It is inevitable that all sorts of fears, misconceptions, misunderstandings, rumours and downright lies will circulate as we move towards a ballot on industrial action. Whether these are spread maliciously or not, they have the potential to undermine our campaign. You can help prevent this by:
- Checking with your UNITE reps before passing on anything that you’re not sure about.
- Reading union newsletters so you are kept well informed.
- Challenging nonsense.
A silly statement that goes unchallenged can become accepted as a fact. Even if you’re not confident to get into an argument, just saying “I’m not sure about that, I’ll check with UNITE” prevents colleagues taking something as true when it’s not.
Over the coming weeks, UNITE newsletters will try to answer some of the common questions and concerns about industrial action. Here are a few to begin with:
- “You can be sacked if you go on strike”
- No. Instead of giving a positive “right to strike”, UK law gives you certain “immunities” for taking part in lawful industrial action. So no action can be taken against you for breaking your contract through lawful industrial action. Any dismissal during the first 12 weeks of lawful industrial action is automatically “unfair” unless a tribunal rules that it was for a reason not to do with the action.
- “You can’t go on strike if you’re not in a bargaining unit or covered by union recognition”
- No. Whether or not strike action is lawful has nothing to do with this.
- “You can’t go on strike unless you’re a union member”
- No. The union can only ballot those employees who are its members, but it can call all the employees in the group involved out on strike. Non-members who take lawful industrial action have the same legal position and rights as members. However, it’s easier for union members to assert their rights, and union members may get financial help from the union during a dispute.
- “You only get strike pay if you’re really broke”
No. UNITE provides its members with “dispute benefit” as a benefit of membership. From 1st September 2009 this will be £30 per day (or £150 per week). This is a basic level of support available to all members on strike, and is not means-tested. Strikers can also raise a great deal of money from other trade unionists, local supporters etc, to supplement dispute benefit.
For example, during the Fujitsu Manchester dispute in 2006-7, the union provided “Additional Strike Assistance” as well as “Hardship Payments”. Additional Strike Assistance was not means tested, but members were encouraged not to claim it if they could manage without, so that more money could go to those who did. Hardship Payments were an even higher level of support for those who would otherwise have been unable to take part in the action. Fundraising was successful in ensuring that nobody was prevented from taking part in the action for financial reasons.
- “Striking ruins the relationship with the company”
Sometimes. But sometimes striking helps. Relationships between the company and UNITE in Manchester are far better than they were before the 2006-7 strikes. A great number of issues that had festered for years finally got some attention. Many of them were resolved. The process of resolving those also built relationships that continue to help deal with other issues.
If you realise you are in an abusive relationship, it’s time to do something about it. The company isn’t showing much respect for its employees. If we stand up for ourselves this can change.
If you have other points for the FAQ, please let your reps know.Advertisements