Tube win against cuts
Cuts had been planned by London Underground to train maintenance schedules, to reduce the frequency of train safety checks, from 24-hourly to 96-hourly, or up to monthly or more on some lines. Fleet maintenance workers in the RMT union had set strikes for 17-20 May. RMT had also planned to demonstrate outside London’s City Hall on 16 May, highlighting Labour mayor Sadiq Khan’s failure to resist Tory cuts to Transport for London’s budget.
RMT reported on 14 May that the maintenance schedule cuts had been withdrawn, and has suspended action. Union general secretary Mick Cash said: “We now expect London Underground to reverse the planned cuts to jobs [in engineering sectors] under their ‘Transformation’ programme”.
Tube cleaners, employed by outsourced contractor ABM, are also gearing up for industrial action, as ABM has recently cut staffing levels. Cleaners are also demanding free travel passes, company sick pay, and improved holiday and pensions arrangements, as part of a wider campaign to demand direct employment.
Lambeth children’s centres call for strike ballot
On 10 May. Lambeth Unison submitted an official request to the national union for a strike ballot of children’s centres workers. Lambeth council voted at its April Cabinet meeting to ignore protests by the local community press ahead with the closure of five of its 23 children’s centres and cutting services at more. Parents have vowed to continue with public campaigning and children’s centres workers have returned an 84% yes vote in consultative ballot over industrial action.
Though Unison members have voted in that local ballot, according to the anti-union laws they will need to vote again in an official ballot. A ballot for industrial action must be agreed by the national union and then carried out supervised by a qualified independent person (a “scrutineer” – usually from the Electoral Reform Society).
Ruth Cashman, Branch Secretary of Lambeth Unison, said “We will keep linking up with campaigns across London and trying to bring Labour, in particular Labour councils into joint activity to fight Tory cuts to local government.
“Whilst we do that we know we need to step up our fight locally. Children’s Centre workers in Unison have voted to say they want to be balloted and will take strike action to stop the loss of jobs and services.
“At the same time parents are building campaign groups centre by centre as well as launching some very creative campaign ideas that we’re excited to see in action. “We are pleased that, though the council is currently pushing forward with the closures, the consultation on the restructure has been delayed. We have been protesting, recruiting new members and consulting. There is still a lot to do.”
The move by Lambeth to close some of its children’s centres came after figures by ITV News London showed a decrease of at least 29 per cent in the number of children’s centres operating in the London area. Brent, Ealing, Havering, Redbridge and Wandsworth are also consulting on children’s centre closures.