Industrial news in brief

Submitted by AWL on 7 November, 2018 - 11:30 Author: Clara Bennett, Ruth Cashman and Ollie Moore

Security staff at the University of Leicester are currently in dispute with management, who wish to cut their working week to 35 from 37 hours, with the loss of two hours’ pay. Effectively this works out to be about £800 per year. A large sum for relatively low paid workers but a tiny sum for the university, especially when the team they are targeting is very small.

A consultative ballot was held last week where 100% turnout achieved 100% in favour of industrial action. This, from the 100% unionised team, should send a very clear message to the bosses that a cut in wages will not be tolerated.

The security workers recently won a change in their rota and hope the momentum of winning will carry them through this dispute.

There were definite signs of solidarity between staff students and security during the UCU pension dispute. As a consequence to this, the Unison members are now meeting with the University of Leicester student activist group who, during the UCU strike, occupied the office of the vice chancellor Paul Boyle. The UCU branch is likely to discuss how to support security staff too. A couple of the security team are very keen to receive messages of support form other trade unionists and activists, but hesitant to give their name as they were concerned about reprisals.

One security worker said “I used to think that trade unions were a waste of time, but they’ve been brilliant”.

They have urged people to sign their petition calling on the University to reverse its plans to cut wages.

Libraries demo: missed opportunity

Since 2010, more than 500 public libraries have been closed across England, Scotland and Wales. More have faced crippling staff and budget cuts. That is set to continue despite the Chancellor’s claims that austerity is ending.

There have been local fightbacks by Unison members in Lambeth, Barnet and Blaenau Gwent and Unite members in Greenwich. For many years, grassroots library campaigners have been calling for a national, cross union coordinated political and industrial strategy.

In 2016 reps in PCS, Unite and Unison along with community campaigners organised the Libraries, Museums and Galleries demonstration attended by 3000 people. Unison conference 2017 supported another national demonstration. Sadly this demonstration took a year and a half to organise and then was called at the last minute for Saturday 3 November by Unison HQ without coordinating with local union reps, limiting turnout. One branch trying to build the demo tried to order 1,000 leaflets only to be told that only 1,000 had been printed for the entire national mobilisation.

In the end, roughly 100 people marched from the British Library to Parliament Square. Most marched with union and community banners on the road, whilst the march’s stewards made up of Unison staff bizarrely walked alongside the march on the pavement with the national Save Libraries Banner.

Labour Party deputy leader Tom Watson welcomed the demonstration but clearly hadn’t been warned of the poor organisation in the run up, commenting: “Thank you Unison for showing — once again — what an effective, campaigning union looks like. I hope Theresa May hears your message loud and clear.”

Unison reps in libraries and their workmates have fought again and again, along with local communities, occupied Carnegie Libraries and, across the country, been campaigning against job losses, closures and privatisation, but the 3 November demonstration certainly doesn’t show what an effective, campaigning union looks like.

If we want to save Britain’s public libraries we need to build the cross-union shop stewards network that reps have been calling on Unison to facilitate since 2012. We need to coordinate our strikes and campaign nationally and locally against Tory cuts. We need Labour to stand up for libraries.

Alan Wylie, library campaigner, has warned Labour’s policy on libraries will have to confront the question of the actions of Labour Councils: “‘What about Labour councils like Lambeth, Lewisham and Sheffield that are cutting, closing, privatising and/or handing libraries over to volunteers?’ I hear you ask “We need to get Labour to develop a national policy and then use it to whip these and other councils into line and commit to upholding and strengthening the statutory basis of public libraries.

“Then we stand a chance of reversing/halting the damage.”

TGI workers declare win

As Solidarity went to press, Unite announced that workers at TGI Fridays had won their dispute.

A post on Facebook said “workers at TGI Fridays won their well publicised dispute after taking highly effective industrial action and embarrassing the company into concessions.”

The victory has meant: • Reinstatement of staff meals • Payment for trial shifts • Payment for unpaid online training • Re-establishment of the Tronc Committee [a method for determining fair distribution of tips] • 60%/40% split of tips changes to 65% / 35% in Feb preventing move to 50%/50%”

More details will follow in next week’s Solidarity.

Tube station staff plan ballots

London Underground station workers at Baker Street are preparing to ballot for strikes to demand the reinstatement of an unfairly sacked colleague, and to resist unfair disciplinary procedures. The RMT union says the procedures used to dismiss a Customer Service Assistant after his probation were unfair.

A statement on the RMT London Calling website said: “We note the company has undertaken to review the dismissal of Bro. Mahoney, and state here and now that unless Bro. Mahoney is reinstated without delay; this union will issue them the notice and commence a ballot of our members for industrial action.” The RMT also cites “spurious disciplinary procedures” against two members, one of whom is the local union rep, as reasons behind the dispute.

The union has also declared a dispute on the Bakerloo South Cover Group, which includes Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, Charing Cross, Lambeth North, and Elephant and Castle, over short-staffing. A union activist told Solidarity: “There simply aren’t enough staff to cover the work. If someone goes off sick, their duty will often be left uncovered, meaning people are working on incredibly busy gatelines on their own. Staff feel like they’re being hammered.”

The RMT said that short-staffing “creates undue stress on our members and puts them and the travelling public at risk.”

RMT also plans to ballot its train driver members at the Morden depot on the Northern Line over substandard conditions in the staff accommodation areas. And, as Solidarity went to press, RMT and Aslef driver members on the Central Line, were due to strike on 7 November. Piccadilly line strikes for the same day have been suspended.

Rail catering workers strike

Rail workers employed by Rail Gourmet, which provides catering services on board mainline trains, struck on 30 October.

The workers, who work out of an Edinburgh depot on LNER Inter City services, are resisting management bullying and demanding payment for additional duties.

An RMT statement said: “This is a fight for workplace justice involving a crucial group of staff servicing the catering functions on LNER trains and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect just like any other group of transport workers.”

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