Industrial news in brief

Submitted by AWL on 18 January, 2017 - 1:44 Author: Ollie Moore, Charlotte Zalens, Peggy Carter, Michael Elms and Gemma Short

Tube workers’ union RMT has announced its members on stations will strike again from 6 February unless London Underground bosses meet its demands for an increased staffing level. The company’s latest proposal is to reinstate 250 of the jobs it cut under the “Fit for the Future” programme, but RMT has rejected the offer as insufficient.

An RMT rep told Solidarity: “There’s no way we’d settle for winning back only a quarter of the jobs lost. We want all cuts reversed. Most of the company’s proposed 250 jobs will come back at the CSA2 grade, which we’re fighting to abolish.

“It’s not fair for workers to be doing similar work with a £7,000 salary differential. It’s a way for the employer to lower the rate for the job. We want the staffing level restored, with jobs at CSA1 grade and above, and we’re prepared to fight on to win that.”

RMT reps and activists are discussing how to escalate their action if management do not meet their demands. Their last strike, on 8-9 January, was for 24 hours, but there is now a firm consensus amongst reps that escalated action will he needed.

It is unclear whether smaller Tube union TSSA will participate in any further action. Its negotiators and General Secretary recommended to workplace reps that they suspend their strike to accept LU’s 250-jobs offer, but were forced to keep the action on after a rank-and-file revolt. In a separate dispute, RMT has announced it will ballot fleet maintenance staff over job cuts and roster changes.

Tories backing Southern’s war

Drivers on Southern Rail struck from 10-13 January, and plan to strike again on 24-27 January, in their on going fight to reverse the imposition of ″Driver Only Operation″ (DOO) Guards, members of RMT, have now announced plans for a 24-hour strike on 23 January.

On the 11 January, a CCTV image was used in a court case which shows a woman whose hand got stuck in a door on a First Great Western Service and was dragged 60 feet along the platform before she could free herself.

Mick Whelan, general secretary of drivers′ union ASLEF, said: ″This sad case shows that what we have been saying is right, and what the company is saying is completely wrong. Southern says DOO is safe. It isn’t. Southern says the traction interlocking system, which is supposed to prevent a train leaving the station if something – such as a bag, briefcase, shopping bag, wheelchair, child’s buggy, or, as here, the hand or arm of a passenger trying to get on or off the train – is trapped in the carriage doors, always works. It is, the company says, a failsafe system. This picture shows it isn’t.″

Aslef also released a leaflet for passengers on Southern showing contrasting images of what Southern says the drivers′ monitors show of the platform and images taken by drivers of in-use monitors. Southern is not the only place fighting DOO, and in a show of solidarity Aslef reps and activists from across the country visited Southern picket lines on Friday 13 January. The RMT also revealed last week (12 January) that clauses in franchise agreements between the government and rail companies mean that companies will be compensated by the government for any lost revenue due to strikes against the imposition of DOO. Effectively the government is using public money to bankroll a war against rail unions, whilst the Railway Safety Standards Board says that train companies will benefit to the tune of £1.1bn in the next 20 years by getting rid of guards.

Derby teaching assistants fight 25% pay cut

School support staff in Derby struck between Monday 16 and Friday 20 January over changes to pay and conditions. Similarly to recent strikes in Durham, and previously reported in Solidarity, new contracts have been imposed on workers resulting in a 25% loss of pay.

Strikes in September and October brought the council to negotiations but they failed to make any significant changes. In the lead up to and during the 16-20 January strikes, teaching assistants and their supporters have been out campaigning, door knocking in residential areas and petitioning in the city centre.

• Find out more and donate to the strike fund here

Cinema strike solidarity

Haringey Labour Momentum and members of the BECTU trade union at the Crouch End Picturehouse organised a fundraiser gig to support the Picturehouse strikes.

Supported by artists like St Leonard of St Leonard’s Horses and Zsa Zsa Sapiens alongside comedians James Ross and Chris Coltrane, an audience of over 100 raised £1,000 for the strike fund and made a big display of local support for the dispute.

The Picturehouse dispute is spreading - from one site being on strike in September, the workers’ campaign for union recognition, sick pay, maternity pay and the living wage has now extended to involve four sites in strike action: Brixton, Hackney, the flagship Leicester Square cinema and Crouch End. The preparations for the gig played a role in putting management under pressure and increasing the confidence of the staff.

From 2 January to 13 January there were leafleters talking to customers at the cinema almost every day at peak time, explaining the dispute, leafleting and postering. Customers were uniformly shocked at the employer’s anti-union stance and tight-fisted pay policy. Students at University of Arts London opened their studios to staff and helped them paint banners for use at the gig and in the strikes to come.

A few days before the gig itself, it was announced that Crouch End would be joining the Picturehouse strike ballot. This was the crowning achievement of months of work by the local reps. The atmosphere of unapologetic support for the strike created by a local Momentum group and local residents getting active surely helped.

Cabin crew strike again

″Mixed fleet″ cabin crew at British Airways will strike again for 72 hours from 00.01 on Thursday 19 January.

As previously reported in Solidarity, ″mixed fleet″ cabin crew are part of a two-tier workforce created by BA in an attempt to solve a previous industrial dispute. They are on far inferior pay and conditions, and are now fighting for a pay increase. Despite claims by British Airways that the strikes would cause no disruption, the first strike resulted in a number of flights into Heathrow being cancelled as over 2,900 Unite members struck on 10-11 January. Since the start of the dispute over 800 workers have joined Unite.

Teachers fight unfair scrutiny

Teachers at New Charter Academy in Manchester struck on 10-11 January over scrutiny of teachers.

Teachers, members of the NUT and NASUWT, struck for two days in December as well. And members of the ATL plan to join a third period of strikes starting on 17 January. Teachers at the school say they are constantly asked to implement new initiatives that lead to extra workload and are causing stress and high staff turnover. They are also fighting against increased monitoring and the use of data targets in performance management. Teachers plan more strikes from 17 January if management does not back down

Kings cleaners’ strike ballot

Cleaners at Kings College London have voted for strikes against job losses and high workload by 98%. Cleaners at Kings were contracted out to cleaning contractor Servest after they won a successful campaign for the Living Wage in 2014. Since then Servest has consistently paid staff late, refused to pay for overtime, and forced huge workloads onto workers when their colleagues are ill. Servest has also sent all staff a letter threatening them with redundancies and a cut in hours.

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