ADCU's Catherine Meechan speaking to UberEats couriers ADCU's Catherine Meechan speaking to UberEats couriers. Photo: ADCU

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

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

Last week UberEats couriers staged a three-day protest and rallied outside the Uber HQ in a London-wide shutdown of UberEats deliveries over poverty pay by the company. The ADCU which represents the couriers says the company has dropped the per mile and base rate riders receive and has also scrapped bonuses for weekends and busy periods.

Uber claims that the drop in rates was a technical glitch that last just a few days and will credit riders 40p per completed trip during that time. The ADCU’s courier lead Catherine Meechan told the Evening Standard the company’s response was “an insult”.

“Over the past few years, slowly but surely Uber has been taking the prices down.

“There was a job that I saw the other day and it must have been about four-point-something miles, and it was going to take 30 minutes because of obviously the traffic in London, and the guy was getting offered like £4 for it. By the time he even does that job and takes his expenses off his petrol and everything else, he’s not even making minimum wage.”

Cutting pay for already-low-paid workers with precarious working conditions is a new low even for Uber. The “glitch” was only acknowledged and the 40p offered after ADCU members began protesting and probably wouldn’t have been otherwise. Couriers and drivers getting organised need our full support to stop the increasingly exploitative practices of companies like Uber.

UCU members vote for more strikes

There’s remarkable resilience among university staff as they vote for more strikes against pay cuts, deductions and temporary contracts – but we need a stronger rank and file and to escalate the action, argue Counterfire UCU members

March to save our ticket offices – 31 August

Bus drivers gear up for all-out strike

Around 300 bus drivers in Warwickshire employed by Stagecoach and represented by Unite are set to begin all-out strike action from 5 September. The drivers from depots in Nuneaton, Leamington and Stratford-upon-Avon rejected a two-year pay proposal which amounted to 7.8% in the first year and 4.5% plus a one-off £100 in the second year.

The drivers rightly say that inflation was at 11.3% when the dispute started – and still currently at 9% – making the pay offer a real-terms pay cut. While the bosses are keen to present lowering inflation rates as a reason to push down wages, workers know the prices are ‘baked in’ and the cost of living crisis hasn’t gone anywhere.

Stagecoach bus drivers in the North West have already been out on strike but this week paused strikers to vote on a new offer from the company. Unite members at First Manchester buses are continuing their strike over the August bank holiday and early September.

Around 1,300 bus drivers and engineers employed by Go North East have begun balloting for strike as are 1,000 Unite members on the Go Ahead/Metrobus network in Brighton and Hove after rejecting below-inflation pay offers.

Swindon social workers strike to stop £700-a-month pay cut

Social workers in Swindon will begin a two-week strike from 31 August after the local council announced a £700 per month pay cut from 1 September. Labour-led Swindon Borough Council has imposed this drastic pay cut after a pay and regrading review following the removal of a 20% unsocial hours payment.

This pay cut is not only deeply unjust but also threatens the future of the Emergency Duty Service, the out-of-hours service providing 24 hour emergency care for vulnerable people.

Painting the town red

Workers at International Paints (AkzoNobel) have announced an escalation of their strike action after rejecting the company’s latest pay offer of 4.8%. Over 200 Unite members which include production and distribution workers, engineering and technical support, office and admin support and personnel in R&D at the Stoneygate Lane factory in Gateshead will walk out on 31 August and then every Monday and Thursday until 21 September.

The company has responded to the previous round of strikes by calling police on the pickets, but the workers remain determined to fight and win.

Unite regional officer Steve Cason said:

“This further strike action will inevitably cause severe disruption to the UK’s paint supply but this dispute is entirely of the company’s own making. It has had every opportunity to make a fair pay offer but it has refused to do so.”

“The company’s threats to call the police on our members for exercising their lawful right to protest shows just how unreasonably they are behaving.”

Photo: Unite the Union

Junior doctors pass the baton to consultants for next round of NHS strikes

NHS England Consultants in the BMA are set to begin their second round of strikes from 7am on 24 August to 7am on 26 August. This follows a 4 day strike last week by junior doctors who are currently re-balloting to extend their strike mandate. Junior doctors, consultants and SAS doctors in Wales are also due to begin balloting for strike action.

Both sets of BMA strikers are demanding pay restoration, with data showing their wages are up to 35% lower in real-terms than they were in 2008. The underfunding of the NHS, which the squeeze on NHS workers’ pay is part of, is at the heart of the recruitment and retention crisis that has left staff vacancies in the six figures.

At a recent rally by striking junior doctors in Whitehall, the Australian government even had a mobile ad van circle the doctors offering them better pay for the same jobs. The junior doctors and consultants’ fight is a fight to save the NHS and they all need our full support.

As reliable as a Volkswagen?

Workers employed by the GB Terminals at Sheerness Docks, which delivers Volkswagen vehicles including Audi, Porsche and Skoda, began striking on 17 August. The workers rejected a paltry 3.2% pay offer.

In an industry already facing supply-side challenges from microchip shortages to recovering from the disruption caused to supply chains during the pandemic, adding massive delays to deliveries is going to cause chaos. Companies like GB Terminals are making millions and paying their shareholders millions but refusing to pay their workers properly.

The Unite members will be striking for 2 weeks until 31 August and then one week on, one week off until 12 October.

North West healthcare workers prepare to strike

Over 400 clinical support workers, including healthcare assistants, at Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust are set to take a 48-hour strike from 31 August. The Unison members are demanding to be ‘upbanded’ from Band 2 to Band 3 because the tasks they regularly have to perform fall under Band 3 according to the NHS banding guidelines but they are paid as Band 2s – nearly £2,000 a year less.

Deborah, a clinical support worker at Arrowe Park Hospital, said,

 “Staff feel taken for granted. These clinical tasks are part and parcel of the job and the hospitals wouldn’t function if CSWs didn’t work above their pay grade.

“It looks like WUTH will be the first trust in the country where it will take strike action to resolve this issue. It shouldn’t have come to this. No one wants to strike but staff are determined and ready to fight for what they deserve.”

Our Trade Unions: what comes next after the summer of 2022? – book review

Lindsey German welcomes Nigel Flanagan’s timely book that argues for a re-orientation of trade unions around rank-and-file organising as a way fully to revive the movement. You can buy the book here.

Before you go

If you liked this article, please consider getting involved. Counterfire is a revolutionary socialist organisation working to build the movements of resistance and socialist ideas. Please join us and help make change happen.