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British Airways plane. Photo: Lewis Smith photography / 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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500 “A Scales” ground staff at BA’s Heathrow operation are threatening strike action over the company’s below-inflation pay offer. The staff are rightly furious that BA – which used the pandemic as an excuse to slash jobs, pay, terms and conditions – are refusing to restore the 10% pay cut imposed during lockdown, despite having reinstated pre-covid pay for management

The industrial action ballot closes on 27 June, but Unite reps are confident it will return overwhelming support.

This reflects a general mood of anger among BA’s workforce: Unite reported a 97% vote in favour of industrial action in a consultative ballot last month of its 16,000 cabin crew and ground staff members employed by BA.

The mood of increased confidence is not confined to BA workers; the 300 Unite members employed by Wilson James at Gatwick airport, on the mobility contract, have just won a 21% pay rise, backdated to 1 April, and the company has agreed to pay for free parking for staff on shift at the airport.

This follows the 10% pay hike won by the 300 ground handlers employed by Menzies at the airport, the similar increase won by workers on the mobility contract at Luton airport (reported in a previous NFTF) and the 9% pay rise won by ABM cleaning staff at Glasgow airport.

Indefinite bus strike brings bosses to table

Striking bus drivers in Yorkshire have forced Arriva bosses to the negotiating table with their commitment to strike indefinitely for an improved pay offer. The drivers’ solidarity has left the company unable to operate services across much of Yorkshire since they walked out last week. 

With talks between Unite and Arriva to begin June 15, drivers continue to push for an above inflation pay offer and vital morale-boosting win.

PCS ready to hammer court bosses

HM Courts and Tribunals Service security workers employed by contractor OCS and represented by the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) are to ballot for strike action after being offered a pay rise that is a mere 2% above minimum wage.

Despite being accredited as a living wage employer OCS refuses to pay the ‘real living wage’ that its workers need, driving PCS to consult members over action that could cause serious disruption to court services.

Bin Workers: Continuing Struggles and Achieved Gains

The long-running Coventry bin workers dispute could be heading for a resolution, but the Unite members are not relaxing yet, having voted unanimously to keep up the strike action for as long as it takes. Coventry City Council are still using strikebreakers to try and stave off a deal, and it says everything that the Labour majority and Tory minority on the council have been of one voice against the union.

However, the council has finally made an offer to the workers, for the first time since the dispute began. The union has said that the workers will consider the terms, but with morale remaining high it is unlikely the workers will accept a bad deal. An end might be in sight.

Elsewhere, Unite bin workers in Croydon have claimed a victory without actually taking action. Strikes that were due to begin this Thursday have been called off after Veolia, the privatised employer, came back with a pay offer of 8.5%, up from the 2.5% they were initially imposing. In nearby Wandsworth, GMB members on the bins are set to strike from next week over a post-inflation pay cut: the council will be under enormous pressure to concede. 

ADCU: 24-hour strike against gig economy minicab app Bolt

Members of the App Drivers and Couriers Union (ADCU) staged a 24 hour strike against gig economy app Bolt on Wednesday 15 June. The drivers are demanding an increase in the price paid per mile to comply with a Supreme Court ruling which stated that app drivers are workers and entitled to basic workers’ rights, such as the minimum wage. The ADCU are planning a similar action on 22 June. Watch the live stream here.

Shutdown the railways! New Tunnel Vision out now

The latest issue of the rail workers' rank and file bulletin Tunnel Vision, mobilising for the national strike next week, is out now.

Download Tunnel Vision to print and distribute at picket lines here

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Solent solidarity

Unite is currently balloting a range of workers on the Southampton to Cowes ferry, an absolutely crucial link between the Isle of Wight and the mainland.

The employer, Red Funnel, has attempted to impose a 4.5% pay rise on most staff, which they have rejected due to much higher inflation. A significant number of the ferry workers are on, or close to, minimum wage.

Slaying the dragon: St George’s workers fight to win

Outsourced GMB Mitie workers at St George’s Hospital in Tooting will be back on strike next week from Monday 20 to Friday 26 June. This follows three days of lively strike action on 30 May, 6, 7 June with big marches through Tooting. The workers are fighting to be bought in house as NHS staff, against a two tier workforce and after management have withheld wages. GMB organiser Helen O’Connor said:

 “Members want the trust to intervene to take the contract back in house so that they can enjoy stability and the same pay, terms and conditions as all other NHS workers GMB members are very disappointed that the trust is not engaging in talks to resolve this dispute, which shows us that there is no urgency on the part of management to resolve the dispute which we already know had a serious impact on the hospital.”

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Photo: Helen O'Connor

Nae to low pay

Thousands of Unison, GMB and Unite council workers in Scotland are voting to strike after rejecting a 2% pay offer. School workers, cleansing workers and early years services are amongst those being balloted. GMB says that for workers on less than 25,000 a year 2% is less than £10 a week when inflation is soaring, Unite says more than half of the 250,000 council workers earn less than 25k. The GMB ballot closes on 29 July, Unite and Unison ballots close on 26th July.

Nearly 9 out of 10 for Dundee teachers

EIS Secondary School teachers in Dundee have voted to strike on 22 June with an 88% yes vote. The workers are striking over council plans to replace department heads with a new faculty system. EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: "Dundee Council's plans would remove the vital experience offered by subject specialist principal teachers from our schools, with long-term damaging consequences for education in Dundee and for the young people in its schools. Teachers do not take strike action lightly, but they will do so to defend the quality of education for Dundee's young people."

Romford resists

NEU staff at Harold Hill School and Drapers’ Pyrgo Priory school in Romford were on strike again last week over a planned ‘restructure’ which would see workers lose up to £400 a month. NEU district secretary for Havering, John Delaney, said members are “very disappointed” to strike again, but claims little has been done to rectify their concerns.

Communication breakdown: BT workers vote to strike

CWU members working at BT group PLC are being balloted for strike action over pay in a national dispute. The workers include engineering, retail and contact centre staff. The ballot will close at the end of the month and a national strike would be the first for BT workers since the 80’s.

CWU deputy general secretary Andy Kerr said: 

"Today has seen the beginning of a fight for pay dignity. As ballots begin dropping through the doors of CWU members, thousands will be thinking of the soaring cost of living, and the insulting treatment they've received at the hands of employers. While BT Group created even better profits than was expected, many workers who made that profit rely on food banks and don't know how they will pay their bills”

A quarrel in the quarries

160 Unite workers at Devilla Forest Quarry and O-I Glassworks plants in Alloa, Edinburgh Way and Harlow in Scotland commenced 3 days strike action this week, fighting for fair pay. The workers have rejected a 4% pay offer, while bosses' profits have increased by over £50 million.

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: "O-I Glass is another shameful example of a business that can afford to pay a decent wage but won't pay. The offer on the table is a pay cut, not a rise, and is entirely unacceptable”

Financial crisis: FCA workers strike back

Unite Workers at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) were on strike again for two days last week in London and Edinburgh. Unite says that the FCA is haemorrhaging staff and in crisis. Through FOI requests Unite has found that 1,000 workers have left the FCA since the new CEO started in October 2020. Unite says it is no longer an ‘effective or reliable’ regulator. The workers are fighting for ‘respect and union representation’.

Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham said “The FCA can restore confidence if it chooses to. It is very simple: they can work with Unite to improve pay, terms and conditions and, accept the desire of this workforce to be represented by our union, or they can face ongoing strike action”.

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