Terminal 5 strikes
TGWU, GMB and UCATT members building Heathrow’s Terminal 5 struck on Friday 20 and Monday 23 January in their battle over bonuses with contractor Laing O’Rourke — despite claims in the bosses’ press that the action was being called off following a settlement. The strikers organised picket lines at half a dozen strategic locations in the environs of the airport.
This was the second set of strikes which the workers have voted for in pursuit of an additional £1 an hour in bonus payments to bring them into line with others on site. The company offered an additional 22p in December and its latest offer is 67p — showing the power of concerted strike action to force employers to “find” the money necessary for workers’ demands.
There will now be a new ballot on the offer, but the lesson is clear: action wins!
job cuts strike
by a civil servant
Workers in Jobcentres and other offices of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) will strike on 26 and 27 January over job cuts.
Under the overall civil service job cuts announced last year, the government wants to cut 30,000 jobs from the DWP. According to the workers’ union, PCS, the government has already cut 15,000, and is ahead of its own targets for job-cutting.
The union’s demand is for a halt to the job cuts and for negotiations between the union and management to agree future staffing levels.
This raises the question of what the union has been doing while the government cut jobs even faster than it had planned. The London region DWP committee of the PCS started pressing for strike action to stop the job cuts in early 2005 — got a strike ballot and won it — but had the action blocked by the national DWP sector leadership in the union, dominated by the Socialist Party.
Now the national officials have “folded” the London dispute into national action, but it is not clear that they have a fighting strategy for that national action. They have set no plans for further action after 26-27 January. Activists will be demanding a definite plan - so that it’s the union moving onto a higher tempo, not the job-cutters.
eileen short sacked
A union activist who worked for Tower Hamlets Council for 14 years has been sacked. According to the Council this was a job loss, a result of restructuring. But it was in fact and excuse for the council to get rid of a thorn in their side. Eileen Short was an active campaigner against the selling-off of council homes in the borough as well as being a UNISON steward.
The local UNISON branch has voted to ballot for strike action to try and win Eileen back her job. They will also be taken legal action, claiming unfair dismissal.
ballot halts action
RMT union reps on the London Underground met on Thursday 19 January to discuss the dispute over job cuts which the bosses are pushing through under cover of re-rostering under the newly-agreed shorter working week agreement for station staff. Station staff had already had two days of strike action, on New Year’s Eve and 8 January.
But the wheels of discussion were left somewhat spinning in the air by the fact that the union’s Executive had already called a ballot of the membership on an offer from the bosses — seven (yes, just seven) jobs to be restored, and the union to be involved in “safety-validating” the new rosters after they have been implemented.
Union general secretary Bob Crow, and other platform speakers, did not try to claim that the concessions were any more than marginal. But now, they said, the union is under heavy attack from London Mayor Ken Livingstone. The new rosters start from early February. Once they’re in, claimed Crow, only an all-out indefinite strike can reverse them.
If the members want an all-out indefinite strike, fine. But it is necessary to ballot them first.
Given the media barrage against the strikes, the fact that the strikes (though very strong in many areas) did have weak patches (largely due to inadequate preparation by the union over the months of negotiations on the rosters), and the natural reluctance of workers to go into a big fight if they think the union leaders do not have their heart in it, it must be almost certain that the majority will accept an offer which, though weak, shows at least some small gains from union action.
Most reps who spoke at the meeting were critical of the platform, and some openly challenged the gun-to-head alternative, all-out indefinite strike or accept a miserable offer.
Some also asked why the union had not done more to coordinate the station staff’s action with action by train crews on their own issues. Even with a relatively solid strike by station staff, bosses can often keep trains running by having managers staff stations or sending trains through unstaffed stations (in defiance of safety regulations).
Tube drivers are now voting on industrial action over what the unions call a “breakdown in industrial relations” — and what most peple call “management taking the piss”.
The central issues are:
• “Signals Passed At Danger” - the company is not implementing its own procedures properly or fairly, with the result that several drivers have faced over-the-top penalties.
• The proposed new attendance and discipline policy. Well, for a start, why are attendance and discipline being put together in the same policy? Being off sick is not misconduct. And the new policy is more draconian than the existing one, which is quite bad enough.
• London Underground’s proposed new machinery of negotiation, which seeks to marginalise trade union representation through the creation of staff councils.
In a recent USDAW survey more than 90% of shop workers rejected any extension to Sunday trading hours. There are 2.7 million retail workers in Britain. The same survey found that 56% wanted to work fewer hours on a Sunday because that was the only day that they could be at home with their families.
A staggering 62% of those surveyed had come under pressure to work on Sundays, and only 11% have had the confidence to use their legal right to opt out of Sunday working.
And at big stores, such as Tesco, Sunday working premiums have been eroded since the introduction of the Sunday trading legislation.
by Patrick Murphy Leeds NUT
Two Leeds schools took part in one-day strikes on 12 January in protest at salary cuts and imposed changes to conditions of service as a result of the move to the “Teaching and Learning Responsibility” arrangements.
Crawshaw School in Pudsey and Boston Spa School were both closed to all bar some public exam pupils, and a mass meeting was held at a hotel near Boston Spa on the morning of the strike. The mood of the meeting was united and determined. The school with the largest National Union of Teachers membership and the biggest problems is Boston Spa, and most of those present were from that school.
There have been ballots in over 200 schools nationally and the NUT left has tried to co-ordinate messages of support and spread news of strikes, successes and good practice. It was really impressive how many messages of support came in and from such a wide variety of sources. We produced a presentational folder and circulated it in the strike meeting and members were clearly boosted by the size and diversity of the support from across the union. Others, mainly reps from our own Leeds schools, faxed the reps at the two schools and this also boosted morale and signalled to the Heads that our members were not isolated. It might seem like labouring the obvious, but this elementary bit of solidarity really makes a difference to members at school level.
Our first experience of TLR action certainly confirmed me in the view that it is crucial to hold a proper meeting/rally wherever possible. We were able to go through all of the arguments used by the Headteachers. Members had lots of questions, and lots of positive suggestions about stepping up the campaign, getting to parents and governors etc. Without doubt they came out of the meeting more unified and determined than before.
Further action at Crawshaw is not certain as our concerns may have been mostly met by the increase in the maxima of TLR2 from September to £5689, but at Boston Spa it seems inevitable that we will need additional strikes. We have also held indicative ballots in three other schools, and unless there are guarantees that NUT members wil not have pay cuts there is likely to be action in these schools too.