Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 13 December, 2017 - 12:24 Author: Will Sefton, Gemma Short and Patrick Murphy

The local government employers have proposed a two year pay offer for council and school support staff workers of 2% in 2018 and a further 2% in 2019.

Unison, GMB and Unite, as the largest unions representing local government workers, will now put the offer to their respective committees for consideration.

Initial statements from the three unions suggest they at least partially welcome a wage rise that is above the 1% pay cap, but it is well below the level needed to restore anywhere like the 20% cut that workers have faced since 2010.

The last national strike action taken in local government over pay was a single day of strike action in 2014. The three unions then settled for the deal and laid blame at the door of union members for not being able to mobilise effective strike action.

More recently, when Unison members voted for action over pay in a consultative ballot, they were stopped before the matter could even be referred to the committee that could authorise industrial action.

Getting the turnout needed for national strike action to be a reality will mean coordinating now, with a lively campaign and one that makes members believe the three unions aim to win.

Bus drivers balloted on pay deal

Bus drivers on Arriva North West have been balloted over an offer received from the company.

The workers have been on strike for a pay rise and an end to pay differences between different depots.The offer comprises a two year pay deal which sees workers get a modest pay rise but differences between depots continue.

As Solidarity went to press (12 December) the result of the vote had not yet been published.

Unite is recommending members reject the deal.

ISS outsourced workers fight back

GMB is organising a day of action against cleaning contractor ISS at south London hospitals on Tuesday 19 December.

Protests will take place at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich; Kingston Hospital; Maudsley Hospital, Camberwell; Lambeth Hospital, Brixton; and Bethlem Hospital, Beckenham.

GMB says ISS is a 9 billion, global services firm, employing cleaning, portering and security staff in many of our hospitals. But the way ISS is treating its workers with insecure, precarious contracts and pay sometimes as low as 7.88 an hour takes the *ISS.

Workers at Liverpool Royal and Broadgreen Hospitals are also fighting agains ISS. ISS has limited sick pay to 12 days a year.

Workers, with their union, Unite, and the support of the local Labour Party has been organising stalls and protests at the hospitals.

Charlton Park Academy workers show the way to win

In October, Solidarity reported on the decision by teachers and support staff employed at Charlton Park Academy to strike in opposition to significant threats to their terms and conditions.

Their unions, the GMB and the National Education Union (NEU) were planning a series of escalating strikes to ensure that the sick pay provisions they had were protected and made available to all staff. Since Charlton Park Academy (CPA) became an academy in 2012, new staff were no longer protected by national terms and conditions (Burgundy and Green Book).

These staff employed on the new Academy contract saw serious reductions in their sick pay entitlements. Staff became aware of the situation when one teacher who had experienced an industrial injury and was off work discovered she was only entitled to four weeks' sick pay and had to pay her rent using a credit card. The good news is that after months of action including six days of strikes, GMB and NEU members can claim victory in their dispute. Burgundy and Green book conditions have been won for all staff beginning on 1 December 2017. Once again the lessons of this victory are that determined, well-organised action which seeks to involve as many workers as possible in the activities around the strike is the most effective way to force a retreat from a stubborn management.

The strikes began in July 2017 and involved both NEU and GMB members, with over 90 staff at the school taking part.

Pickets have been vibrant and determined, and have excellent support from the local community including Greenwich and Bexley Trades Council and Labour MP Matthew Pennycook. Alongside this, local Labour councillors, Gary Parker, John Fahy, Chris Kirby and others have been key in exerting pressure on the Head and Governing Body to resolve the dispute.

On Wednesday 29 November, after three weeks of ACAS talks, agreement was reached between all parties to secure Burgundy and Green Book rights for all staff with the proviso of a trial period to monitor its implementation. The Governing Body have also agreed to adopt Greenwich Policies on Sickness Absence, including Workplace Injury, which puts them in line with other schools in the Borough. A Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) of all trade unions has also been agreed to ensure that industrial relations can proceed in a culture of respect and transparency.

A joint statement from the Greenwich GMB and NEU announced that We are immensely proud of the unity and dedication of GMB and NEU members and what we have achieved together. We have shown that unity is strength and that an injury to one is an injury to all.

Local activists and members of both unions are right to be proud of this unity and dedication. They should also be proud of the way they took the dispute into the local trade union movement and the Labour Party and the way they used their contacts in the national unions to raise funds to ensure that support staff were financially backed during a lengthy dispute.

Star Wars strikes to hit Picturehouse

Workers at five Picturehouse cinemas will be striking on 14, 24, 26 December.

14 December is the opening day of Star Wars, the biggest movie of the year. Last year Picturehouse made a large percentage of their profits during the opening weeks of Star Wars: Rogue One. Workers from all five Picturehouse sites on strike, and their supporters, will be demonstrating outside Hackney Picturehouse on 14 December from 4 p.m.

Hackney Picturehouse, one of the busier sites, is going to be ram packed with customers that day. We hope our demonstration will draw enough attention that we can turn away a significant enough amount of customers and/or at least have a significant enough effect on those who have chosen to cross our picket line that they will consider looking up and supporting our movement.

On Christmas Eve, many other businesses would close up and give their staff time to go back home for Christmas Day and see the family. Picturehouse have refused to allow this and has previously scheduled strikers to work over Christmas, so this strike will give strikers the time off they deserve. Boxing day is a big day in the cinema calendar. Lots of big movies get released on this day. When we withdraw our labour on this day, the cinema operations will be significantly disrupted even with scab labour. The management will find it difficult to keep these cinemas running.

Picturehouse are finding it difficult to keep up with our strikes. Every time we go on strike, the management has to spend money bringing in undertrained scab labour, close down the bars and kitchens (where they make a significant amount of money), and spend money on the expenses of managers drafted in from external sites. Picturehouse, so afraid of more workers joining the union, have instigated a hiring freeze and in doing so are putting more pressure on managers who have to take up the slack. Many managers have left our site, explaining that the strikes and the pressure from head office is causing them stress and anxiety. Picturehouse would rather continue to harm its own business than give us the right to form a union and a Living Wage.

They cannot limp on like this forever. They will have to negotiate with us. We are ready for the long fight.

Engineering workers ballot over Scrooge bosses

London Underground gives additional payments to, or makes special arrangements for, workers in many departments for working over Christmas and Boxing Day.

The unions' ongoing battles for fair working practices for drivers on Boxing Day are well known.

But Asset Operations (engineering) workers have no additional payment or any other form of recognition or remuneration for working over these days, despite the obvious impact on work/life balance.

That's why RMT members in Asset Operations are balloting for strikes to demand parity with other workers who have access to additional payments or special arrangements for Christmas/Boxing Day working. Their strike ballot closes on 12 December.

We'd like to see RMT spread the (festive) spirit of this dispute to other areas. Station staff have to work Christmas Eve and Boxing Day without any additional payments, as do cleaners.

All workers should have the right to social and family time at Christmas if they want it, so let's hope the Asset Operations dispute is the launchpad for a wider fight.

Strikes for pay parity

Train maintainers and maintenance and stores workers at Ruislip Transplant Depot have voted for strikes to win pay parity.

Workers are being paid unequally for doing the same work, and workers who do train prep work and sign off trains as fit for service are being denied the associated pay enhancement.

With LU looking to cut train prep times and possibly reduce jobs, winning this struggle could put us at an advantage.

We will not work for free!

On 4-5 December, PCS members in DVSA, an agency within Department for Transport, struck.

The strike concerns whether you should be paid for all your work related activities, in particular travel time between workplaces.Presently DfT will only pay for a certain amount of the time spent travelling. The union of course wants all the travel time to be paid.

The strike overall was well supported but there are clear areas where the union has to work to improve the turnout next time.

The next, and in some ways more important phase of the dispute centres on the work to contract.

DfT introduced a new form of driving test on the 4 December, over the strong objections from the union.The department wants a fixed number of tests to be carried out within the working day. The problem is that this cannot be readily done, so many Driving Examiners will find themselves not being able to fit the last test into the working day. They will be forced either to cancel this test (which is what working to contract will mean) or take the test but work overtime for no extra pay.

The test itself also has dangerous features that are supposed to mimic real world driving but will increase the chances of accidents.Working to contract means stopping a test if the candidate is driving dangerously.

Therefore the work to contract will mean many cancelled and stopped tests, all of which hit DVLA's bottom line.

The government has demanded that PCS end the dispute before it will start talks aimed at resolving the dispute. PCS has rightly rejected that demand. Interestingly the Labour Party has now intervened and written to the DfT Secretary of State saying that talks must start without any preconditions.

Given the specific nature of the dispute it is probable that it cannot be escalated to the rest of the department but nevertheless the wider union can and must show solidarity even if only in the form of fund raising. The dispute can be won, but it probably will be a long struggle.

In principle, if you carry out a work related activity, then you should be paid for it. No free work should be allowed.

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