Counterfire’s weekly digest with the latest on strikes and workplace struggles
The National Union of Journalists have begun a wave of industrial action at Reach PLC owned newspapers. The company, which has paid out £14 million to shareholders this year, owns many national titles including the Mirror and the Daily Express plus a plethora of local newspapers.
Journalists walked out after they rejected a pay offer and voted 79% in favour of strike action on a 70% turnout. The first day of strike action was on Friday and will continue on 31 August with further strikes planned on 14-15 September.
88% of NUJ members also voted for action short of a strike and this will see journalists work to rule from 1-13 September.
Chris Morley, NUJ Reach national coordinator, said:
“Our members have delivered a powerful message to Reach chiefs with the results of this landmark ballot. With this result, our members are clearly saying that the company – which gave its top two executives pay packages worth more than £7m – can, and must, do much better than a meagre 3%/£750 minimum increase on already inadequate pay”.
The first two days of the NUJ strike coincide with the CWU’s strike at Royal Mail which will see over 100,000 workers out on these days and saw a lively set of picket lines nationally on the first day of strike. A perfect opportunity for solidarity - the more joint strike days, the merrier.
13,000 Scottish council workers to walk
Unison has served notice with nine Scottish councils that 13,000 of their members will be taking three days of strike action in September over a pay dispute. Talks between the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), which represents all Scottish councils, and the union broke down after a poor pay offer.
The staff who work in schools and nurseries also include catering staff, cleaners, caretakers, teaching assistants and early years practitioners will walk out on 6-8 September.
Johanna Baxter, Unison Scotland head of local government, said:
“Until we have a decent pay offer that we can put to Unison members our strike action will continue and thousands of school and early years workers will be taking action across nine councils in Scotland.”
Bud workers hopping mad at pay offer
The latest escalation in a dispute that has lasted for months at the Budweiser brewery in Samlesbury sees GMB members out for a week which started on 22 August.
The employer is still not moving to a pay offer that keeps the workers statric in terms of inflation so 93% of them voted to strike for a week.
Stephen Boden, GMB Organiser, said:
“We don’t believe there is any real desire from Budweiser to resolve this dispute. It’s disgraceful that they cancel a meeting the evening before we are due to meet with no real reason. Therefore, we will be going ahead with a series of stoppages over eight days, impacting all departments and shifts across the site.
“The walk out starts 07:00hrs Monday 22 August and runs until 19:00hrs Monday 29 August, with further stoppages scheduled for September. They continue to ignore workers and put profit before people with this derisory pay offer. Workers are rightly angry.”
Civil Service moves to ballot
The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) is set to ballot for strike action after an indicative ballot found civil servants in favour.
The ballot will run between 26 September and 7 November, with the union demanding a 10% pay rise, £15 minimum hourly rate and lower staff pension contributions.
With Boris Johnson’s parting gift to the civil service set to be 91,000 redundancies in an already understaffed sector, a solid strike by remaining staff has the potential to cripple government services.
The UCU fightback: 151 universities to ballot for strike
UCU is balloting members at 151 universities over pay and pensions from 7 September. Members will vote in two separate ballots, which will be aggregated across the sector, and run for 7 weeks.
The ballot comes after warnings over the summer that the offer of a 3% pay increase by the employer, UCEA, amounts to a massive pay cut considering inflation is running at 12.3% and workers have suffered more than a decade of low pay.
UCU is demanding a 12% pay uplift and a reversal of the cuts to pensions that would see USS members lose 35% of retirement income.
It is absolutely essential that the sector smashes the 50% threshold and votes YES to strike action. In the context of other major unions either out on strike or balloting for action, this should give members the confidence to get the vote out at every university.
Given the urgency of the cost-of-living crisis, we have to redouble efforts to make this ballot the most resounding in the union’s history.
Muller workers not crying over spilt milk
70 drivers and shunters walked off the job at Muller Milk’s Stonehouse depot yesterday and will stay out until next Thursday. The strike is not over pay, but over the workers’ desire for a decent home life.
One striker told Counterfire:
“The company signed an agreement only a few months ago, that they would not touch our rosters. Now they’ve just torn that up and basically are laughing at us.”
Unite’s Regional Officer Amy Roberts has said that the union will back its members all the way.
Muller has a reputation in the dairy industry for having a hostile approach to workers’ collective organisation, and that attitude is exemplified by the company’s response to the Stonehouse workforce – “We have thorough plans in place to ensure our customers will not be affected”.
There is speculation that Muller may be intending to take advantage of the Tories’ Scabs’ Charter, allowing rogue employers to bring in strike-breakers. NFTF will be watching developments closely.
Bin strike on the Queen’s doorstep
Outsourced bin workers in the “Royal Borough” of Windsor and Maidenhead have rejected a 6% pay offer and will begin strike action from 31 August.
The GMB reported that the high cost of living in the area has already seen employees of the privateer company Serco claiming benefits and going to foodbanks. The local Tory council has said that they will talk to Serco to “see the dispute resolved without disruption to bin collections”.
The Queen’s bins are not believed to be part of the Serco contract.
After the wildcats, offshore drillers reject pay offer
Unite is balloting over 300 offshore drilling workers and contractors after they decisively rejected the UK Drilling Contractors Association (UKDCA) pay offer of 5%.
The ballot opened on Monday, and closes on Tuesday 27 September. Following the wildcat strikes of early summer, activists are confident the mood for a fight is there.
The 8-day strike by 2,000 dockers at Britain’s largest container port (Felixstowe) will end this Sunday, to allow for further talks. The baton will then be picked up by 500 working on the Liverpool docks, who returned a 94% vote for strike action over their ‘inflation plus’ wage claim.
The scousers realise the significance of Felixstowe to their dispute: “If Felixstowe get a double-digit deal, it sets a benchmark across the industry” and that understanding means there will be a coach-load of dockers from Liverpool at Felixstowe on Saturday in a practical show of solidarity.
The Felixstowe strike has been solid, with ships lying at anchor off the coast unable to access the port until the dockers clear the backlog of containers. Even more encouraging has been the consistent sounding of horns from passing lorries, suggesting the possibility of a growing unity between lorry drivers and dockers who, if they stood together, would be a mighty demonstration of workers’ power.
Wandsworth parking wardens are out again
GMB members in South London resume strike action next month over a pay battle. These workers have over twenty strike days chalked up and in no mood to back down.
Strike days means revenue loss for the Labour council.
GMB’s Paul Grafton says:
“This dispute has been rumbling on for two months now, with every day of strike action costing Wandsworth Council a fortune in lost revenue.
“Our members are determined to secure a proper pay deal, and this dispute will continue until NSL table a pay deal that the members are happy to accept.”
The mass of workers who’ve had enough is ever expanding. Let’s make sure that the People’s Assembly national demo on 5 November is absolutely massive. This industrial anger must take political shape.
Local government unions respond to pay offer
Local government workers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are to ballot over the National Joint Council’s pay offer of £1,925 across all pay grades.
While Unite has rejected the offer as it does not meet the joint trade union demand for either £2,000 or to match inflation, Unison and the GMB are balloting members on whether to reject or accept the offer.
The Unison ballot closes 19 September, with the GMB ballot running until 21 October.
More transport workers to strike: DHL at Stoke
GMB members at digger giants JCB are moving to a formal strike ballot following a decisive consultation. The firm is based in Tunstall and their transport is subcontracted to DHL.
GMB’s Stuart Harrison says:
“The latest offer received from company management is unacceptable; GMB union members at DHL have rejected it overwhelmingly.
“These workers are absolutely central to the running of global construction giant JCB, the fact they’ve been so badly ignored and undervalued for DHL for a number of years is frankly staggering.”
Frankly staggering? News from the Frontline is never surprised at the bosses’ greed and capacity to exploit. JCB reported £228m profits last year.
Scottish bus builders take action
Alexander Dennis Limited, the manufacturer currently at the centre of a large number of green transport projects, is facing industrial action after its 400 staff voted overwhelmingly to take it.
Unite said that despite the factory having orders for nearly two hundred new vehicles valued at tens of millions on its books, terms and conditions for the staff have been declining for years.
The workforce suffered redundancies of roughly 25% during recent merger processes and pay hasn’t been increased since 2019. Additionally, the company has refused to discuss non-pay related issues, such as a compressed-hours four-day week.
Strike dates are likely to be announced soon.
On the site:
We need to win: how the strikes can break the Tories: Unjum Mirza analyses the growing strike wave and the political crisis and argues that the struggle has to move out of narrow industrial confines if we want to win
Make the bosses pay: defiant CWU strikers rally in London: Peter Bird reports from a lively CWU strike rally in London which saw striking postal workers joined by trade unionists and activists bring solidarity and connecting the struggles
'Unity, strength and solidarity' at RMT and TSSA national rail picket lines: Reports and pictures from picket lines around the country on the sixth day of the RMT's national rail strike
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- Felixstowe and Liverpool: the struggle resumes with a vengeance - News from the Frontline
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