Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 4 February, 2016 - 12:37 Author: Patrick Murphy, Peggy Carter, Ollie Moore and Gemma Short

Teachers at Small Heath School in Birmingham have won significant successes in their campaign against academy status and in defence of the suspended NUT rep, Simon O’Hara. In fact they appear to have defeated the academy proposal entirely and can now focus on lifting Simon’s suspension.

On 28 January school unions the NUT, ATL and NASUWT received a letter from Birmingham City council informing them that the proposed academy sponsor, The King Edward Foundation “has confirmed in writing …that the Foundation is not in a position to take on sponsorship of Small Heath School”. The letter went on to state, “I am therefore in a position to confirm unequivocally that there is at present no known potential sponsor for Small Heath School…” and finally “…there is no concrete proposal for the school to become an Academy and we are not aware of any potential sponsors under consideration by the Department for Education.”

The King Edward Foundation had some leading people on the Interim Executive Board (IEB) imposed to run the school. IEBs are a common device used to impose academy status on reluctant schools. The sponsors figures on the Small Heath IEB have resigned meaning that they have completely withdrawn from the school. The Council agreed to NUT demands that a new IEB be made up of “independent individuals who have the sole aim of wanting to do the best for the school, its pupils and the community” and not potential academy sponsors.

The letter also states that learning walks and performance management targets (resulting in use of action short of strike action by teachers) — another trigger for the dispute — have been withdrawn, with any new initiatives being the subject of consultation and that a proposed restructure and redundancy is to be reviewed and will not move forward in the way proposed. Finally the Council agreed to carry out an independent review of the suspension of the NUT rep. That’s clearly an important move and an implied acceptance of the Union’s argument that Simon was being victimised, but it’s not enough.

Simon O’Hara should have his suspension lifted immediately and the campaign to achieve that will continue. NUT Deputy General Secretary, Kevin Courtney made clear that further strike action is likely if the suspension continues. “The NUT’s strike ballot of members at the school against Simon’s victimisation and suspension was absolutely overwhelmingly supported”, he said, “so further strikes will follow soon if a solution isn’t found. “The key step the council has to take is to get the NUT rep Simon O’Hara back to work”

Save Lambeth libraries

Library workers in Lambeth will strike on Monday 8 February in their ongoing dispute over library closures. Library workers struck unofficially in November last year when the regional structure of their union, Unison, delayed their request for a ballot. However even without bureaucratic delays workers felt the hoops that unions are required to jump through to get legal strikes would have meant delays at a crucial time when the council was making their decisions.

Unison has since balloted library workers, who voted overwhelmingly in favour of strikes. At Lambeth Unison′s AGM in January a motion was agreed to back any industrial action that library workers take, support legal action by library campaign groups, and to ″raise within the union the call for London-wide and nation-wide action, including demonstrations, publicity and industrial action, to stop the massacre of national library services currently underway.″

Several Labour party wards in Lambeth have now passed motions criticising their own council′s library cuts plan, including the ward meeting of Councillor Edbrooke, who is responsible for the cuts.

Library workers, members of Unite, in Greenwich have voted by 90% in favour of strikes against cuts to their service which will see the closure of the mobile library service. Unite library workers in Bromley have announced strikes from 6-13 February as part of Unite’s ongoing fight against privatisation in the borough. Library workers in Lambeth will hold picket lines at all libraries on Monday 8 February and invite activists to join them.

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Tube station staff to strike

London Underground station staff will strike from the evening of Saturday 6 February until the evening of Monday 8 February.

The strike, called by the RMT union, is part of a long-running dispute against a restructure of station staffing that will lead to significant job cuts, a forced regrading of all staff, mass displacements, and more. The strike is time to coincide with the imposition of the new staffing model on 7 February, which London Underground calls “Fit for the Future”. Further action is planned following the strikes.

Around 800 frontline jobs are set to go, at a time when passenger footfall is reaching record highs. New rosters the company plans to impose will see staff work more weekends, more shifts with very early starts or late finishes, and will force grades of staff who do not currently work nights into working them. London Underground also wants the power to change station workers’ shift times and locations at short notice. The strike involves station staff only.

A London Underground worker and supporter of the rank-and-file socialist bulletin Tubeworker told Solidarity, “it’s frustrating that the all-grades unity with which the dispute was launched has deteriorated. That needs to be rebuilt. “Station jobs are on the chopping block now, but the cuts will affect all grades and areas. LU is already commissioning driverless trains. We need an all-grades fight for jobs.”

In the meantime, other grades should look for ways to show solidarity with station staff. Additional strikes, in a parallel dispute over pay, terms, and conditions (including the proposed “Night Tube”) have been suspended. The RMT is also conducting a ballot of all members on the Tube in defence of victimised station supervisor Glen Hart will be returned on 4 February.

• For regular updates, see the Tubeworker blog

Track workers strike for safety

London Underground track workers in the RMT union will strike to demand safer procedures for working on the track, after a number of near misses in which workers were nearly killed. The union says that “Section 15”, a regulation which governs when track work can be undertaken, does not offer adequate protection.

A statement from RMT’s London Underground Engineering branch said: “London Underground has a cuts agenda. They have removed possessions [of the track] from [...] training and are trying to end a professional and tried and tested method of booking out with the Track Access Controllers, replacing it instead with a ragbag process where people are badly briefed and safety is left to chance.”

The union was due to announce strike dates, after ballots returned majorities for action on 28 January.

No to privatisation at V&A

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London is trying to outsource its staff through the back door. The V&A is planning on employing all new staff on contracts through a private V&A Enterprise Ltd, the museum′s trading company.

This would mean staff did not have access to the Civil Service Pensions and Compensation schemes, and may not have the same terms and conditions as existing staff, particularly maternity and sick pay, and collective bargaining rights.

Activists at the museum and with the PCS union say this ″in-house privatisation″ is being presented by the museum as a cost-saving measure, but that the savings will in effect be made by removing access for new staff to benefits that directly-employed staff have.

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