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Asda supermarket. Photo: Secret Pilgrim / Flickr / 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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Thousands of GMB members are preparing to take strike action following a stonking 95% vote in favour. The ballot was consultative, but the point’s been made.

Asda are floating a “rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul” deal which plays off a potential pay rise against a real-terms cut in sick pay.

Workers can see through this nonsense.

GMB’s Nadine Houghton says:

“This ballot result shows how angry Asda workers are.  They’re being asked to swallow a real-terms pay cut while Asda’s top brass give themselves a hefty pay rise.”

The union is meeting with members to consider the next steps. News from the Frontline recommends an immediate strike ballot

Win: XPO the latest drivers to seal pay deal

In another sign of the very real power that logistics workers currently have, drivers supplying fuel to Tesco have won a huge 27% pay rise. The Unite members employed by the firm XPO have successfully fought off a sub-inflation rise to get the result and the union is also turning its attention to the pay of the warehouse staff at the employer.

Meanwhile, DHL drivers in JCB’s parts supply chain have voted by a massive majority to reject a 5% pay rise, potentially crippling JCB manufacturing unless the GMB members are given a significantly improved offer.

Gas workers take action at Cadent

A massive workforce of gas workers has gone into dispute this week with the company Cadent.

At this time, the GMB members are only taking action short of a strike, including an overtime ban, but the ballot to go for strike action has been taken. The workers are rejecting a pay offer of 6% over two years, which is both below inflation and leaving them vulnerable to whatever happens economically in 2023.

Like the entire fossil fuel sector, Cadent is enjoying bumper profits while the public struggle to pay bills.

Oh yes they do: Equity secures holidays deal for panto workers

Thespian union Equity has won a significant legal victory for its performer and stage management members against QDos Pantomimes over holiday pay entitlement.

The 10-week pantomime season represents a major chunk of the theatrical economy and QDos are a big cheese in that world.

Judge Norris, who heard the case, concluded that oft-cited reasons given by producers for evading holiday pay and other workers' rights were without basis. In every case she found that the bosses’ claims did not undermine the union's robust position that Equity's members met the statutory definition of a 'worker'.

Equity’s Paul W Fleming says:

"The consequences of the bravery of the Equity members in this case will send ripples through the industry. A company as big and powerful as QDos should be using Equity collective agreements like the overwhelming majority of major commercial producers.”

QDos aren’t pantomime villains, they’re real villains - and they’ve taken a kicking through the collective action of those who fought back.

Sandwell leisure strikes latest

Workers at Sandwell Leisure Trust in Smethwick staged a strike on May 10 for better pay and conditions after being bullied into signing worse contracts last year. In March 2021 management at the Trust used the emotional aftermath of lockdown isolation to fire and rehire staff when they felt unable to organise a collective response.

The workers along with unions Unison, Unite and GMB are determined to redress this disgraceful situation and restore their pay and conditions to a fair level.

A strike is Brewing

225 GMB workers at Samlesbury brewery near Preston, owned by the Budweiser Brewing Group are taking action from Wednesday with an overtime and training ban and not engaging in face to face handovers. 

The dispute comes after a final pay offer of 3% which is a real-terms pay cut, massively below inflation. Bosses' profits are up 2.8% since 2019. GMB organiser Stephen Boden said:

“Workers are rightly angry and if this strike goes the distance Budweiser could face a summer beer drought.

“But it’s not too late for management to listen to workers and get back round the table with us to work out a fair deal.”

Stand with UCL workers

Outsourced IWGB workers at University College London (UCL) are fighting against outsourcing and demanding to be bought in house, have full equality and fair pay.

The porters, cleaners and security workers are holding a protest on Thursday 26th May 6 pm at Malet Place. You can sign the petition in support of the workers here

Yorkshire bus drivers ballot opens

Arriva bus drivers and engineers in Yorkshire are balloting for strike action over low pay. The company has offered a far below-inflation 4.1% pay increase which during the cost of living crisis is unacceptable.

Union Unite is running the ballot until 23 May, with the potential for strike action to begin in June if the 650 workers vote in favour.

Aberdeen bus drivers pay victory

270 bus drivers for Stagecoach Bluebird Buses in Aberdeen and the surrounding area have received a just above-inflation pay rise.

Unite claims many bus drivers were quitting to find work elsewhere. During a cost of living crisis, a 10% pay rise could only delay this decision.

Stagecoach is owned by Brian Souter. A former SNP donor and Thatcherite Businessman. He became one of Scotland's richest people off the back of the deregulation of bus services in the 1980s and 1990s.

Scotland’s college strike

College lecturers and staff are still striking across Scotland. With a slight change of tactic to the number of days striking each week the workers went into their seventh day of action on Thursday, May 12.

After successful pickets across Glasgow and the rest of the country, hundreds of strikers travelled to Edinburgh for a lively protest outside the Scottish Parliament. Lectures are due to strike again next week.

Translink workers ready for walkout

More than 3,000 bus drivers, shunters, fitters and clerical staff at Translink in Northern Ireland will walk out on strike next week. The strikers, members of the Unite and GMB unions, are striking in rejection of the ‘totally inadequate’ pay offer of 3% by the company.

The unions had suspended their strike action to give talks a chance, but with the company refusing to budge, it has already stated that no Translink bus services – Ulsterbus, Goldline, Metro or Glider – will run if the strike goes ahead.

One in four households in Northern Ireland do not have a car, so the strike action is therefore likely to have a significant impact across the region. The 1,400 buses operated by Translink transport 1.5 million passengers a week - including virtually all the school buses - on its 12,500 daily services. 

Mini factory’s massive mandate

Warehouse workers and shunters walked off the job at BMW’s Mini plant in Oxford this week, in a dispute over pay. The 200 members of the Unite union voted 9:1, on a 98% turnout, to reject the company’s pay offer.

The shop stewards claim that the company’s offer of less than 6% is unacceptable given current inflation. They point to the 30% increase in profits, the £2.5M the company took in the furlough scheme, and the changes to shift patterns, and insist their claim is necessary if the company is to retain and recruit the workforce it needs.

Stop press: the union has called off its current strike dates to allow members to vote on a new “substantially improved” offer.

More bins aggro: Welwyn Garden City workers’ walkout

Wheelie bins were left uncollected in the Home Counties this week as a group of workers walked off the job.

Spanish subcontractors Urbaser are the bosses and they handle the local council’s waste recycling and disposal.  

The word on the street is that the impromptu walkout was driven by unacceptable conditions in the firm’s central depot.

Workers only do this when they’ve truly had enough. This isn’t just a signal to the bosses, it’s also a signal to the trade union mainstream. Workers’ anger will always find expression, official or otherwise.

Bin win in Somerset

Over 100 members of the GMB union at NSEC Ltd have voted to accept an improved offer from the company, bringing an end to the overtime ban and threatened strike action. The company is a wholly-owned, arms-length company running the refuse and waste services for North Somerset Council.

The workers had rejected the company’s claim that they could only afford a 4.5% pay offer.

IWGB delivers more strike action with Stuart couriers  

The UK’s longest-running gig-economy strike has now spread to Darlington and Hartlepool. Stuart food delivery couriers have been striking against a 24% pay cut in Sheffield and later in Chesterfield and other areas nearby.  

The workers have been staging continuous strike action with picket lines outside restaurant chains that Stuart (and JustEat who use Stuart couriers) deliver for. The strike action has clearly been causing a lot of disruption to Stuart’s operations, and that it is continuing to spread is only going to hit them harder.

Despite the attempt by GMB to undercut the IWGB by announcing a ‘partnership’ with Deliveroo that will maintain self-employed status for riders, there appears to be solid support for the strike and demands to be treated fairly – and as workers.

UCU FE workers fight cost of living crisis

Jayne Gillies, a UCU rep at Bury College wrote on the North West FE strikes, you can read more here.

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