Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 11 May, 2016 - 3:48 Author: Gemma Short, Ruth Cashman, Charlotte Zalens and Peggy Carter

UCU at the University of Nottingham is balloting for industrial action against threatened compulsory redundancies in the Faculty of Arts.

The University that claims to be Britain's global university wants to reduce its offer in archaeology, and theology and religious studies, and close language courses including Dutch. 11.5 FTE posts are at risk. The student body is up in arms over the threat. They have organised several protests, a petition and a Facebook group: Resist Restructuring Nottingham.

The proposed cuts come against a background of changes to the way students access student services. So-called Project Transform will require students to access more student services online and will reduce their link to home departments. The change is driven by the University's £45m investment in Oracle's Peoplesoft Campus Solutions software to create a seamless student journey.

The more joined-up approach has been tried and generally not fared well at other universities. Nottingham decided to go for a big bang, and have forced many of their admin staff to change jobs and jobsites, and work extra hard to compensate for the glitches in the system. This change programme has left staff feeling demoralised and angry, and the unions representing admin staff Unison for levels 1-4 and UCU for higher levels are both in dispute with the University.

The University is also in dispute with Unison members in operations and facilities, after a recent regrading led to pay cuts for some low-paid workers. The University also refuses to implement the living wage despite a strong campaign in favour by unions and student societies. It says it won't brook outside interference: some global university!

Victory at the John Roan School

NUT members at The John Roan school in Greenwich, south London, announced on 10 May that they have won a major victory in their dispute over job and course cuts at the school.

NUT members have suspended their strike action after the following was agreed: RE, Psychology and Drama are to be reinstated at GCSE; posts will not be cut in Science, PE, RE, Psychology, and Drama; Site Supervisors will not be cut; daily tutor time will be kept; no compulsory redundancies and a reduction on voluntary redundancies to four posts from 17 proposed; maximum teaching hours remain at 21 hours a week; no redundancies for admin staff; the establishment of a working party, including unions, to look at curriculum and timetabling for the next academic year.

The victory comes after numerous strike days and a campaign by teachers, support staff, parents and students to bring to light the targeting of union reps, and questions over why the Head was able to suddenly claim a budget deficit when the school had had surpluses the year before, as well as huge spending on things like new CCTV systems.

This victory will give hope and confidence to other teachers fighting around workload, management bullying, academy threats and job cuts.

Labour is battle ground on Lambeth libraries

The fight to save the library service in Lambeth has become a key battleground between the left and right of Labour locally. Labour Party activists have been essential to the libraries campaign. They joined the Carnegie Library occupation, were on strike, and on marches.

We have policy at ward and CLP level against the Council's proposals. But it is also a Labour Council closing our libraries. The attitude of councillors has shocked many people, including members. One councillor described campaigners (of which there are thousands) as trots with megaphones on Twitter (he later publicly apologised for his comments). Cabinet members accused those occupying Carnegie of being wine quaffing middle classes who don't care about Lambeth's vulnerable. Strikes by Unison members were branded a disgrace and not legitimate and a political campaign alongside libraries groups in reference to the anti-union laws.

For many Labour has become a byword for pretty narcissism, vindictive cuts and misinformation and vitriol against the people they should be representing, at a time when we are attracting so many new members who are inspired to fight against the Tories. But we still believe that those looking to fight Tory cuts should join Labour. Join and fight.

Not all Labour Councillors are unpopular. Over 100 turned out to protest in support of Cllr Rachel Heywood, who has spoken out against library closures, on 4 May. Heywood has called on the Labour Group to change their direction: In times of crisis organisations facing huge pressure can close ranks, pull up the drawbridge, and develop a siege mentality. Any challenge or difference of opinion is interpreted as an attack, and debate experienced as a direct result. The elite, inside their castle, or town hall, can lose sight of what life is like outside the walls, whilst the people on the outside can longer see or understand why certain things are being done to them.

There are instances where it seems we've lost sight of what our communities want and need. Sometimes the bravest act, and the one commanding most respect, is to admit that a change of direction is needed.

Several Labour Party wards are discussing motions of support of Heywood's stance and it seems the divisions in the Labour Party in Lambeth will play out for months to come.

Lecturers to strike over pay

UCU members in Higher Education will strike on Wednesday 25 and Thursday 26 May in a dispute over pay. Members voted by 65% in favour of strikes, and 77% in favour of action short of strikes, after the employer body, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, only offered a 1.1% pay rise.

The union argues that universities, who are spending millions of pounds on showy building projects and overseas and London campuses, can afford more. Pay and benefits for university leaders has increased, and the average pay and pensions package for a vice-chancellor is now over £270,000. However amongst members pay is not the issue with the most grip.

The gender pay gap and issues of casualisation must be kept prominent in the campaign. UCU's record in the past few pay disputes has been poor. Few resources have been put into developing campus organisation in advance of strikes, leaving weaker branches struggling to sustain the action. The leadership has then used those struggling branches as an excuse to call off strikes.

Limited preparation on the ground means activists will need to put in a lot of work to make sure this dispute doesn't go the same way.

Stop victimisation at London Met

UCU London Met branch chair Mark Campbell, and UCU branch secretary David Hardman are being made redundant by the university as part of the wave of cuts that campus unions have been fighting for several years.

The university announced compulsory redundancies of permanent faculty staff on 30 April. The union argues that the job cuts will have a negative impact on the student experience. This at the same time as the university is trying to make itself more attractive and competitive in the university market. The union is also concerned that the university is targetting the union by making Mark and David redundant. The same thing happened to Unison representatives earlier in the year.

Sign the petition

Hands off our weekends!

Workers at National Museums Wales have been on all-out strike since Thursday 28 April in a dispute over weekend working pay. As previously reported in Solidarity, the workers, members of the PCS union, have been fighting for two-years against the removal of weekend and bank holiday premium payments.

Many of the workers are low paid, and due to the nature of the job work most weekends, meaning they could face a pay cut of between £2,000-3,000. Bosses have been ramping up the pressure and demanded that workers sign up to new contracts that include the pay cuts by 20 May or face dismissal and reengagement.

However the start of the all-out strike has already brought them back to negotiations and forced the Labour First Minister of Wales to intervene.

Donations to the strike fund: Unity Trust Bank, account Name: PCS Amgueddfa Cymru 107006 Branch, account Number: 2033182, sort code: 08-60-01.Send messages of support to branch chair Neil Harrison or branch secretary Peter Hill.

Cabin crew fight for breaks

Over 1000 Thomas Cook airlines cabin crew are being balloted by their union Unite for strikes over dangerous changes to rest breaks. The changes would see cabin crew only getting one 20 minute break in an 11 hour 29 minute duty period rather than 20 minutes every six hours, raising concerns of the health and well-being of cabin crew and the safety of passengers.

Cabin crew have voiced increasing alarm over the impact of tiredness on in-flight safety. Cabin crew regularly work 10-15 hour shifts, and on short-haul flights crew will fly more than one flight in a shift with a short turn-around time in order to restock the plane under increasing pressure to achieve tighter turn-around times.

Unite national officer Oliver Richardson said: "Our members are deeply concerned about the impact these changes to rest breaks are having on inflight safety. Fatigue is a major contributory factor to accidents and slower response times when there is an incident. The primary purpose of cabin crew is the safety of passengers, but instead Thomas Cook seems intent on working them to the bone to extract as much money as possible out of passengers at the expense of safety."

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