Outsourced workers from four trade unions united for a day of action on Tuesday 26 February. Members of the IWGB at University of London, UVW at the Ministry of Justice, and PCS at the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy all struck to demand better pay and conditions, and direct employment.
RMT London Transport Regional Council, which organises outsourced workers on London Underground, also supported the demonstration.
Guards' jobs: nail down the deal!
The breakthrough in the big railworkers’ dispute to save train guards’ jobs is a cause for celebration, but some caution must also be exercised. No formal settlement has yet been reached, and the train drivers’ Aslef did sell out RMT members as well as its own members in the big driver-only operation (DOO) dispute with GTR Southern in 2016/17.
Aslef reps on the Northern Company Council have been acting to aid the company in pushing forward its DOO agenda. In June last year, they deliberately bailed the company out from having the franchise confiscated by agreeing to sanction voluntary overtime for drivers, in return for a £1,000 cash payment to each driver. They were roundly lambasted by their members soon after, when it was discovered that they had mistakenly failed to check the wording of the agreement.
Although overtime rates increased for longer-serving drivers, for newly qualified drivers they were actually lower under the new agreement than they had been the last time there was a rest-day working agreement in place. Despite promising to rectify their mistake, they have allowed rest day working to continue for six months under this shoddy agreement, and recently recommended a further three-month extension.
It recently emerged that these reps have negotiated extra release from driving duty for themselves (but not local level reps), so that even if a meeting they were due to attend is cancelled, they are still given extra “staff side” time. They recently recommended the union accept a training agreement for new rolling stock that includes drivers being expected at certain times to check CCTV screens showing feeds from inside the train — something that a driver has absolutely no reason to do when operating a service that is also staffed by a guard.
Commendably, the Aslef Executive Committee refused to accept that agreement — presumably because they realised that the Company Council reps have gone rogue and are now willing to do more or less anything the employer wants them to do in return for the vaguest promises of future improvements to drivers’ salaries or terms and conditions. So there is a clear and present danger to this hard-won victory. RMT must not allow secret talks between Aslef and the company. They should fight to bring Aslef into joint talks.
Three top motions for NEU
Of the 18 sections into which the agenda for the conference of the National Education Union (NEU) is divided into, three have motions written by Workers’ Liberty members prioritised at the top. Those three motions signpost the direction we want for the union.
The conference, the first one for the newly-merged NEU, in Liverpool on 14-18 April. NEU, organising 450,000 workers in schools, is now the fourth largest trade union in the UK.
The first of our three prioritised motions is for the union organising and representing support workers. It seeks to commit the union to gaining negotiating rights for support workers and to recruit support staff. The second commits the union to a vocal and active campaign to abolish all the anti-union laws, including by pressure on the Labour leadership. The third demands a ballot of primary school members to organise a boycott of all high-stakes summative testing in primary schools.
To end that testing would have a huge positive effect on the curriculum, work-loads, and the way schools treat children. We will be continuing the fight up to, in, and after the conference in Liverpool.