Industrial news in brief

Submitted by AWL on 3 July, 2019 - 7:52 Author: Ollie Moore
the tube

Tube workers fight job cuts

Tube workers are currently voting in an industrial action ballot, as the RMT union pushes back against job cuts proposed as part of the so-called “Transformation” process.

Nearly 2,000 workers are being balloted, including workers in engineering, signals, electrical, track, the London Underground Control Centre, and the Emergency Response Unit. “Transformation”, a sweeping restructure and job cuts plan, has already led to admin workers seeing their numbers slashed.

The current phase of the plan includes the outsourcing of waste collection workers who are currently directly employed.

A union statement said: “RMT on London Underground is now on a war footing and it’s about time the management, and the London Mayor, woke up and took notice. If we are forced by their inaction to escalate the dispute then that is exactly we will do.

“RMT will not stand back while jobs and safety are carved up and services like waste collection are knocked out to the cheapest bidder just to bail out savage cuts imposed on TfL by this rotten Tory Government.”

The ballot concludes on 16 July.

Outsourced rail cleaners strike

Cleaning workers employed by the ISS contractor on Great Western Railway will strike from 9-11 July, as ISS attempts to impose new contracts that could see workers work up to 60 additional shifts per year.

The cleaners, who work on Hitachi trains, are organised by the RMT union. Their ballot returned a 100% vote in favour of industrial action. A union statement said:

“It is appalling that ISS staff on this prestigious rail contract are being treated in this disgraceful fashion which will pile additional hours on them and destroy their work life balance. Hitachi, ISS and GWR should all be hanging their heads in shame and should pull back immediately.

“RMT has made it clear that we will be stepping up the fight against the scourge of outsourcing on our railways which is highlighted by the scandalous treatment of these ISS staff in West London.”

Meanwhile, RMT is considering a national ballot of its members across Train Operating Companies, after the Department for Transport failed to give assurances about protection of railway workers’ pensions. The union said:

“If it takes the first national rail strike in a generation to defend our members pensions then so be it. We will not tolerate a position where Chris Grayling and the train companies are playing fast and loose with rail pension rights.

“RMT members will not be left to pay the price for the collapsing chaos of the rail franchising system.”

Unison blurs Brexit

At the local government and general conferences of the public services union Unison (16-17 and 18-21 June, in Liverpool), most of the debates were muted.

The union’s procedures make it difficult to get motions beyond the consensual onto the agenda, so, for example, Lambeth Unison had seven motions ruled out of order.

We reported in Solidarity 511 on the debate at local government conference about boycotting high-stakes testing in primary school.

At the national delegate (general) conference, the big issue was Brexit. The motion at the top of the agenda which “reaffirmed” “six tests” for a Brexit deal rather than clearly opposing Brexit. We narrowly missed getting a “remain and transform” motion on the agenda.

Shadow Brexit minister Keir Starmer, speaking to the conference, said in response to questions: “I think we will very soon say openly that we want to campaign for remain [in a new public vote]. But I want to do it as one”.

Unison Action, the broad left grouping in the union, supported by the SWP, SP and others, had a big fringe meeting.

There are tensions within the group, however, which are likely to come to the fore in the run-up to the next general secretary election in late 2020: the SP and SWP are likely to back different candidates.

Although the SWP and the SP stand aside from the Labour Party organisationally, politically their interventions were uncritically pro-Corbyn.

Politics beyond “what we need is a Corbyn government” came instead from critical left-wing currents within the Labour Party.

Suffolk fire cuts

Firefighters in Suffolk have launched a campaign against attacks on frontline services and on their terms and conditions which are severe even by the wider standards of fire cuts. They need support.

For more, see the Fire Brigades Union website and Eastern Region FBU Twitter.

Messages of solidarity and speaker requests to Suffolk FBU’s Chair Phil Johnston. Please sign the statement here.

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