Health & safety

Surveying our workplaces

Our union reps are going to all five big sites in my NHS Trust conducting a health and safety survey of workers in as many teams as possible and looking at ventilation arrangements. Yesterday I got about 60 surveys from around 15 different teams, recruited several new members, a few members who are going to step up to be part of a network of workplace contacts, and possibly one new rep. I found out about really risky work practices in poorly ventilated areas of the hospital that have been developed largely on the hoof by frontline staff. Much of the infection risk could be avoided with...

Making some ground (John Moloney's column)

PCS annual delegate conference took place digitally on 13-14 June. Workers’ Liberty activists, as part of the Independent Left network, supported various motions to the conference. A motion on full-time officials’ pay, which talked about exploring ways to bring officers’ pay more closely in line with the average pay of members, was defeated, but by a margin which suggests some ground has been made in this debate since last discussed. Similarly, a proposal for the election of all officials was also defeated, but the motion on union structure that was passed included language about exploring...

Diary of a firefighter: First day on the watch

My first priority when starting work at a large London fire station was nothing to do with being an operational firefighter, but to get to know the station culture. It’s a pretty unusual working environment, where you eat, sleep and work in close proximity for sometimes gruelling 12-hour shifts, and shared lives, danger and trauma can create strong bonds. It can be an intimidating environment to join, and I’d heard stories from our trainers and others about some pretty tough beginnings. A firefighter, O, has volunteered to be my mentor and support me with settling into station life and...

DVLA bosses pull back from deal

Our members in the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) complex in Swansea struck again on 2-6 June, in their ongoing dispute to win improved workplace safety, and a greater say for workers in determining those measures. Immediately prior to the last strike, the local branch felt that an acceptable deal had been on the table. But at the eleventh hour, two elements of that deal — additional cash payments and additional annual leave compensation for workers who’ve been compelled to work at the physical workplace during the pandemic — were unilaterally withdrawn. We don’t know where the...

"This is about the kind of world we want to live in"

Ali Treacher is a care worker, Unite the Union activist and workplace rep, and Secretary of the Care and Support Workers Organise! network (CaSWO!) She is also a supporter of Anti-Capitalist Resistance. She spoke to us about care workers' fight. CaSWO! has been meeting throughout the last year, since the start of the pandemic, after a Unison-organised call which brought together care workers around issues like workplace health and safety and PPE. The initial focus was basically offering each other solidarity and advice and sharing information. Government guidelines were so vague that we had to...

Disputes in DVLA, DWP, Parks (John Moloney's column)

Negotiations with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) over safety arrangements at the Swansea complex continue. A strike of contact centre workers there is planned for Wednesday 2 June. There’ll be a members’ meeting on 1 June which will discuss the dispute. Wales has a high vaccination rate, and bosses want to increase the numbers of people working on the site. We’re insisting that the union has a say in those decisions, and they’re not simply unilaterally imposed by management. Our consultative ballots for potential action over workplace safety in the Department for Work and...

Diary of a Tube worker: These times are a bit awkward

I’ve come in off the front to have a break. D has just walked into the room from a meeting with a manager. “They have said they can just terminate our contract”. “Really?” F says, putting the duty book down and looking pained. “Yeah, it isn’t just you can’t be an instructor, if we continue to refuse we either go back to just being an operator or they sack us”. (Train operators who also work as instructors have been refusing some modes of work they consider covid-unsafe). “So what are you going to do?” “Well, I might take their option to stop for six months and go from there”. “Maybe if I was...

Resisting parks job cuts

Following a meeting with the United Voices of the World union (UVW), we’ll be issuing a letter to the outsourced contractor which employs cleaners in the Royal Parks. Currently workers are assigned to specific parks, but the contractor wants to move to a mobile workforce model. UVW estimates that this could lead to job cuts of up to 25%. In particular, all existing women workers can’t drive, so they’d be particularly at risk as workers would now be expected to drive between parks as part of the mobile workforce model. Our letter will make a series of demands. The key one is that they commit to...

Activist agenda: Tiananmen commemoration, health and safety survey

On the 32nd anniversary of the Tienanmen Square massacre of 4 June 1989, Uyghur Solidarity Campaign and the Hong Kong campaign LMSHKUK will protest from 7 pm, with a rally at 8 pm, outside the Chinese Embassy in Portland Place, London W1B 1JL: “Democracy, freedom, workers’ rights for China, Hong Kong, Tibet, and Uyghurs”. The Safe and Equal campaign is putting together a model Covid safety survey. It wants health and safety reps to conduct new workplace inspections and surveys of their workforces. The increased transmission rate from the B1.167.2 variant of the virus, the new upturn in...

DVLA bosses back off for now (John Moloney's column)

Bosses at the Swansea Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), where our members have struck twice against a lack of workplace safety, threatened to increase the number of workers on site even further from 17 May. Under the threat of a week-long strike starting the 17th, though, they have backed off. They have this week to reach a deal with us; if they don’t, then we have served notice for another strike for the entire week beginning Monday 24 May. Previously our strikes have only involved those workers who were being made to work from the physical workplace. This time it’ll involve...

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