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BEERG Newsletter - Collective bargaining: a roundup of developments in the UK and EU

Knowing the considerable interest in what’s happening with collective bargaining across the UK, Europe, and even further afield, we offer this compendium of notable recent moves. We will publish further roundups when the BEERG Newsletter returns after the Summer break on September 8th

  • Last week, the French Assembly, the lower, directly elected house, agreed that employers could pay staff bonuses of up to €3,000 between now and the end of the year, free of tax and social security contributions.
  • Strike action by hundreds of British Airways workers at Heathrow has been called off after staff accepted two separate pay deals. More than 700 workers were set to walk out after a 10% pay cut imposed during the pandemic was not restored. Now, they will receive an 8% pay rise and get a one-off bonus and the reinstatement of extra pay for irregular shifts. Unite said the offer, which will be paid in several stages, is worth 13% in total. A spokesman for British Airways said the company was "delighted with this positive news."
  • UK bank Virgin Money is to pay 78% of its staff a £1,000 (€1,175.31) bonus to help them deal with the soaring cost of living. The 6,000 or so employees of the company set for the bonus earn no more than £50,000 (€58,765) per year. They may opt to pay some or all of the sum into their pension pot. David Duffy, chief executive of Virgin Money, says: “The increase in the cost of living is on everyone’s minds, whether in political circles, in the media, or in the local supermarket. It’s also been part of many conversations among the leadership team because we know that many colleagues are experiencing additional pressure on their finances.” Meanwhile trade union Unite says the bonus is the result of lengthy negotiations between the company and staff representatives. “Unite has secured the £1,000 payment following a campaign to show Virgin Money UK how the increases to the cost of living are hitting the overwhelming majority of its staff,” said Caren Evans, Unite national officer, in a statement published on July 19. 
  • Also in the UK banking sector, Lloyds Bank, revealed a similar measure to Virgin in June, whereby 64,182 employees, or 99.5% of its workforce, will each receive £1,000 in August.
  • TSB is handing 4,500 workers a £1,000 bonus to help them cope with the cost-of-living crisis. The cash will be given to all workers at TSB earning £35,000 or less - regardless of whether they work full or part time. TSB follows in the steps of Lloyds and Barclays, who have made similar payments to employees. Meanwhile, Aldi will give 26,000 workers their second pay rise since the start of the year. The supermarket chain has increased its minimum pay to £10.50 an hour and £11.95 for those in Greater London, benefiting 26,000 workers.
  • Bloomberg reports that around the world, workers in transportation and logistics are demanding a better deal as inflation eats into their wages. Because their work is so crucial to the world economy right now as post-pandemic supply chains remain fragile and job markets stays tight, those workers have leverage at the negotiating table. Disruptions caused by labour disputes could add to the shortages and soaring prices that threaten to trigger recessions. Katy Fox-Hodess, a lecturer in employment relations at Sheffield University Management School in the UK, says workers are increasingly emboldened to stand up to their bosses.  “Global supply chains weren’t calibrated to deal with a crisis like the pandemic, and employers have really pushed that crisis onto the backs of workers,” she says. Cornell University associate professor Eli Friedman observes: “There’s a very tight labour market, so that puts workers in a position where they have both an accumulation of lots of grievances and they feel empowered.” 
  • In the Netherlands, it is expected that as of the 1st of January 2023, employers with 100 or more employees will have to report data of their employees' work-related travel on an annual basis. The purpose of this measure is to reduce CO2 emissions as work related travel causes a large part of the CO2 emissions. (We will come back to this in a future issue).
  • In Germany practically all Lufthansa domestic flights were grounded on Wednesday as Verdi, one of the main unions in the company, called a strike of 20,000 ground staff to put pressure on management over demands for a 9.5% pay hike. 
  • Reuters sees airline workers as the cutting edge of a new wave of worldwide worker militancy. It says that a widespread display of worker power would help reverse a decades-old decline in industrial action that has seen employers gain the upper hand in labour relations. Sharan Burrow, head of the ITUC, says it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the first big pandemic-era display of such power has been in the air travel industry: “The aviation sector globally is a prime example of bad employment policy… People are voting with their feet.”  But Reuters observes that trade unions have ceded much of the power they enjoyed before the 1980s. Trade union density has more than halved across developed economies from 33.9% in 1970 to 15.8% in 2019, according to the OECD. “There might be grievances in society and on the work floor but this social injustice needs to be organised and channelled,” says Kurt Vandaele, a senior researcher at the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI). “Fissured workplaces might make it harder to set up industrial action because in the same place you have different categories of workers, different companies. This is increasing the coordination costs for unions.”


Published on: July 27, 2022

Topics: Employee Relations, The UK and European Union

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