Tesco Tesco. Photo: Tesco PLC / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, license linked at bottom of article

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

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The pre-Christmas strike action involving hundreds of Unite members in distribution centres up and down the country has been halted by the union in response to a new offer.

Unite is advising its members to accept the super-retailer’s offer of a minimum of a 5.5% pay increase backdated to July 2021 and an additional 0.5% from February 2022. The workers had previously rejected a 4% offer.

Unite’s Sharon Graham said:

“Tesco’s improved offer shows what can be achieved by our members standing together.  Given that the company has forecast profits for 2021 topping £2.5 billion an improved offer is the least Tesco workers could expect.”

But Tesco is far from in the clear. Usdaw members are set to strike at thirteen depots from 20 December. News from the Frontline will keep you updated on this.

Workers should always be prepared to fight, but sometimes flexing their muscles gets the job done.

The grass is greener for Royal Parks strikers

PCS Royal Parks workers, employed by outsourcing company Just Ask have won union recognition, a huge sick pay increase and proposals from the company to resolve ongoing issues.

UVW and PCS workers were on strike twice, most recently for the whole month of October demanding to be bought in-house to improve their hourly rate of pay, sick pay, and holiday pay. 

Newly-elected PCS rep Hagar Bentum said, “This offer is a big victory. We are all celebrating; we’re jubilant.”

Now the workers have won union recognition this should help in continuing their fight to be bought in house.

Spread the action: Scunthorpe scaffolders stand strong ten weeks in

Kyle Jones, a striking Scunthorpe scaffolder wrote for Counterfire about the tenth week of their strike and sent this message to greedy bosses everywhere:

“the working class will no longer tolerate being underpaid whilst you live your lavish lifestyles from the profits of our valuable time and the sweat from our brow!”

Photo: John Westmoreland

Preston teachers’ strike underway

More than 35 teachers and support staff at St Matthew’s CoE Primary School in Preston, Lancashire, took the first of six planned days of strike action on Thursday. Further strike days are lined up for next week against plans to turn the local authority school into an academy.

96.8% of staff, in a ballot by the National Education Union, voted for strike action. NEU members have leafletted parents and are receiving widespread support in the local community. Academy conversion will weaken democratic accountability and threaten erosion of staff pay and conditions.

Turning up the volume: Panasonic workers smash pay freeze

Strike action at Panasonic Cardiff has been halted after the electronics giant put forward a new two-year pay deal trumpeted as a ‘big win’ for GMB members. The offer is a rise of up to 5.5% and a £300 annual bonus. The GMB ballot on the deal opened this Thursday 9 December.

GMB’s Nicola Savage said:

“GMB members had stuck together, faced a global company down and got themselves a big win. They are now looking at a pay rise instead of staring down the barrel at a whopping real terms pay cut. Strike action is now suspended while GMB ballots members on this new deal.”

Good news, but don’t forget: anything less than 5% is a pay cut in the current period.

Oh my, GOSH: Security guards strike against outsourcing

Great Ormond Street Hospital security guards have begun strike action and rallied against outsourcing and pay inequality on Tuesday. Read Cici Washburn’s full report.

Photo: Cici Washburn

Don’t do the locomotion!

RMT members on the underground consisting of thousands of London Underground are balloting to strike in defence of jobs, pensions, pay and conditions. On Tuesday it was announced that 600 jobs are to be cut in the stations. Last week workers from all London transport unions held a protest calling for the government to properly fund London public transport

As of the 11 December, TfL will run out of money and are waiting to agree a funding arrangement with the government. So far funding from the government has had heavy strings attached meaning TfL need to make £1.6 billion of cuts.

The RMT strike ballot is live and closes on the 10 January with the RMT saying strikes could commence as soon as two weeks after the ballot result. TSSA union are also balloting, Aslef secured a massive 98.8% yes vote to strike and Unite have said they will ballot every London transport worker in January.

Sadiq Khan has warned of huge cuts to bus routes and whole tube lines closing. As the government have announced that all who can, should work from home, the TfL funding crisis will be exacerbated with fewer passengers meaning less fares.

Unison gets in on the HE strike action

Whilst UCU strikes happened across 58 universities last week, they were not the only union of university workers to come out on strike. Various Unison and Unite branches in higher education lent solidarity to striking colleagues in UCU at their institutions.

However, at the University of Brighton and SOAS, Unison members went one step further and balloted in favour of going out on strike at the same time as those in UCU. This maximised its impact.

The primary reason for their strike is they have been enduring a pay freeze. This is effectively a pay decrease in real terms. Unison members can be some of the lower-paid staff at their academic institutions and despite all their hard work throughout the pandemic are still being devalued like this. It remains to be seen what next steps will be taken to get the positive resolution they deserve.

Offshore strike ‘rock solid’ says Unite

Unite offshore workers for Ponticelli and Semco Marine are on an overtime ban with strike days until February. This action comes after 85% of the members rejected a pay offer.

Unite regional officer John Boland said:

“The show of strength by our members working for Ponticelli and Semco has been absolutely fantastic. The workers are resolute and determined to show their anger at management. Unless there is significant movement by the companies then the strike action will continue for months which will have a major impact on operations. We urge the companies to give our members the fair pay rise they deserve and to stop the attack on terms and conditions or this situation will deteriorate quickly.”

Uber loses again! Victory for the ADCU in the High Court

Drivers and couriers for Uber have won a resounding victory to enforce this year’s Supreme Court ruling, showing the power of organised action. Read the full report by Unjum Mirza.

Delivery denied: Sheffield drivers strike against pay cuts

Food delivery drivers in Sheffield, who are subcontracted by JustEat to Stuart, began strike action on 6 December against a pay cut. The workers represented by IWGB who have worked through the pandemic are being rewarded by the company with a 25% cut to their pay. 

The strikers have been picketing outside McDonald’s branches on Archer Road and Penistone Road and successfully forced the fast-food restaurant to turn off its delivery option, which piles a huge amount of pressure on Stuart. The strikers are demanding a £6 minimum per drop off (currently slashed to £3.50) and to be paid at a rate of £15 per hour for waiting times above ten minutes. 

Donate to the strike fund here

Photo: @SYorksCouriers / Twitter

Unison care workers seal real living wage deal

Salford City Unison has led a campaign to ensure England’s largest provider of care workers, Anchor Hanover, will now pay its staff the real living wage.

Salford City Unison Secretary, Steven North told News from the Frontline:

“This announcement from Anchor Hannover comes off the back of a sustained campaign from Salford City Unison and Unison North West. Through a combination of organising with workers, relentless direct protest and determined political lobbying, we have shown that those who deliver care and support can have a powerful voice. Care workers are usually presented as victims of forces they cannot control and we know it can feel like that for many.

“However, we in Unison are determined to show that care and support workers have power and that when they come together they are a tremendous force that must be listened to. For us, this success is only the start. We want all care and support workers to know that when they come together they can get what they deserve and we want employers to know that Unison will keep organising and campaigning until justice is done.”

NEU members push back against pension cuts

National Education Union members in the Girls’ Day School Trust have voted overwhelmingly against pension cuts. Teachers across 23 schools in the Trust, which is in the fee-paying independent sector, took part in the indicative ballot. They voted by a massive 93% majority (on a 93% turnout) to move to a formal strike ballot against attempts to take them out of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.

If a strike goes ahead, it will be the first strike action in the GDST’s 149-year history. Teachers in the GDST’s schools are already facing a pay freeze this year. The pension changes will lead to cuts of at least 20% in teachers’ pension earnings. These cuts are accompanied by bullying tactics – with ‘fire and rehire’ threats – in a bid to drive them through.

Better pay en route: Arriva bus drivers win improved pay

400 Unite Arriva bus drivers who shut down the buses in North Wales for four days while on strike have won and accepted an improved pay offer.

The drivers were on £11.30 an hour and by April 2022, with the two year pay deal they will be on £12 an hour, with gradual increases in between and backpay of approximately £575.

Serco out of the NHS: Barts hospitals staff vote to strike

Outsourced workers have voted to strike and be brought in-house on equal pay, terms, and conditions to NHS staff at Barts Trust hospitals.

Len Hockey, Unite the Union Branch secretary for Barts Trust Serco staff members, told News from the Frontline,

“Serco Bart’s Unite members have delivered an emphatic response to the company’s real terms pay cut plans – with this massive 97.9% strike mandate Serco and Bart’s trust should be in no doubt that we are demanding pay justice, dignity and respect now!”

Read Carole Vincent’s full report.

Photo: Gaz Murphy

Foyle Port and Burke Shipping workers drop anchors

Unite members at both Foyle Port and Burke Shipping Service, based in Foyle port took two additional days of strike action earlier this week as they seek an improvement in pay to cover inflation and look to bring their remuneration in line with similar workers elsewhere.

The initial offer was a paltry 0.4% rise which was swiftly rejected.

Unite Regional Officer Scott said:

“Foyle Port bosses have made great play of their company’s resilient performance and its profitability despite the lockdown; but amid surging inflation they offered their workers an insulting 0.4 percent increase. Meanwhile Burke Shipping Services refuse to pay their workers the same rate as other port workers or indeed port workers elsewhere in Northern Ireland.”

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