Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 29 July, 2015 - 9:03 Author: Peggy Carter, Anne Field and Ollie Moore

PCS members fighting privatisation at the National Gallery voted on 24 July for all-out strike from the start of August if the gallery does not back down.

Workers have already struck for more than 50 days, as well as holding various stunts, parties and protests inside and outside the gallery.

Workers will strike again on Wednesday 29 July and are holding an “alternative leaving party” for outgoing gallery director on Thursday 30 July.

Sacked PCS rep Candy Udwin was due to have her appeal hearing with the gallery on 22 July, after being vindicated by a judge who said that a “tribunal would most likely not find her actions blameworthy”, but the hearing was postponed as the gallery did not give her union adequate notice of a date.

Workers at other museums and galleries are getting organised. Workers at National Museums Wales strike on Saturday 1 August against plans to cut weekend working payments resulting in a 12-15% pay cut for front of house staff.

• More information here and here

Defend Max, Natasha and Frank

Unison members at London Metropolitan university struck on Friday 24 July over the implementation of compulsory redundancies.

Unison and UCU have been fighting 165 job cuts at the university. However the university has gone ahead with a compulsory redundancies programme and has started issuing notices to staff to be made redundant.

Unison branch secretary Max Watson is among those to have been notified of redundancy. Unison believes Max has been singled out due to his trade union activity and will be appealing the decision.

The strike on 24 July, following those on 4 and 25 June, will be combined with action short of strike action including an overtime ban, not working outside contracted hours, and not covering for leave sickness or training of colleagues.

Unison hopes that strikes in the middle of exam re-sits will show management that cuts will impact on the university’s ability to function.

• Sign the petition to defend Max here

Victory for pay regrading fight

After 17-weeks of an all-out strike, preceded by several weeks of action short of strike action, Glasgow City Council Homelessness Caseworkers voted to return to work last week after their key demand had been met.

The caseworkers, members of Unison, have won their demand for regrading and are to be paid the same as other frontline social care staff, amounting to an immediate increase of around ÂŁ1,000 a year, and an overall increase of ÂŁ5,000 by 2018.

In a face-saving exercise by the Council — a continuation of its pretence that the caseworkers do not have a legitimate claim for regrading — caseworkers are to undergo an assessment process for the regraded posts.

Three temporary caseworkers are to be given higher-graded permanent posts elsewhere in the homelessness service. And some management posts are to be cut through voluntary early retirement.

At the start of the dispute Council officials and councillors refused to countenance the demand for regrading. For the first six weeks of the strike social work management did not even meet with the strikers.

After talks finally got underway, management effectively conceded the demand for regrading but proposed that a third of the posts be axed, so that the regrading would be self-financing.

While refusing to negotiate, social work management was willing to see support and provision for the city’s homeless collapse into chaos and virtual non-existence.

But while the caseworkers’ dispute may have been resolved, this certainly does not mark an end to industrial and political conflicts in Glasgow City Council.

A number of other regrading claims are in the pipeline. In private, some councillors even admitted that the reason for trying to face down the caseworkers’ demand was the precedent that would be set in conceding it.

Cuts in local authority funding by the SNP government in Holyrood are leaving the City Council facing a funding shortfall of ÂŁ103 million and around 3,000 job losses over the next two years. Council claims that such job losses can be achieved voluntarily are a fantasy.

The caseworkers’ strike also highlighted the abysmal politics of Council and Labour Group Leader Gordon Matheson, who spent the sixteen weeks of the strike claiming that it was a matter solely for social work management to deal with.

This latest chapter in his sorry record as Council and Group Leader has helped galvanise support among Labour councillors for ousting him from his “leadership” positions.

Labour Party members should be demanding of their councillors that Matheson finally be shown the door.

More Tube strikes on 5-6 August

Tube unions accused London Underground of breaching safety standards in an ongoing dispute over pay, terms, and conditions.

With an overtime ban in place, LU has fallen behind on fleet maintenance schedules. Unions say it has put trains into service without preparation being carried out by properly qualified staff, and instructed their members not to drive inadequately-prepared trains. The Office of Rail Regulation is investigating the claims.

In a move seen by many workers as an outrageous provocation, LU threatened to dock the pay of any driver who upheld their legal right to refuse to work if they were not satisfied that safety standards had been met.

The overtime ban has also led to temporary station closures at Old Street, Liverpool Street, and Walthamstow Central. 

A strike by all four Tube unions is set to go ahead on 5-6 August. As LU prepares to introduce all-night running at weekends, unions are demanding a settlement that guarantees work/life balance and protects workers from the detrimental health impacts of prolonged night working and antisocial hours.

The rank-and-file bulletin Tubeworker, published by Workers’ Liberty, is arguing for the strikes to escalate beyond 24 hours following the next action.

In a separate dispute, Tube union RMT has pushed back the use of agency labour on LU, winning direct employment for agency workers employed as trainers for Fleet staff.

For more on this, and for regular updates on workers’ struggle across London Underground, see the Tubeworker blog.

Blacklisting protest wins

Unite rep for agency electrical contractors working on a site at Morgan Stanley Investment Bank in Canary Wharf, Graeame Boxhall, was sacked for demanding workers were directly employed by Phoenix Electrical rather than its subcontractor B&D.

Graeame was swiftly reinstated by the company after activists from Unite, the Blacklist Support Group, Teesside Construction Activists and rank-and-file site electricians network “The Sparks” protested outside Morgan Stanley.

Activists linked arms to picket the entrance to the site despite a high court injunction banning the protest and a heavy police presence, resulting in workers refusing to cross the picket line.

Activists say they will be back picketing if they do not receive “full capitulation and compliance with the Joint Industry Board conditions” which state all workers on site have the right to be directly employed.

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