London May Day demonstration London May Day demonstration. Photo: Steve Eason / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

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The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill passed its third reading in parliament this week and is only one stage away from becoming law. After the Bill’s final session in the House of Lords, only 2 of the 4 amendments passed, and while one these means employees cannot face dismissal for ‘breaking work notices’ (i.e. going on strike), the bill when passed will restrict the rights of up to 1 in 5 workers.

The TUC states that around 5.5 million people working in health service activities, fire service activities, education, transport, nuclear decommissioning and border security will be affected by the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill. It is clear that the right to strike will not be protected by parliament or the courts, but when will the TUC and general secretaries of our biggest unions realise this?

NI council workers demand strike ballot

Local government workers in Northern Ireland have rejected their 2023 pay offer by 75%. Their union, Unite, is now preparing an industrial action ballot, to start before the end of the month, so strikes could start before the summer holidays.  Feelings are running high because the offer (3.86- 9.42% depending on grade) is even lower than last year’s deal, even though inflation is higher.

The ballot will include refuse collection, housing and care workers, and reps say that pay freezes and below-inflation pay deals have seen Local Authority workers pay reduced by more than 25% over the last 10 years, and that the members are not prepared to put up with another effective pay cut.

Train operating staff refuse to give up

The RMT has announced that its members at fourteen of the Train Operating Companies (TOCs) across the national rail system have voted decisively for further strike action. The vote is direct rebuke to the Tory government, which has been making a nonsense of negotiations by taking any pay offer over 5% off the table.

The TOCs are already facing drivers’ strikes from ASLEF, meaning that the dispute on the system outside of Network Rail continues to be very much still, confounding management belief that it had fizzled out months ago. The public are being urged to get to station picket lines on strike days to show support for rail workers.

Jeremy Corbyn to join strikers at 10 June Rank-and-File Conference

The need for rank-and-file organising in the trade union movement is becoming clearer by the day. The How We Fight, How We Win Rank-and-File Organising conference on 10 June in London has received support from a wide range of organisations, trade union branches and trades councils.

Jeremy Corbyn will be speaking at the conference alongside Holly Turner, a striking nurse and leading member of NHS Workers Say No, Darren Westwood, a striking Coventry Amazon worker, Glen Hart, South region relief organiser for the RMT, Feyzi Ismail, striking lecturer with Goldsmiths UCU, James Farrar of the App Drivers and Couriers Union and Gary Walker, a striker and leading organiser in the successful CHEP dispute. More speakers to be announced soon including a French striker, teacher, postal worker, docker and special guests.

This is not a conference to miss. Make sure you’ve booked your place now, invite fellow trade unionists and bring a delegation from your union branch or trades council.

Big Pharma face first-time strike action

GSK (one-time GlaxoSmithKline) is facing rolling strike action across the GSK estate as more than 700 workers, members of the Unite union, voted by 6:1 to take action over pay. Big Pharma has traditionally been hostile to trades unionis, and are already producing propaganda to spin its below-inflation pay offer, which Unite estimates at 2.7%. This, from a firm that reported a profit of £34B in 2021, and whose CEO (Emma Walmsley) saw her pay increase to £8.2M (or a 17% increase) helps to explain the anger of the workforce.

The company has reported an operating profit of £2B for the first quarter of this year, so the money is obviously there.

In the first instance, strike actio will be limited to a few days in a rolling wave across 5 sites. The company is emphasising that less than a quarter of the workforce are members of Unite, but as a GSK rep at Ware told NFTF:

“This is the first time we have dug our heels in and done something like this. We are confident that more workers will join the union now that they see we mean business.”

It is a complex process, manufacturing pharmaceuticals, and the various phases are interdependent, so the union is confident that the impact will be sufficient to make GSK want to settle.

Doing the rounds: BMA Scotland keeps up the fight

Junior doctors in Scotland have voted for 72 hours of strike action, strengthening their position in ongoing pay negotiations, after a 4.5% “increase” was rejected.

BMA Scotland said that 3,610 junior doctors voted, with almost 97% in favour and turnout in excess of 71%. Preparations are underway with strike dates to be announced in due course.

According to Dr Chris Smith, chair of the BMA’s Scottish Junior Doctors Committee, the ballot result shows beyond doubt that junior doctors in Scotland have “had enough.” Years of “pay erosion” have led to the take home salary of a newly qualified FY1 doctor declining by 23.5% in real-terms compared to 2008, for example.

Dr Smith also emphasised that junior doctors are “no longer prepared to stand aside”, feeling “overworked and undervalued” while so many of their colleagues seek employment abroad or outside the NHS where their skills are “properly valued.”

Amazon workers extend action

The breakthrough industrial action at Amazon’s Coventry warehouse complex has now spread to other sites, as was original hoped by union activists. Workers at warehouses in Staffordshire and Mansfield are voting for strike action, in what may be the beginning of the massive logistics multinational being forced to give recognition to the GMB union, a first in Britain.

Amazon only recognising its first union in the USA last year, but is under increasing pressure from worker organising in many countries from Germany to India.

Writers Guild of America: UK solidarity is go

The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) is advising members on the Hollywood strike over the strike and reminded them not to work on US projects for its duration.

WGGB’s Lisa Holdsworth says:

“We continue to show our solidarity with our sister union and their members in the US they embark on industrial action to secure fair pay, decent working conditions and to gain their rightful share in the future financial successes of their work.”

UK writers ignoring this guidance face disbarring. “This policy has been strictly enforced in the past and has resulted in convincing many would be strikebreakers to refrain from harming the Guild and its members during a strike,” the WGGB added.

This position was positively received across the pond. Striker David Allison said of the “incredibly impressive” statement: “Absolutely no messing, total solidarity. You steal work from US writers on the sly and you’re blacklisted.”

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