Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 15 July, 2015 - 12:50 Author: Gemma Short, Becky Crocker and Charlotte Zalens

Council workers in the London boroughs of Bromley and Barnet struck again on 7-9 July and 8 July respectively in ongoing fights against cuts and privatisations.

Strikers from the two boroughs met up in Parliament Square at lunchtime on 8 July to protest at the budget announcement.

In Bromley adult services and transport workers struck for two days on 7-8 July and library workers struck for three days from 7 July. Workers from across Barnet council’s services struck on 8 July and many workers at a depot which had previously been organised by the GMB (who have not called strikes) refused to cross Unison picket lines and joined Unison.

Tory-led Bromley council is committed to become a “commissioning council” and reducing the number of council employees from 4,000 to just 300, despite the £130 million in reserves. Council bosses’ organisation the Local Government Association has announced that councils may be making cuts of up to 12% of their budgets next year as they anticipate a £3.3 billion reduction in central-government funding.

Bromley council plans to privatise 14 libraries, hand over disabilities services to the private company Certitude, and the remainder of the council-run parks service was transferred to private company Landscape Group on 1 June. Landscape Group has already planned to make redundancies.

Bromley strikers also rallied to the support of a local resident, Paul Rooney, who faces eviction on Monday 13 July due to £2,000 council tax arrears, to which private company Liberata has tacked on £49,000 in solicitors’ fees. Paul, previously a Unite workplace rep, gave up work to care for his disabled daughter.

Barnet Unison is fighting the outsourcing of up to 80% of the council’s services including libraries and children’s services. Barnet Unison organised a “thunderclap” on social media site Twitter in the lead up to the strike which lead to over a million users seeing a message about privatisation.

After Barnet Unison’s strike on 8 July, branch secretary John Burgess returned home to find his car vandalised with nails stuck in the tyres and a note stuck to the windscreen reading “fucking union faggotts [sic] get back home from here!”

It is no coincidence that this happened just two weeks after Barnet Unison took part in the trade union contingent of London Pride, and after the branch condemned the proposed fascist demonstration in Golders Green.

• Messages of solidarity for John, and Barnet Unison members can be sent to John Burgess

• Messages of solidarity for Bromley Unite to Onay Kasab

Save jobs at First Great Western

On 9-10 July, RMT members struck for 48 hours across the south west of England, from Paddington to Plymouth, from Cardiff to Cheltenham to save jobs on First Great Western.   

RMT is demanding that First Great Western (FGW) guarantees to protect jobs when it introduces new “super express” trains.  FGW has not guaranteed to retain guards, on-board catering teams or safety critical platform staff, strongly implying that it plans to run the new fleet with “driver only operation”.  FGW has also refused to guarantee to keep its train maintenance staff when the new fleet comes in.  

RMT has demanded, and received, assurances about jobs from Virgin East Coast, which will soon introduce the same fleet. This has added to the strikers’ sense of injustice.  If Richard Branson, not known as a friend of rail workers, can guarantee jobs, then so should First Great Western!

On average, the strike cancelled about 60% of services.  ASLEF, the union representing train drivers, did not participate in the strike. The trains that remained in service were driven by ASLEF members, with managers on board doing guard duties.      

This was the first strike on this part of the rail network for 32 years; the first since rail privatisation and the first in First Great Western’s history.  It is a milestone for RMT members.  RMT has often come close to calling strikes against FGW, only to call action off at the last minute to continue negotiations.  This time, talks completely broke down. For RMT, there can be no compromise over job cuts.  The company is equally determined, with the government demanding job cuts to save money, as recommended by the McNulty Report.

This was the first round of a battle that must involve further industrial action and political campaigning if it is to succeed.  

More gallery strikes

National Gallery workers will strike again on the 14-16 and 20-22 July.

Workers also struck alongside Barnet and Bromley council workers on 8 July to coincide with Osborne’s budget announcements.

Outgoing gallery directory Nicholas Penny has recently stated that he would “very much prefer to keep all the gallery assistants as part of the gallery, if they’re not, they don’t feel part of the institution in the same way.”

Strikers have challenged him to get back around the negotiating table and stop the privatisations.

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