St Georges Hospital GMB picket line St Georges Hospital GMB picket line. Photo: Kate O'Neil

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

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Cleaners and hostesses at St Georges Hospital in London employed by Mitie have announced a fresh wave of strikes on 17, 20-21 and 23-24 July.

The dispute began in April over withheld pay and the workers are demanding to be brought in-house to end the two-tier workforce that currently exists. They have so far taken ten days of strike action. They’ve had lively picket lines and have supported and been supported by rail strikers from the RMT and Aslef. 

GMB regional organiser Helen O’Connor said: 

“The ten days of strike action has been widely supported by patients, by clinical staff and across the Labour and Trade Union movement who are making donations to their strike fund. 

“Our members are determined to fight to the end, so if St George’s NHS fail to come around the table for talks this is likely to be a long and protracted dispute which will have implications for future audits and CQC inspections.”

Budweiser in Lancashire: strikes into July and beyond

GMB members join the army of workers giving the 3% pay offer the kicking it deserves with industrial action. The first set of walkouts happened last month.

The bosses are floating a 21 July agreement deadline with the threat of a denial of back-pay.

GMB’s Stephen Boden is clear in his response:

‘’We will not be intimidated by their bullyboy tactics.

‘’It’s disgraceful they would threaten to take money out of workers’ pockets during a cost-of-living crisis.

‘‘Therefore, we will be going ahead with a 36 hour walk out starting Saturday 16 July at 7pm until Monday 16 July at 7am – with a further 12 hour stoppage on Tuesday 19 July.”

News from the Frontline is happy to report that these workers are getting plenty of local solidarity. Let’s keep it up and get these workers winning.

Unite and RMT will shut Wabtec down

The RMT and Unite unions are stepping up their fight against rail repair and refurb company Wabtec. The company (reported in NFTF, May 19) is pursuing fire and re-hire tactics at its Doncaster plant, which has a rich history, having been the home of the Mallard class of locos, and produced the Flying Scotsman.

The two unions are moving to all-out action from 19 July, and say that the £76m dividends the company paid to shareholders would be better spent on the workforce which helped produce the profits in the first place.

Bosch strike over pay

Nearly 250 workers walked out the door at Bosch’s Glenrothes plant in Fife. They are striking over the company’s attempt to impose changes to shift patterns and allowances, coupled with a 6% (so below-inflation) pay deal.

The Unite union, which represents the workforce, says that will effectively mean real wage cuts of up to £7,000 for members. The union members voted overwhelmingly to reject the company’s terms, and will continue industrial action “until the company sees sense”.

Bus strikes speak to South East

900 bus workers, members of the Unite union, at six garages across Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire are voting on strike action in protest at the company’s “outrageous” below-inflation pay offer.

The union says that the 6% offer is “effectively reduced to 0% if you add in the strings: they want to cut the overtime rate by a 16%, and end payments for compulsory non-driving duties.”

The garages at Luton, Aylesbury, High Wycombe, Milton Keynes and Stevenage will balloting next week, with the results due in early August. Together with the 1,800 Arriva workers in the North West, who recently voted 96% for strike action, they pose a serious obstacle to Arriva’s plan to make their workforce pay for the pandemic.

Tipton CabAuto workers strike over pay

Unite members at an elite auto interiors firm have begun a series of one-day strikes in a rejection of a 3% pay offer and a miserable £9.90-an-hour base rate.

Unite’s Sharon Graham says:

“CabAuto should be thoroughly ashamed of itself. This workforce is making cars for the super-rich but their employer, sitting on millions, keeps them on rock-bottom pay and refuses a reasonable wage rise.

“CabAuto can absolutely afford a decent pay rise and should pay up now.”

As Unite points out, some of their CabAuto members have to resort to food banks. Perhaps the one-day strike strategy needs to be reviewed and replaced with something sharper.

Tractor makers accept deal

Strike action at CNH’s New Holland tractor plant in Basildon has been called off after the 500-strong workforce, members of the Unite union, narrowly voted to accept a significantly improved pay offer from the employer. The deal, which gives an immediate £40 uplift, will mean the lowest-paid see pay increase by £140 by the end of next year, plus increases in lay-off pay and holiday entitlement.

A senior rep stated that this is effectively a truce: the offer was put to the members without any recommendation from the shop stewards, and was narrowly accepted 52:48.

The rep said:

“That tells me that the company offered just enough to get them over the line this time, but bitterness here still runs deep.”

The union went on to make a statement of solidarity with the UAW members at CNH’s American plants in Iowa and Wisconsin, who have been on strike for 2 months.

Harlow bin workers secure deal

Refuse workers in Harlow have called off strike action after winning a pay deal worth over 9%. The workers had voted overwhelmingly to take action after employer Veolia attempted to impose a 7% deal without negotiating with Unison.

This victory includes a commitment to collective negotiation of wages in future, which is a major step forwards from a company that has imposed insultingly low pay rises in recent years.

No to poverty pay and victimisation: LSHTM workers set to strike

Outsourced workers at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine represented by the IWGB union will be striking on 18-20 July over poverty pay and victimisation.

The workers are due to be brought in-house in August after winning previous strike action, but the university refuses to recognise the union or enter pay negotiations and has taken disciplinary action against six workers for union activities. 

So the majority-BAME workforce voted unanimously at the end of last month to strike again, and they will now be walking off the job during graduation celebrations at the university. Get down to the picket lines and donate to the strike fund.

Riverside cleaners win inflation-busting pay rise

Cleaners at Riverside luxury apartments in Wandsworth voted unanimously to strike over low pay and inadequate sick pay shortly after winning recognition for their union, UVW.

Since they balloted, they have now called off the strike after winning a 16% pay rise and six weeks half sick pay which the union says is a big improvement from the statutory sick pay they were on previously. 

Ernesto Suarez Velarde, a UVW member at Riverside, said:

“It is truly proven that when a group is united and all are in the same mindset, victory will be achieved in the end. This is the case with us, we never gave up even though we had our concerns of being victimised for being trade unionists at the beginning.”

Victory in Craiogavon

Unite members at flooring manufacturer Interface’s Craigavon factory are celebrating a 15.25% no-strings victory, after one week’s solid strike action.

The union said:

“This fantastic win was not just about pay, but about respect for the workforce in the plant. We thank the agency workers on site, who refused to be used as strike-breakers. Our next job is to secure improvements for them, in pay and conditions.”

School bus drivers set to strike

Bus drivers and attendants in Southwark employed by HATS to safely transport children with special educational needs to and from school are to strike on 14-15 July in a dispute over pay.

Despite being expected to work through the pandemic they have not had a pay rise in 8 years, leading GMB to demand a 20% rise to compensate for this deficit.

Roehampton UCU defiant in the face of a potential job massacre

Roehampton University, self-styled ‘best modern university in the country for research, and the highest-ranked modern university in London‘, is planning to cull dozens of courses and over two hundred jobs with a bonfire of fire-and-rehire and compulsory redundancies. 

The arts and humanities look set to be particularly hit.   

The university has a solid base within the working-class community it serves. The union are honing on this resource with an “Act Now against Roehampton University” rally this Saturday 9 July at 10 am. UCU have worked hard and successfully at involving students with their campaign.

The assembly point is the Main Gates, Roehampton Lane SW15. Be sure to bring your branch banners with you.  

Sign the petition against this travesty here.

Fire and rehire still running rife

Care workers employed by the St Monica Trust in North Somerset are being threatened with ‘fire and rehire’ if they refuse to sign new contracts that attack their pay, entitlements and working conditions.

Unison is demanding that the employer halt this action which would see staff losing thousands of pounds per year despite working in one of the sectors hardest hit by Covid-19.

Pub strike continues in Brighton

St James’ Tavern staff in Brighton held another Saturday strike with huge support last weekend. The UVW union has reported ‘shocking union-busting’ accusing the landlords of physical assaults and illegal sackings.

Workers say the new management is making their working lives a nightmare.

The potential for a summer of discontent that could bring the Tories down: Unjum Mirza discusses the growing wave of industrial struggle with a backdrop of a collapsing government and the opportunities and challenges that lay ahead. Read more here.

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