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Teachers' strike in Chicago

Teachers' strike in Chicago. Photo: Charles Edward Miller / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0, license linked at bottom of article

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

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NASUWT members in the Isle of Man have delivered an 84% mandate for strike action in their fight for pay.

General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach says:

“NASUWT members are unequivocal and united in their demand for a better deal for teachers in the Isle of Man. Today’s vote must be a wake-up call to the Government which has failed to deliver the fair pay and working conditions that teachers need and deserve.

“A substantially below-inflation pay offer has been a kick in the stomach to teachers who have continued to work tirelessly whilst the value of their pay has fallen dramatically over the last decade.”

Strike details are forthcoming. Education workers the length and breadth of the land are fighting back. Let’s hope they get their own section on the TUC/People’s Assembly 18 June national demo.

Dust-up on the bins

Cardiff Council Waste collection workers in the Unite union have voted by 98% to strike over a ‘toxic bullying culture’ and high levels of agency staff who are treated ‘like 1960s dockworkers’.

The union claims that a recent survey revealed that nearly two-thirds of members in the waste dept had experienced or witnessed bullying behaviour. Management claim that allegations are ‘unsubstantiated’. Unite members feel that the bullying culture is made worse by the high levels of agency staff, some of whom have worked in the waste for several years, who fear losing work if they complain.

One particular grumble is that the council will expect agency staff to turn up for work, without any guarantee that they will get a shift – that they are used as cheap cover for sickness or absences, and if there is no work they get sent home.

“They give us two hours pay – but that is time we have spent hanging around, hoping for a full shift. There is no respect for you, and you can’t say anything for fear of getting knocked back the next time too.”

No strike dates have been set yet, as management is now talking to the union to try and resolve the issue.

Exxon marks the spot

100 workers at Exxon’s Fawley refinery in Southampton begin the first of three days of strike action on Friday 8 April. The workers, outsourced to Veolia, Altrad and Trant Engineering, are taking action in response to a dismal 2.5% pay offer and over no company sick pay – something that other Fawley workers employed directly by Exxon receive from day one.

Like other energy companies leeching of working people with high energy prices, Exxon made £6.25 billion last year, but Unite says it is colluding with the outsourcers to screw over the workers as well. Well, the workers aren’t going to stand for it. Following their action on 8 April, they will also be striking on 25 April and 6 May. With Fawley supplying all airports in the country and a sixth of all petrol stations, the strike has the potential to cause serious disruption if the employers refuse to treat their workers fairly.

Nottingham students stand with UCU strikers

Students at the University of Nottingham have occupied the offices of the Vice Chancellor and Treasurer to demand the management reverse the cuts to lecturers’ pensions and address the concerns of staff and students over the ‘four fights’. Last month the students occupied three lecture theatres but were completely ignored by the management, so this time they’ve occupied their offices to make sure the message is loud and clear.  

Despite threats of legal action and intimidation, the students have maintained their occupation for over a week. As UCU strikes continue across the country, the support of students is vital to stepping up the ante for university managements. All power to the brave students!


Photo: @NottsRentStrike


The struggle continues in Coventry

Coventry Unite organised another mass protest this week, this time outside the employer’s headquarters of the dismissal and victimization of striker Pete Randall. Resolve among the strikers remains strong and the all-out dispute is continuing.

A political dimension to the campaign has very much developed, with a major public information campaign having been launched to make the public understand that the council is essentially pursuing the dispute as both a vendetta against the union and a money-making opportunity for profiteering companies.

There is some evidence that public opinion is turning on the council, which could have implications for Labour’s prospects in the local elections this May. There was also support for the strikers from members of the public who staged an entirely unofficial protest against the private strike-breaking collection company, Tom White, who significantly disrupted the scab operation on Friday, causing the council to admit that crews failed to get out that day.

In other regions, GMB bin workers are continuing in several areas such as Barrow-in-Furness, which will see the workers striking from today until Friday, and Wiltshire.

TransPennine trains ground to a halt

RMT conductors on the TransPennine trains carried out a strike this weekend, bringing services to an almost total halt. The conductors argue that their employer – which continues to be the private FirstGroup as a result of a desperate deal by the government to avoid taking the services in public ownership – has treated them far less favourably than other grades.

The employer is so far not indicating any willingness to negotiate but has conceded that industrial action is having a serious impact. Today it issued advice to avoid using their services on Easter weekend.

Want more bread? Join a union: Unite win for Notts bakers

Unite members at the Riverside Bakery in Nottingham have voted by a solid 90% to accept a 7% pay deal. This vote was ahead of a bout of all-out continuous strike action scheduled for last week (30 March).

Unite’s regional secretary Paresh Patel says:

“Our members at Riverside Bakery should be commended for their determination to stand firm. They have achieved a decent pay deal and are happy their employer is listening to them.”

Paresh is right to call it decent, and a victory is a victory. But if we want to make a real stand against inequality, we have to set our sights higher than 7% now. 

Wheels to stop turning at NSK

Workers at 2 NSK factories manufacturing car bearings in Peterlee, Co. Durham, are to strike after being offered a paltry 1.6% pay rise. For a period of 6 weeks from 23 March the entire shopfloor workforce at NSK Bearings and AKS Precision Ball will strike every Wednesday and Saturday, disrupting supply chains for several prominent car manufacturers.

With the backing of Unite these workers are determined to win a worthwhile pay rise from a company that is heavily profiting from their labour.

Greater Manchester organises solidarity march for Chep strike

On Wednesday April 13, Greater Manchester County Trades Council and Manchester People’s Assembly will host a solidarity march and rally in support of the Chep strike, now in its 19th week.

The assembly point is outside Media City Metrolink stop form 6pm. From there, march to the picket in Trafford Park. Ian Hodson of the Baker’s Union is amongst the speakers with more to be announced. For full details, check out the Facebook event.

Lessons of P&O: to win we have to be prepared to break the law - DP World’s callous sacking of the 800 seafarers has caused outrage across Britain, but it also contains lessons for Britain’s workers, argue Richard Allday & Chris Nineham.

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