How unions help their members win better pay
Joining together to win a better deal for members is the cornerstone of a trade union’s work. For Fair Pay Fortnight, we’ve rounded up some recent stories of how unions are making a real difference to their members’ pay packets.
GMB: Pay rise and summer bonus for 2,500 airport staff
Many workers in ground handling companies have seen falling wages due to pressure from budget airlines, but the same can’t be said for GMB members in Servisair.
Their pay rise was secured by 27 local reps visiting stations and consulting with members to make sure the claim was representative before it was submitted to management. After conducting workplace ballots, the union managed to win a rise of 6.6% for low-paid staff, shift pay increased by 3% and a complex pay system was consolidated into hourly rates. Even those on the highest grades received an above-average pay increase of 4.2%. Staff in Gatwick and Manchester also won a summer attendance bonus, despite management’s initial rejection.
Workplace organisation grew following the deal, and the union saw a huge growth in membership and new reps elected.
PCS: Agency workers’ rates uprated; more permanent staff recruited
In January 2014, agency workers based in the Treasury Solicitor’s Department had their contract taken over by Brook Street. During the transfer staff found that Kelly Services, their previous employer, hadn’t paid them the equivalent rate for permanent staff, breaking agency worker regulations.
Working with PCS, the staff made representations to the Treasury Solicitor’s Department and Brook Street. As a result a full review of all agency worker pay rates was carried out, ensuring they were uprated and compensated with back pay. At the same time, PCS officers and reps have campaigned for a more permanent workforce, and a greater number of permanent staff have since been recruited to replace temp contracts, ensuring good services and better conditions for staff.
In the long term the union aims to secure recognition for agency temps at the Department, with direct negotiating rights with agency employers.
UCATT: Agency payroll fees removed
The massive project to equip Nottingham with three tram lines is nearing completion and has employed and trained over 1,500 workers, with a large proportion from local areas. The project has benefited from a high degree of joint working between UCATT and the main contractors Taylor Woodrow (part of VINCI) and Alstom. UCATT was able to secure the removal of payroll fee deductions (£20 per week) from agency workers’ pay packets.
The payroll fee agreement was an important campaigning issue that helped to build trade union membership. UCATT has been able to secure union recognition at both agencies and full access to sites and members, enabling them to negotiate further worker benefits. Workers with one agency got £620 in back pay, whilst those with another have been assured payroll fees won’t be reinstated even after the project is finished. They have also won support and facility time for a new health and safety rep (always a big worker concern in a dangerous industry) and regular meetings with management to resolve members’ issues.
UCATT is committed to eradicating ‘umbrella companies’, which use loopholes to reduce workers’ rights at work. VINCI/Taylor Woodrow says that 25% of their operatives are already ‘on the books’ rather than from agencies, but they have said they are now planning to increase that and will continue to work collaboratively with unions on other sites.
UNISON: Living Wage deal to benefit more than 1,800 jobs
South Tyneside council has announced plans to introduce the Living Wage in a step that UNISON called “an historic day” for the union. It will make South Tyneside the first council in the North East to commit itself to the living wage.
The move will be made in two stages to 2016, with immediate pay rises of up to 67p an hour in April for around 700 jobs – 95% of them held by women – raising up the bottom four points of the council’s pay structure. Many of those affected will be cleaners and supervisors. The union’s 2016 target is the elimination of the next lowest pay point, with many school-crossing staff and catering workers. That would affect around 1,100 jobs.
Moving to the Living Wage will make a real difference not just to UNISON members but to the local economy as well.
Aslef: Train drivers gain highest pay rates in decades
The 1993 Railways Act split rail into infrastructure and train operations, as a precursor to privatisation, which began in 1995. When up to twenty-five train operators took over the national railways the drivers’ union Aslef, along with sister unions, had to change tactics to deal with the removal of national pay bargaining, which had been in place since the 50s.
Aslef began to think about what train drivers would want to achieve for their pay, terms and conditions. The average salary in 1995 was £17,480, with some drivers on salaries as low as £11,550, thanks to the newly fragmented rail network. The union created the ‘Aslef train drivers’ charter’, setting out clear principles that would inform all further negotiations and drive salaries upwards. Members were asked to take ownership of the charter in a referendum; all reps were trained as negotiators; and local negotiators worked with union’s national committee over large issues.
This groundwork has ensured that a union of 20,000 members are able to act together and achieve wages higher for everyone, wherever they live and work. Sticking to a clear vision has helped build drivers’ pay consistently, and has recently seen train drivers gain their highest rates in decades.
Looking at ONS stats, there’s a pay premium for union members across the board. It’s hardly surprising – People who get together to stand up for themselves at work get a better deal from their bosses than those who don’t. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth saying again and again.
Fair Pay Fortnight is shining a light on what the UK’s pay crisis means to working people. Now we need to work on fixing it, and as these and countless other stories prove, joining a union and getting active for yourself is the best way to real change.