The £400 million Unite premium - Delivering for members – Unite’s August 2023 wins for workers
Celebrations for St Mungos’ workers after strike action delivers an unprecedented pay rise, building up bonuses in construction victories, a first in Scottish hospitality and action delivers in aviation all showing the benefit of being a member of Britain’s leading union.
A pay increase for the CEO, but not the staff? A reliance on agency workers to break strike action rather than sitting around the table? In the last ten years, the pay of senior management at St Mungo’s increased by 350 per cent. In stark contrast, over a similar time frame, the real value of the wages of St Mungo’s workers, many of whom work on the streets helping the homeless, plummeted. A frontline worker earned around £26,000 before the deal was agreed.
Unite surveyed St Mungo’s staff and found that:
- Almost 80 per cent say their workload has increased in the last year
- 4 out of 5 were worse off in financial terms in contrast to 18 months ago
- Over a third were worried they would miss a mortgage/rent payment
- And over 40 per cent were considering leaving their job in the next six months
But, after three months of solid strike action by the St Mungo’s workers, an agreement has finally been signed which sees them gaining a 10.74 per cent pay rise based on a median wage or £3,125 in cash terms. The total financial gain also includes a one-off payment of £700 for most workers.
The cash-based deal means the lower paid workers will get a bigger share of the pot and Unite’s campaign of industrial action has made certain that executive directors at the charity agree to a pay freeze for 2023/24. The result has seen union density rise at the charity, Unite recruited 350 new members since the dispute started in May.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This was a hard-fought battle resulting in victory for St. Mungo’s workers who are dedicated to helping the homeless. The workers took action because they were under huge financial and mental pressure and they weren’t being listened to by management.” Added Unite national lead officer Onay Kasab: “The reps and activists have delivered a fantastic result plus hundreds of new Unite members. The pay deal isn’t just inflation beating it goes above and beyond previous pay deals at St Mungo’s ... the workers are to be congratulated for their resilience and determination.”
Over 450 construction workers employed at the Stanlow oil refinery in Cheshire have secured a major increase in bonus payments following industrial action. Despite working for different contractors, the workers came together to make a united demand. Unite regional officer Lee Brennan said: “This pay victory could not have been achieved without the hard work and commitment of Unite’s stewards and reps who despite working for different employers were able to come together in unity. This forced the employers to return to the negotiating table and make a vastly improved offer.” Following negotiations, the hourly bonus rate has been increased from 80 pence an hour to the maximum £2.37 an hour, an increase in bonus payments of just under 300 per cent. Construction workers operating at the Fawley oil refinery in Hampshire will also receive bonus payments. Sharon Graham said: “The bonus payment deal at Fawley is an excellent example of how Unite’s focus on jobs, pay and conditions is having a direct financial benefit for our members.”
And there was also a first for Unite in Scotland as the country’s leading independent cinema has announced a landmark union recognition with Unite. Glasgow Film Theatre has become the first cinema in Scotland to sign a voluntary recognition agreement with Unite Hospitality, who will now represent hospitality staff. The recognition agreement, which covers staff working in front of house and cleaning teams, will formalise collective bargaining and negotiation on their pay and relevant workplace policies. Sharon Graham said: "Following months of positive negotiations between our Unite reps and Glasgow Film Theatre’s management, we are delighted to agree collective bargaining at one of the country’s leading cultural institutions. This is a landmark agreement which is already producing positive impacts on the jobs, pay and conditions of our members.”
And in the aviation sector, strikes at Birmingham and Gatwick airports forced new offers from employers. An all-out strike by plane refuelers employed by Menzies Aviation at Birmingham Airport was called off at the eleventh hour following an improved pay offer, Unite negotiators delivered a nine per cent pay increase, a one-off payment of £750, a pledge to make temporary staff permanent and upgrades to communications technology.
Over at Gatwick the threat of strikes over the bank holiday forced bosses back to the table. Members of Unite at Red Handling accepted a 14 per cent pay increase, while Unite’s members at Wilson James accepted a 16 per cent pay increase, an increase in overtime rates, a commitment to further negotiations over sick pay and the opportunity of improved shift patterns. Union density has doubled at Red Handling over the course of the dispute, and Unite adds these two wins to the successes at six other companies: ASC, ICTS, DHL Gatwick Direct, DHL Services Ltd, GGS and Menzies Aviation. In all cases the workers secured at least a double figure pay increase, with many of the deals being for significantly higher rates. Unite regional officer Dominic Rothwell said: “This was an extremely complex campaign and its success would simply not have been possible without the hard work, dedication and commitment of Unite’s reps and members at Gatwick.”
And finally, Unite has secured a significant pay increase for around 24,000 staff employed by British Airways. The workforce (excluding pilots and management) will receive a pay increase worth 13.1 per cent over an 18-month period, as well as a £1,000 one off payment. Unite has also built into the deal the potential for pay to increase further during this period if inflation remains high. In addition to the pay increase, Unite has secured agreement that no member of staff will have the pay increase applied at a lower rate of pay then they were receiving in 2020. Sharon Graham said: “This is a sizable pay increase which has been achieved by the hard work and dedication of the union’s reps and officers, hammered out in detailed negotiations. The fact that Unite has reversed the fire and rehire cuts while also securing a large increase in pay, underlines how the union’s relentless focus on the jobs, pay and conditions of members, is delivering for workers financially.”
And that is the message two years on from the election of Unite’s general secretary Sharon Graham, a relentless focus on delivering on jobs, pay and conditions has driven multiple wins across the country. Since August 2021 there have been over 900 disputes, over 150,000 members have been involved, eight out of every 10 results have been a success and Unite has delivered an extra £400 million for members. That is the Unite premium, the benefit of being a member of the UK’s leading union, so Join Unite today to not just defend your jobs, pay and conditions, but to improve them.