Roundup of Union news in brief: Linamar, Tube, UCL, PCS
TUBE: Drivers on the London Underground's Victoria line struck on 20 May to reverse the unjust sacking of driver Carl Campbell, a sacking which had just been upheld, and demand new safety equipment on the line.
Further strikes action is planned, but m any activists are saying we should now go to a 48-hour strike, or even more. Some people worry that some ASLEF drivers will not join a 48-hour action. But ASLEF members should know as well as RMT members that if this strike is defeated, no Victoria line driver’s job is safe.
TUBE CLEANERS: Boris Johnson has announced that the London Living Wage is going up 15p to £7.60. It's hardly a fortune, but many workers — including many Tube cleaners — are not even on the old LLW rate, let alone the new one.
In light of the increase in the LLW, RMT should submit a new claim to the cleaning companies for the London Living Wage for all cleaners, plus improved conditions such as free travel. The union can then launch a renewed recruitment drive based around the claim.
After all, cleaners are far more likely to join a union with a definite prospect of winning better pay and conditions than just for the sake of it. Together with a campaign for all immigrant cleaners’ right to stay and work legally, this could form the basis to turn around the decline in the union's strength following victimisation of cleaners in the wake of last year's strike.
UCL: Last week cleaners at University College London were told that immigration officers were coming on site to carry out a paper check. Immediately a leaflet was pulled together calling for a collective refusal to take part.
It is unclear what the outcome has been, there was a protest last thursday 21 mainly attended by students and other workers from the university. We still do not know whether the check took place, or whether anyone has been deported.
As Solidarity goes to press cleaners at the nearby School of Oriental and African Studies will be going on strike against the dismissal of Unison branch secratary Joseph Stalin Bermudez. The action is supported by both UCU and the Student Union.
On Tuesday 27 May, leading cleaner activist Alberto Durango was sacked by contactor Lancaster at a disciplinary for working under a false name. This came after an attempt by the company to have him deported.
The company gave Alberto the false name when his visa expired in 1997 and had kept him in on in full knowledge of his status as an “illegal”. In the meantime, Alberto got indefinite leave to remain 2004. He did not tell his employers as he knew Lancaster would sieze upon any excuse to get rid of him as trade unionist and a “troublemaker”.
This week’s Friday picket of Willis Insurance will hand in a petition to Unite offical Jack Dromey calling on the union to reverse its decision not to represent the sacked workers.
• More at www.caic.org.uk
CIVIL SERVANTS: Four key issues were discussed at the 2009 conference of civil service union PCS (20-22 May).
Firstly, on pay, the union leadership was forced to acknowledge that their so-called “breakthrough deal” had not worked. As General Secretary Mark Serwotka put it, “it didn’t deliver one penny for one person.” On this issue the left in the union, who criticised the deal, have been vindicated. Previously the union had claimed that better pay would be achieved by the 2% pay cap being abolished and that they could use agreed “efficiency savings” to fund pay increases.
However, today the pay cap is even tighter (standing at 1.5%) and nobody to date has been able to use efficiency savings to win better pay.
A motion setting out a strategy to oppose upcoming attacks on pensions (whoever is in government after the next election) was passed. The motion called on the union to start campaigning now. However the National Executive made it clear that it would only begin the campaign when it saw fit, despite the fact that this is likely to be a major attack after the next election.
Proposed attacks on the civil service redundancy scheme were also discussed. The government wants to change the rules of the scheme and thus reduce compensation and make it cheaper to make people redundant. The union hasn’t yet told the members what is being proposed by the government. Yet over the coming period the union will be consulting members over the compensation scheme as well as over pay.
The consultation could lead to industrial action, although this is more likely to be over the redundancy scheme than over pay. The union leadership believe that it will be more difficult to break the government’s policy on the pay issue.
The final interesting debate at conference was over political campaigning by the union. While saying that PCS will remain independent form any political party, conference agreed to a consultation exercise from now until our next conference (May 2010) on whether or not to support individual political candidates or political groupings in elections. If conference positively endorses that idea, there will then be a membership ballot on the issue.
There seems to be two reasons behind the proposal from PCS leadership.
One reason is a recognition that the “Make Your Vote Count” campaign of the union had severe limitations. In that campaign the PCS went to local MPs/local politicians to get their position on various PCS policies. These positions were then to be published so that PCS members could more easily decide which way to vote based on the information.
So what do you do if you don’t like what any of them say? Or if bourgeois candidates give demagogic answers? The campaign was undermined when the Labour Party “advised” its candidates not to tell PCS where they stood!
The other reason behind the new policy is that the dominant political force in the union leadership, the Socialist Party, are preparing for political realignments after the general election and a projected electoral meltdown from Labour.
The next paper will carry a longer analysis of the issues raised at PCS conference.
LINAMAR VICTMISATION: Last issue we carried an interview with Rob Williams, the Unite convenor at the Linamar (ex-Visteon) car parts plant in Swansea victimised for his record of defending members’ interests and building solidarity with the Visteon struggle.
Rob’s workmates were then preparing to ballot for strike action. The result is now out.
139 voted yes to strike action, 19 no, and three abstained — a seven to one margin.
Rob told us he and his comrades had been “overwhelmed with solidarity”. It is more important than ever that we keep the solidarity pouring in.