Strikes and lock-outs

British gas workers strike again from 20 January

At a public online rally on 18 January for the British Gas engineers striking against “fire-and-rehire” attacks on their pay and conditions (see page 24), Paul Vowles, a British Gas striker from the West Midlands, said he was “bursting with pride” at the action he and his workmates have taken so far. He criticised British Gas bosses for “hiding behind the pandemic” in order to force through cuts. He also highlighted the effectiveness of the social media campaign in support of the dispute, especially messages of support from strikers’ families which emphasise the impact the proposed new...

Care workers strike 15-17 January

Hundreds of people, including workers and supporters, attended a “virtual picket line” and strike rally organised by the United Voices of the World union, in support of striking care workers at the Sage care home in north London, on 15 January. The workers struck from 15-17 January, demanding a pay increase to £12/hour, parity of conditions with NHS staff, including equal sick pay, and union recognition. UVW had planned a physical, safely-distanced picket line, but received last-minute legal advice that changes to the latest lockdown legislation could be interpreted as outlawing picketing and...

Has picketing been banned?

In November 2020, Unite pursued a legal challenge over the right to picket during lockdown, after a picket of bus workers was broken up by police. That challenge was successful, clearly establishing the right to picket in lockdown. Exception 22 of the “Coronavirus: The Health Protection (Coronavius, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020” clearly states that picketing is exempt from lockdown restrictions, provided: “the gathering is for the purposes of picketing which is carried out in accordance with the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992”, and: “the...

Barnoldswick strike saves jobs

Sustained strikes by Rolls Royce workers at the company’s Barnoldswick plant have secured a settlement that will save jobs at the site, which Rolls Royce had planned to cut. Workers voted to accept the company’s proposal, following the suspension of their latest strikes, due to run from 4-22 January. The settlement includes: • A 10-year manufacturing guarantee for the site • A guaranteed minimum headcount of 350 workers • The creation of a “centre of excellence”, supporting the development and manufacture of zero-carbon technologies • A two-year no compulsory redundancies agreement The...

British Gas out again from 20 January

British Gas workers will strike again on 20, 22, 25, 29 January, and 1 February. Engineers in the GMB union are resisting attempts by Centrica, British Gas’s parent company, to sack workers en masse and rehire them on worse terms and conditions. Workers estimate that the new terms would lead to engineers working up to an additional 156 hours unpaid each year. Despite insisting the new contracts are a financial necessity, Centrica recorded operating profits of £901 million in 2019, and an adjusted operating profit of £229 million in the six months to 30 June 2020 on the domestic heating side of...

Support British gas workers!

British Gas workers struck from 7-11 January, resisting their employer’s attempts to level down conditions by sacking workers en masse and rehiring them on worse contracts. The strike was extremely solid, with activists reporting that its strength grew as it went on. The workers’ union, GMB, is set to announce further strikes. Workers’ morale is high, bolstered by significant engagement with and support for the strike via social media. Workers report numerous instances of self-employed gas contractors committing on social media to take no work on British Gas strike days. British Gas bosses are...

Barnoldswick workers consider offer

Workers at Rolls Royce’s plant in Barnoldswick are considering a proposal from their employer which could end a weeks-long strike at the factory. Unite suspended its latest strikes, which began on 4 January and were due to continue until 22 January, when the offer was received. The union has described the offer as a “landmark deal”. 350 jobs at the Barnoldswick site were threatened by Rolls Royce’s plan to offshore the factory’s work to countries including Singapore. The cuts are part of a wider tranche of job cuts planned by Rolls Royce, totalling 9,000. Unite says the employer’s offer would...

Help couriers' strike fund

This January I’m going to wild swim every day to raise money for the South Yorkshire Couriers’ Network Strike Fund. Covid 19 has made demonstrations, pickets and face-to-face meetings difficult or impossible. It has also hit key workers in precarious employment very hard. By getting in cold water every day, I hope to spread the word about the couriers’ struggle against poverty wages, verbal and physical abuse, exploitative working conditions and unfair dismissal. • Contribute here

Industrial reports: DHL; British Airways; Sage; Rolls-Royce

DHL workers strike for better pay Workers at DHL Supply Chain, a distribution company based in Liverpool which distributes Burton biscuits to shops in the north west, struck on 19-23, 29, and 31 December, and 3-4 January, demanding a 50p/hour pay increase. From April 2021, pay rates will be just 2.5p/hour above the minimum wage. The low pay is despite DHL’s profits increasing by nearly 20% in the second quarter of 2020. Police were called over 10 times as bosses attempted to disrupt successful picketing at the depot. Nine days’ strike at British Airways Cargo workers employed by British...

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