Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 15 June, 2016 - 1:33 Author: Gemma Short, Luke Hardy, Peggy Carter, Ollie Moore, Charlotte Zalens and Neil Laker

Workers at Pennine Foods in Sheffield have suspended their strikes after negotiations meant bosses agreed not to implement changes to their contracts. Negotiations also got bosses to agree to all employees receiving a lump sum for their 2015 pay rise. Negotiations will continue on the contract and further strikes are not ruled out. The contract changes at Pennine Foods were in order for bosses to try to recoup some of the money from implementing the government′s new ″living wage″.

A similar fight by members of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers′ Union (BFAWU) has been going on at Samworth Brothers factories in Leicestershire. Since the introduction of the ″living wage″ Samworth bosses have cut paid breaks and premium rates for working unsociable hours and overtime. Workers responded by joining the BFAWU and holding large meetings about the issues. Bosses attacked back by sacking one of the union organisers, Kumaran Bose, on Friday 3 June. Kumaran has been targeted for successfully organising a union which the majority of workers have now joined. Despite the support for the union in the workplace, Samworth is refusing to recognise the BFAWU.

• Send letters of protest to Paul Davey

Teachers striking to stop job cuts

Teachers at Regent High School in Camden, north London, have voted 84% to strike over job cuts.

Five senior, experienced, teaching staff who currently hold the roles of Directors of Tutorial (heads of house and in charge of pastoral care) are being made redundant. The restructuring of the pastoral system also means support staff may lose their jobs. The NUT is arguing that the plan for redundancies has come very late in the school year, with very minimal consultation, and if the purpose is money-saving then compulsory redundancies are unnecessary as they could have been achieved through ″natural wastage″ of teachers who already planned to leave. However any job cuts, compulsory or not, will impact negatively on teachers and students.

The overhaul of the pastoral system will severely impact teachers′ conditions and ability to reach out to students, parents and the community, who know and trust the current Directors of Tutorial. Fewer staff with pastoral responsibilities means fewer staff hours on pastoral issues. Teachers have voted for discontinuous strikes, and plan to escalate over a period of three weeks, starting the week beginning 20 June, from one day, to two days, and then to three days if no agreement is reached.

Bosses make £11m profit, workers get 16p

On Monday 13 June over 1000 Leeds bus drivers from Unite the union struck over pay. First Leeds made £11 million profit last year and with bonuses and pay rises the bosses got a 5% increase. The drivers in Leeds got 16p an hour pay rise.

In other parts of the First network across West Yorkshire bus workers are being paid up to £2 more per hour. Unite regional officer Phil Brown said “First Bus makes massive profits from the travelling public in Leeds and the hard work of our members who keep the city on the move day in, day out. Strike action is very much the last resort, but faced with management’s refusal to improve on its pitiful pay offer and negotiate meaningfully at Acas, our members feel forced into taking this action. All our members are looking for is fair treatment and recognition for their hard work. We would urge First Bus management to drop its hard-line attitude, which risks causing disruption for the travelling public and enter into meaningful negotiations to resolve the dispute.”

This strike is the first on First Leeds for many years and shows a growing rank and file movement willing to assert itself amongst the workers in the depots. These workers have also faced 45 redundancies as First cuts the number of services and withdraws the hi tech bendy buses. Public transport in Leeds and elsewhere shouldn’t be in the hands of private profiteers like First who squeeze workers and passengers to maximize profits. It needs to be under democratic public ownership with workers control.

Cleaners fight back against sackings

Cleaning workers employed by Thames Cleaning and Support Services at an office building in the city of London are on all out strike after their bosses refused them the London Living Wage and sacked more than half the cleaners. The building houses the London offices of global financial giants such as J P Morgan and Schroders, and Thames Cleaning have threatened the cleaners’ union, United Voices of the World, with an injunction to stop picketing unless they stop having solidarity rallies on the picket line.

One of the cleaners said, "I feel like they are stepping on and completely disregarding my rights. How can we be dismissed without any consideration. Where are my rights?" Another said, "I really feel oppressed by Thames Cleaning and by these unjust dismissals.

“We all deserve a dignified job and a dignified wage. We want these cuts to end and our dismissed colleagues to be reinstated."

• Workers are appealing for support, find out more on their Facebook page

ScotRail guards vote for strikes

Guards on ScotRail have voted by 75%, on a 75% turnout, for strikes against the extension of "Driver Only Operation" (DOO) on ScotRail routes.

A statement from the RMT union, which organises ScotRail guards, said: "This dispute is very simple. We have been negotiating for months over what we see as the very real and serious threat of a further extension of Driver Only Operation on ScotRail with the introduction of new rolling stock next year.

"RMT’s policy, arrived at through the democratic structures of the union, is totally opposed to any extension of DOO. We firmly believe the conductor should remain in full control of the doors and has a critical safety role to ensure the safety of the railway and its passengers. This has been our policy for decades so it cannot plausibly be expect that we would just sit on our hands and let DOO go without challenge."

A further statement added: "RMT members should not have to face the risk of their role and responsibilities being reduced and undermined.

"The workforce also know only too well that there is a very real threat to passengers of watering down and wiping out the safety critical role of the guard on these ScotRail services. That is a lethal gamble with basic rail safety.

"This ballot has demonstrated in the clearest possible way the strength of feeling across the Scot Rail network over the threatened extension of driver-only operation and the rock-solid mandate for action will now be considered by RMT's executive."

The dispute on ScotRail is one of several, across several Train Operating Companies, against DOO. RMT, and drivers' union Aslef, also have live disputes on Southern and Gatwick Express.

Council sacks all teaching assistants

Teaching assistants in Durham have been fighting a months long battle against pay cuts and changes to their contract. Durham county council wants to move teaching assistants from their current 52-week-a-year contracts onto term-time only contracts which would see workers losing up to 23% of their wages, between £1000 and £5000 a year.

In order to force through the plans against opposition from trade unions and campaigners, Durham County Council decided to dismiss its entire workforce of teaching assistants and attempt to reengage them on the new contracts. This shocking behaviour has angered the local labour movement beyond just teaching assistants, and Durham Trades Council hosted a huge solidarity rally in Durham Miners’ Hall attended by hundreds. The campaign by the teaching assistants has gained the support of local MP for Easington Grahame Morris, despite the fact that Durham County Council is Labour run.

• Follow @suptstaffdhm on Twitter for updates

Capita workers strike over pay cuts

Capita workers in the life and pensions sector in Manchester are striking against pay cuts affecting three quarters of the workforce this week. The Unite dispute comes after the widespread rejection of the below-inflation pay offer, and a strong ballot for action short of strike (90%) and strike action (75%).

There has been an overtime ban in place since Friday 3 June, including any “knowledge transfer” work relating to the restructure. Moreover, in response to management's obstinacy during negotiations, a strike has been announced for Thursday 16 June, involving workers from Belfast, Bristol, Glasgow, Manchester and elsewhere. The action will affect Capita's major clients, such as Royal London, Guardian and Aviva.

In 2013, Unite in Capita was successful in a similar campaign based on militant industrial tactics to counter pay cuts. It was good to hear that the Manchester section are calling for public solidarity in disrupting work at the Oxford St/Great Bridgewater St. offices on the morning of the strike.

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