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Amazon Black Friday strike: Workers in Coventry to walk out as part of international action against retailer | Business News

Amazon workers in the UK are to go on strike today to coincide with Black Friday – one of the company’s busiest shopping days of the year.

More than 1,000 staff at the firm’s warehouse in Coventry are expected to take part in the walkout, the GMB union said, amid a long-running dispute over pay and conditions.

The online retail giant has insisted customers will not be affected by the industrial action.

A protest will also be held outside Amazon UK’s head office in London, while coordinated strikes and demonstrations will be held in other European countries and the US as well.

Unions say it will be the biggest day of industrial action in Amazon’s history.

The company recently announced it would be increasing the minimum starting pay to up to £13 an hour for staff, depending on location, from next April.

But the GMB has called for a rate of at least £15 an hour, and better conditions, as staff struggle with the cost of living crisis.

GMB official Amanda Gearing, said: “Today will go down as a turning point in Amazon’s history. Working people who make Amazon’s business model possible stand up to demand their share of the company’s enormous wealth.

“Despite that, Amazon bosses are desperate to claim it will be business as usual for Amazon and their customers this Black Friday.”

Ms Gearing added: “The truth is that today will see the largest day of industrial disruption in Amazon’s history.

“With industrial action escalating and workers joining strike action in Europe and the USA, it’s clear this strike is inspiring Amazon workers worldwide to fight to force the company to change its ways.”

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Sky’s report from January on Amazon workers staging their first UK strike

An Amazon spokesperson said: “There will be no disruption to customers.

“We regularly review our pay to ensure we offer competitive wages and benefits.

“By April 2024, our minimum starting pay will have increased to £12.30 and £13 per hour depending on location, that’s a 20% increase over two years and 50% since 2018.”

They added: “We also work hard to provide great benefits, a positive work environment and excellent career opportunities.

“These are just some of the reasons people want to come and work at Amazon, whether it’s their first job, a seasonal role or an opportunity for them to advance their career.”

It marks the 28th day of strike action to hit Amazon in the UK since the start of the year.

EU equality laws to be reinstated to avoid ‘gap in protections’ for workers | Politics News

The government has announced plans to reinstate EU equality laws before they expire at the end of the year – admitting the move is required to avoid a “clear gap in protections” for workers.

Ministers will today lay a statutory instrument intended to “enshrine” key rights and principles derived from the European Union into British law.

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It follows questions over whether some employment protections related to things like equal pay and maternity leave would be scrapped from January when The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill comes into effect.

The controversial legislation – also known as the “Brexit Freedoms Bill” – will dispense with hundreds of Brussels-derived laws still on British statue books. It will also end the supremacy of EU law over UK law, erasing previous case law principles.

Trade unions and employment lawyers had warned this would create uncertainty over key protections for British workers which derive from the EU and don’t exist in British law.

The government said its update today means “that necessary protections are clearly stated in our domestic legislation”.

One legal expert welcomed the announcement – but said it raised “legitimate questions” around what gains had been made from post-Brexit sovereignty if EU laws are simply going to be replicated.

The protections being retained include the “single-source” test, which gives women the right to equal pay with men for doing work of equal value, and preventing women from experiencing less favourable treatment at work because they are breastfeeding.

Other laws being retained include:

• Protecting women from unfavourable treatment after they return from maternity leave, where that treatment is in connection with a pregnancy or a pregnancy-related illness occurring before their return;

• Ensuring that women can continue to receive special treatment from their employer in connection with maternity, for example through enhanced occupational maternity schemes;

• Confirming that the definition of disability in the context of employment will explicitly cover working life;

• Holding employers accountable if they create or allow discriminatory recruitment conditions, such as if they make public discriminatory statements about access to employment in their organisation;

• Providing explicit protections from indirect discrimination by association, so that those who may be caught up and disadvantaged by discrimination against others are also protected.

The move could risk angering Eurosceptic Tories, who want to see the UK move away from the EU’s influence.

Max Winthrop, the chair of the Law Society’s Employment Law Committee, welcomed the clarification that vital rights “would not be for the legislative dustbin as of December 31st”.

However, he said the move does raise “legitimate questions” about the point of Brexit, from a sovereignty standpoint.

“When we are effectively replicating legislation from the EU, and I can understand why the government have done that because it would not be particularly popular to say ‘let’s scrap maternity rights’, it does leave the big question as to what exactly is it that we’ve gained from leaving the EU,” he told Sky News.

“We haven’t gained what was sometimes referred to as the Singapore-on-the-Thames approach. In other words, to deregulate the marketplace. So you then have to ask yourself the question, is the loss of seamless trade throughout the European Economic Area really worth the cattle?”.

He added that the announcement shows why the original plan to scrap all remaining EU laws by the end of this year “would have probably been disastrous”.

“It shows the complexity of junking 40 years worth of (EU) legislation, and the sorts of steps we’ve had to go through to maintain the protections that a lot of people probably thought they already had.”

The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill was originally intended to scrap all EU-era laws which were kept in place after the Brexit transition period in order to minimise disruption to businesses.

But the promised bonfire of Brussels rules and regulations was dramatically scaled-back in May, with less than 600 now set to be junked by the end of this year.

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Kemi Badenoch was told off in the House of Commons by the Speaker of the House

Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch said the change was necessary because of the “risks of legal uncertainty” caused by automatically scrapping some 4,000 laws, but there was significant backlash from within the Conservative Party, with arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg accusing the prime minister of “behaving like a Borgia”.

Notes accidently left on the press release announcing today’s measures suggest some concern that retaining the protections could rile up the right wing of the party.

The notes discussed how to answer questions about why the government isn’t scrapping the protections, and whether maintaining discrimination laws would threaten free speech and “make businesses feel they must follow the woke agenda”.

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The document stresses that if the EU laws aren’t retained, “employers would in some circumstances be able to make statements, for example, that they wouldn’t hire people because they are black. That is not right and not in line with Britain’s proud history of equality and fair play”.

“We are only restating laws where there would otherwise be a clear gap in protections: this is an area where we think the law needs to be strong and clear,” the document says.

A government spokesperson said: “We are committed to ensuring that the fundamental rights and freedoms of people in the United Kingdom remain protected.

“Our work is ensuring that necessary protections are retained and will end the inherent uncertainty of relying on judicial interpretations of EU law.

“Today’s update will ensure that Great Britain maintains its proud history of equality and that necessary protections are clearly stated in our domestic legislation.”

King’s Speech live: Watch our special programme on Sky News, hosted by Sophy Ridge, from 10.30am on Tuesday. You will also be able to follow the event live via the Politics Hub on the Sky News app and website.

Safestyle: Around 680 workers made redundant after window and door seller falls into administration | Business News

Around 680 staff have been made redundant at window and door seller Safestyle.

The business had gone into administration and the GMB union had expected up to 600 job losses.

But on Monday, administrators Interpath Advisory were appointed and said the number was around 680 workers.

Staff were unexpectedly texted to “down tools” on Friday evening at the Bradford, Yorkshire headquartered company.

Before the weekend, on Friday, the Safestyle board filed a notice of intention to appoint administrators and said the company could not continue trading as a going concern.

Trading in company shares on Friday morning was temporarily suspended, “pending clarification of the company’s financial position”, a regulatory notice said.

Additional funds had been sought but on Thursday the company said it did not expect to be in receipt of capital or new financing.

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Amazon workers in Coventry set to strike for four days over Black Friday | UK News

Amazon workers in the UK are set to stage fresh strikes coinciding with Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

More than 1,000 workers at the company’s Coventry site are set to walk out over pay from 7 November until 9 November as well as on Black Friday – 24 November.

The day symbolises the first shopping day in the build-up to the Christmas or holiday season, where many shops offer highly discounted prices and extend opening hours.

The strike announcement comes a day after Amazon offered a pay rise for staff of at least £1 an hour, which will kick in from 15 October.

The move means the minimum starting pay for frontline employees will rise to between £11.80 and £12.50 an hour, depending on location.

People take part in a rally in support of Amazon workers' on strike
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Amazon’s Coventry warehouse

Pay is expected to increase further next April to between £12.30 and £13 an hour, depending on location.

Despite this, the GMB union said the four-day strike will be the biggest in Amazon’s history, with the potential of causing “widespread disruption to customers and the public”.

They are calling for at least £15 an hour to help with the cost of living crisis.

Rachel Fagan, GMB organiser, said: “This is an unprecedented and historic moment with low paid workers taking on one of the world’s most powerful corporations.

“This is our members’ response to the failure of Amazon bosses to listen.”

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She said Coventry is the “beating heart” of Amazon’s distribution network and the strike will “ripple throughout the company’s UK logistics”.

Amazon employees’ concerns over pay have been a long-running dispute, with staff in Coventry first walking out in January – the first time the corporation faced industrial action in the UK.

One employee at the time, Darren Westwood, said he had grown fed up with pay and working conditions – where workers are on their feet all day sorting through goods to send to other warehouses.

The company previously said the Coventry warehouse does not directly serve customer orders, so industrial action will cause no disruption to customers.

Ashley Dale death: Man charged with council worker’s murder after extradition from Spain | UK News

A man has been charged with murder following the fatal shooting of council worker Ashley Dale in Liverpool.

Ms Dale, 28, was found with a gunshot wound in her garden in the Old Swan area on 21 August last year.

Ian Fitzgibbon, also 28, has been charged with murder after being arrested by the Spanish National Police and then extradited to the UK, Merseyside Police said.

Fitzgibbon, from St Helens, was also charged with conspiracy to murder Lee Harrison, possession of a prohibited weapon [sub-machine gun pistol and ammunition] with intent to endanger life, and conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon [sub-machine gun and ammunition].

He will appear at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court on Friday.

It brings the number of people charged with the murder of Ms Dale to five.

Sean Zeisz, 27, Niall Barry, 26, James Witham, 41, and Joseph Peers, 28, were charged with Ms Dale’s murder and are due to stand trial on 2 October.

Ashley Dale

At her funeral in September last year, Ms Dale was described by her family as a “rising star” who “had her whole life ahead of her”.

Ms Dale, an environmental health officer for Knowsley Council, is not believed to have been the intended target of the shooting.

Train strikes: Commuters warned to expect disruption as 20,000 rail workers stage walkout in ongoing pay row | UK News

More than 20,000 rail workers will strike on Thursday in a long-running dispute over pay, jobs and conditions – with passengers warned they may experience severe disruption to services.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) will walk out on 20, 22 and 29 July while drivers in Aslef are banned from working overtime this week.

RMT members involved in the strikes include station workers, train managers and catering staff with 14 train companies affected.

Read more: A full list of July dates and services affected by industrial action

The industrial action will see variations in services across the country with trains due to start later and finish much earlier than usual.

Around half of train services will run in some areas, while others will have no services at all.

Services the evening before and morning after strike days may also be affected.

Passengers have been advised to check their journeys in advance.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said the strikes would show the country “just how important railway staff are to the running of the rail industry”.

“My team of negotiators and I are available 24/7 for talks with the train operating companies and Government,” he said.

Mr Lynch said neither party had “made any attempt whatsoever to arrange any meetings or put forward a decent offer that can help us reach a negotiated solution”.

“The Government continues to shackle the companies and will not allow them to put forward a package that can settle this dispute,” he added.

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Starmer: Strikes ‘are government’s mess’

Meanwhile, Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said the union wants to resolve the dispute.

“Train drivers don’t want to be inconveniencing the public,” he said.

“We have given the Government and rail operators plenty of opportunities to come to the table but it remains clear that they do not want a resolution.

“Our members, the drivers who keep the railway running day in, day out, will not accept the Government’s attempts to force our industry into decline.

Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, joins union members on the picket line outside Newcastle station. Rail passengers will suffer fresh travel disruption in the next few days because of more strikes in long-running disputes over pay, jobs and conditions. Picture date: Wednesday May 31, 2023.
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Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, joins union members on the picket line outside Newcastle station in May

A Rail Delivery Group spokesperson said: “The upcoming rail strikes called by the RMT union and the overtime ban by Aslef will undoubtedly cause some disruption, affecting not only the daily commute of our passengers but also disrupting the plans of families during the summer holidays.

Members of the drivers' union Aslef on the picket line at Euston station, London, during their long-running dispute over pay. Picture date: Friday May 12, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story INDUSTRY Strikes. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire
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Members of the drivers’ union Aslef on the picket line at Euston station, London in May

“This will lead to disappointment, frustration, and financial strain for tens of thousands of people. We apologise for the inconvenience caused and understand the impact on individuals and businesses.

“While we are doing all we can to keep trains running, unfortunately there will be reduced services between 17 July and 29 July so our advice is to check before you travel.

“Passengers with advance tickets can be refunded fee-free if the train that the ticket is booked for is cancelled, delayed or rescheduled.”

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RMT’s Mick Lynch insists rail strikes ‘have been a success’

London Underground passengers were also warned to expect disruption next week because of industrial action by the RMT and Aslef in a separate dispute.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The Government has met the rail unions, listened to them and facilitated improved offers on pay and reform. The union leaders should put these fair and reasonable offers to their members so this dispute can be resolved.”

Lighthouse workers in Scotland take ‘historic and first in a generation’ strike action over pay | UK News

Lighthouse workers who help ensure vessels pass safely through Scottish waters are downing tools for the first time in a dispute over pay.

Around 40 Unite members employed by Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB) will walk out at 12pm on Monday for 24 hours.

The workers – including able seamen, base assistants, cooks and technicians – maintain and operate Scotland’s lighthouses, beacons and buoys at sea.

Unite branded the strike action “historic and the first in a generation”.

The union is blaming the UK government, which finances the NLB, claiming it is not providing the extra funding required to improve the 2% pay rise offer.

Sharon Graham, general secretary, said: “Unite’s NLB members have been left with no option but to take a stand. What’s on offer is a brutal real-terms pay cut.

“With energy costs, inflation and interest rates climbing to heights not seen for decades, a 2% offer just doesn’t cut it.

“We will continue to push the boat out in defence of our members, and they will have our full support in their fight for better jobs, pay and conditions.”

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The NLB maintains 208 lighthouses across Scotland and the Isle of Man.

The union said two NLB vessels – NLV Pharos and NLV Pole Star – will be docked at Oban with picket lines in place at the Gallanach Road base until noon on Tuesday.

In April, workers backed industrial action by 90.6% on a turnout of 86.5%.

Alison MacLean, the union’s industrial officer, urged the Scottish government to apply pressure on UK ministers.

She said: “The strike action by our NLB members is historic and the first in a generation. The reality is that talks with the NLB have run aground.

“This is largely down to the UK government, who finance the NLB, not providing the extra finances required to make a better offer to our members.

“We are demanding that the Scottish government intervene and apply pressure on the UK government to resolve this dispute or it is in danger of remaining in troubled waters.”

A UK government spokesperson said: “Public sector pay strikes a careful balance between recognising the vital importance of public sector workers, while delivering value for taxpayers and avoiding higher prices in the future.”

Metal recycling company bosses jailed after 45-tonne wall collapse killed five workers | UK News

Two metal recycling company directors have been jailed to nine months in prison after five workers died when a 45-tonne wall collapsed and crushed them, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has said.

Birmingham-based firms Ensco 10101 (previously trading as Shredmet Ltd) and Hawkeswood Metal Recycling (HMR), as well as directors Wayne Hawkeswood and Graham Woodhouse, were prosecuted for a host of safety failings linked to the deaths, the HSE said.

Hawkesood, the managing director of both companies, and Woodhouse, who was responsible for day-to-day operations, were each sentenced to nine months in jail at Birmingham Crown Court on Monday, while HMR was fined £1m and Ensco £600,000.

The families of the dead men, four of whom were originally from Gambia and one from Senegal, described the company’s failures as “scandalous and inexcusable”.

The wall which collapsed – killing the men instantly – was made up of 30 concrete blocks, each the size of a domestic fridge-freezer and weighing the same as a large family car.

It was pushed over by a metal structure that was overloaded with 263 tonnes of metal briquettes – the equivalent to around six fully laden articulated lorries – in a neighbouring bay.

(L-R) Victims Mahamadou Jagana, Bangally Dukuray, Almamo Jammeh, Ousman Diaby and Saibo Sillah. Pic: Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
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(L-R) Victims Mahamadou Jagana, Bangally Dukuray, Almamo Jammeh, Ousman Diaby and Saibo Sillah. Pic: Health and Safety Executive

A judge was previously told that the structure was so close to toppling, a “breath of wind” could have brought it down.

Labourers Almamo Jammeh, 45, Ousman Diaby, 39, Bangally Dukuray, 55, Saibo Sillah, 42, and Mahamadou Jagana, 49, were pronounced dead at the scene on 7 July, 2016.

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Hawkeswood and Woodhouse had denied risking workers’ safety, but investigators later discovered other unstable walls on site, and said that poor safety records were kept, and staff training was basic.

All five victims had been working in Spain but came to the UK for better work prospects, where they were hired to work at Shredmet through an agency.

scene at Hawkeswood Metal Recycling in Birmingham
Image:
Hawkeswood Metal Recycling, Birmingham. Pic: Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

“I hope the families and friends of the men who died find some comfort in today’s sentencing,” Amy Kalay, HSE principal inspector, said after the trial.

“Their deaths should not have happened. They went to work to earn a wage; that cost them their lives.”

At the time of the incident, they had been working to clear waste ahead of an incoming load of scrapped aero engines.

The judge also made an order for £775,000 in prosecution costs.

Soldiers and emergency workers among more than 400,000 people to be awarded Coronation medal | UK News

Soldiers and emergency workers are among more than 400,000 people who will be given a medal for their efforts to support the King’s coronation.

Everyone actively contributing to and supporting the event on Saturday will be awarded it, including police officers, choristers, military personnel and ambulance workers.

The medals are a gift from the nation to commemorate the coronation for the people who will make the service on Saturday happen, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said.

The medals, made of nickel silver, feature a portrait of the King and the Queen Consort on one side and the royal cypher, a laurel wreath and the date of the coronation on the other.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said the medal will “act as a reminder of the important part each person has played in this moment of history”.

It will also be given to current members of the police, fire, emergency services, prison services and armed forces who have completed five full years of service.

The first coronation medal was awarded in 1603, under the reign of King James I.

It comes as preparations continue ahead of Saturday’s ceremony, with Union Jack bunting and crown decorations appearing across the capital.

Coronation medal. Pic: DCMS/PA
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Pic: DCMS/PA

Irish president to attend coronation

Some 100 heads of state, representatives from 200 countries and hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected to descend on London for the UK’s first coronation since Elizabeth II was crowned 70 years ago.

Some royal fans are already camped out near Buckingham Palace to secure the best viewing spot.

On Friday, the King, along with other members of the Royal Family, will host a reception for overseas guests ahead of the coronation.

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‘Mind the gap’: King’s coronation announcement

The President of Ireland Michael D Higgins will also meet the King on Friday night ahead of becoming the first Irish head of state to attend a coronation.

It will be the ninth occasion the two heads of state have met and continues a long-standing friendship between the two.

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Guide to the coronation: Timings, procession route and how to watch

The Irish premier, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, is expected to attend the coronation and political leaders from Northern Ireland have also been invited.

Among those who will be there is Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill in another demonstration of the markedly improved relations between the republican movement and the Royal Family since the peace process.

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‘Fingers crossed’ for coronation

’50/50′ chance flypast could be cancelled

The head of the RAF, Air Chief Marshall Sir Mike Wigston, has warned there’s a 50/50 chance tomorrow’s flypast to mark the King’s coronation will have to be cancelled.

More than 60 aircraft are due to be involved, but adverse weather conditions could mean that the flypast may need to be called off at the last minute.

Sir Mike said: “The weather isn’t looking brilliant, but there’s nothing we can do about it.

“It’s 50/50 at the moment, but we have lots of options, the decision will be made, at this stage we’re hoping for the best.

“We’ll make a weather call one or two hours before the actual moment, but if there’s rain and low cloud then it will be almost impossible to get it through.”

Royal Mail and Communication Workers Union reach agreement on pay and employment terms | UK News

Royal Mail and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) have reached an agreement in principle following a long-running dispute over pay and employment terms.

In a joint statement with Royal Mail, CWU confirmed the agreement will now be considered by the executive of the union before it goes before the membership.

The details of the proposed agreement will be made public once it has been ratified by the union’s executive committee – expected to take place next week.

In a further statement, the CWU said: “We have reached a negotiators agreement with Royal Mail Group.

“The CWU Postal Executive will now meet and consider the agreement on Monday and Tuesday and we are putting in place plans to brief representatives across the union’s structures.

“On the basis that the negotiators agreement is endorsed by the Postal Executive, we will put in place a full communications plan to engage members. Thank you for your support and patience. It has got us to this point.”

11 months of negotiations

The two sides have been locked in bitter negotiations for 11 months over pay, jobs, and conditions for the 112,000-strong workforce.

There were 18 strike dates called last year and 2023 has seen the union and Royal Mail attempt to make progress at conciliation service Acas, with former TUC general secretary Sir Brendan Barber also joining the effort to deliver peace this month.

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The CWU secured a fresh mandate for industrial action in mid-February and would have to give seven days’ notice of any fresh walkouts.

The union had described the company’s self-dubbed modernisation plans as an “Uberisation”, declaring that it would turn Royal Mail into a gig economy-style employer.

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February: Royal Mail admits prioritising parcels

How much strikes have cost Royal Mail

Royal Mail’s parent firm has raised its estimate for the cost of industrial action so far to £200m and claimed that up to 12,500 union members have worked on strike days.

International Distributions Services (IDS) said 18 days of walkouts helped push the division to a £295m operating loss in the first nine months of its financial year to the end of December.

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It reported that revenue at Royal Mail was down almost 13% on the same period in 2021, with a decline in letter volumes and COVID testing kits also contributing.