Health & safety

"We don't get sick leave. It's just statutory"

The night shift operators seem to have smashed the crane and grab into a wall. No one will admit fault, but it’s a mess. The grabs are connected to the crane with heavy shackles and thick steel cables. When we first inspect the ropes one of the guides has splayed open, which must have taken incredible force. The crane engineer replaces it immediately. I assist the hydraulics contractors on the grab while the electricians work on the crane controls. The contractors — A and S — gather spanners, rags, paper overalls and work permit, then head into the pit where the grab is parked on a concrete...

DVLA: who controls? (John Moloney's column)

Workers at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) complex in Swansea struck again from 4-8 May. The strike was very successful, and built on the previous strike. Our picture is that more workers participated this time, so it’s good to see the strike is growing. The call centre, which is a key part of the complex, had more people striking than last time. The workers want to strike again, so the union will announce further dates soon. After that we are looking at ongoing selective action, with rolling strikes across different parts of the complex, aimed at maximising impact. The dispute...

Activist agenda: Uyghurs, health and safety, neurodivergent people and councils

The Uyghur Solidarity Campaign and the Hong Kong campaign LMSHKUK will protest on 4 June from 7 pm outside the Chinese Embassy in London: “Remember Tiananmen 1989 -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 use this period where there is a lull in the pandemic to conduct workplace inspections and a survey of the workforce. Health and safety reps have a legal right to paid time off for these duties. We don’t know if there will be future waves coming...

NEU: make defence of reps central!

Chaired by victimised National Education Union (NEU) rep Tracy McGuire, the Defend Victimised NEU Reps Zoom meeting on Thursday 29 April heard from victimised NEU reps and how the fightback is shaping up. First to address the meeting was Louise Lewis, NEU rep at North Huddersfield Trust School, suspended last year after seeking to secure safer working during the pandemic. NEU members at the school voted for strike action to defend Louise and are striking for two days, with more to follow. Kirstie Paton, a teacher at the John Roan School in Greenwich, London, for 20 years, NEU rep, and an NEU...

Covid: workers' controls still needed (John Moloney's column)

Workers at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) complex in Swansea will strike again from 4-8 May to demand improvements to safety. The branch is committed to taking further action if our demands are not met. Although the Covid numbers are trending the right way, we don’t know when a third wave could hit, how severe it could be, or what might happen with new variants. We need agreements in place now to ensure there aren’t more workers on site than necessary. At its heart this is a fight for a form of workers’ control. We want to ensure a direct say for workers’ representatives in...

Universities ballot for strikes on course cuts

Multiple branches of the further and higher education union UCU are heading for industrial action after successful ballots. Prison educators working for private firm Novus across forty-nine prisons and young offenders’ institutions were due to take their first day of strike action on 26 April, with two more to follow on 11 and 12 May. That dispute is over health and safety. Staff at London’s United Colleges Group have voted to strike over increased workloads. UCU branches at Leicester and Liverpool have held successful ballots over redundancies, which at Leicester appear to be targeting union...

DVLA strikes again 4-8 May (John Moloney's column)

Workers at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) complex in Swansea will strike again from 4-8 May. We’re continuing to fight there over the fact our members are being compelled to come into the workplace, in a way we believe is unsafe. The employer has made some concessions in negotiations, but these relate mainly to changes in the medium-term future, around greater provision for homeworking. We need action right now — centrally for all on-site working, except for emergency and absolutely essential work, to be suspended. We’re also demanding agreements that will give the union direct...

Activist agenda: Demand sick pay for all

The Safe and Equal campaign is running another “selfie campaign” in the first week of May, asking for people to take a photo of themselves and their workmates calling for full sick pay for all. Since spring 2020, Safe and Equal has been active in efforts to win or keep isolation pay in hospitals, in care homes, among Tube cleaners, and in virus Test Centres, with some wins but much ground still to be covered. With lockdown-easing, the Uyghur Solidarity Campaign is back to its regular 5th-of-the-month protests at the Chinese Embassy on Portland Place, London. Next: 5 May. • Links and info for...

Diary of a Tube worker: "If we hadn't kicked off..."

“Even when Boris announced the lockdown they wanted us to continue the training. I will never forgive them for that. Sorry if it sounds like I don’t care, or I am not putting any extra back in, but that is how I feel now. If we hadn’t kicked off, they would have tried to force us into unsafe work. Now, whatever they do, I will remember that”. K, an instructor driver, is not particularly happy to be back instructing. “And even now, I ask to be released so I can do what I think helps the trainees, but instead they are just giving me normal duties, and I am sick of wearing a mask in a train cab...

Uniting in-house and outsourced

In the last week, I’ve had discussions with the United Voices of the World union (UVW), who organise outsourced workers in some parts of the civil service, including the Royal Parks. We’ve worked closely with them in the past; improving the way PCS approaches the organising of outsourced workers has been a central focus of my time in office so far, and strengthening our relationship with UVW has been part of that. Royal Parks is re-tendering its outsourced facilities management contract, and there’s a threat to cleaners’ jobs, which could see cuts of around 50%. UVW members have previously...

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