The Scottish Trades Union Congress has called on workers across the country to come together and organise to ensure employees, agency workers and freelance staff follow the correct procedure for ‘furloughing’ them during the period ahead, and to maximise their pay during the months ahead.
It is advising workers to ask for more than the 80% of pay that is offered by government, praising companies like Timpsons, and the hotel Surgeons Quarter in Edinburgh that have agreed to pay the full 100% during the coming period.
It has pointed to the range of industries where attempts to lay off staff have been halted by workers taking union action to ensure furloughing processes are followed, and advised workers that if they are told to sign a new contract they should not sign, delay, get together in a Whatsapp group, and ask to discuss the details with their employer. Better Than Zero, a campaign supported by the STUC, has supported BECTU members at Cineworld and members of Unite who work for the G1 group to issue letters to their employer demanding reinstatement after they were laid off. It has also supported mechanics at British Airways who were initially told they were to be laid off. In all these cases, companies have reversed their position down to pressure from workers acting in unions.
The campaign is currently dealing with dozens of cases of workers who have been laid off across different kinds of industries before being furloughed, from pubs and air travel to National Trust venues and private schools.
Roz Foyer, STUC General Secretary, said:
“While companies are looking out for themselves, workers are looking out for each other. This is too often true at normal times, and it is put into harsh relief in the current pandemic. Companies, often with huge profits and turnovers, are offering the minimum pay they can get away with. Standing alone at this time can cost you dear, while workers who are acting together and organised in unions who are managing to avoid a 20% pay cut.
“What the government is offering is an 80% subsidy for companies, not a 20% pay cut for workers. Most companies will be able to cover this fraction of wages, and those who do not have such security in place should be talking to banks to get funds in place. The burden of the crisis must not be passed down onto the shoulders of workers.
“We have heard all too many companies who make profits from workers in the good times, now insisting that they cannot cover a penny of pay when times get tough. Those who are organised in unions are standing together to get what they deserve at this difficult time.
“And across the economy, groups of workers who have never been involved in unions are also coming together and joining Unite, GMB, Unison and other unions to get what is due them. The message is clear: at times like this, bosses must not be dictating but negotiating. To get to that stage, you need to be combining together in a union and putting forward your collective demands.”