Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 2 December, 2015 - 12:20 Author: Gemma Short, Ollie Moore, Ben Tausz, Charlotte Zalens and Peggy Carter

Lancashire County Council is on the verge of making sweeping cuts.

The cuts include over 2,500 job losses (compulsory and voluntary). Around 40 of the 75 libraries in Lancashire will close, as will 5 out of the 10 council run museums, all subsidised bus routes, and numerous other front line services will be cut.

Since 2008 local Lancashire services have been repeatedly cut. Between January 2014 and October 2015 1,100 jobs have gone. In February cuts of £152 million over three years were announced. In November the council revised up the level of cuts as the Tory government announced the dismantling of local services.

The council are now being forced to make cuts of £685 million by 2020. In response to the planned cuts, many local people have started petitions and have launched "Save Our..." campaigns.

The Labour County council has done little to fight the cuts in the last five years. The councillors seem to think shrugging their shoulders and saying “it's not our fault” is enough! With the level of cuts announced the council will have great difficulty in meeting its statutory duties.

Unison, who represent 10,000 workers in the council, have launched, albeit rather late in the day, a campaign against the cuts, calling consultation meetings of staff across the county. Unfortunately, many members of Unison have been disheartened by the repeated failure to fight back against the pay freezes and service cuts. Mobilising against these terrible cuts will also involve arguing with the currently ineffective union leadership.

Lambeth libraries fight continues

Lambeth Council’s cabinet will meet to again discuss the plan to close half of Lambeth’s libraries on 7 December.

A lively local campaign, including a march and several demonstrations of hundreds of people, alongside a militant industrial strategy from library workers, who have staged wildcat action as well as requesting an official ballot from Unison, has put a great deal of pressure on Lambeth to back down.

Despite this the Scrutiny Committee narrowly decided (5-4) against sending the unpopular proposals back to Cabinet for full reconsideration. However it did make recommendations that Cabinet must now consider. Popular local blog Brixton Buzz described the decision as a blow for the Cabinet Member responsible; “It’s more or less a case of Cllr Edbrooke having her homework marked by Scrutiny, and then be handed back with a red biro comment saying: Could do better Jane. Much, much better.”

The Scrutiny Committee recommendations include:

• Urgent work to explore viable alternatives

• Consideration of early break clauses with private firms who take over libraries

• Further examination of the impact of the proposals on, and mitigations for, people with protected characteristics. The committee noted that children, younger, older, disabled and Black and Ethnic Minority people use libraries to a greater extent than the rest of the population.

• Internet access points for residents should be at least at the same level as the current provision.” In addition the council has been contacted by public interest lawyers pending a judicial review into the proposals. We know that neither courts nor scrutiny committee will save our libraries, unless they are in a context of a real struggle by workers and library users. We are committed to demonstrate, strike and occupy. We will take our fight into the Labour Party to call on local party members to hold their leadership to account.

Teachers fighting for respect

Teachers at Tech City, a 16-19 free school formerly known as STEM6 in Islington, London, have voted unanimously to strike for five days to fight for humane performance management and pay policies.

The strike vote comes after a teacher fainted and collapsed in front of a class she was teaching, resulting in an ambulance being called, due to the stress of management pressure. Another teacher was phoned late on a Sunday evening with instructions on what to do in her lesson observation the following day. In November more than a third of staff were informed they would not be given their pay progression, with management citing poor exam results from the previous year, yet no teachers were given warning that this may happen, and none were given any support to improve their practice. Students at the school were also told in an assembly that teaching in the school was not up to standard and that it would be improved from January with ″better teachers″!

Last year teachers at the school won union recognition by striking, becoming the first free school to officially recognise the NUT. Teachers will strike on Tuesday 8, Wednesday 9, Tuesday 15, Wednesday 16 and Thursday 17 December. Send messages of support to Islington NUT

After a number of strikes at The John Roan school in Greenwich teachers have won a significant victory which sets huge precedents on teacher workload and scrutiny.

The agreement stops weekly learning visits to scrutinise lessons, removes the expectation of students making 4 or 5 ″levels of progress″ for teachers not to fail, stops management using Ofsted grades for lessons observations, stops ″drop-ins″, gives teachers more managable marking requirements and commits the school to a clear NUT agreed protocol for lesson observations.

Teachers had struck for two days in November to achieve this, as well as organising large picket lines at the school and a public meeting for parents which resulted in a parent support group being set up. In a statement on their website the school NUT group said ″we would like to thank everyone who has supported our struggle ... which we took in the best interests of education. Too many schools are being blighted by low morale and high teacher turnover. “We hope others feel encouraged that we can take a stand and win.”

Tube offer falls short

London Underground's “closing offer” in ongoing disputes with unions over pay, 24-hour running (“Night Tube”), job losses, and other issues has been attacked as “totally unacceptable” by Tube union activists.

A supporter of the rank-and-file bulletin Tubeworker told Solidarity: “LU's offer is for a four-year pay deal, at levels that barely keep pace with inflation and would be almost completely negated by imminent increases to employees' National Insurance contributions. We have no desire to give the company four years of industrial peace on this issue in return for crumbs from their table, especially when they've given senior managers big pay rises. “We've made some progress on a few issues during the course of our disputes; what we've won we won by striking. To win more we need to assert ourselves industrially and politically, not just through negotiations.”

A mass meeting of RMT reps on Tuesday 1 December returned a strong consensus against the deal. Other Tube unions are due to discuss it.

Fighting casualisation

The grassroots network of casualised academic workers, Fighting Against Casualisation in Education, held its second national conference on 21 November. Workplace activists from around the UK heard about university anti-outsourcing campaigns from Warwick to South Africa, and discussed issues from how to build local campaigns to the impact of the government’s proposed Teaching Excellence Framework. A set of demands aiming to give the new network strategic direction was developed and voted on, including against unpaid hours of work and against the particular insecurity facing migrant workers. Find out more about the network and how to get involved here.

Open University strike

UCU members working at the Open University struck on 25 November after the university pushed ahead with plans to close seven regional centres, putting 502 jobs at risk. Further rolling one-day strikes at the different sites under threat between 30 November and 11 December. Staff at the regional centres evaluate and support students with disabilities, provide course materials, assign tutorial groups, run examinations and run graduation ceremonies. UCU claims the closure of the regional centres will result in job losses and a loss of support for students. A petition against the closures has over 6,400 signatures and and Early Day Motion opposing the closures has been tabled in Parliament.

• Sign the petition

Enfield parking strike

Parking wardens employed by outsourcer NSL in Enfield become the latest in London to strike to win a living wage. NSL workers in Camden and in Kensington and Chelsea have already won above official London Living Wage pay rises, Unison members in Camden struck in October to win the rise. The Enfield NSL workers, organised by the GMB, will strike on Friday 11 December. GMB members working for NSL in Brighton and Hove are also fighting for better pay and will strike for six days on 5, 6, 11, 12, 19 and 20 December.

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