News from the rank and file

The latest news from trade union struggles up and down the country.


News from Unite

Coffee dispute escalates

Unite has repeatedly raised the alarm over an outbreak of ‘fire and rehire’ disputes across the UK as unscrupulous employers look to exploit workers using Covid-19 as an excuse.

Unite is running a national campaign to get the government to outlaw the practice, in line with other competitor countries, to give UK workers protection. A recent Survation poll for Unite found seven in 10 want the practice banned.

JDE (Jacobs Douwe Egberts) a coffee producer in Banbury will see an escalation in strike action from today (Wednesday 26 May) as they attempt to impose new contracts on existing staff.

‘JDE needs to wake up and the smell the coffee over the damage its reviled fire and rehire policy is causing’. 

Unite the union

Around 300 JDE employees are taking strike action over the company’s plans to dismiss staff and force them to sign new contracts that would see them lose up to £12,000 a year.

“It’s quite clear that the public is firmly on the side of working people when it comes to the horrific practice of fire and rehire.

“There is no grey area here. They see that this is an objectionable practice that should be banned. The government has to get on the same page as voters on this and fast.”


Even before the current round of strikes began, Unite estimated that the loss of production resulting from the dispute amounted to 600 tonnes of coffee, the equivalent of 300 million cups and equating to a financial loss of around £18 million. 

“Unite has put forward a number of proposals to JDE to deescalate this dispute, including a commitment to modernisation and negotiations over working practices. 

“Unfortunately, the company has not responded and is instead still fixated on dismissing and re-engaging our members on unbelievably inferior terms and conditions. 

“This is clearly fire and rehire.

“JDE has already suffered huge losses due to the strikes and overtime ban and that is before this current longer round of industrial action is taken into account. 

“With the prospect of the strikes increasing in frequency and severity over the summer, more trouble is brewing for JDE. 

“Our members are standing strong with the strength of their union behind them and will not be moved until these grossly unfair contract changes are dropped.”

Joe Clarke (Unite national officer for food, drink and agriculture)

700 Argos workers face brutal ‘fire and rehire’

Sainsburys is threatening Argos workers with either accepting a change to their pay or conditions or face the sack. Over 700 long-term Argos staff, spread across the company, are affected by the fire and rehire plans. 

Under Sainsbury’s plans (which it claims are to align with Sainsbury’s terms and conditions) the affected workers will be required to pay increased pension contributions, lose four days holiday a year, receive a lower level of death in service and suffer the loss of car allowance and other benefits. Unite estimates that the affected workers will lose between £1,600 – £3,600 a year.

“Sainsbury is brutally forcing through the fire and rehire of longstanding Argos staff.

“These are extremely profitable companies and the slashing of wages and conditions is all about greed and not need.

Matt Draper (Unite national officer)

News from TSSA

TfL funding update

More than ever it’s clear proper long-term funding for Transport for London (TfL) is required to assist the capital and the wider economy to recover from the pandemic. 

A ten-day extension of current arrangements – announced this week – isn’t even a sticking plaster. TfL desperately needs a long-term settlement which reduces reliance on the fare box and recognises the significant role TfL plays in supporting the economy. 

I’m urging the Government to wake up, invest in this great transport network and help decarbonise our capital city. We hope that a positive arrangement can be reached in the not-too-distant future.  

Manuel cortes general secretary tssa

News from GMB

Amazon imposes new health and safety tech from above, GMB says this isn’t enough

GMB, the union for Amazon workers in the UK, has said Amazon has finally admitted it has a problem after introducing new health and safety technology at one of its warehouses.

A site in Yorkshire has been chosen by online giant Amazon to trial technology in its UK operations which it says will support safer ways of working – including automated guided vehicles and robot sorters.

“Amazon denies its workplaces are unsafe despite, a mountain of evidence that contradicted them.  

“Now, it appears Amazon finally admits it has a problem and has introduced technology to make warehouses safer. 

“Imposing new technology from above isn’t enough. If Amazon is serious about addressing its health and safety problems then it should recognise an independent workers’ voice and get round the table with GMB Union to agree safer ways of working.”

Mick Rix GMB National Officer

News from Industrial Workers of the World

Student rent strikes continue

Students up and down the country continue to be in open rebellion against an exploitative university education system.

Continuing an escalation of direct actions, student rent strikers are currently occupying buildings across four university campuses in the north of England: University of ManchesterSheffield HallamUniversity of Sheffield and University of Nottingham. Amongst their demands are rental and tuition fee rebates, protection for precarious staff on campuses, and an end to sexual violence and excessive policing on campus. These occupations occur within the context of a wider rent strike movement, which had amassed around 15,000 strikers as of January.

Meanwhile, international students at three London Universities (Goldsmiths, the Royal College of Art and SOAS) are striking against paying tuition fees. Similar strikes are planned soon at Kings College London and the London School of Economics. In a nationalistic policy, international students are faced with extortionate tuition fees, well in excess of those paid by domestic students (which are already considerable). These international students are furious that this daylight robbery continues unabetted even when a sub-standard education is being delivered to them as they study remotely.

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