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Counterfire's fortnightly digest rounding up the stories of working people getting organised and fighting back

Rolls-Royce workers refuse to back down: Barnoldswick strike extended until Christmas Eve

The ongoing fight by the striking workers at the Barnoldswick Rolls-Royce plant has been extended this week and will now last until December 24th, more than twice the length of time that was originally announced.

Extending the strike sends a strong message to the management that the workers are steadfast and determined in their fight against the offshoring of their jobs to another site in Singapore. The next phase will see the walkout of several departments within the plant and ensure production is crippled.

Pressure is mounting on the company to drop their offshoring plans with the campaign to save jobs recently highlighting the obscene amount of government funding going to the company despite no guarantees to save jobs.

The aerospace industry across the North West is currently suffering a crisis that has been exacerbated by lower demand as a result of the coronavirus. Burnley’s Safran Nacelles has recently announced 250 of its 750 strong workforce will be made redundant and BWT Senior Aerospace in Adlington is looking to axe 110 out of 300 jobs. Both of these companies supply Rolls-Royce and the redundancies reflect the wider impact to the regional supply chain that the offshoring of the jobs will have.

Grounded: Heathrow workers set to strike following overwhelming yes vote

Workers at Heathrow Airport Ltd. have voted 85% in favour of industrial action over the airport’s controversial fire and rehire plans, Unite announced Monday. There will be four days of targeted strikes in December.

The airport has decided to put 4,000 of its staff on new permanent contracts, cutting their pay by up to £8000 (24% of their total pay), at threat of redundancy.

While Heathrow insists that these measures are a last resort, Unite notes that the airport has still made substantial pay-outs to its shareholders and top executives. According to Unite regional coordinating officer Wayne King

“The airport is using the Covid-19 pandemic as a smokescreen to permanently cut workers’ pay.”

Workers at Heathrow are now taking a stand against these outrageous proposals, giving them an opportunity to set an example for all employers who attempt to offload the costs of lost profits on to workers.

No redundancies at UEL: UCU begins balloting for industrial action

The University and College Union (UCU) has warned the bosses of potential industrial in response to a rash of compulsory job cuts, including the posts of four union activists. The redundancies are targeted on senior academics in the social sciences and the school of architecture.

This is in the face of a predicted increase in student numbers at the University of East London and the ever-present reality of tortuous and unacceptable workloads among all academic staff.

The strike ballot began on 17 November and will continue until 16 December.  

UCU regional full-timer Amanda Sackur says: “We urge the university to halt these cuts and work with us to support students and staff. If it refuses to do so we will continue with the ballot for industrial action so that members can show their strength of feeling against these job losses.”

This is another example of tensions inside the sector making it to the vote.  

Doncaster bin workers lift the lid on workplace bullying and harassment

Doncaster’s bin workers have lifted the lid of Suez UK and what is underneath is not a pretty sight.

Unite members have begun balloting for strike action and have reported,

“Widespread bullying and harassment, including the suspension of representative Damien Nota, who has suffered continual harassment and was suspended after managers furtively trawled through historical CCTV footage to attempt to build a case against him. Managers have taken a similar approach to other workers who have been dismissed.”

Unite regional officer Shane Sweeting said:

“Unite has tried to resolve these matters through negotiation but without success and, as a result, members believe they have no option but to ballot for industrial action.”

Real-terms pay cut for ferry workers met with anger by union bosses

Ferry workers in Scotland are considering strike action in response to what TSSA general secretary, Manuel Cortes described as a “derisory” 0.5% pay offer, which would represent a cut in real terms.

The RMT and TSSA unions have both released statements expressing their anger at the Scottish state-owned ferry company’s pay offer. RMT general secretary, Mick Cash says members will be balloted on strike action:

“It’s become increasingly apparent that Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government are putting pressure on CalMac to hold a line which will see our members financially disadvantaged. This is not acceptable to RMT and we will be balloting our members to secure financial fairness for members and their families in these uncertain times.”

Unite wins legal victory to protect right to picket in pandemic

Last week, Unite successfully forced a retreat against the government and North Yorkshire Police in defending the legal right to picket.

The week before, North Yorkshire Police had stopped picketing action at the Optare bus factory in Sherburn in Elmet, using the excuse of coronavirus restrictions under the latest lockdown measures.

Unite argues that the case was based on the right to picket being a fundamental right protected by the Human Rights Act and the government, along with North Yorkshire Police, backed down as a result.

The case though does raise questions around what would have happened should the legal challenge have been unsuccessful and demonstrates the lengths the establishment will go to in order to act against the interests of workers. Workers shouldn’t be bound by, or depend upon laws that restrict our right to take industrial action and organisation on the ground is the best way to challenge further attempts to stifle action.

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