Amicus E-Equality Newsletter No 10 – Jun 07

  • Unite Amicus Policy Conference makes e-equality networks a key priority
  • Demonstration at TUC Disability Conference following the announcement of the closure of 44 Remploy factories
  • TUC Black Workers Conference marks bicentenary of abolition of the slave trade
  • Government publishes consultation on Single Equality Bill
  • Banana Link URGENT APPEAL – Costa Rica workers poisoned by toxic chemicals sacked
  • Equality and Discrimination Law News
  • Other News
  • Events and Training

Unite Amicus Policy Conference makes e-equality networks a key priority
The Unite Amicus Policy Conference, held in Bournemouth from 18 to 20 June, prioritised signing up delegates to the union’s equality networks. Siobhan Endean, Head of Equalities commented “we have five informal networks – women, disabled, young members, LGBT and black and ethnic minority. By joining these networks members receive up-to-date information about tackling discrimination in the workplace through our e-equality newsletter and find out about regional meetings with other members who are interested in similar issues. The e-equality newsletter is a monthly email that is distributed to all workplace reps that the union has email addresses for, but we also want to reach out to more members and encourage them to get involved in the union’s equality campaigns and become a Unite rep in the workplace. We had a huge response at Conference with a large number of delegates joining the networks and committing to get other members in their workplaces to sign up”.

John Walsh, chair of the Unite Amicus Young members’ Committee said “all these networks are important. If we are to grow as a union we must engage the wide diversity of members who make up the workforce in this country. It is incredibly empowering and rewarding to be involved in Unite Amicus and I want to encourage more young members to become involved in the union’s campaigns. I’m also very proud to be one of the Reps that received a Unite Amicus equality award for the work that the union has been carrying out in BAE systems on apprentices”.

Unite Amicus equality networks are open to members of the union, our young members network is open to all members under the age of 27, and our other networks are open to women members; disabled members; black and minority ethnic members and lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans members.

Signing up is easy you can join online or contact Bridget Clemson, Equalities Administrator, 35 King Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9JG, tel: 0207 420 8907 who will send you a form to join one or more of the networks.

Motions on equality issues at Conference ranged from equal pay, to improved rights for LGBT workers and disability access. Protecting migrant workers and campaigning against the BNP were also debated with the union reaffirming its position to end racism in this country.

Lorene Fabian, chair of the Women’s Committee commented “equality has taken centre stage in our union and this is reflected in the Conference motions on equality and the number of delegates that are here that were elected to attend from our National Equality Conferences. We now need to get as many members as possible involved in the union’s campaigns and our e-equality networks are going to play a big role in this. I’m looking forward to working with members on equality issues and building on our equality campaigns as we come together as unite.”
Demonstration at TUC Disability Conference
Demonstration at TUC Disability Conference following the announcement of the closure of 44 Remploy factories

The TUC Disability Conference in May was dominated by the appalling announcement of the closure of 44 Remploy Factories with the loss of 2,550 jobs. Jim Murphy, Minister of State for Employment and Welfare Reform, who was speaking at the Conference, was met by a demonstration organised by the Remploy Trade Union Consortium (Unite, GMB and Community) calling on the Government to support a moratorium on factory closures and mergers until an independent review has been undertaken to fully examine the opportunities to restructure and develop Remploy.

Remploy, and subsequently Gordon Brown at the Unite Amicus Conference, have committed to find redundant disabled workers supported work in mainstream employment and that workers will remain on Remploy terms and conditions. However, this proposal is unacceptable to Unite Amicus as we fear that many severely disabled workers will be condemned to remain at home in isolation because of the difficulty in finding jobs due to employer discrimination. We must also not forget the non-disabled workers, many of which are our members, for whom there are no guarantees and will be dealt with as in a normal redundancy situation.

At the recent Unite Amicus Conference a pledge was made to work with Remploy workplace representatives in their campaign to defend jobs and oppose the closure of the factories.

Dave Allan, Chair of Unite Amicus National Disability Committee said at the TUC disabled workers conference, “we must support Remploy workers in their current struggle. I am appalled that the Remploy Management and the Government have shown so little regard for such a vulnerable group of workers. We all know that employers discriminate against disabled workers and that it is going to be very difficult for many to obtain work where they receive the support and security that they have had at Remploy”. Sign the petition to save Remploy Factories

Unite Amicus’s motion to the TUC Disability Conference was on the importance of the introduction of a strong, single, coherent and comprehensive Single Equality Act. This is required if we are to stop the discrimination against disabled people in both obtaining and retaining jobs. This motion will now be debated at TUC congress in September. Our amendment reaffirmed our commitment to Disability Champions and that the TUC should provide support to trade unions to train equality reps.

Congratulations to Richard Cooke and Carol Kirk, Unite Amicus, who were successfully re-elected to the TUC Disability Committee for another year.

TUC Black Workers Conference
TUC Black Workers Conference marks bicentenary of abolition of the slave trade

2007 is a special year in Black History as it marks 200 years since the abolition of slavery in what was then the British Empire Because of this the TUC Black Workers’ Conference was held in Bristol in April to which Amicus had a full delegation. Bristol was one of the cities that grew rich on the back of the trade in African people and felt that hosting the Conference was one way that the city could express their regret for the part that it played in the slave trade.

Alongside the formal business of the Conference, a series of workshops were held for delegates to attend. These sessions included a debate on the Black struggle against slavery, a slavery trail which involved a walk around Bristol to see places associated with the slave trade and its abolition and visiting communities in Bristol which are working on race issues.

Motions to the conference included combating racism at work, the development of equality reps and protecting and organising migrant workers. Amicus’s unite motion to Conference was on the importance of the Government involving trade unions and BME communities in the policy and action of the Commission on Integration and Cohesion which has just issued its report. Our amendment called on the TUC and trade unions to continue to build on the success of community based election campaigns against the BNP.

Speakers, Brendan Barber, TUC General Secretary and Alison Shepherd, TUC President, reiterated the importance of combating racism in this country. Professor Gus John, an expert on the slave trade, spoke on the history of the slave trade and called for reparation for Black communities in this country.

Mohammed Benkharmaz (Ben) and Sybil Dilworth, Unite Amicus, were both successfully re-elected to the TUC Race Relations Committee. Congratulations go to both of them, particularly as Sybil topped the poll in her re-election. Ben, who is also chair of the Unite Amicus BME Committee commented “this conference shows that BME trade unionists are united in ending racism in this country. Unite Amicus is playing a big role in campaigning against the BNP, calling for better legal protection for migrant workers and promoting equality at work. We must continue our campaigns and fight against racism and bigotry in this country”.

If you would like to find out more about events taking place this year to commemorate the abolition of the slave trade in Britain see here.

Government publishes consultation on Single Equality Bill
The Government has finally published its consultation on the proposals for a Single Equality Bill- A Framework for Fairness: Proposals for a Single Equality Bill for Great Britain . Proposals have been made to:-

  • Harmonise and simplify the law
  • Make the law more effective
  • Modernise the law

Some of the proposals include, harmonising the definition of indirect discrimination, extending the coverage of the public sector duties to all the protected grounds and the development of a voluntary light touch “equality check tool” for employers to use.

Siobhan Endean, Unite Amicus Head of Equalities commented “although we welcome the consultation we are disappointed that the proposals do not go further. We will be responding to the consultation and arguing, amongst other things, that we require levelling up of the legislation, statutory equal pay audits and the right to bring class actions. We need stronger, more effective discrimination law in this country if we are to end discrimination at work and close the gender pay gap”.

You can download or order a copy of the consultation.

The DCLG are holding four general awareness-raising events on the consultation. These events will be held in:

Cardiff on the 3 July between 13.30 and 16.00 at St David’s Hotel & Spa, Havannah Street, Cardiff, CF10 5SD;
Manchester on the 4 July between 10.30 and 13.00 at The Midland Hotel, Peter Street , Manchester , M60 2DS ; and
Edinburgh on the 9 July between 10.30 and 13.00 at The George Hotel , 19-21 George Street , Edinburgh , EH2 2PB .
If you would like to contribute to the Unite Amicus response to the green paper, please email your views to Karen Cole.

Banana Link URGENT APPEAL – Costa Rica workers poisoned by toxic chemicals sacked

Banana Link are publicising the plight of two Costa Rican workers who were sacked by Chiquita, a large fruit multinational, after they reported their poisoning by fumigation on a banana plantation. The company had failed to inform them that spraying was taking place with nematicide in an area near where they were working. This pesticide is toxic to humans and resulted in the two men becoming ill. The reaction of the company was to sack both the workers because they had entered an area that was to be fumigated.

Please support Banana Link and these workers by e-mailing Maro Latouche, Director of Labour Relations, cc. Chiquita Brands International using the standard message below or use your own wording. Remember to add your name and address.

Dear Mr Latouche,
I have been informed by Banana Link of the poisoning and dismissal of workers on the Coyol plantation owned by COBAL in Costa Rica. I urge you to ensure that:
Рworkers Alexander Reyes Zu̱iga and Marco Gonzalez Borges are reinstated, with their full rights;
– those responsible for exposing workers to serious dangers to their health are made accountable;
– an end is put to intimidation of workers, especially violations by the firm’s private security guards who search the workers’ homes without the authorisation of the workers themselves nor of any competent authority.

I will be following this matter closely, as we expect Chiquita to live up to its claims of being a responsible corporate employer.

Yours sincerely,

Solidarity message: send this solidarity message to the Costa Rican banana workers unions represented by COSIBA-CR

Dear Friends at COSIBA-CR,

I have been informed by Banana Link of the social conflict between Chiquita, the COSIBA-CR and SITAGAH unions, and workers on the Coyol plantation, relative to the nematicide poisoning and dismissal of workers Alexander Zuñiga and Marco Borges.

I support your action and have sent a letter to the director of labour relations at Chiquita, urging him to meet your demands.

In solidarity,

Banana Link is a not-for-profit co-operative that was founded in 1996 to campaign for fair and sustainable banana trade. They work in close partnership with Latin American banana workers trade unions, small Caribbean farmers and civil society organisations in Europe and the US

Equality and Discrimination Law News
Sex discrimination at job interview

Karen Rylance, an Amicus member with two daughters applied to Brookson Limited for a job as an Executive Assistant. The interview began with a question from the HR manager asking her whether she was married, whether she had children and then asking further questions about the names, ages and gender of her children. When the candidates were short listed for a second interview, Brookson did not short list any candidate that had young children and the successful candidate was a divorced woman with children of an age described as “being able to look after themselves”.

Amicus supported Karen in her sex discrimination claim. The Employment Tribunal found Brookson had a practice of not employing people with caring responsibilities and that the practice put women at a disadvantage compared with men. Brookson was criticised by the tribunal for their preconception that people with young children could not commit to the job. The tribunal also found that the questions asked of Karen were irrelevant to the job and therefore, unlawful. The case was finally settled prior to a remedies hearing.

After the hearing Karen commented “I’m really pleased with the outcome of the tribunal. Amicus and their solicitors, Rowley Ashworth, were very supportive throughout the entire process and did a fantastic job. I hope that my successful case gives people the confidence to take action – unless people stand up for themselves when they are discriminated against, employers will continue to get away with it and we can’t allow that to happen”.

Unite victory on agency workers

The T&G Section of Unite has won a major victory for agency workers with a ruling that a group of Polish agency workers in the food processing industry should be considered employees rather than self-employed. The case, Kalwack and others v Consistent, had been pursued by the union following the group’s dismissal after they had been organised into the union. This ruling will now allow Unite to take the workers’ case to the next stage for unfair dismissal and victimisation for trade union activities.
“Blind as a bat” comment amounts to disability discrimination

An Amicus member brought a claim for disability discrimination against MM Packaging UK Limited after he was referred to as “being blind as a bat” and dismissed in December 2005.

Mr A was employed by the company as a Production Operator from 31 January 2005 until 9 December 2005 . Mr A has been partially sighted since birth and is registered as disabled. On 1 December Mr A’s manager noticed that he had placed a label on the wrong pallet and informed him that he wanted him to have an eye test. Mr A responded that he had an appointment with his specialist in two weeks’ time and a full report could be obtained at that time to which his manager retorted, “I have heard you are as blind as a bat”. He then subsequently told him that he had to attend an optician’s appointment arranged by the company.

Mr A contacted his manager to ask that a meeting be held to discuss his dissatisfaction with the comment and a request to see an optician when he already had a pre-arranged appointment with his own specialist. The following morning Mr A received a letter informing him that his employment had been terminated with immediate effect.

The tribunal concluded that the company had discriminated against Mr A on the grounds of his disability by referring to him as being “blind as a bat” and terminating his employment and awarded Mr A £14,638 in compensation, including £6,500 for injury to feelings.

Equal Pay Victimisation Victory for women

The House of Lords recently ruled in favour of 36 school catering workers who were victimised by St Helens Borough Council after they brought equal pay claims against the local authority. In a damming verdict, the five law lords unanimously backed the women in their claims against the council for sex discrimination and victimisation. Upholding the original £560,000 award for equal pay, the women were awarded additional £350,000 compensation after the Council sent a letter to all catering staff saying that their jobs were at risk if the women pursued the claim.
NHS worker wins job back in landmark case

A 67-year-old NHS employee who was sacked the day before the new age discrimination regulations came into force has won her job back in a landmark victory. Ann Southcott was dismissed from her post as a clerical worker and was told that she would receive the contractual requirement of 11 weeks pay, rather than the 11 months pay she would have been entitled to had she been dismissed a day later under the new legislation. Following a preliminary hearing the hospital agreed to reinstate Mrs Southcott and a group of other workers dismissed in similar circumstances.

Other News
Sign the Living Wage Petition

Sign the petition on the 10 Downing Street website in support of a living wage and an end to poverty pay, which now has over 780 signatures, including Polly Toynbee, Frank Field MP, Caroline Lucas and Jean Lambert MEPs and many anti-poverty campaigners, councillors and trade unionists.

Here’s the link for the petition : to sign it, click on the link and fill in your personal details.

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to take steps to replace the national minimum wage with a living wage based on the level of pay and conditions that enables a full-time worker to make ends meet for themselves and their family. Official regional living wage figures should be announced such as the one given by Mayor Livingstone for London (and increased by the GLA in April 2007 to £7.20 an hour).

Britain ‘s economy benefiting from migrant workers
The TUC has recently published a report, the economics of migration, that shows that the British economy is benefiting from the increase of the number of migrant workers to the UK.

Far from the myths that are put round by the right wing press and the BNP that immigrants are a drain on the welfare state, the research reveals that migrant workers are paying more in taxes than the value of the public services that they receive.

Unite is campaigning for improved rights for migrant workers, including the introduction of an Agency Workers Bill as a matter of priority for the Government. We are also recruiting migrant workers to the union to ensure that they are paid a decent wage, are covered by collective bargaining agreements and to ensure that unscrupulous employers are not able to undercut wages by paying migrant workers less than the existing workforce.

Report of the Commission on Integration and Cohesion

The Commission on Integration and Cohesion has recently issued their report – Our Shared Future. This stresses the impact of growing diversity and the need for local solutions that address everyone in communities, regardless of their background. The Commission has adopted four key principles:-

  • A sense of shared futures, which binds communities rather than divides them.
  • A model of rights and responsibilities, that creates a sense of citizenship and that obligations that go with membership of a community.
  • An emphasis on mutual respect and civility, on the basis that mutual respect is fundamental to integration and cohesion.
  • Visible social justice, prioritising transparency, fairness and trust.

A copy of the full report is available here.

Winning Equal Pay: the value of women’s work
A new website documenting the struggle for equal pay in the workplace is being created as part of the European Year of Equal Opportunities. This new resource is a joint partnership between the TUC and the London Metropolitan University ‘s TUC Library Collections.

They want to hear from you if you have a story about equal pay – do you have your own tale about fighting for equal pay in the workplace? If so please make sure you contribute by logging on to the web site and make sure that your experience is heard.

Employers discriminate against people with epilepsy
Epilepsy Action has criticised the outdated attitudes of UK employees who continue to discriminate against people with epilepsy, as part of its campaign during National Epilepsy Week from 20-26 May. A survey by the charity found unemployment rates among people with the condition are still unacceptably high at 14%, that nearly a half felt that they had been discriminated against when applying for jobs and a third had suffered discrimination whilst employed.

Epilepsy Action has produced a series of resources as part of its campaign to improve employment opportunities for people with epilepsy which can be found here. One million signatures for Disability Equality

The European Disability Forum has launched a mass e-petition calling for the European Union to adopt a mass e-petition calling for the European Union to adopt a specific disability directive. Currently, disability has only partial protection within existing European laws, and a disability specific anti-discrimination directive would aim to give comprehensive protection for disabled people for the first time. If you would like to you can sign the petition here. The EU is required to respond if they receive a petition of 1 million signatures and above.

Breakthrough Generations: the UK study of the causes of breast cancer
Breakthrough Breast Cancer is currently undertaking a very large national cohort study of the causes of breast cancer. The study will include over 100,000 women in the UK and will follow-up these women for decades to come. Each participant is being asked to complete a questionnaire asking about factors that might affect the risk of breast cancer, and also asked if she would be willing to give a blood sample for analysis of hormonal and genetic factors that may have an effect on breast cancer risk.

If you are over 18 and would like to participate then call 0870 2424485, leave your contact details and you will then be contacted. You will need to have had cancer, be currently pregnant or post menopausal to take part.

Events and Training

Pride Events 2007
Unite will be attending many more Pride events this summer to recruit more members to the union within the lesbian, gay bisexual and trans community. Pride takes place all round the country and can involve a parade, march, rally, arts events and other activities for people who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans.

Unite will be supporting and take part in London Pride, but we also support many other Pride events around the country, so if you would like to meet up with other unite members at a local Pride event, contact your Unite Amicus Regional Officer or Office to see if Unite Amicus is supporting it and better still get involved in supporting it. Contact details for your Regional Office.

More information on LGBT rights, campaigning and Pride events are available here.

Come along to London Pride march this Saturday 30 th June and join the Unite team assembling behind the Unite T&G Bus on Oxford St , or come and visit the Unite stall in Trafalgar Square.

Lincoln Pride 21 July and Nottingham Pride 28 July
Melinda Phillips would like to hear from you if you are interested in getting involved in the Unite Amicus supported Lincoln and Nottingham Prides.

Brighton Pride 4 August
Claire Simpson will be organising the Unite Amicus presence at Brighton Pride on 4th August this year contact Claire if you would like to get involved.

Yorkshire and Humberside 5 August – Leeds
Justine McCarthy will be organising the Unite Amicus stalls at Prides in Yorkshire and Humberside.

Gloucester Rainbow Day 11 August
Christine Starling is calling for support from members for Gloucester Rainbow Day on 11 August

Manchester Pride 25 August and Manchester Pride 10 Day Festival 17-27 August
Contact Sarah Holden if you would like to get involved in the Unite Amicus section pride celebrations on in Manchester.

Cardiff Mardi-Gras – 1 September
Come and celebrate with Unite Amicus at the Cardiff Mardi-Gras on 1 September. Contact – Andrea Jones.

26-28 May – Birmingham and Lancaster
14 July – Oxford
28 July – Nottingham
28 July – 5 August – Brighton Pride Summer Festival week
19 August – UK Black Pride
2 September – Gay Day, Chelmsford

South West training day on Globalisation

The South West is holding a Regional Day School in Bristol on organising our response to Globalisation on Wednesday 19 September. If you are a member in the South West and you would like to attend contact Rebecca Whitwood or telephone 01275 370 000

14/15 September – Welsh Women’s Aid Annual Conference, Wrexham

21 September – Joint Unite AMICUS/TGWU pan equality meeting at Transport House, Cardiff . Guest. speaker Natasha Hurst from the Equal at Work Project.

If you are a member in the Welsh region and interested in attending either of the above events contact Andrea Jones.

If you would like receive the e-equality Newsletter on a regular basis and are not doing so already please contact Bridget Clemson, Equalities, with your e-mail address to be added to our contact list.Contact Karen Cole, Unite Amicus Research Officer Equalities about any best practice or action in your organisation in relation to equality issues which can be included in the Newsletter. e-mailPlease feel free to circulate this bulletin to other Unite Amicus representatives, shop stewards and members.

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