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On Saturday, workers from across unions and around the country packed out the Rich Mix in East London for a rank-and-file organising conference. It was an inspiring and impressive day of discussion taking stock of a year of strikes, strategising on how we can win and planning coordination and escalation.

The conference was opened by local Aspire councillor Kabir Ahmed who said his party has and will continue to support every striking worker. The first session was kicked off by Holly Turner, a striking nurse and leading member of NHS Workers Say No and other speakers during the day included Feyzi Ismail, a striking lecturer at Goldsmiths, Nicolas Galipedes, a striking postal worker from France, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Georgeta Trasca, a striking RMT cleaner, Darren Westwood, a striking Amazon worker, and many more.

A number of attendees told News from the Frontline it was refreshing to hear from rank-and-file workers directly and that solidarity and unity was front and centre throughout. The conference voted to adopt a statement which calls on all trade unionists to link up struggles and build rank-and-file organisation within the unions, to defy the anti-trade union laws, and to “work to extend strike action to make it most effective, and co-ordinate such action across the working class movement”.

As a number of speakers during the day made clear, this is a revival of the working-class movement, facing a Tory government that is vicious yet divided – it is not a moment we can afford to squander. The conference itself brought together a number of organisations, union branches and trades councils – we hope to see a continuation of this level of unity going forward.

The conference ended with a strike solidarity benefit with a great line-up of performers and which raised money for active strike funds. In case you missed the conference but want to get involved with what happens next, email [email protected].

Photo: Counterfire
Photo: Counterfire
Photo: Counterfire
Photo: Counterfire
Photo: Counterfire

Patience of a saint: charity workers have had enough

Workers at the homeless charity St Mungo’s are calling on London Mayor Sadiq Khan for support in their dispute over pay. City Hall this year have granted the charity an extra £2million as rough sleeping in London has spiked.

But frontline staff are not seeing the support. Instead, the St Mungo’s board, led by former Home Office Director General Emma Haddad, have offered workers a 2.25% increase in pay.

In the last 10 years, it is understood that senior management have increased their salary by roughly 350%, while frontline service staff have taken a pay cut of 25% over a similar period. The charity is refusing to show its accounts to Unite, but annual reports reveal a £22 million cash balance for the last two financial years.

Over 500 Unite members across London, Bristol, Brighton, Oxford, Bournemouth and Reading will be on strike until 26 June. This follows a similar dispute in December when workers at the charity Shelter walked out for 2 weeks.

Radio silence: NUJ action persists

The BBC’s local radio service will be hit by mass walkouts this week, as a thousand NUJ members take action in the ongoing battle over the “Digital First” policy that is seeing crucial regional broadcasting absolutely gutted. The BBC is closing down and reducing coverage in local areas through Britain and Northern Ireland based on the claim that radio is no longer relevant, despite very respectable listening figures. Local reporters and presenter have held lively picket lines up and down the country as part of the resistance to the BBC’s massive axe.

Strikes seal the deal at Trelleborg plants in Gloucestershire and Somerset

Workers at Trelleborg, who produce industrial seal solution, have called off their strikes at the Gloucester and Somerset plants after a significantly improved pay offer was accepted. But the improved pay offer has not been offered to workers at their site in Leicester, so Unite the union will be balloting those workers for strike action. The current offer on the table for workers at the Leicester site is 4% and a one off £700 lump sum payment, the ballot closes on 21 June.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said:

“Trelleborg is making substantial profits but demanding its workforce shoulder a large real terms pay cut during a cost of living crisis. Our members are simply asking for a reasonable pay increase, which Trelleborg can more than afford to pay. Unite is entirely focused on defending and improving our members’ jobs, pay and conditions and Trelleborg’s Leicester workforce will be receiving the union’s full support.”

Capitalism’s gravediggers: GMB at Solihull

Dozens of Solihull cemetery and parks workers are due to strike for two weeks from July 3. Their union, the GMB, says the workforce voted 100% for strike action on a 70% turnout. The union is resisting attempts by contractor IDverde “imposing real terms wage cuts during a cost of living crisis”.

The union hopes the unanimous decision by their members will get the company to alter its combative approach. Las month, at the start of the ballot, the Birmingham Mail reported IDverde  “has vowed parks and cemeteries will remain open after union officials warned of a long hot summer of”  industrial action”.

Outsourcing fail: all out strike at Welwyn & Hatfield Council

Unite the union has announced an all-out continuous strike from 19th June by its members who work on the outsourced refuse collection and street cleansing services at Welwyn & Hatfield Council. Around 60 workers, who are employed by Urbaser, are taking strike action over a pay offer of 6.8% that is well below the current rate of inflation at 11.4% (RPI).

The union says that HGV drivers at Urbaser are paid 315 which is well below the industry standard and that loaders and street cleaning staff are only paid the national minimum wage.

Unite regional officer Rich Gates said:

“Strike action will inevitably cause extreme disruption throughout Welwyn, Hatfield and the surrounding areas but this dispute is directly a result of Urbaser’s refusal to make our members an offer that meets their expectations. Welwyn Hatfield council can’t simply sit on its hands – it has a moral duty to ensure that these workers receive fair pay.”

Civil Servants reject paltry Tory offer

The Government has failed to use a one-off payment to bring action by offering a £1,500 payment to workers. The Tories have been continuing to use these payments to weaken and divide pay disputes, which has worked in some cases, but PCS members are continuing to hold out for pay rises that actually keep pace with inflation. Strikes are happening this week in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Arriva pay up – or this bus ain’t going nowhere

11,700 bus drivers employed by Arriva will strike on June 21 and 23, and will take further action if the employer does not significantly improve its 7% pay offer. The strikes will predominantly affect routes in North and East London. The bus garages the drivers operate from are Ash Grove, Barking, Clapton, Edmonton, Enfield, Palmers Green, Tottenham and Wood Green.

The Unite union points out that a 7% ‘rise’ with inflation in double figures is actually a pay cut and while Arriva expect their drivers to work for £13.65 per hour, the company has paid its owners (he German state railway) £650M in profit transfers in the last ten years.

The strikes will cause chaos, mostly in the areas of North and East London, and the drivers don’t want that, but as one driver put it; “They use the patients to try and blackmail the nurses, and they use the passengers to try and blackmail us, but if Arriva really cared about the passengers they would get round the table and talk.”

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