Counterfire's weekly digest with the latest on strikes and workplace struggles
Benbecula, Dundee, Inverness, Kirkwall, Stornoway and Sumburgh airports – all owned by Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) – were closed down for all but emergency services on Thursday 29 July.
Air traffic controllers, represented by the Prospect union, are protesting a bosses’ cuts and centralisation programme. They have been in dispute with HIAL since January. There’s up to fifty jobs at stake as well as a range of safety concerns.
Prospect’s David Avery says:
“Our members have been forced into this escalation of industrial action to protect the communities they serve. HIAL’s plan will remove high value skilled jobs from economies that can ill afford to lose them, having a substantial negative impact on those communities."
Remember it’s workers that keep the planes in the sky – or not, when they’ve had enough.
Weetabix workers won’t waver
USDAW members in Weetabix’s Burton Latimer plant which makes breakfast bars will be striking in August over shift patterns.
The action will commence from 2nd August for 24 hours, with further strikes planned throughout the month to push back against the company’s plans to reduce shift premiums for working unsociable hours.
Usdaw Area Organiser, Ed Leach said:
“Industrial action is very much a last resort, but the unanimous vote to strike shows the strength of feeling among our members on this issue. It is disappointing that the company has pushed this dispute to the point of industrial action, which will not be resolved until an agreement is reached on the value of the shift premium pay for unsocial hours.
“We urge the company to move their position to avoid this industrial action and disruption to the business.”
This follows another Weetabix dispute over use of fire and rehire elsewhere in the country. For a company whose profits increased over the last year, it’s hard to see anything other than pure greed as a motivation behind their decision making.
Organising and fighting back: the precariat gets the taste
Hundreds of “gig economy” workers protested outside the Uber HQ in Tower Hamlets last Monday 26 July. They are angry at the way Uber and other companies like Deliveroo and the courier firm Stuart can casually dismiss workers on the slightest say-so.
The protest was organised by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB). The union was expressing the fury of members who had lost jobs often on the basis of unsubstantiated complaints from customers. The drivers then find themselves with no recourse to appeal.
The IWGB’s Alex Marshall says:
“Terminations at the touch of a button with no due process are just one more way the gig economy is rigged against workers. Still treated as disposable even after being key workers through a pandemic, what choice do they have but to fight back? We’re with them every step of the way.”
It’s a stain on our labour movement that any group of workers have to fight tooth and nail for rights the mainstream takes for granted. This is compounded by the fact that the majority of these workers are black.
But they’re still resisting today in a way many thought would never happen.
Night Tube grades dispute strikes planned
The RMT announced 4 strike dates for August over the Night Tube with the first set of strikes to commence across London Underground next Tuesday.
The union states that it is "appalled by the way London Underground has acted over Night Tube ‘grade consolidation’. Instead of accommodating those NT drivers who want to go full time, they attempt to do away with the grade completely and impose Night Tube shifts on the TO21 (full time) drivers."
Acas talks were set to recommence on Friday 30th July between RMT and London Underground in a last ditch effort to avoid the strikes.
Newly elected RMT General Secretary, Mick Lynch said:
"The press release issued by London Underground in advance of Acas talks goes much further than their negotiators.
“If London Underground are prepared to commit to no compulsory Night Tube duties and no reduction in jobs we could consider suspending action."
Conductors and managers strike on East Midlands Rail
RMT Conductors on East Midlands Rail were on strike last week and will be out again on August 1st, 8th and 15th. The dispute is over bosses' attempts to force inferior contracts onto some guards, despite strong resistance from workers who have extended their three days of strike from May into July with further dates announced for August.
RMT conductors are right to strike against contracts which mean workers are on £5,500 less in the first year and are required to work more hours, which goes against agreed terms and conditions.
In a separate dispute on East Midlands Rail, RMT train managers have announced strike dates for August & September over safety on Class 360 trains. In an ongoing dispute, RMT says the arrangements for the Class 360 trains were not agreed with the union and believes the use of the trains proposed is unsafe without a second safety critical person on board.
Strike dates are 8th, 15th, 22nd, 29th August and 5th, 12th, 19th & 26th September.
No piss up in the brewery for XPO
Around 1,000 drivers, drivers’ mates and warehouse staff employed by XPO on the Heineken contract are being balloted on industrial action. The workforce, who are responsible for about 40% of all beer deliveries to the pub trade, received no pay increase last year. This year, the company sought to make amends, by offering 1.4 percent
The ballot covers 26 sites across the country, and the mood (bad pun warning) is bitter. Many workers had already lost significant amounts through furlough and self-isolation in the course of the pandemic and feel that the company needs to come into the real world.
With a national driver shortage and wage offers in road haulage reaching 15%, 19% and even higher from some haulage firms, 1.4% feels like an insult. The ballot closes in the first week of August, which could make for a long dry summer if the employer does not see sense.
Banbury 300 vote on Unite deal
Workers at the JDE coffee factory in Banbury have begun voting on a deal negotiated by Unite, which the union claims removes the threat of Fire & Re-hire. However, many workers are rightly sceptical about the deal citing it as a case of ‘smoke and mirrors’.
Many workers feel betrayed by the union for negotiating with JDE while the threat of fire & re-hire remains on the table. Workers highlighted the ‘sleight of hand’ of a ‘negotiated’ extra 15p shift allowance (for working unsociable hours) while 15p was taken off the hourly pay. Additionally, workers who have never worked nights will have to under the new deal and the deal reduces rather than scraps redundancies from a proposed 46 to 23.
The vote on the deal closes in less than two weeks. Workers will need to reject the deal in order for the union to re-ballot to recommence strike action.
‘Failed delivery’ verdict by UPS workers
Unite’s proposed strike by the 50 UPS workers at XPO’s Gloucester site has been suspended following ‘initial progress’ at talks with the company.
The members delivered a 100% ‘yes’ vote for strike action over claims of bullying, harassment and victimisation at the depot. The issue has been grumbling on for 18 months, until the workforce lost patience with what they saw as insincere attempts to resolve the problem.
The strike was due to take place this Friday, for an initial four days, but has been postponed till Wednesday, August 4th, to allow talks to continue. UPS has form on this, with its Central London depot taking unofficial action some years ago before the company finally acted.
It looks as if it is only the threat of industrial action that gets the employer to wind its head back in from a belligerent and bullying management style. The workforce is determined that empty words will not wash and have laid down a clear warning:
“UPS have a limited time slot for delivery on this. If a solution is not on our doorstep by Tuesday, we will deliver our own solution to them.”
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