Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 12 April, 2017 - 12:28 Author: Ollie Moore, Janine Booth, Peggy Carter and Gemma Short

National Union of Teachers (NUT) members at Forest Hill School in Lewisham will strike again on 20, 25 and 26 April in their campaign against vicious cuts being imposed by management to fulfil conditions of repayment of loan to Lewisham council. There is a demonstration on Saturday 22 April.

The proposed restructure at the school is in response to a £1.3m deficit. Lewisham council has given the school a “loan” however they are demanding that the school cuts £800,000 from their wage bill.

This would mean a loss of 15 teaching jobs, an escalation in teachers’ workload and a greatly diminished education for the students. Thus far, the teachers have organised three strikes, a demonstration and two lobbies of the council and a public meeting, within just two weeks! We are backed by an increasingly energetic parents’ campaign and now the students are showing an interest in becoming involved as well.

Two of the three Lewisham Constituency Labour Parties have passed motions supporting the strike and calling on the council to intervene. We will need to maintain and escalate all of these approaches to the campaign if we are to ensure that we protect the school, the students’ education and jobs. Our aim is to make Lewisham Council ensure that the deficit is dealt with not at the cost of the students or the staff. The school is a Local Authority School. The council audited the school’s books. This mismanagement that has caused this crisis was by an employee of Lewisham Council.

But above all of the council has a responsibility to the children in the borough. They cannot wash their hands of Forest Hill School!

Reinstate Lee Cornell!

Tube station workers at London Bridge and Waterloo stations are balloting for strikes to win the reinstatement of Lee Cornell, a Customer Service Assistant sacked after he intervened with a fare evader who had pushed a pregnant colleague. Lee was punched twice in the head and had his glasses taken; instead of carrying out their commitment to support staff who are assaulted, London Underground have sacked Lee for defending himself. Two other CSAs, Dave Sharp and Saeed Sioussi, have been given final written warnings for attempting to support Lee and defuse the situation.

The RMT union held a demonstration at London Bridge station on 3 April. Activists say that a ballot of all station staff across the Tube is expected to follow shortly after the local ballot concludes.

Night Tube win

Drivers on the “Night Tube”, overnight services on five Tube lines on Friday and Saturday nights, have won significant concessions in a dispute over career progression. Strikes planned for 8-9 and 29-30 April were cancelled after London Underground agreed to scrap a rule preventing the drivers, who are employed on 16-hour contracts, from applying for full-time positions for 18 months. Both RMT and Aslef had balloted for strikes, returning significant majorities for action.

RCN to ballot nurses over pay

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) announced on 5 April that it will be ″consulting″ it′s members over the latest round of pay restraint in the NHS. The RCN will conduct an indicative ballot asking members about the impact of pay restraint, and how to respond, including whether members would consider taking industrial action.

It is the fourth year in a row that the government has imposed a 1% pay rise in the NHS, despite NHS pay falling by 17% since 2010. With inflation currently at 2.3%, this pay rise is actually a pay cut.

The NHS Pay Review Body itself has voiced concern over long-term pay restraint, saying that it was damaging morale and contributing to a recruitment and retention crisis. Unison, which represents the majority of health workers, has not made any indication that it will be balloting its members.

RMT holds first disabled members conference

On 28 March, transport union RMT held its first ever Disabled Members’ Conference. Rank-and-file activists had called for the establishment of this conference for several years, but repeatedly met with rejection by the union’s National Executive. But two years ago, RMT’s Annual General Meeting voted to overturn the Executive’s position, and this conference was the result.

Although it was quite small, it will prove itself to be a launchpad for transport workers organising against the many abuses of our and other disabled people’s rights. Delegates examined the TUC Manifesto for Disability Equality, and called for the union to act on issues including invisible impairments, the use of disciplinary policies against disabled workers, and the need for the union itself to provide materials in accessible formats.

The conference repeatedly stressed that our demands benefit disabled passengers as well as workers, and that the current fight to keep guards on trains is essential for disabled people’s access to public transport. The conference passed six resolutions, on: Attendance at Work Policies; Mental Health; the Social Model of Disability; an RMT Accessibility Audit; Disabled Workers and Austerity; and Autism and Neurodiversity.

Train strikes disrupt Grand National

Workers at Southern, Merseyrail and Northern struck again on Saturday 8 April. Merseyrail drivers again refused to cross picket lines, causing heavy disruption to trains to Aintree for the Grand National.

A small number of Northern drivers also respected RMT picket lines. If more Northern drivers had followed Merseyrail drivers’ lead then Northern might not have been able to run extra services for the Grand National to make up for Merseyrail disruption.

More dates have yet to be set, but the Tour de Yorkshire at the end of April would be a good target.

Six cinemas on strike

Workers at the East Dulwich branch of Picturehouse cinemas have voted to join strikes which already involve five other cinemas in the chain. Workers at East Dulwich will join those from Ritzy (Brixton), Hackney, Central, Crouch End and Duke of Yorks (Brighton) on strike on Saturday 15 April.

Workers will walk out at 1 p.m., and be joined by workers from the other five cinemas and their supporters for a rally at East Dulwich Picturehouse. Community supporters in Hackney will be holding a ″community picket″ of Hackney Picturehouse in support of the strike asking customers to boycott Picturehouse and not use the cinema on the day of the strike.

Cleaners’ wild-cat strike

Cleaners at Barts NHS Trust, London, walked off the job in a wild-cat strike on 6 April after management removed their breaks and stated they would freeze their pay for 10 years. Just a day later Serco backed down and conceeded that workers have the right to breaks. The workers are still organising around issues of pay, their union Unite is planning an official ballot over pay. The cleaners had recently been outsourced to Serco, notorious for bullying workers and cutting pay and conditions to the bone to make a profit out of public service contracts.

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