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NHS protest

NHS protest. Photo: Steve Eason / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0, license linked at bottom of article

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

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Porters and domestic staff employed by G4S at Croydon Hospital have called off their strike that was due to begin on Monday 4 April, after winning a 24% pay rise with backpay and an occupational sick pay scheme. 

The largely-migrant workforce took aim at the outsourcing giant after years of exploitation and bullying to stop them organising had left them on minimum wage with no sick pay. Earlier in the year the workers began unionising and organised a defiant protest outside the hospital making their demands clear, and then followed up with a strike ballot which returned a 98% yes vote. 

G4S’s desperation became clear when they began calling in workers for meetings in an attempt to pressure them into not striking – which clearly backfired. Following the huge victory for 1,800 ancillary workers at Barts Trust against their outsourcing employer, and the growing solidarity among hospital workers across hospitals in and around London, G4S recognised the battle it was about to face and buckled. 

As the cost of living crisis deepens, this is a huge victory for all workers as it shows what’s possible in winning inflation-busting pay deals through effective collective organising. As well as the immediate victory, the workers at Croydon Hospital now know the power they have and are better organised for future struggles. As GMB organiser Helen O’Connor said, 

“Our members have told GMB that they want to continue and have a permanent say in negotiating their own pay, terms and conditions via their union of choice, GMB. 

“They have seen that when they come together as a collective and are properly organised within GMB they have far more power to change their own lives and those of their families. 

“This G4S dispute shows that building trade union solidarity in a workplace is the most effective way to enable workers to win the pay and conditions that will better enable them to weather the cost-of-living crisis.”

London bus drivers: striking to beat inflation

Following a delay for further negotiations, bus drivers in Unite have taken 48 hours of action against Arriva from Monday morning. The company is offering a tiny 1.5% pay increase and has failed to make any offer in line with actual inflation. 

Bus companies are heavily fragmented in London, but the strikers succeeded in shutting down services from garages in Croydon, Thornton Heath, and Norwood. Brixton garage was due to join in but was prevented under a technicality under the Thatcherite anti-union laws.

Following an effective initial action, the dispute is continuing.

Unison joins in with UCU colleagues

Unison Higher Education workers have been on strike this week with their UCU colleagues at SOAS, City, Birkbeck, Kings College London, Brighton, Gloucestershire, Edinburgh Napier and Leeds. All workers are on strike over pay and Leeds and SOAS are also striking in defence of their pensions. 

SOAS unison branch secretary Sandy Nicoll said:

“Making ends meet during a cost of living crisis is bad enough, but staff are also deeply concerned about the future of their pensions. USS pension benefits need to be preserved – the scheme must be affordable so all staff can save for a decent retirement”

Bosses at City University have been using strike-breaking tactics on the unison strikes; firstly, bribing workers to cross the pickets, and now withholding overtime pay. Unison workers will be on strike for another 2 weeks.

Equal Pay Strike in Glasgow suspended

Unison and GMB members in Glasgow suspended the strike scheduled for March 29-30. Not fully trusting the SNP-Green administration, workers still protested outside the Council Chamber on Thursday.

This is a dispute going back more than 15 years. Failure to ensure a satisfactory settlement will see strike action on April 20 and 21. The Equal Pay dispute was critical in ensuring power, in Glasgow City, at the 2017 Council elections.

All councillors are up for reelection and if this dispute isn't resolved it will be an issue for workers at the ballot box and the picket lines.

Post Office workers cash out

With a huge 97.3% vote for strike action, the Post Office has been put on notice to reverse its unjustified pay freeze or face industrial action from almost 1,000 counters, admin and supply chain workers.

If the strike goes ahead, CWU says it will affect 11,500 sub-Post Offices across the country with no cash collected or delivered, which will also have a wider effect on the entire service.

GMB bin workers' struggle continues

Adur and Worthing bin workers in GMB went ahead with their strike action from Monday and are set to continue until the 10th of April. The union has accused the employer of failing to negotiate seriously and all signs are the action is very solid.

By contrast, bin workers in Solihull are not now taking planned strike action after voting to accept an improved pay offer in a close, high-turnout members’ vote. While 5.26% is short of the union’s original claim, it has benefited the entire workforce and union density has significantly increased during the campaign.

The decision by the council to make an improved offer before action has taken place may well put additional pressure on councils in the Midlands to act to resolve pay disputes quickly.

For our latest on the Coventry dispute, read Kieran Crowe’s piece here.

Photo: Jack Sherwood


DHL drivers ditch drinks deliveries

Drivers for DHL Tradeteam at Burton, working on the Molson Coors contract, will be striking next week if the company does not agree to honour a commitment to address 'unmanageable routes'

The drivers say DHL need to take on 25 more drivers to service the contract. A Unite member on site said the strike vote was 94% in favour of strike action and added:

"The drivers feel they are at work more than they are at home, and that is not acceptable in 2022."

Failure by management to sort this out could mean booze shortages across the NW, particularly of Carling lager, over the Easter Bank Holiday.

Baggage handlers to strike for better pay at Heathrow

Baggage maintenance engineers at Heathrow Airport are set to take strike action from 8 to 10 April over their employer, Vanderlande Industries, committing to a pay freeze for unionised workers despite increasing profits and the soaring cost of living.

Timing their strike days for the start of the school Easter holidays allows these workers, represented by Unite, to demonstrate how essential they are to the smooth running and continued profitability of the airport.

Outsourced bin workers could strike in Manchester

Bin workers, working for Biffa who are outsourced by Manchester City Council will vote on whether to strike this week after rejecting a measly 1.75% pay offer. The workers are represented mainly by GMB but also Unite.

Michael Clark, GMB Regional Organiser, said:

“We’ve told Biffa several times our members have rejected the offer put forward.

“Yet they have decided to pay their final offer to our members because they think it is morally right to do so.

“Our members want more than moral recognition for working through wind, rain, hail and covid.

“This is the worst cost of living crisis for 30 years and all workers – not just HGV drivers – deserve more than a real terms pay cut.

“It’s not too late to avoid mass disruption for the people of Manchester. We are happy to return to the table and look forward to receiving an improved offer to put to our members.”

92 out of the 96 councillors for Manchester City Council are Labour so why do they outsource their bin collections to a private company? Bringing these workers back in house should now be a priority for the council.

British Council workers fight to save jobs

PCS members working at the British Council in London, Belfast, Cardiff, Manchester and Edinburgh took two days of strike action last week fighting against planned job cuts of 20% of the workforce, 200 jobs.

Workers in Baghdad and Bogota also took part in the strike action. PCS say they are also concerned about bosses restructuring and using outsourcing at the British Council. The picket lines were solid, particularly in Manchester.

Cadent faces strike ballot after gaslighting workers

Over 2,000 members of GMB working for Cadent Gas are balloting for strike action over an insulting below-inflation pay offer. They will be voting until 8 April, and with a yes vote strike action could begin before the end of April.

Cadent is the biggest of the four gas distribution network companies which made an operating profit of over £900m last year and its CEO received a £1.4m payout. Yet it refuses to offer its workers more than a real-terms pay cut in the midst of the cost of living crisis – which soaring energy prices are central to.

Energy companies seem to be determined to maximise the hardship of both their customers and workers to grow their already grotesque profit margins. The workers’ fight against their greedy bosses is all of our fight.

Enforced pay deal stinks like a bad fish for Scottish workers

Around 80 Unite members who work for Marine Scotland are currently in a dispute over an enforced payday deal.

The Union believes the pay deal is illegal and is currently balloting workers for strike action. Voting started on March 25 and will end on April 25.

This group of workers involves a wide range of seafaring staff ensuring laws are maintained in commercial fishing practices.

Unite says:

"The dispute centres on the imposition by the Scottish government of a two per cent pay award for 2021 which Unite warns could constitute an ‘illegal inducement’. An illegal inducement – when an employer imposes a pay award against the wishes of workforce – breaches collective bargaining arrangements. By doing this, the Scottish government could be potentially in breach of the law.”

'Full support' for striking teachers in Walthamstow: Carole Vincent reports from the NEU picket line at Walthamstow Primary Academy where teachers are taking action over pay, workloads and bullying.

We need a real fight against P&O - leaflet: To win the fight against P&O, workers must take the lead. Download our leaflet here

The cost of living crisis: all out this Saturday! The People’s Assembly and the RMT are coming together to fight attacks on working people, outlines Chris Neville.

All solidarity to Chep workers on the longest-running strike in Unite history: After 17 weeks of continuous strike, Chep workers are determined to keep fighting until they win and they need all of our solidarity.

Photo: Chris Neville

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