AWS strike AWS strike. Photo: @unitetheunion / Twitter

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Over a hundred angry council workers and their supporters demonstrated outside Cumberland Council offices today (Thursday, Aug 10). They are angry because the refuse workers employed by Allerdale Waste Services Ltd (AWS) have been on strike since May, in pursuit of the same terms and conditions as their colleagues directly employed by the council elsewhere.

AWS was set up as a wholly-owned company by the predecessor council in an attempt to cut costs, and while the directors did nicely out of the latest pay deal, the staff did not do so good. Loaders are on £10.90 an hour, and HGV drivers on £11.98.

The anger was heightened last week, when the (Labour) council could no longer employ agency labour due to the recent court ruling overturning Tory legislation and making it unlawful again. So, while the union reps were due to meet the employer at ACAS negotiations, they were informed the employer was offering agency staff temporary contracts to get around the ruling.

An indication of how committed the council is to prolong this dispute – a manager joined the picket line last week. He had asked for a couple of days leave, to see his grand-daughter who has been diagnosed with cancer. He was refused because “You know how it is, with this strike it’s every hand to the pumps”.

“That was the final straw that broke this camel’s back. I felt if the union loses, this is what the job is going to be like for everyone in future. It’s my grand-daughter today, it could be somebody’s mother next. They just don’t care about anything except their profits.”

We shut down Amazon!

Last Saturday’s Rank and File Combine-organised rally at the Coventry Amazon picket line achieved a historic win when the warehouse was shut down with full pay for the workers. It was a demonstration of the power of rank-and-file action and mass solidarity. Read Alistair Cartwright’s report of the rally here.

There’s more actions being planned, get involved by signing up to the Rank and File Combine mailing list and help cover the costs of the rally by donating to their crowdfunder here.

Photo: Chris Nineham

Luton Airport: flushing out the bad bosses

Luton Airport, a hotbed of industrial action these days, saw a 24-hour strike among toilet cleaning staff demanding decent pay on Friday 11 August.

The Unite members, employed by outsourcing kingpins Sasse, are paid a miserable £10.90 an hour.

Unite’s Jeff Hodge doesn’t mince his words:

“Passengers using Luton Airport this month should be braced for toilet hell. Toilets will not be cleaned, toilet paper will not be replaced, bins will be overflowing and the airport will be dirty.”

It’s simple. Workers who do unpleasant but vital jobs like this should get proper pay. These are exactly the sort of workers whose value should be reflected in their pay packets and never be taken for granted.

The next strike day is scheduled for 30 August.

It’s clobberin’ time: Marvel animators have had enough

The new militancy among Hollywood creators is spreading.

On August 7 around 50 Marvel staffers filed a request to join the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) union. They are also seeking recognition from the Disney-owned studio behind blockbuster movies like Avengers: Endgame and Disney+ shows such as Loki.

IATSE’s Mark Patch says:

“For almost half a century, workers in the visual effects industry have been denied the same protections and benefits their co-workers and crewmates have relied upon since the beginning of the Hollywood film industry. This is a historic first step for VFX workers coming together with a collective voice demanding respect for the work we do.”

The union’s president, Matthew D. Loeb adds:

“We are witnessing an unprecedented wave of solidarity that’s breaking down old barriers in the industry and proving we’re all in this fight together. That doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Entertainment workers everywhere are sticking up for each other’s rights, that’s what our movement is all about. I congratulate these workers on taking this important step and using their collective voice.”

The UK’s cultural unions have been on the front foot with their solidarity; let’s make sure they keep it up.

Unite offshore workers to strike

Unite has announced that members working at Ithaca Energy’s FPF1 offshore platform and Alba FSU and Alba North installations overwhelmingly voted for industrial action. On the Ithaca platform, Unite members voted by 94.4 per cent and on the Alba installations by 100 per cent in support of taking strike action over cuts to jobs, pay and conditions.

There will be a series of 24 hour strikes at the Ithaca platform on 21, 23 and 28 August and a continuous overtime ban will start on 21 August at the same site. Strike dates at Alba have yet to be announced.

The workers set to be involved in industrial action include electrical, production and mechanical technicians in addition to deck crew, scaffolders and crane operators.

John Boland, Unite industrial officer, added:

“Unite received an emphatic mandate in support of industrial action from our Petrofac membership. Our members are prepared to fight on for a fair pay offer and better work-life balance because Petrofac and Ithaca Energy refuse to do the right thing. The company and the operator have another opportunity to get round the table with Unite to resolve these disputes before any industrial action starts. We would encourage them to do so but the ball is in their court.”

Trouble brewing at Tetley’s

150 workers at Tetley’s Eaglescliffe factory in County Durham are due to walk out this month in a row over pay. The mainly female workers are members of the GMB union and voted 97% for the action. Laura Maughan, GMB organiser, said that the women had endured years of below inflation wage cuts, some were now relying on food banks to feed their children and “Enough is enough”.

Tetley’s was bought by the Tata group in 2020 and is the second largest producer of packaged teas in the world.

They can’t bury workers’ anger in Solihull

GMB members working for Idverde, a contracted company that Solihull council pays to maintain parks and cemeteries in the borough, went on strike last week over low pay. The workers went on strike all week and are set to be joined by binmen, street cleaners and tip workers at the same council when they both strike for a week from 4th September. These workers are employed by another contracted firm, Veolia, and are also represented by the GMB.

Rebecca Mitchell, GMB Organiser, said:

“It’s fast becoming clear that Solihull Borough Council is facing a contractors’ crisis with staff on two of their biggest maintenance contracts taking strike action next week. Idverde has already seen a week of disruption, impacting Solihull’s parks in one of the busiest periods.

“Now our members at Veolia too are feeling forced to take strike action as a cost-of-living crisis drives their living standards down. It’s time for the council to get serious about the disruption this will cause and stop washing their hands of the situation. Solihull workers deserve so much better than poverty pay from contracting giants only interested in making a profit at the expense of local taxpayers.”

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