Ambulance Ambulance. Photo: neiljohnuk / Wikimedia Commons / cropped from original / CC BY 2.0, license linked at bottom of article

Counterfire’s weekly digest with the latest on strikes and workplace struggles

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GMB, Unite and Unison will hold a consultative ballot of their members at North West Ambulance Service (NWAS). The unions say that their members are exhausted and new practices brought in by management are making the situation worse.

NWAS recently introduced a new system which can see ambulance crews sent on 40 minute journeys as they respond to incidents leading to much more time spent driving and less time helping patients. It also means that shifts are frequently finished late, increasing the likelihood of exhaustion.

Neil Cosgrove, Unite branch secretary, said:

“We are hearing of crews driving 40 minutes, under emergency conditions which is hazardous at any time, and then to be sent somewhere else and drive for another 40 minutes.

“This can be repeated several times in one shift.

“The ambulance crews are seeing and treating fewer patients, but driving for longer times and further distances.”

Ambulance workers who have been the first line of defence in the battle against covid for over a year are exhausted enough already. Let’s hope the management sees sense and puts an end to these ridiculous practices.

Taking the wheels off: Sunrise Medical workers to strike over pay

Dudley-based wheelchair manufacturer Sunrise Medical is looking at four days of strike action commencing Monday 14 June.

This dispute is over pay and holiday. The workers are seeking a 3% pay increase and having the additional 24 December off over the Christmas period.

These workers are typical of those who battled hard during the pandemic period only to be given the middle-finger by the bosses when it comes to pay.  

Unite’s Su Lowe says:

“Workers at Sunrise Medical have repeatedly gone the extra mile to ensure the company is successful. They simply wish for their hard work, flexibility, commitment and dedication to be properly rewarded.

The breakdown in pay talks means that the workforce felt that they had no option but to take strike action, very much as a last resort.”

Let’s hope we see a delegation of Sunrise Medical strikers at the People’s Assembly demo on 26 June.  

Watch out Weetabix: the fire-and-rehire offensive hits the breakfast table

Engineering workers at Weetabix’s Kettering and Corby factories will take part in a series of one day strikes during June, July and August.

Weetabix have issued the Unite members with a tranche of new shift patterns that result in dramatic pay losses for the workers. Some workers may lose up to £5k a year.

There are also health and safety concerns arising from reduced roster levels.  

Unite’s Sean Kettle is suitably bullish:

“Weetabix and its US parent company Post Holdings are incredibly profitable and are not facing any financial difficulties. Our members are well aware that these fire and rehire attacks are simply an opportunistic response to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

They are incensed at the company’s unacceptable behaviour, which is especially galling given their pivotal role in keeping Weetabix’s plants operating during the worst of the pandemic.”

There’s the bosses’ New Normal and ours: either way it’s going to be a fight.

NASUWT teachers strike against pension attacks

NASUWT members at Loughborough Grammar School are taking strike action in response to Loughborough Schools Foundation’s plans to move their pensions out of the Teachers Pension Scheme and into an inferior private scheme.

There are currently six days of strikes lined up in June. The NASUWT raised important questions around the necessity of the cuts to the pension from the group in the context of senior positions paying more than £60k doubling since 2016.

NASUWT Leicestershire secretary Luke Akhurst said: 

“What worries staff most, is that the undervaluing of teaching staff, will result in them leaving and damage recruitment.

“The foundation has an excellent reputation in the area and this will only be maintained by investing in the high quality teaching the school is renowned for.”

DHL warehouse workers act on redundancy swindle

Usdaw members at DHL’s Long Eaton distribution centre, which is a third party provider for M&S are taking strike action against their employer trying to get away without paying them their correct redundancy entitlement. The union says workers who have been employed since before 2003 are entitled to enhanced redundancy pay.

90% of Usdaw members at the site voted to strike, with the first day being 9 June. A further strike day will take place on 16 June.

Ed Leach, Usdaw Area Organiser said:

“Long-serving DHL employees, who have given decades of loyal service, deserve to be treated fairly through a difficult redundancy process. It is extremely disappointing that we have been forced to the last resort of industrial action by DHL’s refusal to agree that staff employed prior to July 2003 are entitled to significantly enhanced redundancy pay. 

“Today’s action has been well supported, our members remain determined to get justice and we appeal to the company to engage with us to achieve a resolution to this dispute.”

Workers’ resolve in good nick as more prison strike dates announced

Further strikes are taking place across 49 prisons, involving around 600 UCU workers on 10 June and 23 June over Covid-19 Health & Safety. Since taking 2 days strike action in May Novus has refused to engage in meaningful talks with UCU workers.

Novus have launch complaints and investigations against health & safety reps which, despite talks with Acas, they have refused to drop. UCU are calling for the parent group of Novus LTE to step in to ensure safe working conditions and end bullying of workers. 

A class act: Pimlico Academy Strike

On Tuesday 8 June, NEU Pimlico Academy workers took strike action against excessive workloads, being “ignored and disrespected” by the school management, the “culture of the school” and a failure to provide a safe working environment for staff.

They are also demanding an apology from the school for all the harm done to workers, pupils and parents. Following the brilliant student protests in March over racist uniform policies which forced the resignation of the former Head Master, Staff continue the fight. A third of the school’s teachers have resigned since September.

The picket line was long (socially distanced) and lively displaying placards demanding trust in teachers with parents joining to show their support. NEU is currently in negotiations with the school. If no resolution to the dispute is achieved then further strike dates have been set for 15 and 16 June. Strike dates have also been pencilled in for 22, 23 & 24 June should negotiations continue to falter.

Aerial combat

Air traffic controllers for Highlands and Islands Airports have voted overwhelmingly to renew their mandate for industrial action in opposition to the controversial ATMS remote towers project.

The Prospect members have been taking limited industrial action including an overtime ban since January. They are refusing to cooperate with the remote towers project because the new air traffic scheme has been condemned from all sides as being impractical and badly managed.

As a Prospect spokesperson said:

“We support modernisation of air traffic control, but the case for remote towers has been comprehensively demolished from every angle and yet the airports and Scottish government ministers simply refuse to consider the alternative options.”

The vote renews the current action and contains the possibility for future strike action.

More unions add their support to 26 June demo

The list of trade unions supporting the People’s Assembly National Demonstration on 26 June in London is growing. The FBU, Aslef and the RMT are now amongst the trade union supporters alongside Unite, BFAWU, NUS, PCS, NEU and the ADCU.

The demands of the protest include ending fire and rehire and defeating the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, both issues of major concern for trade unions and their members, especially in the context of responding to the bosses offensive post-Covid, where pay and conditions are likely to be attacked with increasing frequency.

If your union branch isn’t already supporting the protest, there is still time to pass the model motion which can be amended to add actions such as covering the cost of transport for branch members wishing to attend.

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