Industrial news in brief

Submitted by AWL on 16 October, 2019 - 7:31 Author: Gerry Bates, Dom Sztyber, Darren Bedford and Ollie Moore

The ballot for general secretary of the civil service union PCS will open on 7 November and close on 12 December.

For the first time in 18 years, the sitting general secretary, Mark Serwotka, faces a challenge from the left.

Bev Laidlaw, the Independent Left candidate, got 17 branch nominations, topping the number of 15 required to get on the ballot paper.

Serwotka got 62 nominations. The candidate backed by the Socialist Party, Marion Lloyd, got 39.

The SP was a dominant force in the union, closely allied with Serwotka, until about a year and a half ago.

In the Assistant General Secretary election, Independent Left candidate John Moloney won despite getting fewer nominations than the more “establishment” candidates, Chris Baugh and Lynn Henderson.

There is no good reason to assume that the votes for general secretary will mirror the relative numbers of nominations.

Good turnout for eCourier strike

Couriers working for eCourier, a Royal Mail Group subsidiary, struck on 10 and 11 October.

They were joined by a good showing of supporters including the film director Ken Loach who phoned to the picket line to deliver a message of solidarity and encouragement over a speaker.

Membership turnout was higher than expected following blatant intimidation the day before. On Wednesday 9, Mike, an IWGB company rep, was dismissed. This came less than 24 hours after he wrote an online article in LeftFootForward about his precarious experience of working for eCourier.

Much to the surprise of management Mike returned to the offices later the same day to represent another member.

Malcolm Fullick, Head of Operations, had repeatedly threatened the union with legal action over the balloting process in the build up. However, he had failed to grasp that to do so would mean accepting the previous court ruling that his independent contractors are actually workers and are entitled to the basic rights they continue to deny them.

The demands are a real living wage plus costs; worker status with holiday pay and pensions; and trade union recognition.

Further action is planned.

• Please donate to the IWGB Couriers & Logistics Strike Hardship Fund here

Shipyard jobs saved

The Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, where workers staged a nine-week sit-in to prevent closure, has been bought by British energy firm InfraStrata, which plans to use it for work connected to the Islandmagee underground gas storage plant off the coast of Country Antrim.

InfraStrata bosses said they would retain the yard’s existing 79 workers, and could increase the workforce to 400.

A statement from the Unite union called the workers’ action “a beacon of hope to workers everywhere”.

During the sit-in, discussions had begun amongst the workers about the potential to re-purpose the yard to produce green and renewable energy technology.

Their success in fighting to save their plant can be a springboard for ongoing struggles to pressure their new employers around environmental policies.

Ballot needed on Tube

Tube union RMT is planning a meeting of its reps across London Underground, after the company issued a new offer in ongoing negotiations over pay and conditions.

The new proposal offers workers a four-year deal, with RPI + 0.2% pay rises in years one and three, with 1.4% pay rises in years two and four, plus a one-hour reduction in the working week (from 35 to 34) over the life of the deal. The offer falls well short of demands submitted by the four unions which organised on London Underground. All four unions have demanded a 32-hour, four-day week.

Rank-and-file socialist bulletin Tubeworker commented: “Our demand is for a 32-hour week. We should be aiming for something more like an additional rest day every week, not one every two months! We also can’t accept what are very likely to be below inflation pay rises in years two and four.

“[We have] been arguing for some time that our unions should have launched ballots for action. LU is not going to make meaningful concessions except under the pressure of action, so why the delay?

“We’ve got a challenge ahead of us in terms of clearing the thresholds of the anti-union laws, but we should take courage from the fact that our last all-grades ballot, conducted in 2015 before the thresholds were implemented, would’ve cleared them had they been in place.

“The longer we delay in balloting, the more we send signals of weakness and lack-of-confidence both to the employer and our own membership. If we want to win a better deal, we have to take action. It’s a simple as that.”

Tube cleaners are also gearing up for a ballot, with the RMT’s NEC due to set a timetable for a ballot of outsourced cleaning workers employed by ABM Ltd.

The dispute aims to win greater parity with directly-employed staff, including staff travel passes and company sick pay.

Postal workers vote for action

Royal Mail workers have voted by a 97% majority for industrial action, on a 75.9% turnout, easily clearing the thresholds of the Tory anti-union laws.

The Communication Workers Union balloted its members in Royal Mail and Parcelforce for action to demand the implementation of a deal reached in 2017, that guaranteed, amongst other things, a reduction in the working week. CWU is also resisting a planned restructure, which will Parcelforce become a separate entity. The union says such a move would threaten jobs and conditions.

As Solidarity went to press, the union had yet to announce action, but the potential impact of any strikes on the busy period leading up to Christmas will give workers significant leverage.

As part of the campaign to get the vote out in its ballot, the union held over 1,000 workplace meetings.

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