Branch Secretary :

We demand to be safe - negotiation not imposition

Employers must take responsibility


Workers more than anyone are at the forefront of this pandemic, doing everything they can in all situations to kill off this disease and keep us safe. We all want to do our bit to put a stop to the coronavirus pandemic. This means washing our hands and following guidance on social distancing. It doesn’t mean cutting corners on safety or exploiting workers. In such cases Unite reps have been working with Officers and Organisers to push back where needed and protect members.


Robust support


When employers fail in their responsibility to provide safe ways of working, we will robustly support action taken by our members to achieve this.


Of course, we hope that it does not come to this. Many employers are willing to negotiate in good faith and collective agreements have been secured as a result. For example, we may only have won recognition at LEAR one month ago, but by standing together across sites and bargaining as one, the employer agreed to negotiate an improved lay-off deal has been secured. There are many other examples.


Legitimate action


But when employers ignore workers’ health and safety or start to impose lay-offs without negotiating, then action is legitimate. Let no one tell us that the ‘war’ effort is an excuse for poor management and ill-informed decision making. What is decided now will not only impact on peoples’ short term health and livelihoods, but also leave a legacy after the virus passes. Workers cannot be made to pay the price again.


In the past week we have already seen Unite members win important victories on health and safety by taking action against irresponsible bosses. For example Shop Stewards at ABP meats in food and Bexley Council, have now won improved working conditions after standing firm in the face of unprecedented pressure to back down.


Negotiation not imposition


Over the coming weeks and months Work, Voice & Pay will continue to provide assistance. As a first step, we have produced a simple DRAFT guidance template ‘Lockdown’ agreement, to help Shop Stewards and officers who are often bargaining under immense pressure. Your Officers continue to provide frontline support and obviously every workplace is different, so we have made the template easily amendable by producing it in Word. In addition, if you are in negotiations or facing difficult decisions and want to know if your employer has ‘ability to pay’ then please let us know and we can help with accounts.


Finally, please remember there is no ‘right way’, no perfect agreement to guard against all eventualities. Many of you will be under pressure like never before, but we can fight for one simple trade union principle. Negotiation not imposition.


By Sharon Graham, Unite Executive Officer


See the branch health and safety toolkit here


Work Voice Pay here


April 16th 2020


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