should turn up for work to be transferred under TUPE legislation to either Vivergo Fuels Ltd or any contractor that is given the contract. When the members turned up for work yesterday Aker Process Ltd on behalf of Vivergo Fuels Ltd denied any liability to employ the transferred staff.  This leaves GMB members in an impossible situation in that they have uncertainty of employment and are not receiving wages from 07.31 on 14 March 2011. Workers from the other contractors have been sent home on full pay.

Les Dobbs GMB Senior Organizer said “GMB members have increasing fears that the dismissal of the UK based workforce will lead to them being replaced with lower paid exploited overseas workers. Jacobs, who own Aker Process the project manager on this site, were also involved at Lindsey Oil Refinery when the dispute arose over the exclusion of UK workers from the site to be replaced with lower paid overseas workers and are therefore knowledgeable of the concerns and damage that this type of dispute can cause. I am calling on BP, Du Point and British Sugar to ally these fears and to intervene now to get everyone back to work.

GMB members are effectively locked out by the main contractors. Demonstrations have already started in Hull, Middlesbrough and Newcastle upon Tyne.

Those paying for the building of the site BP, Du Point and British Sugar have to get a grip of this problem before the situation deteriorates further.

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31,000 Elderly Homeless? Mon, 14 Mar 2011 15:29:56 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Monday 14th March 2011

31,000 elderly residents in Southern Cross care homes face being made homeless as GMB calls for QIAia to clear up the financial mess caused by sky high rents

These 750 UK Care homes are not factories that are failing from lack of demand but are an essential part of every community which now face ruin due to the combination of privatisation and private equity.

31,000 elderly residents in 750 UK care homes, run by Southern Cross, across Britain face the prospect of being made homeless as the company struggles to pay sky high rents on the freeholds of the buildings used as the care homes. This morning (Monday 14th March 2011) Southern Cross issued a profits warning and the share price has now lost 97% of the price it was floated for in 2006.

Earlier this month GMB staged another demonstration against the Qatari Investment Authority (QIA), which owns Harrods the total lack of action by the QIA on the sky high rents charged for care homes for the elderly owned by the QIA in Britain and the continuing tax avoidance on the income from these rents as the funds are channeled to off-shore tax havens.

Overcharging on rent amounts to £60 per week per care home bed. The public funds involved was intended to be used to pay for the care of the elderly in Southern Cross care homes. Instead these funds are being used to pay the interest on £1,100m bonds raised by the QIA when they bought the care home builidngs from a private equity company in 2006. Taxes on this income are avoided as the funds are funnelled via companies in the Isle of Man and the Caymen Islands. See notes to editors for details.

At the demonstration outside Harrods GMB protesters were dressed in Bedouin attire and had oil drums and placards with slogans calling for QIA to stop ignoring the issue.

GMB has 10,000 members working for Southern Cross care homes for the Uk’s elderly. These members are paid the National Minimum Wage (NMW) and the majority have had their pay frozen. A list of all 750 Southern Cross care homes is available at at the foot of this release in the Newsroom.

Paul Kenny GMB General Secretary said:

“It is time for the QIA to clear up the financial mess that it and the private equity industry created at Southern Cross and which now threatens to make 31,000 vulnerable elderly UK residents homeless.

These 750 UK Care homes are not factories that are failing from lack of demand but are an essential part of every community which now face ruin due to the combination of privatisation and private equity.

The boast of the private sector is that it can run services better than the public sector can. This is yet another case of where the private sector has already made huge profits from the public funds and now expects the tax payer to pay to clear up the mess now that it is all going wrong. For over a year GMB has been calling on the QIA to step in, pay down the borrowing on the homes and reduce the rents. The QIA has ignored GMB’s demand.

The QIA raised £1,110 million in bonds to buy 300 care homes from the private equity company Blackstones in 2006. Rents are being overcharged to the tune of £60 per week per care home bed. Most of this is public money. It is needed to care for the elderly in the homes. It is being used instead to pay interest on these enormous and expensive bonds which was never the intended purpose. To add insult to injury these funds are being funnelled to off-shore tax havens and no tax is being paid in the UK on this income.

The elderly residents in the care homes are being made to pay for the syphoning off of these funds intended for their care. Staff turnover in the care homes is very high because of the low pay to the workers the majority of which have had their pay frozen. This lack of continuity of care staff has an adverse effect on the care the elderly receive. They now face the prospect of losing their homes.”

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Hutton Problems Mon, 14 Mar 2011 15:28:03 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Thursday 10th March 2011

Final Hutton report: more recipe for disaster than blueprint for reform says GMB

Lord Hutton had a real chance to make sure low paid public sector workers have good quality, affordable pension schemes; but in failing to address the key issue of affordability to members, that chance has been wasted says GMB.

The Hutton Commission’s report into public sector pensions is fatally flawed and only adds to the confusion. By ignoring issues of member affordability and accepting the Osborne Pension Tax that will price vast numbers of workers out of pension schemes, Lord Hutton has failed to ensure a sustainable foundation for future pension provision.

Lord Hutton should have listened to the evidence submitted to his Commission not his paymasters in the Treasury when formulating his final report says GMB.

On his specific proposals today, GMB said

1. The proposal to move to career average looks like a trojan horse to reduce benefits to everyone including the low paid.

2. The raising of retirement ages is unrealistic in the current economic climate and will simply mean that pension calculations are reduced.

3. Having a cost ceiling for taxpayers ignores the costs for scheme members who increasingly cannot afford to save.

4. As government seeks to widen the ‘Big Society’ public service workforce, it is unfair that under Hutton’s plan, they would be barred from access to the same pension schemes as their public sector counterparts.

His broad brush ‘principles’ with stipulations on retirement age, cost sharing and benefit structures will fall at the first hurdle because Lord Hutton has failed to take into account the devastating impact government cuts to public sector pensions has already had on the nation’s pension saving. The Osborne Pension tax that seeks to impose an annual £1billion levy on members of the Local Government Pension Scheme (the largest scheme in the country) will decimate the scheme, a danger the LGA, NAPF, Unions and LGPS Pension Funds have all highlighted in recent months. Already 1 in 4 workers eligible for LGPS membership do not join. Most of these workers are low paid women, the group most in need of good quality pension provision. Moving to career average won’t benefit lower earners as Hutton argues if they can’t afford to join the scheme.

Brian Strutton, National Secretary for Public Services said:

“Lord Hutton had a real chance to make sure low paid public sector workers have good quality, affordable pension schemes; but in failing to address the key issue of affordability to members, that chance has been wasted. His career average and retirement age proposals are just smokescreens for more cuts. Hutton’s new report has ignored some of the most important responses to his interim report and hasn’t fully taken account of recent government policy changes on contributions and index linking. As a result, many of his conclusions are questionable and will infuriate public sector workers. It’s not cogent enough to be a blueprint for reform but it might well light the blue touch paper for industrial action.”

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Remploy disabled workers seek authority from GMB central executive council for strike ballot over redundancies Sun, 06 Feb 2011 13:50:57 +0000 Continue reading ]]> There is little point in adding more disabled workers to the dole queues since we know that they are not going to get other jobs says GMB

Disabled workers employed by Remploy who are GMB members will seek authority from the GMB Central Executive Council (CEC), when it meets on Tuesday 15th February 2011, to conduct an official strike ballot over redundancies in the 54 sheltered workshops across Britain.

The remaining 57 Remploy factories are in Aberdare, Aberdeen, Abertillery, Acton, Ashington, Barking, Barrow, Birkenhead, Birmingham, Blackburn, Bolton, Bridgend, Bristol, Burnley, Chesterfield, Cleator Moor, Clydebank, Coventry, Cowdenbeath, Croespenmaen, Derby, Dundee, Edinburgh, Gateshead, Heywood, Huddersfield, Leeds, Leicester, Leicester Head Office, Leven, Manchester, Merthyr Tydfil, Motherwell, Neath Port Talbot, Newcastle, North London, North Staffordshire, Norwich, Oldham, Penzance, Pontefract, Poole, Porth, Portsmouth, Preston, Sheffield, Southampton, Spennymoor, Springburn, Stirling, Sunderland, Swansea, Wallasey, Wigan, Worksop and Wrexham.

Remploy last week told GMB that proposals for voluntary redundancy were being rolled out across the company from Monday 31st January 2011. This was just 7 days after the legal consultation period of 90 days commenced on the 24th January 2011.

Remploy went on to inform over 3,400 employees by letter on the 26th January 2011 just 3 days after the official consultation commenced on the 24th January 2011 that the redundancy package would be rolled out on Monday 31st January 2011 and that they should seek to volunteer for redundancy.

The GMB CEC will be told that following the closure of 29 Remploy factories in 2008 the vast majority of workers (85%) who were made redundant are still unemployed and on benefits with no prospects of finding work.

The GMB CEC will also be told that the Remploy management have made little of no progress in finding work for the remaining Remploy factories in spite of the fact that the EU rules allow public bodies to place orders with sheltered workshop outside or normal procurement arrangements.

The GMB CEC will be advised of an alternative plan that the Remploy unions has put to the government as an alternative way ahead. Part of than plan is to reverse the rise in the number of managers which had increased despite the reduction in the number of factories and shop floor workers. In total the Remploy unions have put forward a plan to cut £30million from costs while making Remploy viable.

Phil Davies, GMB National Secretary said:

I will be seeking authority from the GMB CEC for an official strike ballot over the way that the Remploy management have dealt with the latest proposals for redundancy in the remaining Remploy factories.

Not only is Remploy breaking their own agreements it is definitely breaking the law. Remploy is sending letters on a weekly basis to the disabled employees, many of whom have learning difficulties and mental health issues. These letters are causing them extreme stress.

Remploy has a legal obligation to consult with the trade unions to try to reduce job losses.

The Remploy unions want to enter a real dialogue with the Government to find a way ahead for a viable Remploy. There is little point in adding more disabled workers to the dole queues since we know that they are not going to get other jobs. GMB public services section today tracked 150,059 posts under threat in 260 councils across Britain. There are nearly a million able bodied young workers on the dole seeking work. It is high time that the UK government put in place a realistic strategy to take advantage of the EU rules on procurement for disabled work shops.

A good start will be to get rid of the existing Remploy management which would save up to £13million per year.”

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NHS Increment Freeze Rejected by GMB Fri, 14 Jan 2011 16:21:24 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Thursday 13th January 2011

NHS increment freeze rejected by GMB, the union for NHS workers in hospitals, ambulance services and the community

Healthcare staff are already at the sharp end of the funding squeeze and a freeze on pay will only make things even worse says GMB.

Members of GMB’s NHS National Advisory Group met today and concluded a robust discussion by rejecting a two-year freeze on all pay progression proposed by NHS Employers. A freeze on contractual pay progression in the NHS would come on top of the two-year freeze in percentage pay increases that the Coalition Government is imposing across the public sector.

Pam Hughes, Chair of GMB’s NHS National Advisory Group, said:

“NHS workers are being asked to accept a double whammy cut in their pay and quite frankly it is insulting that this kind of offer has been tabled by the employer. Health Care workers are working tirelessly against a backdrop of immense uncertainty over the future of the NHS.”

Rehana Azam, GMB National Officer, added:

“NHS Employers wanted an agreement with the trade unions about a two-year freeze in incremental pay progression, in return for a guarantee that some NHS staff will not face compulsory redundancies. But the proposed ‘national enabling framework’ would not have been binding on any NHS trust, so in practice NHS Employers could not have delivered on their promise. GMB members feel very strongly that they do not want to surrender their rights to pay increments when so many of them are already facing a two-year pay freeze, local attacks on their terms and conditions, deteriorating living standards, and rising work pressures.”

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Unions to seek strike ballot for Sefton council staff Thu, 09 Dec 2010 18:33:41 +0000 Continue reading ]]> by John Siddle, Liverpool Echo December 8th

UNIONISTS said they have a “massive mandate for industrial action” after Merseyside council workers were polled over looming cuts.

As senior Sefton councillors identified savings of £30m at a behind-closed-doors meeting on Saturday, three unions revealed 90% of members supported a strike ballot.

Unison, GMB and Unite will now seek approval from regional offices for a formal ballot.

Glen Williams, Unison branch secretary, said: “This is an overwhelming indication of how determined union members are to resist the threat of major job cuts and slashing of public services.

I attended many of the recent roadshows where the chief executive gave an update and I was extremely concerned at the low mood of the workforce, how low morale felt and how there is a belief that this is simply not fair.

The three unions are completely at one in their opposition to the job cuts.”

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