Scotland newsletter issue 7 – July 2007

John QuigleyWelcome from Regional Secretary, John Quigley

When Gordon Brown addressed Unite’s conference in June he promised he would start listening. More than a month into the job the new Prime Minister has already made some welcome noises including a much needed review of the NHS, maintenance grants for students from low and middle income families and the appointment of the first ever Cabinet Minister with responsibility for housing. There has also been progress for the thousands of workers who have lost their pensions due to their company going bust.

So with the new PM in listening mood we believe its time for Unite to start lobbying for what we want. That’s why thousands of our members will demonstrate at the Labour Party Conference to highlight the union’s campaigning issues: an end to the privatisation of our public services; better management of the NHS; equal rights for temporary and agency workers; more affordable housing; better pensions and stronger employment rights.

The demonstration will take place on the first day of the Labour Party Conference, Sunday 23rd September. As well as delivering a powerful message to Labour, Unite wants to celebrate the union’s link with the Party and the demonstration has been designed to have a carnival like atmosphere and with music, colourful flags, bouncy castles and entertainment for children.

It is really important that members from Scotland support the demonstration. Unite is providing free transport on the day. For more information on the march and for publicity materials to use in your workplace, please contact Elizabeth Stevenson or click on

Latest Headlines

Victory for Mesothelioma sufferers
Unite has welcomed the decision made by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence that mesothelioma sufferers should have access on the NHS to the only licensed drug, Alimta, that can prolong life and alleviate suffering.
Prior to the decision, people in many parts of the country were deprived of this vital treatment. Mesothelioma is contracted as a result of exposure to asbestos fibres. Unite believes pressure from unions and support groups, as well as sympathetic MPs tipped the balance in achieving this result.

Unite Amicus Section’s Health and Safety Officer Rob Miguel says: “We are pleased our support has aided this just cause. Mesothelioma sufferers will now get relief from this most painful of diseases. Primary Care Trusts should ensure the treatment becomes available as soon as possible. Workers have been deprived this treatment for long enough.”

Members in England & Wales back changes to the Local Government Pension Scheme
Unite local authority members have voted to agree changes to their pension scheme following a major strike last year over a move by employers to get rid of final salary pension scheme.

John Allott, Unite Amicus Section National Officer for local authorities, said: “The objective of keeping a good final salary pension scheme open to everyone has been achieved. Unite, Amicus Section, has fought long and hard to negotiate the best possible outcome for our members’ pensions. We believe we have achieved that, and the overwhelming majority of members who voted in favour of acceptance clearly agreed with us.”

The new final salary scheme retains the 1/60 accrual rate and has dependants’ pension provision for unmarried partners, Amicus are still involved in negotiations in Scotland to secure a satisfactory outcome for our members pension provision.

Unite members at Coca Cola to strike
Unite members at Coca Cola Enterprise’s plant in Wakefield are to stage a series of strikes and operate an overtime ban in a dispute over pay.

Employees at Wakefield, Coca Cola’s largest bottling and distribution centre in the world, are furious that their overtime rates and bonuses are being used to fund a pay increase of just 2.5% despite the fact that Coca Cola has enjoyed significant profits and a rise in stock market value.

Unite estimate that Coca Cola enterprises will lose 1,000 working hours as a result of the overtime ban alone and that it and the strike will disrupt supplies of Coca Cola, Oasis, Dr. Pepper and various other Coca Cola brands to shops, supermarkets, vending machines, pubs and hotels across the UK.

Unite Amicus Section’s Regional Officer, Kelvin Mawer, said:
“It’s unacceptable that one of the world’s most famous brands is offering workers a pay cut this year for their hard work. Shops, supermarkets, pubs and hotels now face the prospect of shortages of Coca Cola during the height of the summer. ”

82% of the workers who voted favoured strike action. Negotiatios to try to resolve the dispute are ongoing.

Reps receive training as part of Legal & General partnership deal
Unite has welcomed Legal & General’s commitment to up-skill trade union reps as part of its Partnership Agreement.

Legal & General has invested in training all representatives so that they are better equipped to carry out their union duties. The company believes that by doing so, the union is even better placed to support the Partnership Agreement.

Legal & General chairman Rob Margetts praised the Partnership Agreement for being a key driver in the company’s success over the past ten years:

“The commitment demonstrated by both sides, to what is a genuine partnership, has enabled Legal & General to move from being a top ten player a decade ago to one of the leading three insurers in the UK market today. The ability of the company to tackle regulatory and market change has been greatly enhanced by the dedication of both parties to true consultation and engagement.”

Karen Reay, Unite National Officer said: “We are delighted that the company recognises the importance of having a network of well trained union reps, as being a benefit to their business.”

Unite and HBOS sign partnership deal
Unite and HBOS have today (3rd July) launched a partnership deal which will strengthen industrial relations in the company.

The agreement signed by Unite & Accord, the trade unions represented in HBOS, sees HBOS positively encouraging union membership and introduces a robust workplace representatives system.

Graham Goddard, Unite Deputy General Secretary and Head of Finance Sector, says: “This agreement confirms that HBOS, a FTSE 100 company, views a strong relationship with Unite the Union as vital. Unite applauds any company that recognises the importance of its employees and the union in their business success.”

Wendy Dunsmore, Unite Officer with responsibilities in HBOS, added: “For a major player in the financial services sector to encourage union growth and organisation in the form of a partnership agreement is a positive development. HBOS clearly view unions as the voice of employees and therefore strong union membership is fundamental to a strong and healthy workforce.”
Compensation for asbestos victims
Unite (Amicus section) are delighted that after fighting for members across the country they are finally receiving compensation from a defunct asbestos company more than six years after their claims were first lodged. The union was also able to broker a deal that allowed members to receive payments without incurring penalties from the governments compensation reclaim unit (CRU).

Hundreds of Unite members and their families will receive settlements over the next few months from the notorious asbestos manufacturer Turner & Newell (T&N), which had factories in Rochdale, Washington, Widnes and Trafford Park.

An Amicus section member, who wishes to remain anonymous, has received one of the first compensation payments in the region after years of legal red tape and wrangling.

The man, now aged 85, who is suffering from asbestosis was employed as a supervisor by T&N and worked with asbestos every day.

He said: “I am delighted that I have received this payment after all those years waiting. I worked for 30 years for Turner and Newell and I was never told about the dangers – no-one was. Now I find it difficult to breath and cannot walk very far due to my condition.”
All claims against the company, which provided employment for thousands of families in the Northern regions, were frozen in 2001 after T&N and its parent company Federal Mogul went into administration.

Since then claimants and their families have been waiting for Administrators to reach agreement with Federal Mogul’s creditors and insurers.

In October last year the High Court of Justice approved a deal which would see claimants receive a share of their entitled awards.

Unite joint general secretary Derek Simpson said:
“It has been a long, hard fight to obtain compensation for Unite members who worked in the former asbestos factories for T&N.
Sadly many members have died while waiting for their claim to be settled but finally families are now receiving their compensation.”
Thompsons Solicitors, lawyers for Unite members, has hundreds of claims against T&N from across the UK.

Ian McFall head of asbestos policy at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “We have been engaged in one of the longest running and most difficult battles to obtain compensation for people who are suffering or have died from asbestos-related disease. I am glad that for many of them the struggle is now over or nearing an end.”
It was a matter of duty for the union to stand by the victims and see this through from start to finish.
One mans view of the working time directive.
“European Working Time Directive (EWTD) – What is that all about then?”

Obviously European Directives do not hold much sway in the UK as the Government has not enforced this Directive for a number of years, in fact not since it was issued. Indeed if it was not for Unions such as our own then it would have been swept under the carpet and forgotten about.

It should be remembered that offshore personnel work a 7 day week made up of a minimum of 84 hours when offshore, it is obscene that most companies argue that offshore workers do not deserve more time off than the normal rota of 2 weeks at home. (Apart from an extra 7 days paid holiday per year that our union had to fight hard for, which incidentally not everyone gets) is beyond me.

How many jobs in the UK only get 7 days paid holiday per year? Most get 4 to 6 weeks and bank holidays on top. Certain offshore companies and employer organisations have clouded the issue by coming out with all sorts of idiotic “blockers” to prevent the adoption of getting 4 weeks paid leave as per the EWTD, most too ridiculous to mention.

Not all companies can be tarnished with the same brush and some have now changed or are changing work cycles to reflect what should have been implemented many years ago by going to a workcycle of 2 weeks offshore and 3 weeks at home (or equivalent). Others however continue to resist the march of progress.

Hopefully offshore staff still working for the companies that refuse to budge for both core crew and contractors will move to other jobs with companies within the industry that do provide adequate paid leave.

There is a lot of employment available in the North Sea at present so why would anyone want to stay with an employer who was not doing their best for their employees?

The obvious answer is if you want to get your entitlement under the EWTD then join a company that will supply this and leave the old dinosaurs to try and figure out why they have so much downtime now that their enlightened, experienced workforce has moved on to better pastures.

Time to get those CV’s fired around guys!”

Like most Unite (Amicus section) members we are extremely grateful for the work done by the Union both in negotiating terms and legal terms.

We do get frustrated but be assured we do understand the pressures that our officers are under. Their jobs would be easier if more were to join the union, which would enhance the bargaining power and make the companies take notice “That Industrial Action is a real threat” should companies and Government continue to play games.

All best wishes, Bob Milne, Off Shore worker.
If you have any issues or events that you would like included please email – Elizabeth Cairns

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