Industrial news in brief

Submitted by AWL on 2 October, 2019 - 8:52 Author: Ollie Moore, Duncan Morrison and Darren Bedford

London Underground station workers at the east end of the District Line began industrial action from Friday 27 September, in a dispute over workplace safety.

Workers will refuse to detrain or attend incidents alone, and will work from a place of safety, after their union, RMT, launched a campaign to demand safe staffing levels following a spike in antisocial behaviour and staff assaults. Workplace safety is becoming an increasingly acute issue on the Tube, after a serious assault on staff at West Ham station.

Drivers in the RMT on four lines — Victoria, Central, Northern, and Jubilee — will also take industrial action from 10 October. Their dispute focuses on excessive track noise; a technology London Underground has installed to reduce the surface-level noise from trains has had the effect of forcing the noise into the driver’s cab, and the train’s passenger cars.

RMT is demanding a permanent engineering solution, and its members on those lines will be imposing temporary speed restriction to lessen the effects of the noise in the affected areas.

Meanwhile, two RMT branches, Bakerloo and Piccadilly and District West, have demanded an immediate ballot in the ongoing dispute over pay and conditions on London Underground.

Negotiations have stalled, and with Tube bosses offering only a 30-minute reduction to the working week (the unions’ demand is for a 32-hour, four-day week), many activists are arguing that a ballot for industrial action is long overdue.

Merseyrail reps to meet

Strikes planned by RMT guards on Merseyrail on 30 September, 3 October, and 4 October have been suspended, as RMT continues negotiations with Merseyrail bosses in the long-running dispute over Driver Only Operation.

The union is demanding a method of despatch and door operation which retains the involvement of a safety-critical guard. Merseyrail reps are due to meet at the union’s national headquarters on 7 October to discuss the progress of negotiations, and whether to reinstate strikes.

Mersyerail is the only dispute in which guards’ picket lines have been consistently respected by train drivers, who are overwhelmingly members of the Aslef union.

Once a potential settlement is agreed, talks about its implementation should involve both unions, to prevent bosses attempting to divide grades by convening separate talks with each union.

Tracy McGuire for NEU Exec!

Nominations are now open for the Support Staff seat on the National Executive of the NEU [National Education Union].

The rank-and-file network, Education Solidarity Network’s candidate is Workers’ Liberty supporter Tracy McGuire. Tracy is the only candidate with clear demands; the other two have only empty words.

Tracy’s demands are that the union should fully represent and negotiate for support staff members, thus breaking the terrible agreement the leadership signed up to through the TUC.

She is calling for a ÂŁ3 per hour, across the board pay increase for all support staff and a national pay system and national pay bargaining.

She also wants the union to clearly oppose Brexit. Many support staff are EU nationals and will be directly affected should Britain leave the EU.

Districts have until 31 October to make a nomination. The ballot opens on 11 November and closes on 2 December.

Postal workers build for ballot

Large workplace meetings at Royal Mail depots have helped postal workers’ union CWU build its campaign for an ongoing industrial action ballot of around 120,000 postal workers.

The union has tweeted a series of videos showing large groups of members queueing up to post their ballot papers on their way into work. The ballot closes on 15 October.

If thresholds are met and a majority returned, Royal Mail workers could strike over a range of issues including working hours and workload. A 2017 deal between Royal Mail bosses and the union guaranteed to reduce the working week, but workers say progress has stalled.

Now Royal Mail bosses want to make further changes to the way deliveries are organised, moving the delivery of larger parcels and packages out of Royal Mail’s normal workload and transferring them to Parcelforce, currently a part of Royal Mail but which bosses want to constitute as a separate company. This move would threaten thousands of jobs.

The 2017 deal also included a commitment that both sides would enter mediation prior to any future industrial action, which could delay the start of any action.

BEIS keep up the pressure

Outsourced workers at the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) are continuing an indefinite strike to win living wages, amongst other demands.

Statements by Andrea Leadsom, the secretary of state who heads the department, and other government figures, have suggested that the Department may be ready to stipulate that the contractors to whom it outsources work must pay the London living wage of ÂŁ10.55, but as yet no formal settlement has been offered.

Contractors at BEIS include ISS and Aramark. ISS’s operating income in 2018 was over £500 million, with Aramark making over £600 million.

PCS has been sustaining the action with full strike pay for the workers involved.

The strikers organised a climate-change-themed picket line on 20 September, to coincide with the global climate strike.

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