Counterfire's weekly digest with the latest on strikes and workplace struggles
UCU members in fifteen colleges have voted to strike from September. Eleven will take action over miserly 1% pay increases which wouldn’t even cover inflation and four more over pay, working conditions and compulsory redundancies.
Ballots returned an 89% yes vote on a turnout of 62% with the UCU saying staff are due a pay rise after its members worked to jointly secure hundreds of millions of pounds in additional funding. Instead, college lecturers are still facing disparity in pay of around £9,000 a year compared to school teachers.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said:
“This ballot result is an emphatic message from college staff to principals that they will not sit back while their pay is held down. College leaders urgently need to come to the negotiating table or they will face severe disruption in the autumn.
“Colleges need to understand that delivering top class education is reliant on looking after your staff and ensuring they are paid fairly.”
The UCU is demanding 5% across the board to settle the dispute.
BCM Fareva: Usdaw militancy continues apace
Workers at Boots Contract Manufacturing (Fareva) based in Beeston, Nottinghamshire are out on strike for twenty-four hours commencing 22 July.
This dispute is part of the national “fire-and-rehire” tsunami. The TUC reckons this bosses’ offensive now affects twenty million workers around the country.
Usdaw’s Daniel Adams says:
“The proposal to drastically cut sick pay and other terms and conditions for these key workers, who have given their all through the coronavirus pandemic, is totally unacceptable. The company is now in the process of threatening to ‘fire and rehire’ staff unless they accept these dramatic cuts.
“Our members have been left with little choice other than industrial action. Nearly 90% of Usdaw members voted to strike in the industrial action ballot, which shows the strength of feeling on the company’s proposals and their confrontational approach.”
Perhaps a little less head-counting from the TUC and a bit more collective strategy, and we'd all be in a better place.
Bexley bin workers refuse low pay
140 Unite refuse and cleaning workers working in Bexley Council for outsourcing giant Serco commenced two weeks of bin strikes on 13th July. Workers on this recently retendered Serco contract which is set to save the council £2.5 million, have not been included on a stipulated pay progression scale for five years.
Refuse workers in neighbouring borough Greenwich are payed a minimum wage of £13 an hour while Bexley workers get just £10.25 from Serco. Workers have been victimised and despite them being key workers in a pandemic industrial sickness benefits have been removed by bosses. There will be a picket line every week day 5-10am until 25th July at Thames Road Refuse Depot in Crayford.
Unite regional officer Ruth Hydon said:
“Serco have backed our members into a corner with their pathetic pay offer, refusal to pay owed back wages and lack of fair pay …. These strikes, and the smell and disruption they will cause, will continue until Serco takes serious steps to resolve this issue by making pay fair, paying the back pay they owe and giving our members a decent pay rise….we are also very concerned that planned £2.5 million cuts to the refuse contract will be borne by our members, who are already at breaking point."
Outsourced BEIS workers strike back
Outsourced PCS ISS staff working as cleaners, security guards and other support staff working at Government department BEIS offices in London have returned a massive 97.3% yes vote for strike action.
The workers are demanding an end to low pay, improvement in working conditions, extra bonuses for working through lockdown and annual leave owed from last year. PCS workers are additionally very concerned about Covid safety at work.
This is yet another example of the terrible treatment key workers have endured at the hands of bosses in a government run department.
The workers will be on strike 19th - 21st July and are calling for people to join their picket line in solidarity at 10 Victoria St in London at the following times; 19th July 7:00-10:00am, 20th July 8:30-10:30am, 21st July 8:30-11:00am.
PCS and UVW unite to fight for victimised worker
A whopping 100% yes vote on a turnout of 81% was the response of workers employed by contractor Just Ask Estates Limited to fight back after the company sacked a female staff member who was unable to travel back to the UK from Ghana due to Covid rules.
The company provides cleaners for toilet facilities at London’s Royal Parks who are members of both the PCS and UVW and strike action is scheduled for the end of the month.
PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said:
“The treatment of staff who do an important job keeping key facilities functioning at the Royal Parks, is a disgrace.
“Just Ask Estates needs to reinstate the staff member immediately, recognise the palpable anger of our members and get round the negotiating table to achieve a just settlement.
“Strike action is always a last resort but we will back our members every step of the way.”
These workers have shown an inspirational level of solidarity in standing with their victimised colleague.
Carillion collapse: Unite on track for cash compensation from the wreckage
Construction and outsourcing giant Carillion hit the buffers and went bust in 2018. As always it was the workers who the bore the brunt of the capitalist blowout.
Thankfully Unite conducted a sustained legal challenge to this and their endeavours are now bearing fruit. The union’s case rested on the company’s failure to notify workers of its imminent demise.
Unite Assistant General Secretary Howard Beckett says:
“Unite made a commitment when Carillion collapsed to do everything possible to protect our members who lost their jobs without warning through no fault of their own. Three and half years later we are still fighting for our members to receive the compensation they deserve.
“While this was an important victory the battle for compensation for our members is far from over and Unite will continue to represent them until this case is finally resolved.”
A seven-week hearing is scheduled for 2022 when the union and ailing bosses will broker a reckoning that’ll involve sums. Ninety days’ gross pay is being mooted.
Not all union disputes are resolved on the picket line.
Students show solidarity with striking teaching staff
NEU Workers at Derby schools; Lees Brook Community School in Chaddesden and Merrill Academy in Alvaston commenced 3 days of strike action this week which started on 1st July. NEU members are fighting against ‘savage cuts to jobs and pupil support’ since being taken over by Archway Learning trust based in Nottingham.
Many workers have lost their jobs and some staff have received pay cuts. The NEU says that after previous strike action attempts at talks with the trust were made but the trust has been unwilling.
Students at the school have started a petition in support of striking teachers. They say that the school is not prioritising their wellbeing after ‘getting rid of the mental health councillor’, that teachers and staff they ‘rely on and trust’ are being pushed out and that the amount of choices of lessons available is decreasing with bigger class sizes.
Kieran Picken, City of Derby NEU said:
"Staff at Lees Brook and Merrill are hardworking and committed to their schools. They are making stand to defend their jobs and their schools from unjustified cuts.”
Metro workers win in Tyne and Wear!
Unite’s maintenance workers on the Tyne and Wear Metro have called off planned strike action after agreeing terms on a deal with employer Stadler. Strikes from Unite and RMT members were planned to go ahead at the beginning of July but were postponed when negotiations started.
Unite says staff have now agreed a pay offer along with a one-off payment of £750 to compensate for a change from weekly to monthly salary payments as well as a guaranteed pay increase next year.
Unite regional coordinating officer Suzanne Reid said:
“This pay victory is a result of our members’ rock-solid collective action. Without strong union organisation in a workplace, results like this are simply not possible, which is why it pays to join Unite.
“All industrial action has been called off as the pay offer has been accepted. Unite looks forward to working productively with Stadler now that this dispute has ended.”
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