Trade Unions

An industrial relations round up

Rick Coyle has an interesting story over on Left Foot Forward. Unite has been trying to support workers at Waterstone’s national distribution centre in Burton on Trent.  Agency workers are being asked to sign up to new contracts, and take a pay cut – and a management dictat has been put in place requiring that all conversations during work time must be in English – a move questioned by some of the workers.  As Coyle reports, this has been subjected to xenophobic spin by some sections of the media.

Amazon is targeted by The Third Estate.  In the US, management refused to open warehouse doors (for fear of theft) but kept ambulances on standby knowing the heat would make some workers collapse.  People were scrutinised to make sure their productivity didn’t slow down, and those who were unwell were treated in a humiliating way:

This is what happens when there is mass unemployment, few jobs and no unions. Welcome to the future.

In Georgia (the country, not the US state), Labour Start reports how striking steel workers have been forced back to work:

When the workers established their union on August 4, the company immediately fired six of its elected representatives, provoking a warning strike by the workers on 2 September. The company then fired more of the workers, after which the workforce launched a full-scale strike with several members also going on hunger strike.

Egypt has been affected by a wave of strikes – recently the Suez Canal port was forced to shut, due to striking workers demanding wage restructuring. Parents are particularly worried by the effects of strikes on schools. However some of the teachers have different concerns:

Dalia Mohamed Hegazi, a university professor and a mother of two primary school children, raised one worrying point. Hegazi fears the Muslim Brotherhood’s success in Teachers’ Syndicate elections, after they won 85 per cent of the seats of teachers’ sub-syndicates. “This is a worrying percentage. When the Muslim Brotherhood dominate teachers’ sub-syndicates they will impose their ideologies which are most of the time adamant and extreme. They will raise a whole generation of narrow minded people.”

Back in the UK, the TUC responds to two new government proposals – with approval! The first is Vince Cable’s suggestion that employees should be represented on remuneration committees.  The TUC believes this may encourage a sense of perspective when deciding how to reward top executives in relation to the wider workforce. The TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber also welcomes – and I’m sure Michael Ezra will too – the Government’s new guidance on minimum pay for interns.

Gene adds: There is a unionized alternative to Amazon: Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon.