Industrial news in brief

Submitted by AWL on 4 February, 2015 - 11:54 Author: Gemma Short, Charlotte Zalens, Ollie Moore and Peggy Carter

Teachers at Merrill Academy, Derbyshire, have been on strike for six days through January in a dispute over unattainable appraisal targets and denial of pay progression.

Both teaching unions, the NUT and the NASUWT, are taking part in the strike and have been staging daily picket lines. However picket lines were suspended on January 29 after drivers, believed to be a non-striking members of staff, drove aggressively at pickets over several days, leading to a striker and a student being hit by a car.

School management have aggressively attacked the unions in the local press, and have run previously unplanned trips for students as a way to break the strike.

The NUT has announced that it will strike again next week and after the half-term holiday and will be holding an information meeting for parents and members of the community on Thursday 5 February.

Messages of support to

Sacked because she was pregnant

Nuvia Erazo Farias, an outsourced cleaner at the University of London, is taking cleaning contractor Cofely to an employment tribunal on allegations of maternity discrimination.

Nuvia worked as a cleaner at Garden Halls student residence until June last year when the halls shut for refurbishments. Like many of her colleagues Nuvia applied for other vacancies within the University to avoid redundancy. However Nuvia, who was six months pregnant at the time, was not given an invitation letter or advance warning for her interview, unlike other workers.

Nuvia was not given an interview conducted with two managers as per standard protocol. Instead the one manager present, Sharon Bracey, the Cleaning Services Manager, who doubles as Unison rep, would not talk about work but only of maternity pay and redundancy because of Nuvia’s “condition”. Nuvia was then made redundant.

After a series of legal threats, Cofely backtracked and gave Nuvia and permanent job. However in the interim Nuvia went through a period of extreme stress, culminating in her hospitalisation, as she feared she would no longer have a source of income after her maternity leave.

A public hearing for the tribunal will begin on 3 February and continue on 4, 5, 6, and 9 February at Victory House, 30-34 Kingsway, Holborn.

The IWGB, Nuvia’s union, are asking for solidarity at the hearing and for letters to be sent to the University of London Vice-Chancellor.

Model letter

Tube drivers ballot for strikes

Tube Union RMT is balloting its driver members on London Underground for strikes against the unjust sacking of driver Alex McGuigan.

Alex failed a breathalyser test. According to London Underground’s Drug and Alcohol Policy, his urine sample should then also have been tested for alcohol. However, it was only tested for drugs. Medical experts have also attested that breathalyser tests can produce false positives because of medical conditions like diabetes, from which Alex suffers.

LU bosses have maintained a constant campaign of lies and distortions in response to the union, with Transport for London commissioner Peter Hendy being forced to apologise after lying on live radio that Alex had been “drinking at work”.

Union activists say the issue at the heart of the dispute is the company’s abuse of procedure; if LU gets away with sacking Alex on the basis of an obvious disregard for their own agreed procedures, other workers could also face unjust sackings.

The ballot closes on 10 February.

M25 workers strike

Maintenance and incident support workers on the M25 will strike on Monday 16 February.

The employer, Connect Plus Services, is composed of three major contractors, Balfour Beatty, Atkins and Egis. The Unite union is concerned that workers are on contracts with different conditions depending on the contractor.

Some workers have no sick pay for the first three days of illness, and wage discrepancies exist.

The average wage across the workforce at present is £25,000. In October 2014, Balfour Beatty announced that its new CEO Leo Quinn would be paid a basic wage of £800,000, with pension contributions and bonuses on top of that, meaning that he earns at least 32 times more than the average CPS worker.

Unite is demanding a £30,000 basic wage, day one sick pay, and full recognition of the union by the employer.

Unite has announced it will take one 24 hour strike per week, with a work to rule in between.

National Gallery strike

PCS union members at the National Gallery began a five-day strike on Tuesday 3 February.

Gallery bosses last year announced plans to outsource almost all staff, including visitor support staff. In what appears to be a trial run of this plan, private security firm CIS have been given one whole wing of the museum to run until the end of this year, without any competitive tender or consultation.

Union members argue that the privatisation of visitor services will mean a worsening of terms and conditions for staff, and increasing job insecurity.

Sign the petition against the privatisation.

London bus drivers strike for fair pay

London bus drivers will strike again for 24 hours on Thursday 5 February in their dispute to level-up pay between bus companies.

Two further 24 hour strikes have been announced for Friday 13 February and Monday 16 February.

There are 80 different pay scales for drivers in London, across 18 different companies. They vary based on the company and the year that a driver started.

As of 2015, new drivers with Arriva — the lowest payer for starter drivers — get £9.69 an hour. The previous starting rate with Arriva, before 2015, was £9.30 an hour. After eight years, a driver is on £12.89 an hour.

For Stagecoach drivers — the highest payer for starter drivers — the rate is £11.46. After two years, they reach the top rate of £15.63 an hour.

Last year the capital’s bus operators made a combined profit of £171.1 million, with directors’ pay totalling at least £7.24 million a year. Competition for contracts between private companies is creating a race to the bottom for bus drivers’ pay and conditions, whilst creaming off profits from a public service for company bosses.

On the first strike day on Tuesday 13 January picket lines on bus garages were big and lively. At many garages no or very few buses moved. However, as strikes continue, management will try harder to find ways to move buses. Pickets should find ways to prevent buses being moved.

On 13 January a survey of members of the public showed that over two thirds supported the campaign to end pay disparity.

Public political campaigning should be combined with industrial action to force bus companies and TfL to the negotiating table.

Visit a picket line near you.

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