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Girl's Day School Trust strike rally

Girl's Day School Trust strike rally. Photo: Kate O'Neil

Counterfire’s weekly digest with the latest on strikes and workplace struggles

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On Thursday morning, 1,500 teachers, members of the National Education Union, began the first of six days of strike action to defend their pensions.

Speaking at a London strike rally, NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said the teachers' 95% yes vote to strike with an 84% turnout was one of the biggest ballot results in the history of the British trade union movement.

The Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) proposes to remove its teaching staff at these independent schools from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme. If this were to go ahead, teachers will be at least 20% worse off on average in terms of the annual amount they receive in pension payments.

Teachers spoke of how the Trust has the money to keep teachers in TPS, the ‘eye watering’ salary of the CEO and the fact that these workers have not had a pay rise in two years.

On the picket line at Streatham and Clapham High School, Spokesperson Dr Sadaf Choudhry, a Science teacher, said,

“Teachers aren’t paid enough and at a time of a cost of living crisis, it devalues the entire profession.”

She described the support from parents as “amazing” – less than half the students had turned up. For many teachers this is the first industrial action they have taken part in.

This attack by the GDST on teachers is both unnecessary and simply adds further to the cost of living crisis being suffered by workers across the country.

Some of the striking teachers will be joining the People’s Assembly Cost of Living protests around the country on Saturday. They will be back out on strike on 23-24 February and 1-3 March, please get down to your nearest picket line and show your support.

Victory for B&Q strikers

After 11 weeks of striking, B&Q workers in Wincanton have won an inflation-busting pay rise. The backdated 6.75% pay rise plus recognition and bonuses which Unite says is the equivalent of a 10.75% pay rise is a huge victory for the workers who have remained steadfast and escalated at every step. Their lively and energetic picket lines with upwards of 120 strikers and protests have paid off and are an example for all workers being given real-terms pay cuts on how to win.

The ballot stacks high

Chep Trafford Park pallet repairers and warehouse staff, who have been out on continuous strike for over 10 weeks have delivered a resounding 94% re-ballot vote to continue for up to 12 more weeks.

The workers were originally looking for 5% to make up for years of below-inflation rises but news of other workers seeing greater rises, such as those at B&Q has only strengthened their determination.

Chep has finally agreed to meet for negotiations next week and Manchester Trades Council is holding a solidarity rally outside the depot in the morning. Get down if you can!

CQC unions to ballot over pay

For the first time since the inception of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in 2009, staff members represented by Unison, Prospect, RCN, Unite and PCS are balloting for strike action over pay.

Despite a real-terms pay cut of nearly 20% since 2010, the CQC has announced that only the lowest-paid staff will receive a small pay award, leaving the majority with another annual wage freeze.

Requests for a now below-inflation rise have been denied, which in the light of the rising cost of living is yet another indication that the government are planning to make working people pay for their crisis.

High court strike-breaking

Striking GOSH security guards who are fighting to be bought in-house so they have basic rights such as sick pay and maternity pay have been ‘injuncted by the High Court’.

UVW General secretary Petros Elia said that the striking security guards and anyone supporting them will be breaching the injunction if they ‘wave banners’, ‘play music’, ‘shouting’, make ‘rapid or dramatic movements’, ‘make loud noises’, ‘engage in vigorous dancing’ or ‘photographing or videoing’ anyone entering or leaving GOSH’.

Petros says UVW will be returning to the High Court next Wednesday to contest the injunction.

This is an attack on all strikers and the whole trade union movement, all must be active in resisting this and supporting the GOSH strikers. Read Yonas Makoni’s report here.

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Bus drivers united

Across the country, bus drivers are striking for better pay and seeing decent results. The latest news from First Manchester is that Unite members secured an 8.9% pay rise and a one-off cash sum of £750 after eight days of strike action after 70% agreed on a deal.

Now drivers for First in Bradford and Stagecoach in Swindon, also represented by Unite, want their fair share. The Swindon drivers ballot opened on 7 February and will close on the 21st and the drivers in Bradford are ready to announce strike dates after voting 77% in favour.

Meanwhile, Unite just reported that Stagecoach Gloucester drivers have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action.

This is solid, coordinated national action from the union.

Radical College of Art back on the picket!

Workers at the Royal College of Art (RCA) have voted to go back on strike in a re-ballot. They are striking over casualisation and to protect their workloads. They have announced ten days of action and will be out from 14-18 February and 28 February - 4 March 

Health workers and anyone who needs them are facing the worst ever crisis in the NHS

While the recent energy crisis is hitting everyone hard, there is also a unique and urgent emergency in the NHS. After more than a decade of austerity, it has sunk to worst-ever performance rates.

NHS staff are now among the worst hit, after being refused decent rates of pay, all while being expected to provide us frontline care during a still ongoing pandemic. Morale is at an all-time low and many are leaving the profession, burnt out and let down by the Government.

SOS NHS is a new coalition of campaign groups and trade unions which are demanding emergency funding to rescue failing services, a guarantee for a publicly owned NHS and pay justice for workers. There’s a Day of Action on Saturday 26 February which we all must support: Details are here: SOSNHS.ORG

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Hospital workers battle outsourcers

Helen O’Connor, GMB NHS Southern Region Organiser reports: cleaners and hostesses in St George’s hospital are in dispute with outsourcing giant Mitie.

Mitie is undermining contractual rights and failing to adhere to policies and agreements with GMB UNION. Workers are angry that Mitie is changing the pay cycles which means they will have to wait even longer for pay owed in May.

Trust and confidence was never high in Mitie but now things are at rock bottom and the mood is volatile. The workers are kicking off their dispute with a protest outside St George’s on Friday 18 February from 10:00-14:00 which is being supported by GMB southern region. If Mitie continue to abuse these hard-working staff GMB Union will proceed with a strike ballot

Defend Paul Holmes: no witch-hunts on our watch 

Unison national president Paul Holmes has been fighting for his class all his adult life.

Labour-led Kirklees Council, Paul’s employer for almost half a century, have dismissed him after two years’ suspension. This is following an investigation looked into "serious and confidential issues" involving Paul led by a private consultant.

The campaign against Paul has all the hallmarks of classic victimisation: smear, innuendo and disinformation.

What is indisputable is Paul’s track record as a rep and a strike leader.  

“I am urging all Unison members and trade unionists to stand with Paul Holmes”, says Labour MP John McDonnell. Local Unison members have taken this to heart just chosen to re-elect Paul as their Branch Secretary. This is Paul’s third decade in the post.

“This is an attempt to take out of action one of the finest representatives of this union we’ve ever had. We’re not going to stand by and allow any employer to target and victimise one of our reps,” adds McDonnell.

When the bosses come for a militant in this way, our movement has only one response: “We are ALL Paul Holmes!”

Send your messages of support to: [email protected]

Bin strike could spread to Solihull

GMB are balloting Solihull refuse workers for strike action over pay. Over 100 refuse workers employed by Amey Services Limited will take part in the ballot which ends on 4 March.

Soilhull is close to Coventry where Unite refuse workers are currently striking and escalating their fight.

Dave Warwick, GMB organiser said:

“Inflation is rampant, we’re in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis and these workers are massively in demand.”

RMT cleaners on strike nationally

Hundreds of RMT cleaners employed by Churchill working on multiple rail companies in the South East will be on striking for decent pay on Wednesday 23 February.

The cleaners will be holding a strike rally outside Parliament at 11:00.

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said:

“Our members’ already scandalously low pay is being eaten away and they are justifiably not putting up with it any longer.”

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The Strikers Speak - watch back Wednesday's rally

In case you missed News from the Frontline's inspiring rally on Wednesday with strikers from around the country, you can watch it back here.

Universities aren't corporations: Goldsmiths back on the picket lines

'Serco have got to go': Barts strikers are taking a stand

History / 

 

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