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Proletarian issue 9 (December 2005)
Industry matters: Workers’ rights
October saw the increases in minimum wages: up to £5.05 for adults and £4.25 for 18-22 year olds. Also, the introduction of six months’ extra voluntary paternity leave for fathers.

Corporate manslaughter

The RMT vowed to continue its campaign to bring about a law on corporate manslaughter in the light of recent rail accident enquiries. Potters Bar, for example, in which seven people were killed. The CPS says no criminal charges will be brought. Balfour Beatty has recently been fined £10m for its part in the Hatfield rail accident.

In 2004, there were 220 deaths at work, resulting in an average fine of £18,000. The builders’ union UCATT believes that proper funding by the government toward the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) must be made. There is currently a commons committee taking evidence on the issue.

NHS and Civil Service

Currently, UNISON is involved in a pay dispute aimed at bringing to an end the two-tier workforce within the NHS. NHS reform is also an issue along with education reform and the involvement of the ‘free market’. The civil servants’ union, PCS, is currently in dispute with the government over equal pay claims.

Pension crisis

There is now a ‘black hole’ of £130bn in pension schemes across the country. One of the most popular remedies is to force workers to work for longer. This can be seen in the government’s policy in relation to public sector workers, where it has backed down on proposals to allow health and education workers to retire early. However, this doesn’t allow 1.3 million ‘ordinary public sector’ workers to do likewise. Pensioners’ groups have also demonstrated in Whitehall recently.

Manufacturing

The TGWU announced recently a great victory for Rover workers! At a recent employment tribunal, they were granted £14m, which, when shared out amongst 5,000 former employees, amounts to a measly £2,888 each – eight weeks’ wages.

Since Labour came to power in 1997 there have been 180,000 manufacturing jobs lost.

In Sheffield recently, Outokumpo announced 570 job losses at a stainless steel plant. The company is to move abroad. Unions are currently in negotiation with the DTI, Yorkshire Forward and Sheffield First to bring an end to the issue.

Gate Gourmet update

Gate Gourmet workers have now been informed that negotiations on their future have concluded. The union (TGWU) has agreed that a significant number of workers can return to work or take voluntary redundancy. Tony Woodley (TGWU General Secretary) commented: “Workers would have faced compulsory redundancy under company plans prior to the dispute. Now they will have access to an appeals procedure and members will now receive compensation, whereas they would have received nothing after being sacked.”

Treasury back down

The treasury has caved in to pressure from the construction employers and put back by one year plans to withdraw CiS4 cards. CiS4 cards are used in construction to make payments to workers on a ‘self employed – labour only’ basis. UCATT believes that these workers are wrongly classified and should be considered employees. The current back down will mean many thousands of construction workers are denied basic employment rights for at least another year. It also means that the government has effectively granted the construction industry another subsidy of £3bn per year (this is the amount that remains uncollected by the treasury in national insurance contributions whilst workers use the CiS4 card).




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