Maxine Support for Bolton’s Winter Hill Anniversary

Maxine Peake speaking at the launch event

Bolton Actress, Maxine Peake is supporting plans to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Britain’s biggest rights of way dispute in September this year. Plans are underway to celebrate what is sometimes referred to as the Battle of Winter Hill in 1896. In September that year, thousands of people from Halliwell and surrounding areas of Bolton, took part in huge protests in defiance of wealthy landowner, Colonel Richard Ainsworth, after he blocked off public access to the moors to host private grouse shooting parties with his friends. For many working class people in the late 19th century, a Sunday morning walk on the moors, was their only respite from the noise and pollution of the mills and factories. There was widespread anger when public access to the moors was blocked. On Sunday 6th September 1896, thousands walked from the bottom of Halliwell Road, up Smithills Dean Roan and then via Coal Pit Road onto the moors, defying Colonel Ainsworth, demanding their right to access the moors of Winter Hill. Although the dispute was unsuccessful, years later Bolton Council took ownership of much of the land on Winter Hill, helping to ensure public rights of way. The events of 1896 had largely been forgotten until the early 1980s, when Bolton writer and historian, Paul Salveson, published his book, Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin’ enabling people to learn the the story of 1896 and some of the leading characters involved.

A commemorative Winter Hill walk is planned from Halliwell in Bolton to Winter Hill on Sunday 5th September 2021, and people are being encouraged to take part. Organisers hope that after the difficulties of the pandemic during the past 18 months, the walk will be an opportunity for people to enjoy local moorland and celebrate local history. Other activities are being organised in conjunction with The Woodland Trust, Bolton Ramblers, Smithills Hall Museum and others.

Maxine Peake said, “I think it is really important that we remember Bolton’s battle for Winter Hill in 1896. This was an important fight by ordinary people to access local moorland. I was only eight when I went on my first commemorative walk in 1982 with my late mum Glenys and step-grandfather Jim. There was a real sense of camaraderie. People wanted to come together and celebrate an important chapter of working class history that could so easily be forgotten. The fight for the right to roam is as important today as it was in 1896. We must keep on fighting for better access to open spaces”.

People can find out more c/o the Winter Hill 125 Facebook group.

Guardian Article.

See below:

Bolton News Article.

The article below follows a successful public meeting with Guy Shrubsole, Nick Hayes, Katrina Navickas, Maxine Peake and Paul Salveson.

Salford Star Article.

See below:

UNISON North West article.

See In Touch below:

Acas statement on fire and rehire practices

8 June 2021

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) asked Acas to conduct an evidence gathering exercise to learn more about the use of fire and rehire practices. This has been published today and contains views from a range of participants about their experiences on the use of fire and rehire.

Acas Chief Executive, Susan Clews, said:

“Our findings provide valuable insight into the use of fire and rehire practices. We gathered a range of views from professional bodies with workplace expertise, including trade unions and employer organisations.

“Some of the participants told us about the business challenges of COVID-19 and how the use of fire and rehire can help reduce redundancies. Others believe that the practice is unacceptable, and that the pandemic has been used as a ‘smokescreen’ to diminish workers’ terms and conditions.

“There was also evidence that fire and rehire practices have been used for many years and predate the pandemic. We will take up the government’s request to produce further guidance that encourages good workplace practices when negotiating changes to staff contracts.”

Read the findings in ‘Dismissal and re-engagement (fire-and-rehire): a fact-finding exercise‘.

The future of flexible work

Genuine flexible working can be a win-win arrangement for both workers and employers. It can allow people to balance their work and home lives, is important in promoting equality at work and can lead to improved recruitment and retention of workers for employers.

There is a real appetite among workers for a range of flexible working options. Our research shows more than four out of five (82 per cent) workers in Britain want to work flexibly in the future, rising to 87 per cent amongst women workers. The most popular forms of flexible working desired in the future are remote working, flexi-time, and part-time work but workers would also like job sharing, annualised hours, term time only working, compressed hours and mutually-agreed predictable hours to be made available to them.  

To meet this demand from workers, we need to negotiate new rules that provide fair flexibility for everyone. 

Before the pandemic, there was deep inequality in access to genuine flexible working. Too many people in working-class occupations were closed out of genuine flexibility and instead had worse terms and conditions masquerading as ‘flexibility’ forced onto them in the form of zero-hours contracts and other forms of insecurity. This so-called ‘flexibility’ strips workers of rights and makes them face irregular hours and therefore irregular income. Work is offered at the whim of their employer and last-minute shift changes are the norm. Future flexibility must provide predictability, including regular shift patterns and notice of hours to address the damaging impacts of insecure work.

When workers try and access genuine, two-way flexibility, for example flexi-time, remote working and part-time work, three in ten of their requests for flexible working are turned down, with employers having an almost unfettered ability to do so, given the breadth of the statutory “business reasons” that can currently be used to justify a refusal[1]. The most popular form of flexibility, flexi-time is unavailable to over half (58 per cent) of the UK workforce. This number rises to nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) for people in working-class occupations[2]

The experience of the pandemic has significantly changed the landscape of flexible working. Since March 2020 all those who could work from home were expected to do so. This has brought about a popular narrative of home working being the common experience of the pandemic. All attention around flexible working is focused on the needs and experience of the third of the workforce who worked from home during the pandemic. Those who have worked from home are more likely to be in higher paid occupations and from London and the Southeast[3]. However, over half of the workforce continued to work outside the home. These workers have not been able to access the flexibility available to home workers. With the exception of home working, all forms of flexible working have fallen over the past year, meaning that has been even harder than before for these workers to access flexible working arrangements[4].   

As we exit the pandemic there is a real risk of a class and geographical divide being created between the flexible working haves and have nots. A recent survey of employers suggests that employers are more likely to not offer flexible work to staff who could not work from home during the pandemic. One in six (16 per cent) of employers surveyed said that after the pandemic, they will not offer flexible working opportunities to staff who could not work from home during the pandemic. This compares to one in sixteen (6 per cent) saying they will not offer flexible working opportunities to those who did work from home in the pandemic.

We cannot allow flexible working to become a perk for the favoured few – offered to a minority of the workforce who are able to work from home – and serving to reinforce existing inequalities.  

As well as ensuring that there is fair access to flexible working, we need to make sure that flexible working benefits workers, helping them balance their work and home lives.

Demand for remote working has been transformed by the experiences of enforced home working during the pandemic. More than nine out of ten (91 per cent) of those who worked from home during the pandemic want to spend at least some of the time working remotely, with only one in 25 (4 per cent) preferring to work from an external workplace full time.

We need to ensure that as businesses respond to this demand, new flexibilities are implemented fairly, and address the challenges as well as opportunities of this form of work. Steps need to be taken to ensure that, after the pandemic, the experience of those working from home does not mirror the damaging one sided ‘flexibility’ experienced by so many on zero-hours contracts, with arrangements imposed that only benefit employers. Increased access to remote working must not come at the price of reductions to workers pay, increased intrusive remote surveillance, unsafe working environments, lack of access to union representatives, an increase in unpaid hours worked and draining, always-on cultures. No worker should denied the ability to return to working from an external workplace and be forced to work from home as the result of money saving office closures.  

We believe trade unions are best placed to work with employers to ensure competing demands are reconciled and workers needs met. These include responding to the organisational challenges that new forms of flexibility can impose, including responding to production cycles and public demand for services. Trade unions have long experience of negotiating collective solutions to these problems that balance workers’ and business needs.

The government must set out a strategy on the future of flexible work and its integral role in shaping a better and more equal recovery for workers following the pandemic. This should include how they aim to respond to the impacts that increased remote working may have on transport, retail, hospitality and other sectors potentially affected by decreased office working in city centres. Increased levels of remote working could have substantial adverse effects for other workers in these sectors.  The government’s strategy must include steps to ensure that the jobs of those who may be impacted by lower levels of office-based working are not threatened.

There is widespread recognition of the fact that the current legislative framework in relation to flexible working wasn’t working effectively before the pandemic. The government itself has highlighted the need for change in its 2019 manifesto commitment to make flexible working the default. We need the government to act without delay to introduce their long-promised Employment Bill and strengthen workers’ rights in a range of areas to make sure we have a system of genuine flexible working that works for all workers.   





Workers’ experiences of long Covid

In every sphere of life across the UK for over a year the impacts of Covid-19 have been massive. However, as we edge nearer the date where the final level of government restrictions will be lifted there are indications that Covid-19 could have a far longer effect. As well as the economic impact of the pandemic which will be felt for years to come, evidence is showing that long Covid is affecting increasing numbers of people. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found that in May 2021 around one million people in the UK were affected by Covid- 19 symptoms that lasted longer than four weeks. Nearly two-thirds of these people reported experiencing a negative impact on their day-to-day activities. People of working age are among the groups most likely to be affected.

There has rightfully been increasing attention on long Covid and the impact that it is having on people’s lives but very little of this discussion to date has focused on the workplace. We, therefore, conducted an online survey to better understand workers’ experiences and make evidence-based recommendations. Over 3,500 people who had had Covid-19 responded: around 3,300 of whom self-reported having long Covid.  The majority of these were key workers (79 per cent); people who faced higher levels of exposure to Covid-19 while keeping the country running during the pandemic. 

Almost three in 10 respondents (29 per cent) had been experiencing long Covid symptoms for 12 months or more. This length of time is significant because in order to be protected under the disability provisions of the Equality Act 2010, a person has to have a condition that has a substantial and long-term impact on their ability to do normal day-to-day activities. Long term is usually taken to mean 12 months or more. Disabled people are protected by the Equality Act from discrimination, harassment and victimisation. Employers also have a duty to take steps to make sure that disabled people can access jobs as easily as non-disabled people: known as the duty to make reasonable adjustments. Reasonable adjustments can include flexible working arrangements, longer rest breaks, specialist software or equipment. It is clear from our findings that workers with long Covid urgently need this protection, whether they have had symptoms for 12 months or not.

Workers reported experiencing a range of symptoms. On average each respondent reported having nine of the 21 long Covid symptoms we asked about and described the severity of their cumulative impact.  Nine out of ten respondents experienced fatigue, with other common symptoms centred around problems with brain fog (72 per cent), shortness of breath (70 per cent), difficulty concentrating (62 per cent) and memory problems (54 per cent). Over four in five respondents (83 per cent) reported experiencing at least one of a range of pain-related symptoms with around one third (32 per cent) experiencing depression.

Respondents also described the poor treatment that they experienced at work because they had long Covid. Over half (52 per cent) had experienced some form of discrimination or disadvantage. Workers were faced with disbelief and suspicion, with around one fifth (19 per cent) having their employer question the impact of their symptoms and one in eight (13 per cent) facing questions from their employer about whether they had long Covid at all. Respondents were also concerned about what the future might hold for them at work given the amount of sick leave they had been forced to take due to their long Covid symptoms. For around one in six respondents (18 per cent), the amount of sick leave they had taken had triggered absence management or HR processes and one in 11 respondents (9 per cent) had used up all of their sick leave and had been told there would be negative consequences if they took more. One in 20 respondents (5 per cent) had been forced out of their jobs because they had long Covid. 

Trade unions have worked throughout the pandemic to keep workplaces safe and protect workers. We have challenged employers and the government over inadequate sick pay that makes it difficult for low paid workers to self-isolate, failures to provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing, and the urgent need for investment in safety regulation and enforcement.

Unions have played a major part in keeping workers who have contracted Covid-19 at home and not in the workplace and protecting those at higher risk. Thousands of union health and safety reps have spent more hours each week carrying out their role compared to previous years, some doing so in their own time. Unions have also worked to recruit and train more safety reps, with approximately 110,000 now in workplaces across Britain.

It is clear from our findings that too many workers have been and continue to be failed by their employers. Several workers described contracting Covid-19 at work, with some expressing the anger they felt at the inadequate provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) and lack of attention to other safety measures which they felt had led to transmission. The fact that they now face negative treatment from the same employers because of their long Covid symptoms, adds another layer of injustice to their experience.

A public inquiry is urgently needed to ensure that we never repeat the failures that shaped the experience of frontline workers during the pandemic. This must include examination of the experiences of workers with long Covid. A recommendation by the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council on Covid-19 prescription is also expected: this recognition could provide workers with financial support and assistance in pursuing claims.

Covid-19 has exposed huge inequalities in the world of work. However, if we do not take steps now to ensure that workers with long Covid are properly protected, we run the very real risk of new, long lasting inequalities being created.

Download full report (pdf)

Graham Walmsley, Husband, Father, Trade Unionist & Friend

Graham Walmsley, UNISON Bolton Branch Chair, Bolton College Convenor, and friend has suddenly passed away.

Graham collapsed without warning on the evening of Saturday 5th of June, he was taken by ambulance to hospital where, after a short battle to keep him with us passed away at 6.30am on Sunday morning 6th with his wife Steph’ and daughter Leanne by his side. Graham and Steph’ had just recently celebrated 38 years together. He was also proud to coach his daughters football team! 

It has left activists in the branch, completely shocked and devastated.

Graham has been a lifelong union member, his membership in Unison commenced via the merger of Nalgo, NUPE and CoHSE in 1993

Graham worked at Bolton College and was the branches most senior activist at Bolton College and Bolton University making a formidable team with the stewards there Becky Davidson, Rachel Web and Nicki Ainsworth. They have campaigned and lobbied on local and national issues. Graham was the key link in negotiations with the Bolton University merger.

He has held various elected positions in the FE and HE Sector regionally and nationally.  

Graham recently became the Branch Chair, a move from being the Vice Chair. Graham prepared meticulously for meetings, researching and cross checking anything he was unsure about.  He was, a true professional.

Graham represented Bolton Unison branch as a delegate to Bolton Trades Council and to various conferences often speaking at conference on behalf of our members on pay, service conditions and pensions. He was due to attend Unison National Conference on the 15th June as part of the branch’s delegation.

For Graham socialism wasn’t just a word it was how he lived his life day in and day out. He was a loyal trade unionist and passionate about Further Education and the betterment of young people. UNISON has lost one of its finest activists. We are proud to have had him in our branch, and prouder to call him a friend.

You were my mentor, and guide. Helping so many people, with a wealth of knowledge – you leave a void in my life – Becky Davidson, Bolton College Steward, Fellow colleague, and friend.

My Conference buddy! We’d burn the oil both ends; those speeches don’t write themselves!! – Jayne Clarke, Assistant Branch Secretary

A life cut short in his prime. Our movement has lost one of the best – Bernie Gallagher, Ex Branch Secretary

A chair’s role is challenging, you have to get the balance of keeping everyone in order AND everyone happy! You did it with such ease. You will be so deeply missed. Our hearts are truly broken.  Comrade your shift is over, Rest In Peace – Andrea Egan, Branch Secretary

It has been agreed with Steph’, that the branch banner, activists and members will line the route to his final resting place. We will let you have the details when they are confirmed.

No Justice, No Peace 14th June

On the 4th anniversary of the Grenfell fire which killed 72 people we bring together 4 campaigns denied justice for too long to demand justice

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Hillsborough Justice Campaign

Sheila Coleman currently works for Unite the Union where she is the North West Region Community Coordinator. 

Sheila acts as spokesperson for the Hillsborough Justice Campaign having researched and campaigned,since 1989, all aspects surrounding the killing of ninety six Liverpool supporters and the subsequent cover up. She has a particular interest in encouraging different social justice campaigns to find common ground and work collaboratively in order to secure truth and accountability.

A former academic, she continues to guest lecture on Miscarriages of Justice and State Corruption.

Shrewsbury 24 Campaign

Terry Renshaw was one of 24 men arrested and charged with over 200 offences including unlawful assembly, affray, intimidation and conspiracy to intimidate, five months after the ending of a bitter strike in the 1970’s.

Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign

MIKE JACKSON is one of the key activists in the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign,  regularly representing the OTJC at meetings, rallies and events. He is one of the founder members of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners set up in the 84/5 miners’ strike and recently portrayed in the film Pride. LGSM campaigned and raised money to support miners and their families. He also campaigns and fundraises to honour the memory of LGSM co-founder Mark Ashton. Mike along with many of LGSM now work to support the OTJC and other political campaigns and to ensure the LGBTQ+ community and the labour movement work together. 

Joe Delaney is a member of the Grenfell Action Group (GAG), which played a central role over many years in campaigning for residents’ right to decent, safe housing. The group highlighted the great dangers to the safety of Grenfell Tower’s residents as a result of the callous indifference by the authorities, including during the 2016 refurbishment in which the entire building was surrounded in highly flammable cladding

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