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The IR Guru NEWS Bulletin

October 15, 2020

Fears around increased risk of Covid for black members of staff ignored

Research from UNISON has revealed that 60% of black staff working in the NHS, care homes and schools weren’t given Covid-19 risk assessments, even after the height of the pandemic earlier this year.

A survey of 10,000 employees found that more than a third who had been assessed to determine whether the health risk was too great for them to continue in their role, didn’t feel the process identified the unique threat black workers face.

Data was gathered from workers in June and July, long after cases had first peaked and the increased risks for black staff had become well publicised.  

Overall, the study found, nearly four out of five workers (79%) said they hadn’t had a conversation with their manager about the workplace Covid risk, leaving staff anxious and scared, the union says.

UNISON Head of Equality Gloria Mills said: “The stakes are too high for employers to get this wrong. 

“Mandatory, robust risk assessments need to be in place. They should be policed by the Health and Safety Executive and rogue employers named and shamed.”


New Indonesian law around labour and business are a violation, says ITUC

A new law introduced in Indonesia that has thrown out workers’ sick leave entitlements, cut wages, threatened job security and reduced environmental protections has been denounced by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

The Omnibus Law changes more than a thousand articles in 79 existing statutes in an attempt to attract investment and stimulate the economy amid the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.  

However, Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said the law will increase poverty and lead to environmental destruction.

She said: “Handing control over to multinational companies is not the way to build the economic recovery and resilience required to deal with the pandemic in east-Asia’s worst-affected country. We call on the government to withdraw the law and enter into constructive discussions with the trade unions of Indonesia on any changes to labour provision.”

ITUC’s Indonesian affiliates, KSBSI and KSPI, have opposed the changes to labour regulations with the KSPI organising a nationwide strike in early October. The new law has also sparked demonstrations and protests around the country.  


Photo Credit: Mike Mareen –

Campaign against Amazon’s treatment of workers steps up

Unions have called on the government to “stand up” to Amazon and its abuses of worker rights by using the power of its contracts to push for change.

Research released this week, carried out by Tussell Ltd for the TUC and GMB Union, shows that central government procurement accounts for the majority of contracts with the tech giant. It awarded 82 contracts to Amazon between 2015 and 2020 with a lifetime value of over £225 million. 

Challenging Amazon: What can we do about Amazon’s treatment of its workers? says reports of employment practices at Amazon describe gruelling conditions, unrealistic productivity targets, surveillance, bogus self-employment and a refusal to recognise or engage with unions unless forced.

According to GMB Union, between 2015 and 2018 ambulances were called out 600 times to 14 Amazon warehouses in Britain due to workers collapsing in unsafe working conditions. 

This week unions held a panel discussion involving the TUC, GMB and UNI Global Union to discuss how Amazon’s business model should be changed. 

In the meantime, they are calling on UK ministers to insist that Amazon improves working conditions for staff.

Mick Rix, GMB National Officer, said: “It’s time for UK government and safety regulators to either tell Amazon’s management to put their house in order or send them packing.”


Spanish homeworkers win the right to switch off after working hours

Around 60,000 home-based finance workers in Spain have won the right to “disconnect” from work between 7pm and 8am the following working day.

It’s the first national sectoral agreement of its kind. Meetings outside the normal working day will also be limited – they won’t be able to finish beyond 7pm and are now voluntary.

UNI Global Union’s Spanish affiliates CCOO and UGT negotiated the national collective agreement for workers in savings banks, which was signed on October 1 and runs until the end of 2023. 

The agreement extends to other key benefits. Staff homeworking more than 30 per cent of their hours will receive 55 euros a month to cover overheads or expenses and are guaranteed equipment including a computer and mobile phone from their employer. An additional payment of 130 euros will also be offered to buy other essential IT equipment (a mouse, keyboard or screen), where this isn’t provided by employers. 

Significantly, the agreement has resulted in pay increases, a reduction in yearly working hours, as well as the provision of paid leave for gender-based violence for up to three months. Angelo Di Cristo, Head of UNI Finance, said the agreement is a “great testament to collective bargaining”.


Unite blames wage cuts at Heathrow on mismanagement, not the pandemic

Pay cuts being imposed on 4,000 workers at Heathrow Airport are the result of bad boardroom decisions and greed – not because of financial problems caused by coronavirus, says Unite.

Research carried out by the union says profits made between 2014 and 2019 have been squandered on dividends and increasing liabilities. 

In the last five years, Heathrow’s debt has increased by nearly £3 billion while since 2012 Heathrow Airport Limited has paid out £4 billion in dividends to shareholders. This includes £100 million paid this year, after the company’s operations had taken a huge hit from the coronavirus pandemic, the report says. 

Unite also highlights that the total long-term debt across the airport group stands at £16.676 billion, nearly double the debt of any of Heathrow’s comparator airports. However, Heathrow Airport Limited has assets valued at £15.8 billion. In 2019, the group had reserves of just £822 million.

Unite has begun an industrial action ballot to fight pay cuts of up to £8,000 a year, which the airport has said are required to balance financial instability caused by the pandemic.

Unite Regional Co-ordinating Officer Wayne King said: “This research sets out a jaw-dropping catalogue of greed and mismanagement at the heart of our major airport.

“Heathrow’s present predicament owes more to boardroom greed than this virus.”


Photo Credit: IndustriALL Global Union

Events held to mark World Day for Decent Work

World Day for Decent Work was held on October 7 with various events and protests taking place around the globe.

Workers in South Africa held a national strike called by the Congress of South African Trade Unions to protect jobs and collective bargaining agreements, as well as protest against corruption and gender-based violence.

Unions presented petitions calling for the government to prevent more job losses – two million were lost during the country’s Covid-19 lockdown. They have also demanded that sections of labour law be amended to force employers to comply with collective bargaining. Unions have said employers are failing to promote social dialogue and are ignoring existing agreements.

Meanwhile, UNI Global used the day to launch an international campaign to demand essential rights for essential workers. This includes: a living wage, access to safety measures and personal protective equipment, paid sick leave, collective bargaining and union representation, and “special status” during the pandemic that would give essential workers access to benefits such as emergency childcare, hazard pay, secure transport and testing.


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