Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 1 October, 2014 - 10:59 Author: Gemma Short, Gerry Bates and Jonny West

Two hundred GMB members employed by ISS at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, South London have voted for strikes to end two-tier conditions in NHS.

The dispute is for the same pay rates, weekend enhancements and unsocial hours rates as the staff directly employed by the Trust.

The GMB members are employed as cleaners, security, ward hostesses, caterers, on the switchboard and as porters.

On 23 September GMB organised a protest outside the bondholders meeting of the PFI operator for the hospital.

ISS workers, which includes cleaners, security, ward hostesses, caterers, switchboard operators and porters, are paid between £7.10 and £7.32 per hour. The lowest rate for directly employed workers is £7.33 ph which moves in yearly increments to £7.51 and £7.69 under the current NHS pay progression system.

ISS staff at Queen Elizabeth Hospital say they have felt undervalued, bullied and exploited. This happens whilst the PFI contractor for the hospital — Meridian Hospitals PLC — paid a dividend of £2,772,000 last year.

Money that could be used to pay workers a decent wage and improve care in the hospital is being used to line the pockets of private business owners.

ISS is contracted to provide these services to the NHS by the owners of QEH, Meridian Hospitals plc but claims that the contract is not sufficiently funded to enable the company to pay staff the proper NHS rates.

Meridian should be forced to use some of their large profits to pay staff decent wages.

Ninety per cent of teachers think of quitting

A National Union of Teachers (NUT) survey reveals 90% of teachers had considered giving up teaching during the last two years because of workload.

The NUT has had joint action on workload with the NASUWT for the last two years. On paper, anyway. In fact there has been no national push on this for over a year.

Workplace level union organisation is needed to seriously change workload for teachers.

The union is in a “consultation ballot” (26 Sep/22 Oct) asking members whether they want the union to continue campaigning and whether they will strike for up to two days before the general election.

Activists should campaign for a yes/yes vote. But the NUT leaders’ decision not to strike — despite existing ballot authority — on 14 October makes the “two days strike” question look like a ploy by the union leaders to “prove” members don’t want strikes.

Teachers desperately need their union to show leadership.

Construction workers’ wild-cat action wins better toilets

Construction workers at Ferrybridge power station have taken wildcat strike action over toilet facilities at the site.

The workers, members of unite, say that the facilities were dirty, blocked and without toilet paper. They also claim there are not enough toilets for the number of workers.

Around 100 workers picketed the gates of the plant on Tuesday 30 September. Quickly management agreed to provide more toilets, a cleaner and have agreed not to dock wages for the period of the strike.

Workers will return to work, victorious, on Wednesday 1 October.

Charity workers' pay cut; boss's pay rise

Workers at St Mungo's Broadway, a housing charity, are being given a £5,000 pay cut whilst their boss receives a £30,000 rise.

500 Unite members are being balloted over striking against the pay cut.

Management have reduced the pay of new starters and for existing staff being restructured by £5,000-a-year; taken pay out of collective bargaining; imposed new and draconian policies and procedures.

Unite members have already passed a vote of no confidence in their management.

UCU ballot on pension proposals

UCU will be balloting its members over new government proposals to the USS pensions scheme.

The proposal would move staff from a final salary pension scheme, to a career average one. Staff could loose between 2% and 27% on their pension depending on when they joined the scheme, age and final salary. The proposal also includes an earnings cap for working out the average and a new defined contribution pot whose income would depend upon investment performance and would not be guaranteed.

The USS scheme covers staff at pre-92 universities. The ballot opens on 1 October

UCU members are angry about the proposals, and large numbers have turned up to union meetings on the issue.

Support victimised Tube workers

Solidarity has reported on the victimisation of Tube workers Noel Roberts and Alex McGuigan. They are still fighting for reinstatement.

A third worker has now been sacked on trumped-up charges, relating to an incident at their workplace. Outrageously, management relied on statements about CCTV footage even though the footage itself had been destroyed and neither the worker not the rep had been allowed to see it.

In a separate incident, a Station Supervisor was stood down from his duties for participating in a legal union action after he refused to work through his designated meal break.

London Underground bosses are on the warpath, embarking on a campaign of summary, authoritarian dismissals and disciplinary procedures. Their intention is, undoubtedly, to signal to the workforce to keep their heads down and stay in line at a time when management is attempting to impose drastic cuts and closures.

Where management victimise workers, unions must resist.

RMT must back cleaners

ISS cleaners on London Underground returned a 92% majority on 21 September for strikes, and action short of strikes, in their dispute against biometric fingerprinting machines.

As yet, the RMT’s leadership has named no action.

Some ISS cleaners have now been locked out for three months for participating in a union action – refusing to use the biometric machines. They have had to fight to win decent strike pay from the union. Some senior union leaders are now saying there’s no more money to fund the cleaners’ fight.

RMT prides itself on being an all-grades, industrial union. It needs to fight as hard for cleaners as it does for any other grade. RMT should activate the strike ballot by calling action-short-of-strikes, then following it up with strikes around 14 October, when we hope London Underground workers may also strike again in their jobs dispute.

If ISS goes after cleaners who’ve participated in union action, the union needs to back them up, including with funding for tribunals if it comes to that.

If the ISS cleaners’ dispute is allowed to go out with a whimper, it will severely damage the confidence of cleaners, and other workers, in the union.

Tube union reps discuss strike action

Elected workplace representatives from the Tube union RMT will meet on Thursday 2 October.

They will discuss the next steps in the union's fight against staffing cuts and ticket office closures.

With the latest figures from London Underground showing that the final extent of job cuts could be over 2,000 posts, many RMT activists will be arguing for the union to escalate its campaign of industrial action and launch more strikes.

Supporters of Tubeworker, the rank-and-file bulletin produced by Workers' Liberty, along with other socialists and radicals in the union, will be arguing for the union to strike on 14-15 October, coinciding with public sector and civil service strikes

RMT should follow those strikes up with a longer programme of action.

“Night tube” needs more staff, not less

London Underground has announced the “Night Tube”— 24-hour running on certain Tube Lines — will be operational by September 2015.

Their announcement coincided with Tube union RMT's exposure of the extent of proposed job cuts — higher than the 953 posts first slated for the chop.

A 24-hour Tube service requires more staff, not fewer, with much greater care and consideration given to the effects of night shifts on workers' physical and mental wellbeing.

While London Underground plans a recruitment intake of new station staff, their proposed figures hardly dent the job cuts they are already planning.

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