Train drivers on London Underground’s Central Line will strike again over 21-22 December, to demand the reinstatement of unjustly sacked colleague Paul Bailey.
Paul was sacked after passing a random drugs test. Although he registered for the presence of cannabinoid substances, due to taking hemp supplements, he was within the “cut off limit” of 50ng/ml. The RMT union says Paul’s sacking “undermines the integrity of London Underground’s entire drugs and alcohol testing regime”.
Company management seems to be worried the union might be right; they recently issued guidance to staff not to take hemp supplements, even though they are entirely legal and sold on the high street. The strike also doubles up as further action in a separate dispute against what RMT calls a “breakdown in industrial relations” on the line, with workers objecting to an authoritarian management culture.
The 21-22 December strike will involve Night Tube drivers on the Central Line, only the second time Night Tube workers have taken industrial action since the service was launched.
Meanwhile, RMT is preparing strike ballots for station staff at Baker Street, in a dispute over management bullying, and Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, Charing Cross, and Elephant and Castle, in a dispute over short-staffing.
Birmingham care workers continue strike
Home care workers in Birmingham struck again on 17 November in their ongoing dispute with Birmingham Council over cuts to services, pay cuts, and the imposition of an unworkable three split shift system.
Earlier this month the council, under pressure from the strikes, proposed a £5,800 pay cut (due to cut hours) instead of the original £11,000. Workers unanimously rejected the deal in a packed union meeting.
In a press release, Birmingham Unison said: “Management issued a new business case to make all the staff, 60% of whom are full time or work over 30 hours, redundant or impose on them a contract for 22.75, 21 or 14 hours. They will be asked to work 7 days out of 14, working opposite days each week. 14 hours’ contracts will be 7-11am, 21 hr contracts 4-10pm and 22.75 hr contracts 7-11am and 12-2.30pm. This will make it almost impossible to get a second job which, due to low pay, many rely on to make ends meet.
“This cut in hours will lead to a substantial loss in pay and remove entitlement to benefits like Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit.
“Enablement staff passionately believe in the work they do. The service they provide is a vital one. The Council say the service isn’t efficient enough, but before the cuts started the service had a really high satisfaction rate.
“This is a dispute Unison must win. If the Council can impose such drastic cuts in hours and working patterns on this group of members, all staff face a similar risk in the future.”
Workers have struck for 15 days over November and are planning more strikes for December.
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Guards on Northern will strike every Saturday until 29 December, and guards at South Western Railways until 24 November, in the ongoing dispute over Driver-Only Operation.
There has been no sign of movement from either TOC. According to the Telegraph, though, Northern have been in crisis talks with the DfT over extra funding to run the franchise. This has fuelled speculation that Northern may be renationalised in the near future, which would change the dynamic of the DOO dispute — as the union would be negotiating directly with Grayling and the DfT.
Merseyrail talks are still on going after the RMT released a draft settlement/negotiating framework in October, but it is unclear where the talks have got to. Strikes remain suspended on Merseyrail.
The RMT has somewhat belatedly started doing public solidarity work, holding public meetings in the north east and north west to drum up public and labour movement support for the strike.
They have also set up a Northern guards’ solidarity fund, administered by the union.
• Donate to the strike fund