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The IR Guru NEWS Bulletin

December 17, 2020

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BA cargo workers call strike over pay – as demand for freight rises ahead of Brexit

A dispute over British Airways’ attempts to fire and rehire cargo workers at Heathrow Airport has led to nine days of strike action being called, starting Christmas Day.

The workers face pay cuts of between 20-25% as well as substantial cuts to their terms and conditions, says Unite the union.

Of the 850 workers in BA’s cargo handling business who are Unite members, 98% voted in favour of strike action. 

The strike, ending on 2 January, coincides with rising demand for air cargo as companies seek to bring in products ahead of the Brexit deadline.   

Unite said it delayed announcing the strike dates to allow BA a final opportunity to come forward with a meaningful offer.

Unite Assistant General Secretary Howard Beckett said: “Our members are taking this action as a last resort. They are aware that it will cause severe disruption to air freight entering the UK but they simply can’t afford to lose a quarter of their pay.”


Almost of a fifth of earners are at or below the minimum wage

A total of 266 million workers around the world are paid less than the minimum wage as a result of non-compliance or legal protections not being in place.

The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Global Wage Report 2020-21 shows that minimum wages exist in 90% of the 187 ILO member states.

Around 19% of all wage earners are paid at or below the applicable hourly minimum wage.

The ILO’s findings also show that minimum wages can reduce income inequality when legal coverage and compliance is improved and the level is raised.

Meanwhile, as a result of Covid-19, wages fell or grew more slowly in the first six months of 2020 in two thirds of countries where data was available. The wages of women and low paid workers have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.  

And the crisis is likely to inflict massive downward pressure on wages in the near future, the ILO warns.  

Unions are campaigning together in Africa, Asia, Europe and Central America to demand fair and decent wages, says the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said: “The ILO report exposes a global wages scandal, with some countries even having a minimum wage that is lower than the poverty line. It is crucial to guarantee minimum living wages to all workers in order to allow them and their families to live in dignity.”


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Teleperformance staff health put at risk, says UNI Global

Employees at French company Teleperformance face unsafe working conditions and anti-union harassment, according to a coalition of trade union organisations.

This is an ongoing issue despite a request filed for the OECD to investigate the company for global violations of workers’ rights to a safe workplace, they add.

UNI Global Union, along with its French union affiliates, say the company has fired two union activists in Poland while in France, employees working from home report not getting paid when their internet service is disrupted or if Teleperformance’s software fails.

In addition, although French workers have the right to withdraw their labour if their life or safety is threatened, Teleperformance has refused to pay workers who exercised that right of withdrawal during the pandemic. 

“Teleperformance has had enough time and notification about serious problems threatening workers’ health in France and beyond, but the company appears to not have the will or the competence to fix them,” said Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union. 


Union organisation backs US ban on Chinese cotton goods made by forced labour

A US ban on cotton-made goods that are linked to forced labour in China’s western region of Xinjiang has been welcomed by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).

The ban, which relates to goods made by Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), a state-owned paramilitary organisation, came into force in early December.

The XPCC forces Uyghur and other Turkic and Muslim workers in the region into farming, processing and production facilities.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the move was progress. But he added that the AFL-CIO continues its call for a comprehensive response to the systematic human rights and labour abuses in the Uyghur Region. 

“This would provide unequivocal guidance for corporations to comply with already existing US laws on trade in goods produced with forced labour and clean up their tainted supply chains.”


Attack of teacher union in Kenya must case, says global federation

A global union federation that represents the interests of teachers and education employees has called on the Kenyan government to stop the systematic attack of the country’s teacher union.

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) has been deprived of member fees so it is unable to provide services, and members have experienced discrimination in terms of pay and promotions, says Education International (EI).

It explains that Kenya’s Teachers Service Commission (TSC), which manages the recruitment, registration, pay and promotion of teachers, has waged a “destructive campaign” against KNUT. 

Last year, it suspended a five-year collective bargaining agreement and sought to revoke a 1968 union recognition agreement. It also ran a double payroll system that saw non-KNUT members paid enhanced salaries and allowances.

Earlier this month, EI condemned the “assault” on KNUT and urged the government to stop the TSC’s anti-union actions. 

Education International Africa Regional Committee Chairperson Dr Christian Addai-Poku said: “Any attempt to kill KNUT will set a precedence that will threaten the trade union movement in Africa. We strongly condemn the actions of the Kenya TSC.”


British Gas staff vote in weaker contracts to save livelihoods

Office and call centre staff at British Gas have voted to accept a pay freeze and changes to annual leave in order to protect jobs.

Negotiations carried out by UNISON have resulted in a better deal than was originally on the table, the union says. Basic salaries are to be protected, the working week remains at 37 hours and changes to annual leave to be phased in. A profit-sharing scheme will also be introduced and staff will receive a £1,000 transition payment.

The energy giant proposed changes to terms and conditions earlier in the year. After months of negotiations, a revised package was put to a vote in December, with 86% of employees accepting the deal. 

UNISON National Energy Officer Matt Lay said: “No-one wants their pay frozen or any weakening of their contracts but with thousands of jobs at stake call centre staff are anxious about the future. Staff have reluctantly voted to try to save their jobs and livelihoods.”


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