Solidarity 224, 9 November 2011

Tanker drivers' ballot extended as talk continue

Unite officials and fuel industry bosses have negotiated a deal to extend the legal validity of a drivers’ strike ballot until Friday 20 April as talks continue.

Peter Harwood, “Chief Conciliator” at arbitration service ACAS, has told the press that “the intention is that no industrial action will be called in that period”. The period in which Unite would have had to announce industrial action in order to keep the ballot live was due to expire at 4pm on Monday 16 April.

New assault on workers' rights

On 23 November the Tory-Lib-Dem government announced an assault on employment rights.

• You won’t be able to claim unfair dismissal until you’ve been in a job two years (present limit: one year)

• You’ll have to pay to go to an employment tribunal

• The law may allow workers to be sacked without redress in places with fewer than ten employees, and everywhere allow employers to threaten workers, and push them halfway out of the door, in a “protected conversation”, without any comeback.

Harvard students take on neo-liberal economics

By Gabriel Bayard and Rachel Sandalow-Ash

On Wednesday 2 November there was a citywide education walkout in Boston against rising costs of education.

Student debt has just exceeded $1 trillion in the US, which is more than credit card debt.

We walked out of our course (Economics 10) because we found it was emblematic of the ideology that has created the economic collapse. Our tutor, Gregory Mankiw, was an advisor to Bush Junior and now advises Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Oakland general strike: “a sense of the possible”

By Isaac Steiner (Solidarity USA)

On 2 November, tens of thousands of people responded to a call for a “general strike” from the General Assembly of Occupy Oakland in California. Tens of thousands of protesters marched on the city’ s port, forming flying pickets which were respected by members of the International Longshore Workers’ Union (ILWU), some using a contractual loophole that allows them to refuse to cross picket lines and others using health and safety loopholes to refuse to work.

Sparks fight to maintain rank-and-file control

Over 1,000 Unite members at Balfour Beatty Engineering Services, the construction industry contractor leading the charge to rip up the collective agreement, could strike on 7 December.

The strike is part of a campaign to defend the Joint Industry Board, the union-negotiated agreement governing pay, terms and conditions for electricians in the construction industry.

Unite stewards oppose Southampton deal

Unite and Unison members at Southampton council are currently voting on an offer from management that could end the long-running dispute over pay cuts.

The deal, which contains some reductions in the scale of cuts for each grade of workers, also involves the unions calling off an ongoing legal challenge to the council’s cuts package.

Marciano Flores must stay!

John Laing, a cleaning contractor hired by London Overground, recently tricked nearly 30 of its employees — including an RMT union rep — into reporting for fake overtime, and subsequently handed them over to the UK Borders Agency.

The workers, who were told to report to a meeting in a school hall on 25 October, were arrested by UKBA cops. They were detained and told they had to produce papers to verify their immigration status. Most workers had valid papers, and were later released. However, one worker — Marciano Flora — now faces deportation.

Unison: massive vote for strikes

Members of Unison, the country’s biggest public sector trade union, have overwhelmingly voted in favour of strike action on 30 November.

78% of those voting in the union’s local government section voted for strikes, while 82% of health workers voted for the walkout. As well as being a decisive result in general, the figures explode the myth that NHS workers are automatically less militant and more reluctant to take action than their local government counterparts.

Debating Israel/Palestine

On Tuesday 1 November the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty debated Socialist Appeal at the Marxist Discussion Group at Cambridge on “Which way forward for Israel and Palestine?”

Such debates are the sign of a healthy socialist movement and contribute towards the collective sharpening of political ideas. It is a pity that similar debates are not more common on a left often characterised by sectarian sniping and hysteria.

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