All this Royal Wedding tosh is getting me down….so here is some real industrial news from this week.
MORNING STAR FRONT PAGE
A right-royal rip-off: Queen’s cleaners fight for living wage
Britain’s penny-pinching royals were exposed today for allowing cleaners in the opulent surroundings of Buckingham Palace to be paid a mere £6.45 – more than a pound less than the London living wage.
Members of union PCS, which represents 25 low-paid cleaning staff at royal residences, descended on the palace to drum up support from tourists and passers-by for their fair pay campaign.
PCS organiser Lizzie Woods brandished a cleaning brush and loudhailer at the palace gates to declare: “Thirty million pounds of taxpayers money is paid to the royal family annually for the upkeep of the royal household. It is clear the London living wage is affordable.”
Basking in sunshine union members waved placards outside the main gates to the palace chanting: “Fair pay for royal cleaners!” before being moved on by police.
However the stewards turned the tactical withdrawal into a march across the royal parks, delivering their message to huge crowds massed near the Queen’s residence.
One cleaner who did not want to be identified for fear of reprisals said that working conditions were deteriorating at Buckingham Palace.
“I am afraid of being sacked or moved to another site if I am found to be speaking about this,” said the cleaner.
“They think because we clean up shit, that we have shit for brains. But we will not go away.”
Passers-by voiced their anger and disproval at the low wages forced onto the cleaners, all of whom are migrant workers.
Tourist Attracta Kelly said: “With all the hype and money over the royal wedding, it’s disgraceful they are not paid the London living wage.”
The benchmark living wage in the city now stands at £7.85, the figure calculated as the minimum to survive on in London.
It was introduced by Labour former mayor Ken Livingstone and was endorsed by current Mayor Boris Johnson. It is now paid to many workers including cleaners in Parliament.
Speaking to the Star Ms Woods said that today’s protest was just the start of the campaign for fair pay for their palace counterparts, who are employed by contractor KGB Holdings.
She said: “KGB is worth 23 million pounds – they can afford to pay the increase. We will escalate the campaign when US President Barack Obama visits and stays in Buckingham Palace in May.”
Joining the protest and march across the royal parks Labour MP and PCS parliamentary convener John McDonnell said the royal family bore responsibility for the exploitation.
“It’s a scandalous act of hypocrisy when millions is spent on the royal wedding and for the Queen not to pay the London living wage.”
Mr McDonnell urged to people to pressure their MPs to sign EDM 1696 on the issue and for the public to sign the online petition
UNITE SLAMS NOKIA JOB LOSSES
Unite has slammed plans by Nokia to slash 700 jobs in the UK as part of a 7,000 worldwide job shedding exercise. The union described the move as a “dark day for the British economy”.
Nokia said the jobs would go by the end of 2012 as it looks to slash costs by E1bn (£886m). The phone giant said the losses would mainly be felt in its research and development, and software units. Nokia will also transfer a further 3,000 employees to Accenture as part of an outsourcing deal which will see Accenture provide Symbian-based software development and support services. The company said it expects to see employees transfer by the end of 2011. The job losses will take effect from 2012. Tony Burke, Unite Assistant General Secretary , said: ‘What is very disheartening is that mobile phones and their associated technology are one of the growth areas in the British economy, yet this still does not stop a successful company such as Nokia throwing people out of work.’ In February the company announced a partnership with Microsoft to adopt Windows Phone as its primary smartphone strategy. Stephen Elop, Nokia CEO, said the job cuts were part of the company’s new strategy. “With this new focus, we also will face reductions in our workforce. This is a difficult reality, and we are working closely with our employees and partners to identify long-term re-employment programs for the talented people of Nokia,” he said.
THANET EARTH IN ROW OVER AGENCY WORKERS
Concerns about working conditions for agency staff at Thanet Earth are being investigated by the Gangmaster Licensing Authority (GLA) following complaints from Unite.To highlight the concerns a protest was held at the Birchington salad producers site earlier this year, and were planning to do the same at Tesco and Marks & Spencer in Westwood as both sell Thanet Earth produce.Unite has also submitted allegations to the GLA – the government body responsible for regulating agency practices.
In peak season some 300 people work at the futuristic facility where cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes are grown, picked and packed, supplying the UK’s supermarkets with salad crops. Other current buyers include Sainsbury’s and Asda.
Unite regional officer Dave Weeks said: “We’re taking our fight to the top of the food chain – the supermarkets which use Thanet Earth. They have an obligation to make sure workers are treated fairly from root to basket.”
Thanet Earth said they were complying fully with the GLA investigation and met all legal requirements for employment and said it had met twice with Unite in an effort to resolve its concerns but, after the union went public with its allegations in March, the company invited the GLA to conduct an impartial investigation.
The company stressed none of Unite’s allegations related to Thanet Earth, adding: “All of the agencies used by Thanet Earth are fully licensed and audited by the Gangmaster Licensing Authority. GLA chairman Paul Whitehouse said: “The GLA is able to confirm that a number of allegations in respect of workers being supplied by licensed labour providers to Thanet Earth Marketing in Kent have been received. “The GLA is currently working with Unite, Thanet Earth Marketing and the major retailers to ensure that these matters are thoroughly investigated.”Action will be taken against any GLA licensed business where evidence of non-compliance with GLA standards is found.”
UNIONS USE TOBACCO COMPANY AGM TO ORGANISE GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAIN
This week the TUC has been helping US farmworkers’ union FLOC to lobby a British-based multinational to ensure better conditions for tobacco workers in North Carolina. British American Tobacco (BAT) is headquartered in London and held its corporate AGM on Thursday. FLOC, AFL-CIO and IUF representatives will be at the AGM to protest about the conditions facing farmworkers in North Carolina who supply BAT’s North American subsidiary, R.J.Reynolds, with tobacco leaf. The mostly migrant workforce experiences low wages, terrible health and safety risks, and appalling accommodation.
BAT claims that their lack of a direct employment relationship (farmworkers are employed by growers/farmers who contract to the tobacco companies, sometimes through a further intermediary) absolves them of responsibility or power over the farmworkers’ conditions. But it is in the nature of global supply chains that such multinationals are, in fact, responsible for the employment and living conditions of the people from whom global profits are extracted. And unions are increasingly using those supply chains to campaign for union recognition and better terms and conditions for some of the least powerful workers in today’s global market.
The campaign in London saw a coalition including the union representing tobacco workers in the UK (Unite), the US equivalent of the TUC, the AFL-CIO, the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF) and the National Farm Workers Ministry, an ecumenical faith group from the USA.
Pictured left to right are: Jennie Formby (Unite), Burcu Ayan (IUF), Diego Reyes (FLOC member), Virginia Nesmith (NFWM), Baldemar Velasquez (FLOC President), Ron Oswald (IUF General Secretary), Penny Schantz (AFLCIO), Owen Tudor (TUC). Mac Urata of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) took the picture.
IFOR WILLIAMS WORKERS IN 2nd STRIKE
Unite members at a Deeside trailer manufacturer staged their second of three planned strikes yesterday.
Ifor Williams employees downed tools at Deeside Industrial Estate in a row over pay and conditions.
Tony Brady, of Unite, said members would continue to strike until the company agreed to talk to them about an ‘unacceptable’ pay rise offer.
A third one-day strike is planned at the site for next Wednesday, May 4th.
Brady said: “We have heard absolutely nothing from the company at all. They haven’t offered to talk to us, so we will keep striking indefinitely until they do.”