Counterfire's fortnightly digest rounding up the stories of working people getting organised and fighting back
Rolls Royce workers at Barnoldswick take action as strike starts this Friday
This Friday sees the start of strike action by Rolls Royce aerospace workers at the Barnoldswick plant in Lancashire. The strike action, in response to the company’s offshoring of jobs to Singapore, represents a key fight back against global capital’s constant attempts to force workers into a race to the bottom.
As Richard Allday highlighted for Counterfire, the company is using covid as cover for its longstanding plans to send work to a part of the world where there has historically been little resistance to poor employer treatment of workers.
Unite is throwing plenty of resources behind the strike, which has a huge 94% mandate, with a high-profile regional campaign in the North West and access to a large strike fund.
Trade unionists in Bolton prepare to fight council’s cuts
With many councils facing extreme cuts to budgets already decimated through years of austerity, trade unions face huge battles against redundancies in the short and medium-term. The revelation that Bolton Council is facing £40m of cuts has already led to the mobilisation of local trade unionists through Bolton & District Trades Union Council.
Bolton TUC treasurer, Kevin Allsop called for the shortfall to be met by the government, saying:
“There can be few savings to be had from Bolton’s budgets without hitting the most vulnerable with any job losses further impacting upon the town's shrinking economy and we call upon Parliament to find the funds that we need to make up this shortfall.
“We call upon Mr Logan alongside the other two Bolton MPs to contact the PM and insist that central government meets this £39m shortfall.
“Should they fail in these efforts we invite all three MPs to meet with Bolton TUC to develop a strategy to save the services and jobs from any cuts.”
Any attempts to shift the financial cost of coronavirus onto local government workers must be resisted nationwide, despite which political party controls the council administering the cuts. Trade unions around the country need to prepare for the battle ahead.
‘Miserly pay offer’ rejected by Yodel drivers as they ballot for Christmas strike
Yodel drivers, as members of the GMB union, are balloting over industrial action around the busy Christmas period. The consultative ballot to proceed saw an 84% yes vote after workers rejected a measly 2% pay increase.
GMB, in a press release, said that their drivers are paid just 11p per hour over minimum wage which does not reflect their positions as key workers, delivering goods and transporting covid samples throughout the pandemic.
As is the case for many parcel delivery firms, Yodel has seen business skyrocket this year, due to increased internet orders for goods and the company has plans for expansion. The added workload and recognition as key workers is not reflected in this pay offer.
A Christmas strike has the potential to seriously affect the company’s profits should workers vote in favour. The ballot closes on Friday, November 13th.
Job cuts at BT face opposition from CWU members
BT Technology’s attempt to cut two hundred jobs looks set to be thwarted by a consultative ballot led by the CWU.
The ballot is being cast this week, and the bosses have their sights on more redundancies. The next steps for the union could be a formal vote and possible strike action.
The union are mobilising for a large turnout with an unambiguous “yes” vote. CWU national technology officer Sally Bridge is very clear:
“Even those who have not been affected by any of the changes announced to date need to appreciate that their job may no longer be safe in this brutal new environment.
“Above everything we need everyone to support their colleagues who are already staring down the barrel of a gun by delivering the clearest possible message to BT Technology that the way it is behaving is simply not acceptable.”
Insourcing victory for University of London cleaners
Cleaning staff at the University of London who were previously outsourced to private contractors such as Balfour Beatty have won a victory in a long and hard-fought battle to bring their contracts of employment in house.
The IWGB has been organising the workers for almost a decade. The campaign built on broad support from members of the UCU and students, including occupations and strikes. This victory comes on the back of previous work which led to the insourcing of receptionists, post room staff and audiovisual technicians.
Henry Chango Lopez, IWGB President said:
“I am very proud of our achievement, We fought so hard and for so many years. My father still works there as a porter. This has been a lot of stress to all of us involved. We had to stay strong and remain united and that has been a long process that has cost a lot of energy.
“Outsourcing is one of the biggest problems in society, and we fought outsourcing on a daily basis”.
NEU ramps up pressure on government to include schools and colleges in lockdown
The National Education Union’s campaign to include schools and colleges in lockdown is a matter of life and death. The government’s decision to have a half-baked ‘soft lockdown’, where schools are still fully open, will make it much harder to suppress coronavirus.
Official figures have clearly shown a massive rise in transmission rates among children and young people, with an astonishing 50-fold increase in the secondary age range. Despite this, the NEU is having to fight for a proper lockdown that prioritises saving lives in wider society as well as protecting the health and safety of school staff.
Canteen workers on London Underground ballot against job losses
The RMT has announced that London Underground canteen workers employed by contractor, Sodexo are balloting for action to save the jobs of nearly a third of the workforce.
Sodexo plans to change their operations and replace what the RMT says is a 100 year long offering of home-style food with reheated frozen meals. Some of the workers have over 20 years service.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said:
“We are balloting our canteen members in LU depots for industrial action to try and bring sense to Sodexo and prevent them slashing some 30 canteen jobs. RMT has been left with no choice but to declare a dispute after attempts at a resolution by the union has been met with intransigence by the company.
“Sodexo is a highly profitable company that is shamefully using the excuse of lower demand during Covid as a smokescreen to push through unpopular measures that will both slash jobs and mean a worse service for canteen users.”
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