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Bucking the trend: 

Unite is a union that is winning!

Last week saw the Parliament of our Union come together in Brighton. Hundreds of delegates from workplaces throughout our nations were in attendance, including many of you. Important decisions were made at both our Rules and Policy Conferences, particularly the vote to prioritise Shop Stewards within our constitutional structures.


The reason I believe that was so critical is because the workplace must always be our priority. That’s why over the last 20 months I have made focusing on the jobs, pay and conditions of our members, our guiding principle. Every Rep knows that collective bargaining is the tried and tested method of increasing pay and protecting members’ terms and conditions. So it should also come as no surprise that for the first time in Unite’s history we have managed to achieve sustained membership growth. Between December 2019 and April 2023, we have put on over 13,000 net new paying members. 


It can be no coincidence that we have been winning consistently for our members at work. Since I was elected Unite has entered 800 disputes, covering over 130,000 members, and won over 80%. This has delivered in concrete terms. £400 million has been put into the pockets of our members as a direct result of their willingness to take a stand.


There have been some incredible results over the last 20 months, from;

  • Lerwick Port Authority – 34%
  • XPO - 27%
  • JW Suckling – 26%
  • OCS Covent Garden – 22%
  • Imperial Logistics – 21%
  • Hull Stagecoach – 20%


And the list goes on, literally hundreds of disputes settled and won. Not talk, real gains for working people at a time of crisis. 


And where we can we have done deals with employers without the need for a strike, whether that be FTL workers winning 24% or members at Manchester Airport securing a 17% pay deal. This Union has proved that we can consistently deliver deals that benefit our members.


Of course, the headline pay increase is not the whole picture. And there have been many occasions where we have prioritised safeguarding jobs or terms and conditions, rather than pay during negotiations. This is equally important and must not be forgotten.


One of the most pleasing things is that we have managed to support our members on the picket line whilst freezing membership subs and staying in the black as an organisation.  


It is clear that the next two years will see many challenges come to the fore, from automation to the battle for a just transition. And that means that our members will need more of that fighting spirit from their Union.


Thank you for all that you do.


In solidarity,

Sharon Graham

In this issue:

Cost of Living

Inflation remains high at 10.7%, with high food prices continuing to drive inflation, while 4-in-10 adults are struggling to afford their rent or mortgage payments



Average real wages are lower now than they were in 1997, but Unite members have gained big recent wins to drive up pay and conditions

Economic Outlook

The economic outlook is positive for workers seeking to negotiate better jobs, pay and conditions, with over 1 million vacancies

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Bitesized Bargaining

Bitesize Bargaining this month covers our tool for creating new agreements, the Collective Agreement Builder

Cost of Living

Inflation declines slightly again, but remains at a generationally high 10.7%

Prices are still continuing to rise at rates faster than we have seen in the last 40 years, with RPI in double figures for over a year now. RPI is currently 10.7%.


A drop in inflation does not mean a drop in prices, just that prices are rising by a slightly smaller amount.


These high inflation figures have a massive impact on real wages, meaning we need to build our collective bargaining power to protect our members from this cost of living crisis and fight for RPI-linked pay rises.



Fuel & light and food price increases continue to drive inflation

That overall food prices are rising by over 17%, but this still somehow masks even harsher price rises on many staple products. Sugar & preserves and oils & fats are about 30% more expensive than a year ago and eggs, pork, and processed vegetables, are all over a 25% more expensive.


Whilst the fuel price increases are attributable to a very specific shock, this is not the case with food.


Unite General Secretary, Sharon Graham, commenting on Unite research, said that “Despite the rise in wholesale prices, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda still managed to increase their profits by an astonishing 97% in 2021. At the same time the 8 top UK food manufacturers made profits of £22.9 billion. Profiteering is happening right along the food supply chain and workers are paying the price”.

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The extreme initial price shock from the war in Ukraine is well over a year ago, but fuel & light prices are still rising by nearly a quarter

Electricity is rising by over 17%, coal & solid fuels by 13% and gas is still rising by nearly 37%. These large increases are on top of last year’s extreme price rises.


The ability of these few firms to profiteer from the situation in Ukraine is a disgrace. Unite are continuing to shine a light on profiteering in all its forms and through upcoming work such as the Workers Manifesto will campaign for fundamental changes.



Continuing food price rises are increasingly driving inflation

That overall food prices are rising by over 17%, but this still somehow masks even harsher price rises on many staple products. Sugar & preserves and oils & fats are about 30% more expensive than a year ago and eggs, pork, and processed vegetables, are all over a 25% more expensive.


Whilst the fuel price increases are attributable to a very specific shock, this is not the case with food.


Unite General Secretary, Sharon Graham, commenting on Unite research, said that “Despite the rise in wholesale prices, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda still managed to increase their profits by an astonishing 97% in 2021. At the same time the 8 top UK food manufacturers made profits of £22.9 billion. Profiteering is happening right along the food supply chain and workers are paying the price”.




Bargaining Note: Why do we use RPI?

In RPI but not in CPI In CPI but not in RPI
Mortgage payments The top 4% of households by income
What you spend on holiday Pensioner only households 
  Stock brokers fees
  Spending by foreign tourists


Bargaining Note: Falling inflation does not mean falling prices 

A number of forecasts anticipate inflation to fall in the medium-term but even then it is still expected to be high by historical standards. The average independent forecast for RPI in the fourth quarter of 2023 is currently 6.4% with some forecasters predicting RPI will still be 11%.


Even if inflation falls it does not mean that prices will. It just means that prices may not grow as fast as they have done. Prices for essential items like energy and food are expected to remain especially high. Workers winning wage increases will ensure they do not lose out permanently from the rise in prices. 


The full list of RPI items is included at the end of this issue.



Prices for new rentals are up 14% in London and nearly 10% in the rest of the country, making rents even less affordable

Private rental prices have continued to skyrocket, partly due to a severe shortage in the number of properties available to rent.[i] This has left those who don't own a property struggling to make ends meet, especially in London where rental prices are highest.


Prices for new rentals have been rising since the end of 2019 and are now up 14% year-on-year in Greater London and 9.4% in the rest of the country.  The average price of a new rental in London has now surpassed £2,500 per month for the first time; outside the capital, prices have also hit a record level of £1,190 per month. Some cities have seen particularly dramatic increases, including 20% in Edinburgh, 18.8% in Dundee and 16.6% in Cardiff.


For those renting rooms, average monthly room rentals in London have increased by 19% and by 15% across the UK, in the first quarter of 2023 compared to the year before.


Overall, prices (including both new rentals and price rises for existing rentals) in the UK private rental sector are rising at a rate of 5.1% in the year to June 2023: the highest increase since the ONS started measuring this in 2016.


Rising interest rates are helping to fuel rent increases as landlords pass on higher mortgage costs. In a recent survey, 9 in 10 landlords said they planned to increase rents due to rising interest rates or had already done so.



The table below shows year-on-year % changes in price for new rentals for regions and countries in the UK in Q1 2023

Region/Country New rentals % change in last year
London 14.0%
Scotland 12.3%
Wales 11.9%
Yorkshire & The Humber 10.8%
East Midlands 9.8%
North East 9.7%
North West 9.3%
South East 9.2%
West Midlands 9.2%
East of England 8.7%
South West 7.5%
Northern Ireland  n/a


Around 4 in 10 adults are finding it difficult to afford their rent or mortgage payments

A growing proportion of renters are struggling to meet the cost of renting. Around 4 in 10 adults are finding it difficult to afford their rent or mortgage payments.


Renters across Britain are around 5 times as likely to be financially vulnerable as those who own their home outright.


That was higher than people with mortgages, who on average were twice as likely as people who own their homes outright to be financially vulnerable.


Even in the social rental sector prices are rising, with social housing rents set to rise by 7%. Rents are regulated and usually rise by CPI plus 1%, which would have meant an even bigger increase, but increases this year were capped at 7% in the Autumn Statement.[ii] According to one survey, most social landlords intend to raise rents as much as is permitted by the cap.


Whilst social housing offers lower rents than the private rental sector, there is a massive deficit of homes available. There are currently 1.4 million fewer households in social housing in England than there were in 1980.


Rising interest rates are squeezing home-owners, while high house prices lock renters out  of home-ownership

The cost of mortgages has been rising since late 2021, and especially since Autumn 2022. According to the Bank of England rates for new mortgages have risen by almost two and half times, from 1.95% in May 2022 to 4.56% in May 2023. This means that for a buyer purchasing a house at the current average price of £286,000 with a 10% deposit, their monthly mortgage payments are around £380 per month higher as of May 2023 than they would have been in May 2022. For existing borrowers, the standard variable rate according to Moneyfacts was 7.52% in June 2023, up from 4.51% in June 2022.


According to the ONS house price growth was 1.9% in the year to May. House prices are substantially higher than pre-pandemic levels; the average UK house price in May 2023 of £286,000 was 23% higher than in March 2020, when the average house price was £233,000. A rapid rise in house prices over the past three years, combined with a more recent rapid rise in interest rates, has widened the already stark affordability gap between earnings and the cost of home ownership in the UK.



The Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) is carried out in April each year. It is the most comprehensive source of information on the structure and distribution of earnings in the UK. The data and charts below use ASHE to look at the earnings of full time employees. RPI is then included to show the changes to real wages over time.


Real wages are at their lowest point in the last five years

The data highlights how wages have declined from 2017 to 2022.

When accounting for inflation, the median weekly wage for full time workers has dropped by 5.9% from £680 in 2017 to £640 in 2022.



Workers have suffered a generation of pay decline


Looking back even further, real weekly median pay for full time workers is lower now than it was in 1997. After accounting for inflation, weekly pay in 2022 was £640 – £46 lower than it was in 1997. From 1997 until the financial crash in 2009 wages increased. Since then, wages dropped in real terms until 2014, and then remained largely stable until the sharp drop this year.


The full list of Median Wages by Occupation is included at the end of this issue.


Real terms pay for full time workers has declined across all parts of Britain and Ireland

In the last five years no part of Britain and Ireland has seen an increase in weekly pay for full time workers. The largest drop in real terms pay is in the North East where weekly pay dropped by 7.7% from £623 to £575. Weekly pay for full time workers in London dropped by 5.8% from £854 to £805. In Scotland median pay for full time workers has declined from £676 per week to £641.


Despite a decrease, London remains an outlier in weekly full-time pay



No region or nation saw a real terms increase in wages over the last five years


Disputes update: 406 days of industrial action planned in July and August, including Gatwick Airport, Darchem Engineering, Trelleborg and Allerdale

Unite members are busy throughout July and August with thousands due to take 406 days of industrial action across our regions and sectors.



Coordinated action by outsourced workers at Gatwick Airport set to cause significant summer disruption, delays and cancellations


Hundreds of workers are set to take eight days of strike action at Gatwick Airport beginning on 28 July in a dispute over pay. The 350 workers are employed by three companies: ASC, Menzies Aviation and GGS. All three companies conduct outsourced operations for major airlines. 


Unite has been in negotiations with the three companies since January but they all have failed to make offers that meets the workers’ expectations. While the workers are on varying rates of pay, the majority are paid on average under £12 an hour, despite undertaking highly demanding and safety critical roles. During the pandemic, many companies at Gatwick Airport made large-scale redundancies and cut the pay and conditions of their remaining staff.


Given the scale of the industrial action, disruption, delays and cancellations are inevitable across the airport, including airlines British Airways, Ryanair, TUI, Westjet and Wizz.


In addition to the three companies where an industrial action mandate has already been secured, Unite is also balloting its members at DHL Gatwick Direct, Red Handling and Wilson James. All three ballots will close on Monday 31 July if workers vote for industrial action, the strikes in these companies could begin by the middle of next month. 600 DHL workers on the Gatwick Easyjet contract suspended their action at the last minute after receiving an improved offer but could face fresh strike dates if workers reject the deal. 



Darchem workers stand firm in their fight for a decent pay rise


Strike action by nearly 300 workers employed by engineering firm Darchem Engineering in Stillington, Stockton-on-Tees, will intensify over the summer with 15 days planned over July and August. This action comes after an initial seven days of action by the workers who supply wealthy customers such as Rolls Royce, BAE, Hinkley Point and Formula One companies. 


Darchem, owned by the US-based TransDigm Group, is an extremely profitable company that makes a range of products for the automotive, aerospace, energy and shipbuilding industries. The company’s latest financial returns show it had a turnover of over £108 million in 2021. During the same year, operating profits increased by 53.3% to £25.3 million.


The workers recently rejected in a ballot by 92% an offer of 6% backdated to February, with a further 4% in October. The offer removed a condition that the pay anniversary date be changed from February to October, which would have resulted in a 20-month pay deal being imposed. However, the workers rightly believe that a split pay deal is still unreasonable given the company’s huge profits. This shows that our members are rock solid in their determination to receive a decent pay rise, which Darchem can well afford. 



100 Trelleborg workers strike back against company’s offer of a real-terms pay cut


More than 100 workers based at the industrial anti-vibration solution firm Trelleborg began indefinite strike action on Tuesday 11 July. The shop floor workers, who work shifts for just £11.86 an hour, have rejected a one-year deal of 7%. With the real rate of inflation standing at 11.3% at the time of the offer, this is a significant real terms pay cut. 


Trelleborg's latest financial returns, meanwhile, show its gross profits increased by £2 million to £9 million for the year ending December 2021. During the same period, dividends increased from £2.1 million in 2020 to £3.5 million and there was a 38% rise in profit generated per employee. This is yet another example of a company that has seen a huge rise in profits taking the opportunity to reward themselves instead of the workers that have created the wealth.


By taking all out continuous strike action every day until the dispute is resolved, the Trelleborg workers are making clear their anger at the company’s dismal offer. Unite is prepared to back their dispute – and all other members – for as long as it takes for the company to make a fair offer. 



Long standing refuse dispute at Allerdale Waste Services continues against poverty pay from Labour-controlled Cumberland Council


Refuse workers employed by Allerdale Waste Services, which is 100% owned by Labour-controlled Cumberland Council, have been on all-out strike action since 16 May, in a dispute over low pay.


The strike is a direct result of the bargain basement wage rates that the workers are currently receiving. Loaders are paid just £10.90 an hour, while the drivers, who require a HGV licence, only receive £11.89 an hour. The rates are virtually the lowest of any paid for local government refuse collection services.


Some areas have not had their bins emptied for four weeks as a result of the dispute, but Cumberland council has removed the facility for residents to report missed bin collections from its website. 


As part of the campaign, Unite are directly engaging with residents about the dispute and to challenge misinformation from the council. Unite is also writing to all Labour members of Cumberland council to set the record straight after the council and Allerdale Waste Services knowingly distributed misinformation about the strike and the efforts made to resolve the dispute.



Civil aviation strike wave sees big wins at Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester and Glasgow airports

Unite members in the civil aviation industry have won some of the biggest pay increases of 2023, forcing greedy bosses to pay workers their fair share. These wins drive home the importance of Unite’s position as the UK’s leading union for civil aviation workers.


The threat of 31 days of strike action throughout the summer by security staff at Heathrow Airport forced the company to improve their pay offer, resulting in an increase of between 15.5% and 17.5% depending on pay banding position. The victory came after the workers had already taken 18 days of industrial action. In addition to this significant pay rise, Heathrow members also secured an increase in line with inflation for 2024, the end of direct deployment (when workers can be switched between terminals without warning), the acceptance of the removal of agency workers from security roles and improvements in maternity and paternity pay.


At the end of June Unite struck a pay deal for over 2000 workers employed by Manchester Airport worth up to 17% over two years plus a lump sum worth up to 9.6% for the same period. Unite also successfully negotiated a further five years of protection for the workers’ valuable defined benefit pension scheme. Additional workers on the National Minimum Wage (NMW) will also benefit. Unite negotiated a 4% increase to the employers’ pension contributions over two years, as well as increases in salary on top of the NMW. 


Earlier this month ICTS workers at Gatwick Airport also won a 16% pay increase plus other benefits. The workers were preparing to ballot for industrial action but following further negotiations the employer made an improved offer, which was balloted on and accepted by the workers. The deal will benefit 120 workers at the airport. In addition the workers will receive an hour unsocial hours enhancement. ICTS has also agreed to curtail zero hours contracts, with workers being offered a variety of permanent contracts. Unite will now be using the ICTS agreement as a benchmark for all other pay deals at the airport.


Our shop stewards have also secured significant pay deals at Scottish airports recently. Workers employed by OCS Group at Glasgow Airport overwhelmingly voted to accept an improved two-year pay offer of 11.11%, bringing their dispute with the employer to an end. The deal will see our members achieve the Real Living Wage plus 10p in year 1 resulting in the lowest grade being paid £11.00 per hour. 


A further two pay deals have also been won by workers at Glasgow Airport: 

  • Over 20 tanker drivers employed by North Air who supply fuel to Glasgow Airport backed a deal which raises earnings by 7.8%. This equates to the annual income of North Air drivers increasing by around £2,700. 
  • Around 60 cleaners employed by ABM have also agreed a two-year deal which in the first year lifts the basic hourly pay by 11.1%. The deal involves other enhancements including those who work the nightshift benefiting from having their shift rate rising by 12.3% this year.


Coca Cola workers secured a deal worth up to 18% ahead of planned strike action

Workers at Europe’s biggest soft drinks plant secured a pay deal worth up to 18% last month, demonstrating that big wins can be extracted from employers when a strike threatens their business.


The Coca Cola factory in Wakefield can produce 360,000 cans per hour, and 132,000 bottles per hour. Last year, Coca Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP) profits rose by 37% to a mammoth £1.85 billion.


Despite the company’s high profits, they made a pay offer of just 6% – which would have been a real terms pay cut when RPI inflation was at 13.5%. The workers balloted for strike action and voted 87% for industrial action. The union announced two weeks of strike dates in June, meaning the company would face the risk of failing to meet summer demand.


In negotiations immediately before the strike, CCEP finally agreed a new pay deal worth up to 18%. The deal will see salaries increase between £3,476 and £3,876 in the first 12 months, with further increases to salaries from 1st April 2024. The deal will see the lowest paid technician receive a 16.6% increase to their salary, with the highest paid technician receiving a 10.2% increase. The lowest paid clerical worker will receive an 18.1% increase to salary, and the highest paid will receive a 12% increase.


These wins are yet more evidence of the ‘Unite premium’ and a result of the determination of our shop stewards and members to win in the workplace. Unite has secured an additional £400 million for members and have been involved in 460 disputes with a win rate of 81%, and an increase for workers averaging between £3-4,000, depending on their sector since Sharon Graham was elected General Secretary in August 2021.


Top 10 Unite wins of 2023

Company Headline Result
Menzies (Luton Airport) 28%
JW Suckling 26%
Woolwich Ferries 26%
Morrisons (Fuel Transport & Logistics ) 24%
Lothian Buses 19.6%
GH Luton Airport 19%
Coca Cola 18.1%
UK Power Networks 18%
Serco Hounslow 18%
Abellio 18%

Economic Outlook

Now is a good time for workers to negotiate better jobs, pay and conditions

Whilst average real terms pay continues to be squeezed, with pay rises failing to match high inflation figures, other economic indicators show that workers are in a good position to use their collective power and negotiate better jobs, pay and conditions.


Despite the fall in vacancies over the last quarter, there were still over 1 million vacancies between April and June which is well above the pre-pandemic trend. High vacancies give workers more bargaining power as companies are fighting to win workers. 


The unemployment rate of 4% remains historically low. The less unemployed people there are looking for jobs, the harder it is for companies to fill vacancies and the stronger the bargaining power of workers is.


The number of people in employment increased to a record high in the latest quarter with increases in both the number of employees and self-employed workers. There are now over 33 million people in employment.

Workers continue to use their right to withhold their labour. 


Over 3.9 million days have been taken in strike action in the last 12 months, there has not been an extended period like this since the 1980s.


Cumulative working days lost, Labour Disputes summary, UK (not seasonally adjusted), last 12 months. Source: ONS

Bitesize Bargaining

WVP Tools: Collective Agreement Builder

Our Collective Agreement Builder allows activists to produce a professional, bespoke draft agreement in a matter of minutes. Collective agreements are the foundations on which we build power in the workplace. They can set out the rules for some of the most important aspects of industrial relations such as how much time shop stewards get off work to perform their trade union duties. Collective agreements can also be developed for more specific issues, such as the introduction of new technology, agency workers or home working. 


Big economic and environmental changes are already raising new bargaining issues for trade unions to address. By ensuring that our reps and shop stewards are at the heart of negotiating around these issues, collective agreements give workers the power and agency to set standards in their own workplace. We can’t rely on the word of the boss or fall back on flimsy laws to protect our members: only agreements won and enforced collectively will stand the test of time and events. 


Many of our template agreements are now available to use with the Collective Agreement Builder and can be easily modified to suit the needs of your workplace. You can currently create bespoke agreements from the following templates:

  • Agency Workers Agreement
  • Trade Union Facilities Agreement
  • Home Working Agreement
  • New technology Agreement
  • Apprenticeships Agreement

These templates include model language and clauses that you can include, remove or modify yourself. You can also search agreements covering thousands of workplaces across the UK and Ireland, and upload your negotiated agreements to share with other Unite reps using the Collective Agreements Database. And once there you can add clauses to your scrapbook and then import to the Collective Agreement Builder.


The tool itself is very user friendly. This short video will tell you all you need to know about how to navigate, edit and publish your new collective agreement. If you do have any problems, however, please contact:>>>>



Work, Voice and Pay now has a large suite of tools for Unite reps


Understand your company’s real financial position, so you can negotiate good pay awards and spread the message of what’s really going on.


If you are a Rep negotiating with a UK registered company you can now construct your own bespoke pay claim online in less than 10 minutes using the Pay Claim Generator!


Unite Reps can now construct a bespoke, fully laid-out collective agreement online in a matter of minutes, using the Collective Agreement Builder.

Click on the Work Voice Pay logo to see the rest of our bargaining guides and tools



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