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They have Empty Hearts, Our Kids have Empty Plates – PROTEST

Maggie stole OUR milk, now they want to steal our kids free school dinners. Merry Christmas from The Tory Party! Empty plate protest outside
Maggie stole OUR milk, now they want to steal our kids free school dinners. Merry Christmas from The Tory Party!

If you can attend please do so outside the offices of Chris Green MP (Bolton West) and Mark Logan MP (Bolton North East) at 9:00am Friday 30th October. Their addresses are listed above.

Don’t forget to wear a mask and maintain social distancing.

If you’re unable to attend, please either:

Take a photo of yourself holding a plate with a message about FSM, or, make a video of yourself holding a plate with a message saying why you support our campaign for FSM during the half term and Xmas breaks.

The photos and videos will appear on our website:

Here’s a photo of the empty plate protest outside not so Christian Wakeford MP’s office in Bury

Photo of the empty plate protest outside not so Christian Wakeford MP’s office in Bury.

Struggling with your Energy Bills?

Here’s some advice from WHICH to help you with your energy bills

NOTE: Energy suppliers are prevented from disconnecting your energy during lockdown, regardless of your ability to pay your energy bills.  If you find yourself unable to afford your bills, contact your supplier, rather than just cancelling your direct debit. You should be able to work out a plan that could include your bill payments and/or debt payments being reassessed, reduced or paused, though exact policies vary between suppliers.

To find out more visit: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/cutting-your-energy-bills/article/how-to-save-on-your-energy-bill/help-if-you-re-struggling-to-pay-your-energy-bill-aXsId8V8dMv4 – Which?

Jobs Support Scheme – Sunak Must Do Better!

Rishi Sunak has released his Job Support Scheme and upon scrutiny he must do Better

What is the Job Support Scheme? 

  • The Job Support Scheme will run for six months from 1 November.
  • It will top up salaries in companies which can’t take employees back full-time.
  • To be eligible, employees must work for at least one-third of their normal contracted hours.
  • For the hours not worked, the government and employer will each pay one-third of the remaining wages. This means the employee would get at least 77% of their pay. 

What other jobs help is on offer?

To minimise unemployment, the UK government will also give firms:

  • £1,000 for every furloughed employee kept on until at least the end of January
  • £1,500 for every out-of-work 16-24 year-old given a ”high quality” six-month work placement
  • £2,000 for every under-25 apprentice taken on until the end of January, or £1,500 for over-25s

But will it incentivise businesses to keep employees in work?

In an example where the employer has 3 staff, the demand has fallen by 2/3 those 3 staff would work 1/3 of their contracted hours but will be paid 55% of their wages by the employer, 22% by the treasury and take a hit for 23% of their wages.  So the employer gets 1 FTE (Full Time Equivalent) work but pays for 1.65 FTE.

If the employer dismissed two of the staff and just had one working full time then they would pay 1 FTE.

So what then will be the considerations for the employer?

It is likely that those highly skilled workers, along with those for whom it would be expensive to dismiss in terms of redundancy pay will be kept on, but low skilled workers will lose their jobs as there is no incentive to the employer for keeping them on. 

Again we see how strongly unionised workplaces will fair better than those non unionised ones 

What alternatives are there?

One simple answer is to scrap the £7.5bn JRB (Job retention bonus) which is paid to employers who retain workers the consideration being that those workers were likely to have been kept on anyway so the £1000 payment was unnecessary and should be used to meet the shortfall in wages for those workers only working 1/3 of the time. This short hours scheme will incentivise employers to keep those staff.

In Germany the Kurzarbeit, effectively a social insurance programme, and an alternative to redundancy. Under Kurzarbeit, employers reduce their employees’ working hours instead of laying them off. But the largest portion of the workers’ lost income is picked up by the state.

Better unemployment benefit in line with the rest of Europe or better still it would seem then that both the government and the employers have accepted the fate of the retail high street to be a bad one but if, as the CEO of next argues, this is so then why are we not embarking on mass training schemes to give people skills for the future whilst these wont necessarily be building solar and wind infrastructure they could well be within the internet based retail economy.

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said that his latest measures, which will replace the job retention scheme that paid 80 per cent of furloughed employees’ wages, will not save masses of jobs from being lost.  Dodds said the “million-dollar question” was whether the wage support scheme would fail to incentivise employers to keep workers in their jobs.  She told Radio 4’s Today programme that “unemployment levels are rising very substantially, they’re going back towards 1980s levels.”

The Resolution Foundation think tank also warned that the “winter economic package” would not help turn the tide on unemployment.  Chief executive Torsten Bell said: “Design flaws mean that the new [scheme] will not live up to its promise to significantly reduce the rise in unemployment.”  He added: “Those mistakes could be addressed by scrapping the poorly targeted £7.5 billion job retention bonus, and using those funds to ensure the new support scheme gives firms the right incentives to cut hours rather than jobs.”

Trade Union Congress (TUC) general secretary Frances O’Grady warned there is still “unfinished business.” She said: “Unworked hours under the scheme must not be wasted.  “Ministers must work with business and unions to offer high-quality retraining, so workers are prepared for the future economy.  “The government should target help at industries facing a tough winter, and provide more support for families most at risk of hardship and debt.” 

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka called the measures “akin to using a plaster to cover a gaping wound.”  “Our members in the commercial sector, aviation and culture are already being threatened with hundreds of redundancies, as employers seek to capitalise on the economic fallout from Covid-19,” he said.  “The Tories’ ideological opposition to increased state intervention is hurting the economy and costing people their livelihoods right now.”

Centre for Labour and Social Studies (Class) director Dr Faiza Shaheen called the announcement “too little to late” for those who have already lost their jobs, and for the sector’s hardest hit.   She said: “What Britain needs is a real budget that sets out how departmental spending would boost a recovery, generate jobs and provide real ‘level-up’ equality. We need more vision and a real industrial strategy.”  Dr Shaheen said the Conservatives’ approach to the economy is “increasingly looking chaotic and reactionary.”

Labour MP Richard Burgon called for a more radical approach, noting that Britain was facing the worst recession in Europe because of “systemic failings.”  He called for “a united programme of demands that we coordinate the whole left around: the left in parliament, the unions, the party membership and social movements,” calling for adoption of a zero-Covid strategy and Labour to campaign for a programme of public works and the Green New Deal to “force the government to change track on health and the economy.”

Author: 

Kevin Allsop, Treasurer, Bolton TUC

Wigan workforce solid in defence of pay & conditions!

Bolton TUC members with UNISON strikers outside The Coops Building in Wigan – Friday 1st October 2020

When Addaction members were transferred from the NHS they were promised that they would retain their rates of pay, but #WeAreWithYou (the new name for Addaction) have gone back on their word. As a result, following the appropriate process in which there was a 100% turnout and unanimous vote in favour of industrial action, the workforce took their first day of strike action on Friday 23rd August 2019. They continue to remain solid having now taken a total of sixteen days of strike action on each occasion receiving the support of the local Trades Council and other local trades unionists.

Members of Unite the Union & RMT also showed their support for Friday’s socially distanced picket line.

What’s at stake?

One member of UNISON said “We will lose an average of £7,870 each during the course of Wigan Council’s contract with We Are With You, with some of us losing out on as much as £10,974.”

“This is simply wrong and across five years, will suck £230,000 out of the local economy whilst We Are With You directs funding towards costly rebrands and its London headquarters.”

“We work hard for We Are With You in Wigan and Leigh to ensure that local people recover from addiction, regaining health, self esteem and becoming fully functioning members of our society.”

“We work in this field because we care and because it’s rewarding to support recovery, but we deserve to make a decent living.”

“Supporting people to overcome drug and alcohol addiction is an incredibly tough job and makes a difference for every single one of us in Wigan.  We deserve a decent wage for doing what is an important job for our communities.”

How can you help?

Sign and share our petition: https://www.megaphone.org.uk/petitions/we-are-with-you-don-t-break-your-pay-promises

Post messages of support on social media: please hashtag #KeepYourPayPromise and #WeAreNOTWithYou and tag @WeAreWithYou and @NorthWestUNISON.

Stop the Covid Evictions

Bolton Against COVID Evictions (BACE) was set up specifically to reduce the impact of COVID 19 on the most vulnerable members of our community.

MISSION STATEMENT

No one should lose their home because of COVID 19 arrears yet Bolton faces a bow wave of COVID related evictions. 

We aim to help people stay in their homes through providing advice and support to tenants and by demanding that the Local Authority and Landlords fulfil their obligations and remain within the law.

We seek a permanent solution that will see council houses built and managed by the local authority.

PRESS RELEASE 21-09-2020

Monday the 21st September will see us in Bolton Town centre calling for the government to do more for those who will be threatened with eviction and calling upon Bolton Council to prepare for additional renters seeking emergency housing assistance from them.

In a very short time we have seen our support grow amongst Trade Union, Community and faith groups across Bolton who share our concerns and are proud to work alongside Greater Manchester Law Centre and Greater Manchester Tenants union.

The threat of eviction for those with COVID 19 arrears

Homelessness often has lifelong consequences for people.  The social and financial costs of homelessness and resettlement are huge and will fall to our already over stretched council.

Precarious employment, zero hour contracts, a shrinking jobs market and the worst sick pay in Europe all contribute to the increasing vulnerability of renters with many people struggling with in work poverty and just one pay packet away from destitution.  Giving people longer to pay only delays the inevitable, you cant pay 24 months rent with only 22 months pay

Israel has gone into the 2nd lockdown and we in Bolton are worried about the lack of testing and how that may allow a second wave to develop under our noses making many of our community even more vulnerable.

Families who are evicted often have their work, school and access to medical care disrupted too.

In her review of the ONS analysis by local area and socio-economic deprivation Bolton Councils Consultant in Public Health Lynn Donkin concluded that “Therefore we might expect to see disproportionate impact of COVID 19″

Government approach 

In March Robert Jenrick said that “no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home”. But the government have done little more that to kick the can down the road which gives renters little comfort and we need to see a long term solution to the housing crisis.  Firstly by the halting evictions until the end of august then giving a 11th hour reprieve pushing that date back to 21st September and more recently banning evictions for six months the government have shown a lack of understanding and an unwillingness to come to the aid of renters as they did their friends in business.

The financial cost of evictions will fall upon the public purse and we demand an fully resourced intervention.

Bolton Council 

Have not assessed the potential number of evictions

Is unprepared for the additional evictions

Will end up overstretched unless they prepare

Will foot the bill for emergency accommodation

In a response to a member of our group the lead member for the council replied that 

We don’t know about possession orders because we don’t have a Mag’s court.

This is something that GM are looking at

1. We don’t know about possession orders because we don’t have a Mag’s court.

Possession orders are heard in County Court, not the Magistrates, Bolton has one within the combined courts.

The authorities duties under HRA extends the period an applicant is “threatened with homelessness” from 28 to 56 days, and in addition ensures that anyone that has been served with a valid section 21of the Housing Act 1988eviction notice that expires in 56 days or less is classed as “threatened with homelessness”

Prevention is the key here and hence our question about assessment of the problem and allocation of resources 

It is possible that a tenant does who does not have the correct advice who leaves when a landlord serves a notice could be deemed intentionally homeless and the council would claim that they therefore have not got a duty towards them

The advise is always stay put (unless a risk of harm)

2. This is something that GM are looking at

The duty falls to the council, and whilst there may be collaboration, you’d hope that there was, the duty remains with BMBC for its residents.

On its own website BMBC says

Preventing homelessness

There may be ways in which we can help to prevent you from being homeless.

If you’re having problems with any of the following, please get in touch with us:

Your landlord has asked you to leave……..

We can help you stay in your accommodation by offering:

A mediation service

Help with your money

Talking to your landlord on your behalf

Advising you of your rights and responsibilities

Support with your tenancy

Find alternative accommodation

The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 (HRA) will be enacted from April 2018. … The Act places a number of new or strengthened duties on local authorities that are designed to ensure all households at risk of homelessness receive earlier and more effective interventions

The part of the HRA that we are most concerned with at this point is outlined in Policy Fact Sheet: Threatened with Homelessness clause 1, which we are most focused on extends the period an applicant is “threatened with homelessness” from 28 to 56 days, and in addition ensures that anyone that has been served with a valid section 21of the Housing Act 1988eviction notice that expires in 56 days or less is classed as “threatened with homelessness”

Landlords

We are calling upon Greater Manchester social housing landlords to pledge never to seek possession for rent arrears on “mandatory” grounds and hence reduce the risk of unjust evictions resulting from CV19 by making one significant commitment – 

A pledge not to issue rent arrears possession proceedings on mandatory grounds.

Author:

Kevin Allsop, Treasurer, Bolton TUC

Photos and videos from the Bolton Against Covid Evictions event in Victoria Square, Monday 21st September 2020.

Pretoria Pit disaster

Memorial to the Pretoria Pit disaster

At 7:50am on the 23rd December 1910, there was an explosion in the Plodder Mine, which was thought to have been caused by an accumulation of gas from a roof collapse the previous day.

That day 349 workers had descended the No 3 bank pit shaft to work in the Plodder, Yard and Three Quarters mines. Of those 349, only four survived to be brought to the surface. One died immediately and one the next day. The two survivors were Joseph Staveley and William Davenport

It was the second-worst mining accident in England, and the third-worst in Britain.

Many of the fatalities were from the same family. The worst affected was the Tyldesley family in which Mrs Miriam Tyldesley lost her husband, four sons and two brothers. A relief fund was established for the families and dependants and a total of £145,000 was raised. In 1911, dependants were compensated and given annuities from a number of sources (including the fund). All the victims were members of Permanent Relief Societies to which they paid contributions weekly and most had private life insurance with friendly societies and all were covered by the Workmen’s Compensation Act 1906 which brought together all (except the private insurance) the compensation to produce a lump sum and annuity for the dependants

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Every year around 27 January, UNESCO pays tribute to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and reaffirms its unwavering commitment to counter antisemitism, racism, and other forms of intolerance that may lead to group-targeted violence. The date marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau by Soviet troops on 27 January 1945. It was officially proclaimed, in november 2005, International Day (link is external)of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust by the United Nations General Assembly. 

The Holocaust profoundly affected countries in which Nazi crimes were perpetrated, but also had universal implications and consequences in many other parts of the world. Member States share a collective responsibility for addressing the residual trauma, maintaining effective remembrance policies, caring for historic sites, and promoting education, documentation and research, seven decades after the genocide. This responsibility entails educating about the causes, consequences and dynamics of such crimes so as to strengthen the resilience of young people against ideologies of hatred. As genocide and atrocity crimes keep occurring across several regions, and as we are witnessing a global rise of anti-Semitism and hateful discourses, this has never been so relevant.

Enough is (NOT) Enough

After years of declining pay, council and school workers have had enough. It’s time
to take action on pay – enough is enough!

Youth workers, care workers, refuse collectors, social workers, teaching assistants, community workers, street cleaners and so many more went above and beyond during the pandemic. You kept communities safe, cared for the most vulnerable, and ensured schools remained open throughout successive lockdowns.

You went out to work, so that others could stay home.

Despite this, you have been offered 1.75%. With inflation running at over 3%, this is a real terms pay cut. 

That’s why we are asking members working for the council and in schools to vote for strike action. If this applies to you, you will receive important voting papers through the post in early December. Every member must post their ballot back by 14 January.

Chep workers in Manchester to extend strikes as pallet shortage deepens

Workers employed by pallet makers Chep UK Limited, have embarked on all out continuous strike action from this Friday (17 December) in a dispute over pay.

The workers, who belong to Unite, the UK’s leading union, have already taken four days of strike action since the strike began earlier this month. They are stepping up their action as there has been no engagement or negotiations with the company since the dispute began.

No to paltry pay

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite members employed by Chep are not going to accept a paltry pay offer which amounts to a real terms pay cut.

“Chep’s ability to make a fair pay rise is not in doubt – this is purely an attack on the union, because the company’s real fear is for our members to finally have a voice in their workplace, which has for too long been missing.

“Unite is dedicated to putting the jobs, pay and conditions of its members first. The union will back our members at Chep to the hilt until they receive a fair pay rise.”

Real term pay cut

The dispute is a result of the company refusing to improve on a two per cent pay offer. This is a substantial real terms pay cut with the retail price index (RPI) rate of inflation now standing at 7.1 per cent.

The strikes have already had a considerable effect on the business, which is based at Trafford Park in Manchester, with 80 per cent of delivery lorries refusing to cross picket lines and turning away.

Booming company

Chep is enjoying a boom time and is making substantial profits. The company supplies pallets to companies across the North West and its major customers include InBev, Heinz, Heineken, A&B Containers, Encric and TDS. 

With the all-out strikes set to begin this week it is expected that a severe shortage of pallets will quickly occur.

No negotiations 

Unite regional officer Ian McCluskey said: “It is highly disappointing that Chep has refused to enter into any discussions or negotiations with Unite since the strikes began, in order to resolve this dispute.

“Unite believes that the dispute has already cost Chep more in disrupted and unfulfilled orders then it would have cost to make its workers a fair pay offer.

“This dispute could be easily resolved by Chep making a fair pay offer to its workers and entering into talks. The ball is firmly in the company’s court.”

UK workers face worst real-terms sick pay in nearly two decades as Covid-19 cases surge – new TUC analysis

Our sick pay continues to fall behind
  • NEW ANALYSIS: Statutory sick pay worth £3 per week less now compared to start of pandemic
  • TUC warns hundreds of thousands could be without decent sick pay while self-isolating over the Christmas period, risking further unnecessary transmission
  • As Omicron rages, TUC calls on the government to come to its senses and finally deliver decent sick pay for all

The UK now has the lowest statutory sick pay in real terms in almost two decades, according to new analysis by the TUC released today (Saturday).

The last time real statutory sick pay was lower was March 2003 – almost nineteen years ago.

And statutory sick pay is already worth £3 per week less in real terms now than it was at start of pandemic in February 2020, due to increases in the already-low benefit failing to keep pace with the cost of living.

The union body has published this new analysis as it calls on ministers to come to their senses and finally deliver decent sick pay for all – which it says is a “vital public health tool” in the fight against the virus.

The call comes as the Omicron variant rages and coronavirus cases surge across the country – with the highest number of daily cases ever recorded in a day earlier this week.

As a result, some are predicting a miserable Christmas. The Times estimates that four million will have to self-isolate over the Christmas period – four times the amount of 2020.

The TUC warns that if this estimate is correct, hundreds of thousands of workers could be self-isolating without decent sick pay this Christmas, relying on “miserly” statutory sick pay or receiving nothing at all – leading to further unnecessary transmission.

TUC research shows that around a quarter of workers get just statutory sick pay, and just under one in ten get nothing at all.

Recent analysis from the union body also warned that 650,000 workers over the festive period in sectors like hospitality, the arts and retail will have no sick pay.

Decent sick pay for all

The UK has the least generous statutory sick pay in Europe, worth just £96.35 per week. And it is only available to employees earning £120 per week or more – meaning two million workers, mostly women, do not qualify.

TUC research has found that this leaves around a third of workers – over 10 million people – with sick pay that is too low to meet basic living costs, or with no sick pay at all.

Removing the lower earnings limit, which prevents those on low pay accessing statutory sick pay, would cost employers a maximum of £150m a year. And it would cost the government less than one per cent of the test and trace scheme to support employers with these costs.

In July this year, the government rowed back on its decision to remove the lower earnings limit – in response the TUC accused ministers of “abandoning low-paid workers at the worst possible time”.

The government introduced a temporary scheme to assist people who face hardship if required to self-isolate. However, TUC research has found that two-thirds of applications (64%) are rejected – in part because the funding is too low, and many workers are not aware of it.

The TUC is calling on the government to:

  • Extend statutory sick pay protection to every worker by removing the lower earnings limit.
  • Increase statutory sick pay to at least the value of the real Living Wage – (£346 per week)

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“No one should be forced to choose between doing the right thing and self-isolating or putting food on the table.

“But this is the reality for millions of workers up and down the country who rely on our miserly statutory sick pay, or get no sick pay at all because they don’t earn enough.

“With the cost of living ticking up, statutory sick pay is worth its lowest in almost two decades – leaving millions of workers who fall sick struggling to pay the bills and get by.

“It’s a monumental failure that nearly two years into the pandemic, this vital public health tool has been ignored time and time again by the government.

“As the Omicron variant rages and coronavirus cases sweep across the country, it’s time ministers came to their senses and finally delivered decent sick pay for all.

“That means statutory sick pay you can live on and making sure everyone has access to it.”

Winning a rise for Key workers

Day in, day out key workers take care of us. And during the pandemic – they never stopped. All of our key workers need a pay rise.

Our objectives

The people that kept this country going during the pandemic are our key workers. Those working across the private and public sector in health and social care, education, wholesale and retail, food production and transport, and in our public services.

Yet, many are underpaid, undervalued and overrepresented in insecure work. TUC analysis as part of this campaign has revealed:

Our asks of government are simple – give all key workers a pay rise. They can do this by:

  1. Ending the freeze on public service workers’ pay and giving all public service workers a decent pay rise.
  2. Raising the national minimum wage to £10 per hour immediately.
  3. Funding the public sector so that all outsourced workers are paid at least the real Living Wage and get parity with directly employed staff.

Climate Jobs

This report was written by the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group (CACCTU).
It builds on and develops the earlier work produced by CACCTU, One Million Climate Jobs
(2014). The editorial group and contributors to this report are trade unionists, environmental
activists and campaigners and academics who have collaborated to update and expand the
previous work. Most importantly, this updated report is a response to the urgency of the
climate crisis and the type and scale of the transition needed to match it.