Industrial reports: London Undgertound, Schools, Crown Post Office

Submitted by cathy n on 24 July, 2007 - 3:37

Bakerloo strike over lone working

Following a 94.5% yes vote to take strike action, drivers and detrainment workers on the Bakerloo line will be out this Friday to force management to withdraw their plans for ‘lone-working’.

Detrainment staff, who check that trains are empty of passengers at the end of their route, currently work in groups of at least two in order to ensure their and passengers’ safety — and yet, at Harrow & Wealdstone and Willesden Junction stations, in an area where violent crime is 40% above the national average, security is being cut back.

Detrainment work at these stations is suitable for medically restricted staff who cannot work at other locations — but it is these vulnerable staff who are now to be left alone. The service is being cut back in spite of a passenger fatality at the sidings at Liverpool Street under the previous shoddy regimen, to the detriment of workers and the people who use the Tube. That drivers will be expected to help to deal with detrainment is no substitute for overall safety.

While management would do well to recognize the determination of workers to win this dispute — and maintain current arrangements — the RMT should co-ordinate the strike action that is likely to take place on the part of Silverlink workers, over pay, with Bakerloo line staff.

Halifax anti-academy campaign

By Pat Murphy, NUT Executive (PC)

In Halifax on Wednesday July 11th Calderdale NUT organised a public meeting to launch their anti-Academies campaign. There are no Academies so far in Calderdale but there is a proposal to close the Ridings School and replace it with one in North Halifax. The Ridings hit the national media a few years back when it was it was labelled a school out of control by press and government. What was less well publicised was the fact that there are selective grammar schools in the area which leaves the local comprehensives to be, in effect, secondary modern schools, teaching the most disadvantaged and most challenging young people.

An official parents consultation meeting attracted 40 people earlier in the week. Sue McMahon, Calderdale branch secretary told me she was a bit worried that she hadn't been able to book a room with a capacity smaller than 70 and hoped the turnout at the NUT meeting wasn't made to look worse by this. On turning up I found that the room was packed.

There must have been around 100 people there including parents, governors, local councillers from all three parties and teachers. Speakers from the floor included all of these groups. A parent from the campaign to stop the establishment of an Academy at Rhodesway school in Bradford was the main speaker, but former Labour MP Alice Mahon also spoke from the floor as did Ian Murch, NUT national offcier and Hazel Danson and myself from the NUT National Executive. It was a tremendous start to the campaign, everyone left with petitions and pledged to build the campaign against an Academy.

Public sector pay rally in Leeds

A large and successful public rally to oppose Gordon Brown's public sector pay freeze was held in Leeds on Thursday July 12th. Over 100 people attended the rally, held at the Metropole Hotel and sponsored by at least five local union branches. The meeting was organised by a local public sector pay campaign set up in June after discussions between the NUT and Unison Local Government. This united local campaign has quickly attracted support from the PCS, Unison Health, the CWU and FBU. In some cases this is official branch support in other cases it is the involvement of some activists and lay officers. The public meeting the first major event backed by the campaign and was in effect the public launch. It was very quickly organised and we had the usual anxieties about turnout. In fact the overfilled room was more than most of the committee expected and fully vindicated the decision to go for a major launch event before the summer holidays.

The meeting was addressed by the local CWU postal branch secretary who reported on the solid support for the strike that day. The platform also included victimised health worker Karen Reissman from Unison Health NEC, Bill Greensheils, NUT National Vice-Presidentand Sue Bond of PCS. There was a good mix of workers from local government, health, civil service and schools and some posties. It was a very upbeat meeting which clearly boosted and enthused the people who came and it should consolidate and expand the local unity committee that we have established.

The test for the local campaign will be whether it can play a role in fighting for co-ordination of industrial action and combatting the divide and rule tactics that we are likely to see around public sector pay in the months ahead. A good start would be to organise workplace collection sheets for the postal workers for use in all local workplaces.

Crown Post Offices strike

Workers at 465 Crown Post Offices across Britain were readied to take a third day of strike action on 19 July against cutbacks and privatisation of the postal service. Royal Mail’s plans will see 85 of the country’s largest Post Offices put into the hands of WHSmith, in changes which will see 1,500 redundancies and pay cuts for those lucky enough to cling on to their jobs. The CWU says that the majority of Post Office workers can expect a pay cut (relative to inflation) of over £5,000 by 2010.

Much like other postworkers, Post Office staff organised by the CWU have been mounting one-day stoppages in protest at dismemberment of the postal service, having struck on the morning of 2 July and on 16 July. However, although these workers are subjected to the same cuts agenda, their dispute is being led as if separate from the struggle of posties, with little co-ordination of actions. More unity and the concrete threat of further strikes are needed to ensure a real fightback, as management refuse to negotiate with the union.

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