September 17, 2020
Photo credit: Tupungato
A U-turn decision by Arcadia to pay head office staff facing redundancy full notice pay rather than 50 per cent has been welcomed by Unite as a “victory” for the union.
Unite threatened legal action when it emerged that the group, which owns fashion brands such as Topman and Topshop, intended to deduct earnings from more than 40 head office staff.
Arcadia announced in July that it was cutting 500 jobs from its 2,500-strong head office. The row about pay took place in mid-September.
Unite has warned it won’t take the threat of legal action off the table until it has reviewed in detail Arcadia’s latest change in position.
A global day of action was held on September 4 to demand an end to union busting in the textile and garment industry.
Organised by IndsutriALL global union, the day saw workers from around the world post selfies on social media calling on factories in countries such as India, Cambodia and Sri Lanka to recognise people’s right to form a union.
According to UNI Global Union, which also supported the campaign, the pandemic has led to an increase in attacks on trade unions, with some factory owners supplying brands including H&M, Walmart, M&S, Gap and Adidas, using Covid-19 as an excuse to threaten, harass and fire organised workers, it said.
Four workers in Cambodia were recently fired after organising a union at Greenfield Industry, which produces garments for Irish retailer Dunnes Stores, the union also explained.
UNI General Secretary, Christy Hoffman, said: “Brands need to take off their blinkers and recognise there is a union-busting problem at many of their suppliers – one which they have the power to influence and improve.”
Wages are higher in European countries with greater collective bargaining, data from the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) shows.
Such countries include Bulgaria, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Croatia and Hungary.
In seven of the countries where wages are highest, more than 70% of employees benefit from collective bargaining. Sweden, Denmark, Belgium France and Finland are among these countries.
Unions have opposed government demands for 80 per cent of civil servants in England to be back in the office at least once a week by the end of September.
Permanent secretaries were sent a letter instructing them to get staff back to work because it would improve delivery of public services.
The PCS has described this as “irresponsible”, warning that any attempt to force large numbers of workers back to the office before it is safe could result in industrial action.
In a comment piece, the FDA union’s General Secretary Dave Penman said the government had taken an “arbitrary” approach that ignored the successes of remote working.
“Outcomes rather than gestures should drive these decisions and we will ensure that where staff are being asked to return all relevant factors are being considered,” Penman said.
The travel trade should be among those sectors targeted for extended support under the Job Retention Scheme, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) has urged.
The union has backed recommendations from the Treasury Select Committee that additional assistance be given to certain businesses and sectors beyond October – but says the travel trade has to be part of that targeted support.
There were warnings last month that 90,000 jobs were at risk across the travel trade, according to the union.
Manuel Cortes, TSSA General Secretary, said: “Sadly, many jobs have already gone in this sector and without determined action and support from the government, many more jobs will go between now and Spring.”
Unions have a lead role to play in helping prevent a second wave of Covid-19 infections. That was the message delivered by the University and College Union General Secretary Jo Grady at the TUC Congress in mid-September.
Grady urged that work at colleges and universities be moved as much as possible online despite the government pushing strongly for in-person working.
Remote working is the only way “to make workplaces as safe as possible… and avoid chaos for learners,” as well as prevent a major health crisis, she explained.
“We are the ones calling for caution and planning,” Grady said in a speech. “Unions are the only organisations with the power to keep workplaces and the wider population safe in situations like these.”