Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 2 September, 2015 - 12:21 Author: Gemma Short, Ollie Moore, Charlotte Zalens and Peggy Carter

Anti-privatisation campaigners and Unite the union in the London borough of Bromley are calling for a referendum on the planned privatisation of the learning disabilities service, due to be privatised on 1 October.

Adult services staff, members of Unite, struck for 48 hours from 00.01 on Thursday 27 August. Their strike is part of ongoing strikes across council services facing privatisation.

Library staff will strike for five days starting from 00.01 on 1 September, as the council goes ahead with its plans to privatise 14 of the borough's libraries.

In a separate dispute in Bromley's already-privatised refuse collection service, workers struck on 24 August, and will strike again on 3 and 4 September. Veolia, who run the service, have continually given workers below-inflation pay awards.

In the London borough of Barnet, where the Tory council is equally addicted to privatisation, workers have been informed that the council plans to make another £30 million of cuts. Workers in Barnet are already facing cuts and outsourcing in libraries, children's centres, adult social services, street scene services and the education and school meals service. In addition Barnet Unison has now been informed that a subsection of Barnet council, “Barnet group”, intends to make itself into a new company which would leave staff with no access to the council pension scheme, national bargaining, and with inferior terms and conditions.

As part of its campaign against privatisation, Barnet Unison and Barnet Alliance for Public Services, is organising a children's march for libraries on Saturday 12 September starting at East Finchley library.

Housing workers strike

Maintenance workers for Stoke based housing association Aspire Housing are on strike on 1 September in a dispute over the imposition of new contracts.

Aspire plans to dismiss workers and re-employ them on worse terms and conditions. The new contracts would see workers losing over £5,000 a year, facing cuts to sick pay, removal of paid allowances and working longer hours.

The workers' union, GMB, is calling on local councillors, MPs and the public to support them and demand Aspire withdraws the new contracts.

Tube strikes: what progress?

Tube unions RMT, TSSA, and Unite plan further strikes on London Underground on 8 and 10 September if the company fails to offer them a settlement in their disputes over job cuts, issues relating to all-night running (“Night Tube”), and the 2015 pay settlement.

London Underground has “deferred” the launch of Night Tube, originally scheduled for 12 September, until an unspecified date in the Autumn to allow it to reach a settlement with the unions.

Strikes planned by RMT, TSSA, and Unite on 26 and 28 August were suspended after London Underground made some concessions in negotiations. Aslef, the majority union amongst Tube drivers, had already suspended its action.

LU has pulled back from some of the more drastic attacks it planned on workers' terms and conditions, especially on stations. It has also committed to decreasing the number of job cuts, although still plans to reduce staffing levels. Unions are still pushing for rostering arrangements across the job that protect work/life balance and ensure adequate recovery time after anti-social shifts.

Rank-and-file socialist bulletin Tubeworker queried the suspension of the 26-28 August strikes. Tubeworker said: “It is good to know that progress is being made, but surely this has happened because we had industrial action on, logically suggesting that keeping it on would lead to more progress […] The unions are rightly keen to insist that the disputes are not over, but if that is the case, then why call off the action?”

The bulletin also argued that communications from union head offices, which initially simply told members that strikes were being suspended because “progress” had been made in talks, were inadequate: “We want to know the details: they are details about our jobs and working conditions, after all. Tube workers have shown huge commitment to the current disputes: to keep that commitment, we need to be kept informed. Simply telling us that strikes are on, then off, then on again, inevitably starts to drain morale.”

Talks will continue right up to 7 September, with the possibility that the planned strikes may be suspended again. Any settlement reached in negotiations will have to be voted on by union members before it is finalised.

Gallery strikes continue

Workers at the National Gallery are on their 22nd day of indefinite strike, and have struck for 77 days in total, in a dispute over privatisation of some gallery services.

Workers have been on indefinite strike since 1 August. On 29 August gallery management told strikers, just three days before pay day, that they would be deducting strike pay for the whole of this month, instead of just up to the 14th as previously stated, in an attempt to force strikers back to work.

Strikers have mounted daily pickets, with support from various union branches. And have been organising solidarity with workers at the National Museum of Wales, and the National Museum of Scotland who are also in dispute.

On Thursday 3 September strikers will hand in their now 130,000 strong petition against the privatisation to the new gallery director, with a rally in Trafalgar Square from 1pm.

Donate to the strike fund

Strikes for jobs and safety on First Great Western

RMT members on First Great Western trains struck over the bank holiday weekend in their dispute over jobs, services and safety concerns in the company's introduction of a new fleet of inter-city trains.

All workers struck for 48 hours between Saturday 29 August and Monday 31 August. This follows a 48 hour strike on 9-10 July and 24 hour strike on 23 August.

RMT has numerous concerns over the introduction of the new trains which include: lack of job protection for engineering grades, and a proposed introduction of “driver only operation” which would remove or dilute the role of guards on trains.

Workers held picket lines at many key stations on the First Great Western network during the strike.

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