Glass bottles Glass bottles. Photo: Theen Moy / Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, license linked at bottom of article

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

You can sign up to receive News from the Fronline straight in your inbox

170 members of Unite at Cheshire’s glass bottle making company, Encirc have agreed a deal and called off their strikes. Ten days were planned during the month of May that would have caused serious shortages to some big brand customers of Encirc.

An original offer that had led to postponement of action was rejected earlier this month and strike action resumed but the revised offer has been deemed satisfactory by the workers and work resumed this week.

The dispute was a result of the company introducing new working practices that affected rotas, pay and gave rise to health and safety concerns.

Unite regional officer Andrew Johnson said: 

“This excellent deal could not have been achieved without our members’ strong and unified position. 

“Results like this show why it is so important for those who want better pay and conditions at work to join Unite and get their colleagues to join as well. 

“In spite of Encirc’s misjudged efforts to undermine the strikes, all industrial action has now been called off.”

Hovis strike secures pay increase

The Hovis strike in Belfast has resulted in a victory for the workers. BFAWU and Unite members took eleven days of continuous strike action in their battle for pay parity with their counterparts in Britain.

Not a single loaf of bread was baked during the strike and the unions managed to fend off police interference, conducted under the guise of Covid regulations. The striking workers also received support from others on strike as Queen’s University creche staff joined. The creche workers are currently battling cuts to their pay and conditions.

An 8% pay-rise, spread across two years and backdated to January was accepted earlier this week demonstrating that there are still gains to be won for workers.

Don’t let Liverpool Uni walk alone

Staff at the University of Liverpool have begun a three-week strike in protest at job cuts. They are fighting plans announced in January to cut 32 roles at the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences.

The lecturers union, the UCU, is opposing the cuts in general and also pointing out that there is strong evidence of age discrimination in the way that the redundancies have been selected. Lecturers are striking because the cuts will be a disaster for students and university workers alike. 

As the union’s General Secretary Jo Grady argued,

‘if these cuts go through, they would damage student learning, damage research, and have long lasting negative consequences for staff throughout the sector.’

This is a crucial dispute for the university sector. Please send resolutions and messages of support to [email protected]

Sandwell’s binmen prepare for ballot

Refuse workers employed by outsourcing giant Serco are preparing to ballot against bad management. GMB represents the workers and says they are sick of “bullying, dangerous work practices and threats from management”. The union’s previous concerns were ignored by the company.

Sandwell is a Labour controlled council which has recently seen a wave of interference and  attacks on left-wing councillors from the party bureaucracy.

Darren James, GMB Sandwell branch secretary, said:

“Our members are having to cut corners so they get the bin rounds done. There’s also issues around pay.

“We are hoping to negotiate with management to avoid strike action, which is always the last resort, but unfortunately if issues can’t be resolved to the satisfaction of both parties we would have to take action.”

Thanks but no thanks

NEU members at Lees Brook and Merrill secondary schools in Derbyshire are set to ballot for strike action in response to a restructuring by their employers Archway Learning Trust after an indicative ballot showed staff wanted to move to formal strike ballots. 

If the management plans are forced through, they will lead to around 20 job cuts and pay cuts between £7,000 – £14,000 for dozens of other staff after the schools were academised earlier this year.

A quick look at the trust’s executive pay report shows that in 2020, their highest earning executive increased their pay into the £140,000 bracket. If the trust wants to make savings, maybe they should start at the top?

As the unions at the schools have been arguing, after teachers stepped up in the most difficult circumstances during the pandemic, it is a kick in the teeth to face these kinds of attacks. 

The trauma of the pandemic showed that what schools need is consolidation and an increase in funding not downsizing. The ballot results at the two schools will be announced in two weeks time.

Weetabix workers take their Ready Brek

Unite Engineers at Weetabix factories in Corby and Kettering are balloting against fire and rehire. New contracts being forced on workers mean some engineers could lose up to £5,000 a year. Their terms and conditions are also being attacked affecting the shifts and hours they work, resulting in a further loss of pay. A ballot for strike action is live and closes on the 3 June. 

Unite regional secretary for the East Midlands Paresh Patel said:

“Unite’s members have continued to work throughout the pandemic, risking their own health and that of their families, in order to ensure customers continue to receive their Weetabix. Any decent company would be paying their workers a bonus in recognition of their commitment and sacrifice, rather than attempt to slash their wages.”

Sunday: Support courier workers targeted by hostile environment

Last week, on 18 May food delivery drivers in Tooting who work for Deliveroo and Just Eat were outrageously targeted by the Home Office and Met Transport Police. 48 drivers were stopped, many had their bikes seized. Immigration checks were carried out for over an hour and a half. Join the protest on Sunday 30th May 12.30pm Bickley street, Tooting Broadway; ‘March for Workers’ & Migrants Rights!

Alex Marshall, IWGB president and former gig economy courier, said:

“These key workers have kept the country going during the pandemic, delivering vital supplies to some of the most vulnerable members of society, whilst enduring poverty pay. As a thank you, they continue to be exploited by the likes of Deliveroo and Uber Eats and are targeted through racial profiling by the police.”

Call for trade unionists to support the Peoples’ Assembly national demonstration

Support from trade unions is building for the People’s Assembly national demonstration on 26 June. Unite, BFAWU, NEU, PCS and the ADCU have all put their support behind the demo and Trades Councils and union branches across the country are passing motions of support.

A key demand will be the end of fire and rehire, which is being used by opportunistic employers across the country to tear up hard won terms and conditions. Please pass the model motion in support of the demo and see if your union branch can contribute to or organise transport from wherever you are to the demo.

After the TUC announced that trade union membership has risen for a fourth consecutive year, a lively trade union presence marching to Parliament as part of the demo will send a strong message to the Tories that workers are preparing for the battles ahead.

Before you go

Counterfire is growing faster than ever before

We need to raise £20,000 as we are having to expand operations. We are moving to a bigger, better central office, upping our print run and distribution, buying a new printer, new computers and employing more staff.

Please give generously.

Tagged under: