Tag Archives: Len McCluskey

McCluskey response to PM’s speech: Workers urgently need a bridge to the new economy to avert a jobs abyss

Len McCluskey, the Unite general secretary, said:  “We welcome the prime minister’s promise to build our way back better than before. That’s a fine ambition but it has to be matched with the ambition and the investment which accompanied FDR’s new deal.  

“Today, however, we appear to have only been promised FDR’s loose change and some second-hand spending plans. While the US got the Hoover dam, the pandemic-hit UK gets a re-announcement of repairs to some bridges in Sandwell.

“There is no doubt that this country’s frayed infrastructure needs investment, so we hope that there is much more to come from the prime minister. 

“But this can only be part of the promise to the people of the country. The bald truth is that our country is staring at a jobs abyss which will open up this summer and swallow millions of working people.  Averting that needs urgent and immediate investment to keep people in work now, with steady wages coming home now, not the promise of an infrastructure project sometime in the future.

“I urge the prime minister to confirm that very soon we will hear that his government will follow in the footsteps of France and Germany with a proper plan to save and grow jobs in the immediate term and on the scale so desperately needed.  

“He should begin by announcing that the jobs retention scheme will be extended at least until 2021, as it has been in France and Germany, so that there is a bridge between today and the emerging economy he promises.  

“Without that bridge, employers will shed jobs in huge numbers this summer and the trauma and havoc of this virus will give way to the trauma and enduring human misery of mass unemployment.”

Crossrail Costain/Skanska decision: Workers must not suffer and lessons must be learned

Unite, the UK’s construction union, is demanding that workers must not lose out financially after it was announced that Crossrail and the Costain/Skanska joint venture have terminated the contract to build the new Bond Street station with immediate effect.

Workers in Limbo

Workers and contractors were informed that work would cease yesterday (Wednesday 24 June) throwing them into limbo.

Innocent victims

Unite national officer for construction Jerry Swain said: “Workers and contractors are the innocent victims of the long-term problems and delays caused by the archaic manner in which Costain/Skanska has operated on this project.

“In order to avoid workers losing out financially Crossrail must commit to ensuring that workers will be swiftly re-engaged as soon as a new contractor is appointed to finally complete this long-delayed project. Workers should receive financial support in the meantime.

“The Covid-19 pandemic means that construction work is far harder to come by at the moment and it would be totally unfair if these workers did not receive financial support due to this shock decision which has nothing to do with their work.”

Poor industrial relations

The way in which the Costain/Skanska venture has operated industrial relations on both Crossrail and on HS2 has been highly controversial.

The joint venture has refused Unite officials access to the site at Bond Street, even when workers were fearful for their lives due to concerns about air quality.

Similar problems have been occurring for over a year on Costain/Skanska’s joint venture site on HS2 at Euston station in London, resulting in Unite organising a series of protests.

Wake-up call

Mr Swain added: “The decision to part company with Costain/Skanska at Bond Street must serve as a wake-up call to the company and they must change their management style and the way they treat their workforce.

“In order to avoid repeating the problems at Bond Street, the joint venture needs to embrace all the stakeholders involved on HS2, including trade unions.

“In a world where the Covid-19 pandemic has caused huge changes in the way construction workers operate, it is more important than ever that workers have normal access to union officials in a socially distanced manner.

“Unite will be making representations to Costain/Skanska to assist them in ensuring that the problems which have ultimately resulted in them losing the Bond Street contract do not repeat themselves on their planned operations on HS2.”

Government urged to ‘see sense’ and accept union safety support ahead of social distancing reduction

As the government prepares to report on the conclusions of its review into the two metre social distancing rules, the country’s most influential union, Unite, has repeated its offer to deploy its ‘army’ of health and safety reps to help keep the country’s workplaces safe.

Unite has also written to the government to raise concerns that trade unions were not asked to contribute to the government’s review of the social distancing advice.

Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, said today (Monday) that he was baffled by the Westminster government’s reluctance to put the tens of thousands of highly skilled experts to best use in re-opening the economy safely, especially as the devolved governments have been working with trades unions for some weeks now to ensure that workplaces there do everything possible to eliminate coronavirus risk.

Commenting Len McCluskey said: “Being serious about re-opening the economy safely means, as the government has repeatedly pledged, doing whatever it takes to build public and workforce confidence.

“Any suggested reduction to the two metre rule which has prevailed throughout the lockdown could backfire if the prime minister and the government cannot give an absolute assurance that public health will not be compromised.

“So I urge the prime minister to take Unite up on its repeated offer to deploy our army of tens of thousands of health and safety reps to assist in re-opening workplaces and community spaces safely.

“Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland and Mark Drakeford in Wales have advised employers to work hand-in-hand with unions and safety reps to ensure that their workplaces are safe; surely English workers deserve the same investment in their safety?

“Prime minister, Unite’s offer still stands.  Put our expertise to best use, assisting in workplaces with no dedicated health and safety expertise.  We could save small businesses a small fortune as our expertise comes with no cost.  

“This is literally a win: win for the government – safer workplaces and a more confident public.  I am baffled by the government’s reluctance to accept this contribution to the national effort of bringing the country out of lockdown.

“There will inevitably be confusion as any new guidance is rolled out, and there are concerns in specific sectors of the economy, including warehousing, hospitality and meat processing that mixed messages on social distancing will actually hamper the recovery.

“Again, we have the infrastructure the length and breadth of the country to communicate and monitor as we transition out of lockdown.  This is an investment in public and worker confidence and I urge the prime minister to see the sense in accepting our assistance.”

McCluskey: MPs absolutely correct to denounce `national disgrace’ British Airways

A group of MPs from all sides of the Commons is absolutely correct in its denunciation of British Airways’ treatment of its staff, the leader of the UK’s most influential trade union has said today (Saturday 13 June).

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey was responding to the publication of the Transport Select Committee’s inquiry into the aviation sector’s reaction to the Covid-19 crisis in which it singles out BA for fierce and unique criticism.

The damning report concludes that the airline’s current consultation on staffing changes “is a calculated attempt to take advantage of the pandemic to cut jobs and weaken the terms and conditions of its remaining employees”. 

In a further reflection of the committee’s fury, it condemns BA’s behaviour, and that of its parent company IAG, towards its employees as “a national disgrace” adding that “it falls well below the standards we would expect from any employer, especially in light of the scale of taxpayer subsidy, at this time of national crisis.”

The committee’s report is just the latest in a long and growing chorus of criticism, ranging from the chancellor and the aviation minister to public figures like Piers Morgan and Ricky Gervais, who have variously expressed shock at the company’s misuse of the furlough scheme and Bank of England loans to fund the business while it `fires and rehires’ every one of its 42,000 workers, and horror at the mistreatment of a loyal and dedicated workforce.

Such is the anger at the company’s conduct, calls are mounting for the government to strip BA of some of its slots, particularly at Heathrow airport, a call made by Unite in response to the airline’s `industrial thuggery’, arguing that a much-reduced and socially irresponsible company should not be rewarded with lucrative flight times and routes.

The union has also condemned the airline for singling out the UK arm of IAG – which contributes 66 per cent of the group’s profit – for savage attacks on jobs and pay while the terms for workers across the rest of the group are left intact.  The assault on UK jobs comes while the group seeks to purchase another airline, Air Europa, at a cost of one billion euros. Further, no other airline has approached the crisis in such a brutal fashion; Ryanair’s CEO has taken a pay cut and has said that staff wage cuts will be reversed at the earliest opportunity.

Commenting, Len McCluskey said: “The transport committee’s report pulls no punches and is absolutely correct to denounce British Airway’s conduct in such unique and unequivocal terms. 

“Outside of the BA boardroom bunker, it is hard to find one, single defender of the actions and supporter of the airline’s plans.  Once again, BA has shown that if there is a wrong way to go about things, then that is the reckless path that it will choose.

“The case the company makes for sacking 12,000 and trashing the wages of those who stay on the workforce is full of holes because it is a transparent effort to generate profits out of a crisis.  BA is fooling nobody.  The parent company easily has the cash and assets to weather this storm, and if it did not then it would not contemplate for one moment the one billion pound purchase of another airline.

“BA has infuriated MPs because it is using taxpayers’ money and the chancellor’s well-intentioned jobs retention scheme to keep cash in the business while destroying tens of thousands of UK jobs, ruining people’s lives and destabilising the whole of UK aviation into the bargain.

“Never before has the country witnessed such wholesale mistreatment of a UK workforce and such brutal industrial thuggery.  MPs are totally right to say that this must be stopped, and that if the company refuses to behave responsibly towards the workers and the nation that makes its profits, then it is correct that it loses its lucrative Heathrow slots to an airline that will invest in the people and businesses of this country.

“We welcome the committee’s calls too for BA to set aside its weapon – its programme of mass sackings – so that proper discussions about an acceptable way out of this short-term crisis can be held.  

“BA’s board is in a terrible hole but it is entirely of their own making; my advice would be, stop digging.  Work with us on a way back while there is still a sliver of possibility for discussion.  I repeat, my phone is always on and my door is always open.”

In respect of BA, the Transport select committee’s report states:

  • That British Airways’ current consultation on staffing changes is a calculated attempt to take advantage of the pandemic to cut jobs and weaken the terms and conditions of its remaining employees.
  • “The behaviour of British Airways and its parent company towards its employees is a national disgrace. It falls well below the standards we would expect from any employer, especially in light of the scale of taxpayer subsidy, at this time of national crisis.”
  • British Airways should “extend its consultation period to allow meaningful consultation to take place as per its legal requirements, and without pre-conditions, so that all parties can consider the proposed staffing changes in the context of the Government’s plans to help the aviation sector restart and recover.”
  • It also urges all UK-based aviation employers “not to proceed hastily with large scale redundancies or restructuring to terms or conditions of employees until the Job Retention Scheme ends in October 2020 and they have had the opportunity to consider the government’s plans to help the sector restart and recover.”
  • That the government “revise the rules of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to prevent, or strongly penalise, companies for making large-scale redundancies, while in receipt of funds from the taxpayer.”
  • That it notes “calls from parliamentarians for the Government to strip British Airways from some of its slots, especially from Heathrow Airport where it is the dominant airline”.
  • Asks the Department for Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority to “explore every avenue available to ensure that recent changes and their impact on the availability and distribution of airport slots do not unfairly impact passengers”.
  • That this should include referring “the whole aviation industry to the Competition and Markets Authority for a market study and possible investigation on slot allocations”.
  • The committee also asks the government to publish a strategy for the restart and recovery of the aviation sector including “work on an international basis to re-examine the airport slot allocation process to ensure it encourages competition and connectivity.”

This year’s Burston Strike School rally in Norfolk cancelled due to Covid-19

The Burston Strike School rally, celebrating the longest strike in British history, due to have been held on Sunday 6 September, has been cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It is the first time since the rally started in 1984 at the village near Diss in Norfolk that the event has not been held.

Unite regional officer and event organiser Miles Hubbard said: “It is with a heavy heart that we have decided to cancel this year’s rally for the first time in its 36-year history, but under the circumstances, due to Covid-19, it would be unwise to go ahead. 

“However, we are confident that the rally will return, just as vibrant and its messages of solidarity just as strong, in 2021.”

The Burston Strike School was a result of the sacking of two socialist teachers, Tom and Kitty Higdon in 1914. Children and parents refused to attend the local Church of England school and instead the school was set up on the village green. It remained open until 1939.

Past speakers at the rally have included Jeremy Corbyn, Tony Benn and Diane Abbott, as well Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey.

McCluskey: Unite stands in solidarity with protests in response to George Floyd’s murder

Speaking in response to protests in the UK, US and across the globe, Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, said:

Unite stands in solidarity with all those protesting in response to the senseless murder of George Floyd, and the appalling racism both here and across the world.

The labour movement must be clear in its opposition to racism at all levels. Those of us who have a platform must speak out against yet another killing of a black man by the police. This abuse of power must end now. 

Anyone who has seen the video of George Floyd pleading for his life, will be horrified at the lack of basic humanity in the police responsible. But we must act against racism and discrimination in all its forms as well as condemning it.

Unite members stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in America, who feel anger, frustration and hurt over the events of recent days. 

We in the UK must ensure we are alert to racism that exists in this country. Black people are much more likely to experience state aggression, such as police violence, discriminatory targeting, and recently a greater likelihood of being fined by the police for breaching lockdown rules. The Windrush scandal was a stark example of the discrimination and appalling treatment many black people face.

Since the Covid-19 crisis began, we have seen that BAEM people, who are over-represented in the low-paid and undervalued occupations that our society is now recognising as essential, face unequal exposure to the virus, and have died in vastly disproportionate numbers.  

Unite BAEM members have been alerting us to the terrible situation unfolding. The term ‘disproportionate’ must mean people, not just numbers. We must find out why this is happening and take every action possible. These harsh facts must not be forgotten as we emerge from the crisis. The ‘new normal’ must be anti-racist and must tackle the roots of inequality. Trade unions, including Unite, must be at the forefront of this fight. 

We are therefore looking at what further steps we can take to ensure the voices of BAEM members in Unite are heard and acted on, and to build on anti-racism within Unite and the wider movement. 

Unite will continue to stand up for all workers, and to speak out against all discrimination, injustice, and oppression, wherever it occurs. 

McCluskey: British Airways’ workers, passengers and shareholders deserve to know why airline management refused to attend the meeting with ministers

Speaking after the refusal of British Airways and IAG management to meet with the Home Secretary Priti Patel and aviation minister Kelly Tolhurst this afternoon, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said:

“British Airways’ workers, passengers and shareholders deserve to know why the airline’s management refused to attend the meeting with ministers this afternoon.

“This is a company that claims to be in crisis, a crisis that requires them to sack their entire workforce of 42,000, yet they will not attend a meeting where help could have been offered.

“The government has opened the door and the entire UK aviation industry is meeting – airline carriers and airports – in an effort to find a way through this crisis.  It is unbelievable and, frankly irresponsible, that BA would sit this out.

“Thousands of airline and airport jobs across this country are currently hanging by a thread yet BA spurns the opportunity to work with industry and government to pull together at this time of huge upheaval.

“BA’s conduct is extraordinary. They plead poverty yet are pressing on with a one billion euros purchase of Air Europa.  They will happily talk to the Spanish government and work with them to save Spanish jobs yet refuse to speak to the UK government to save our workers’ jobs.  This betrayal will not be forgotten or forgiven by the British public.

“BA has to come to their senses and get round the table with ministers and Unite to stop this destruction of not just our national carrier but the ruin BA’s actions will bring to this sector as a whole.”

Government must review British Airways’ landing slots says Unite

Unite, Britain and Ireland’s biggest union, has welcomed today’s (Wednesday 3 June) debate in the House of Commons which raised the issue of BA’s landing slots and highlighted BA’s plans to effectively ‘fire and rehire’ its workforce, bringing back those that survive on inferior terms and conditions.

BA controls a large number of UK landing slots, including more than half at Heathrow Airport due to legacy rights. There should be consequences to BA’s actions, the airline should not automatically have rights to these slots as it plans to destroy British Airways as we know it.

Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey said: “BA is using this health crisis as cover to impose a long-term plan to slash jobs, pay and conditions. No other employer has threatened to effectively ‘fire and rehire’ its workforce.

“There should be a government review of British Airways’ domination of UK landing slots amid the airline’s betrayal of its workers and the British public.

“There must be consequences to BA’s actions, the airline should not automatically have rights to landing slots as it plans to destroy British Airways as we know it.

“The public, celebrities and politicians have responded with anger when they learned about British Airways’ plans. They expect an iconic company like BA to be working in the interests of the nation, not attacking its own loyal workforce during the worst health crisis in a century.”

McCluskey: PM’s lockdown needs measures to support workers to observe national emergency

Responding to the announcement from the prime minister, Boris Johnson tonight, (Monday 23 March), that the UK is going into `lockdown’ in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the general secretary of Unite the union, Len McCluskey has said:

“The prime minister’s statement illustrates the gravity of the situation. This is a national health emergency and every resource, business and community in the country must be laser-focused, pulling together to do what needs to be done to protect public health.

“The message to employers is clear: be responsible, help workers be part and parcel of the essential efforts to support the nation. Keep workers and their families safe.  That means turn to the government’s job retention scheme to pay wages to keep households afloat. Please, do not sack workers – use the mechanisms that we have persuaded this government to bring in to avert mass hardship.

“But I also say to the government, you are very aware that there are very many millions of people in this country with insecure employment and wages.  They need your urgent assistance.  They desperately want to heed this clear public health message  but they need to know that the awful false choice between health and hardship has been removed. 

“I urge you now, prime minister, stand behind the UK’s workers. You promised that you would do whatever it takes.  It takes you to now to keep to your word – bring forward the measures that every worker needs in order to keep the country safe.  Do not let any worker be left behind.”

Plea to chancellor – UK workers need income guarantees now to avert economic collapse

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey is calling on the government to act by this week’s end to announce a comprehensive incomes support package to reassure millions of worried workers that this disease, which poses huge risks to public health, will not punish them economically too.

The Unite leader is also calling for a meeting with the chancellor and his team so that the unions can lay out the impact of this virus on workers’ incomes and future job security.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The calls now for major government action to defend incomes are coming from right across the political and social spectrum. I urge Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak to hear them and to act swiftly.  

“I am calling now for an urgent meeting between the Treasury and trade unions, including Unite, so that we can set out the reality of this virus for working people and the comprehensive package of measures that are needed to stave off nationwide penury.

“A comprehensive package of incomes support must be forthcoming by the end of this week or millions will fall into poverty. This will ruin our economy and take us into a recession economists say will be unlike anything seen before.

“We are working with our sister unions in Europe to monitor the support to workers there. The steps being taken by the Italian and Spanish governments, for example, are sensible and show what can be done by the state in a time of need. From the US to New Zealand governments are doing the responsible thing in acting to provide wage-level support. UK workers cannot be left to fend for themselves.

“While loans may work for some businesses, our experience has been that those monies don’t get any further than the boardroom. Workers are the people who spend in our shops and high streets. They need a steady supply of cash on a level that recognises the cost of living directed into their pockets or our economy will seize up. Our meagre benefit allowances just won’t cut it.

“This is a time like never before and it demands action from government like never before. My call now to the prime minister and his chancellor, is please act. Working people are facing an economic catastrophe. They need their government now more than ever.”