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Members of health unions have launched a campaign opposing the pitiful deal offered to them by the government. NHS Workers Say No, a rank-and-file network of health workers, have printed and distributed thousands of leaflets at hospitals around the country urging union members to reject the deal.

At an online meeting with over a hundred participants, health workers spoke of the lack of democracy and transparency in the unions, that the lump sum and two-years-late ‘Covid bonus’ were a bribe to make a paltry 5% deal seem more palatable, and that the RCN has negotiated a separation from other health unions in future pay negotiations – and is spinning this turn away from unity as a positive.

NHS workers who voted massively to strike late last year were mobilised on the grounds that they were being given yet another real-terms pay cut which is not only unfair but is part of the underfunding of the NHS and at the heart of the recruitment and retention crisis. The RCN, Unison and GMB leaderships have seemingly forgotten about this by recommending their members accept the deal.

Ballots will run from 28 March – 14 April in the RCN and Unison, 31 March to 28 April in Unite and 3 April – 28 April in GMB. The efforts of health workers to get the deal rejected and to push for escalation instead are extremely important and need maximum support.

They have shown the importance and impact of independent rank-and-file organising across unions. News from the Frontline encourages all health workers to attend and bring delegations to the How We Fight, How We Win rank-and-file organising conference on 10 June.

Coventry Amazon workers fight on

Last week, over 500 Amazon workers walked out at the massive Coventry distribution centre in the latest blow in their battle to raise wages and obtain union recognition. The GMB staged a large, lively rally at the site which attracted solidarity visits from across the wider movement. The action lasted for 48 hours. Amazon still has yet to enter into any real talks with the workers’ representatives.

France on fire

Protests and strikes against French President Macron’s pension reforms have continued to escalate in the last week with over a million people protesting on Thursday 23 March. Read John Mullen’s analysis of the situation and hear what John Rees had to say on the BBC about the French uprising and how we can relate in Britain.

Network Rail: triumph or truce?

The mass rail strikes may have begun to end with the RMT’s twenty-thousand members in Network Rail voting three-to-one to accept a deal. The union is talking up the pay settlement – which is described as 14% for lower grades and 9% for the highest – and an agreement that there will be no compulsory redundancies this year or next, plus some additional fringe benefits. This is not the outcome the Tories were aiming for this time last year, when they were openly planning to crush the rail unions and is being declared a historic victories by sections of the left, notably the post-Corbynite Momentum.

We need to be honest about this outcome, however, because there are downsides. The pay deal is not higher than inflation for most staff and is across two years. It is also not any higher in practice than the deal the crisis-ridden white-collar union TSSA when they settled at Network Rail before Christmas.

On jobs, what is going unsaid is that voluntary redundancies are very much on for the next two years. This will have a fully predictable effect, because it is what London Underground did in the previous decade: offering the more experienced members of staff big pay-outs to leave and thus hollowing-out the workforce as these workers are not properly replaced.

Network Rail is already operating close to, if not beyond, its ability to maintain Britain’s railways properly and safely is at risk. Within the industry, trains are widely said to be in a dark age right now and conceding to the employers on managed decline will make things worse not better.

The rail dispute has not officially ended. RMT has yet to settle on the train-operating companies (TOCs) and is still poised to strike next week. They are not totally alone in these employment areas: although TSSA has already settled on TOCs, the drivers’ union Aslef has not. TOCs are very week companies, as is demonstrated by the fact that the most hated one – Avanti West Coast – is being allowed to continue operating by the government as a purely political decision despite it failing all possible metrics. However, if the unions are simply going to give up at what could be described as no-score draws, we may see similar ambiguous results in these companies too.

Fighting council outsourcing in Dundee

The SNP-led council of Dundee City has provoked a fight with its manual council staff with an outrageous plan to subject them to Amazon-like electronic monitoring and outsource all their jobs. Unite the Union reports that there has been a an almost unanimous vote by the 300+ public workers, who are poised to take three weeks of discontinuous strike action from 4 April, with further actions planned well into the Summer. This is going to be a long confrontation, as it is directly against the neoliberal programme of the Nationalists.

GMB members at Suez Recycling and Recovery UK to vote on strike action

Workers represented by the GMB Union are to be balloted for industrial action over a below inflation pay offer from their employer Suez Recycling and Recovery UK. 99% of GMB members at the site in Teesside rejected the 6% pay offer from the company in a consultative ballot. The union will now ballot its members for formal industrial action, the timetable of that ballot is yet to be announced.

Andrew Blunt, GMB Organiser, said:

“GMB members work hard shifts and unsociable hours to provide for their families. Yet since 2012 have been thanked with a real terms cut of, in some cases, more than 30 per cent. Meanwhile, Suez continues to make eye watering profits. All our members are asking for is a fair reward for their efforts – it’s up to bosses to provide a solution to nip this industrial action in the bud.”

Unison escalates strikes at the Environment Agency

Following action short of a strike since December and a 12 hour strike in February, Unison have announced further strike dates in March and April in their dispute with the government agency over pay. The strike action will take place from 7pm on Friday 24th March to 7am on Monday 27th March and again from 7pm on Friday 31st March to 7am on Monday 3rd April. The union has agreed ‘life and limb cover’ for accidents such as major floods.

Unison National Secretary for the Environment Donna Rowe-Merriman said:

“Unison has maintained that pay in the Agency has fallen behind – and for the lowest paid wages will fall below the National Living Wage. This is a disgrace – and action needs to be taken now for all staff to get the pay they deserve.

“The solution remains a wage rise that’s a better match for inflation and addresses the rising cost of living. Otherwise, staff will continue to resign, leaving even fewer that can be called upon in emergencies. The consequences for people living in areas prone to flooding are unthinkable.”

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