Counterfire’s weekly digest with the latest on strikes and workplace struggles
Firefighters and firefighter control staff are to be balloted next month for strike action over a 2% pay offer from bosses.
The 2% pay offer, which was put to the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) earlier this year, represents a real-terms pay cut with inflation currently around the 12% mark. After consultation with their branches, the FBU are preparing for the first national Fire service strike in over a decade.
Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said:
“Taking strike action is always a last resort. But our employers are increasingly leaving us with no choice. And there is huge anger among firefighters at falling pay.
“Firefighters must be paid fairly: there is absolutely no question when it comes to this. It is the responsibility of fire service employers to provide decent pay offers and that has not happened.
The ball is now in the fire service employers’ court. It is not too late for them to make a much better pay offer for consideration by our members.”
Newham Council bin workers: undefeated in the first round
Around 130 Unite members struck between 27 August 3 September in an all-too-familiar pay dispute with the East London Labour council.
The waste and recycling workers are considering their next move. The gist of the dispute revolves around pay differentials and weekend and holiday overtime rates. Recent discussions with management have collapsed.
Unite’s Steve Edwards says:
“We appeared to be making good progress but the talks ended with the council offering a measly £850 when inflation is rocketing. The workers are already paid far less than the crews in neighbouring boroughs but Newham just aren’t making a serious offer.
“So, the blame for this dispute lies squarely with the council when there is such a gaping hole in the workers’ pay packets. Time is running out. The council needs to get its act together.”
These are low-paid workers in one of the UK’s poorest boroughs. Scottish brothers and sisters have shown that committing to the long haul is a must with these council battles.
The chips are down for Grosvenor
Grosvenor Casino workers in London are taking strike action for 72 hours in order to get a fair day’s pay from their employer.
91% of Unite members voted to reject bonus payments of around £800 as the cost of living crisis bites.
“London is one of the most expensive cities on earth for workers to survive in, which is why the message from the members could not be clearer: Only a substantial uplift in pay will do.
“Grosvenor Casino’s chronic recruitment and retention issues prove that the current pay rates are just not sustainable. Not improving pay is just not an option.”
The strike will last from 9-11 September.
Locked out Polyflor workers stage march in Radcliffe
There was a great turnout from Polyflor GMB members, other trade unionists - including Royal Mail CWU strikers who left picket lines to show their solidarity - and local activists, at a hastily organised rally in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester on Thursday.
Vinyl floorcovering manufacturer Polyflor locked out almost 200 workers last week, who had planned to down tools for two hours per week.
The union was seeking at least a 10% pay rise, but was only offered 8% plus cuts to sick pay.
Over 100 people gathered in the town centre to express disgust at the company's vindictive actions.
The GMB's Steve Bowden told the workers to prepare for "a war of attrition" with Polyflor's bosses, who are refusing to engage in dialogue with the union. Those present then participated in a spontaneous march to the company's offices.
Local Government Strikes in Northern Ireland
As part of the national battle over low pay, councils in Northern Ireland have a multitude of disputes involving all the major public sector unions in the territory.
Unite, GMB and Nipsa have had industrial actions on in Armagh, Bambridge, Craigavon for some time, these are now joined by workers in two other boroughs: Lisburn and Castlereagh. Local government in NI has been attempting to use the region’s current political deadlock to avoid the issue of sub-inflationary pay rises, but this hasn’t stopped workers from striking.
One dispute that has ended in is Derry City and Strabane, where Unite’s members voted 63% to accept an offer improved from 1.75% to a “double pay point” increase and a one-off payment.
The narrowness of this result may reflect some belief from the workforce that they could have gone further.
From wildcat strike to official industrial action?
In August workers across four Amazon fulfilment centres in the UK stopped working and staged sit-in protests over a 35p increase in their hourly rate of pay.
Now more than 300 members of the GMB Union, working at Amazon’s Coventry warehouse, have voted in a consultative ballot with 97% voting in favour of official industrial action.
The GMB Union does not currently have an official recognition agreement at the Coventry site, and it is so far unclear how they will use this vote as leverage with Amazon. But what is clear is that Amazon workers are prepared to take on their bosses’ fight for better terms and conditions.
EIS ballot teachers in Scotland
Teachers in Scotland who are members of EIS union, Scotland’s largest teaching union are being balloted to strike over pay in a consultative ballot.
EIS Is recommending that workers reject the 5% pay offer from the local authority, the ballot closes on 16 September. The NASUWT have rejected the pay offer.
This comes as huge strikes involving GMB, Unite and Unison school staff and refuse workers due to start next week have been called off after a new offer of 10% which is below RPI inflation. The three unions say they have called off action and are consulting their members.
Liverpool dockers follow Felixstowe’s strike
Liverpool dock workers are set to strike from 19 September - 3 October after receiving a well below inflation pay offer of 7% and after bosses failing to honour the 2021 pay agreement.
This follows a solid 8 day strike at Felixstowe docks at the end of August.
Meanwhile, the Port of Felixstowe have imposed their pay offer - a pay cut - of 7% pay rise, backdated to January, plus a bonus of £500 (unconsolidated). Unite’s pay claim aimed to better the rate of inflation and are consulting reps and members in assessing what action to take next.
Unison’s uni strike
Unison members at Glasgow, Glasgow Caledonian, Edinburgh Napier and Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon universities are to take 5 days of strike action during September and October in protest at inadequate below inflation pay offers as the cost of living spirals.
Members at the University of Dundee are to take two weeks of strike action from 19 September over a dispute over local pension provision.
These strikes will cause disruption for freshers events and the first few weeks of teaching as these lower paid staff remind university employers of their value.
Sunderland ready to ring bus strike bell
Stagecoach bus drivers in Sunderland, represented by GMB, are to ballot for strike action after receiving below inflation pay offers.
The ballot will run from 12-26 September, with action occurring in October should members vote in favour.
GMB organiser Stuart Gilhespy said:
“Stagecoach drivers in Sunderland worked throughout the pandemic, transporting essential workers to their place of work.
“They put their lives at risk during the pandemic to serve their communities – with some drivers catching the Covid.
“This offer falls far short of reflecting any commitment to employees.”
After working through the pandemic in order to keep other vital services running the drivers rightly feel that they should not be thrust into poverty by real terms pay cuts.
On the website:
Posties refuse to be bullied: Even bigger picket lines on 3rd day of CWU strike: Counterfire members report from CWU Royal Mail picket lines around the country on the third day of the national strike
Save our buses: Unite protests against Tory cuts to London transport: Bus drivers, Unite members and activists rallied against proposed cuts to London buses and bus routes, reports Unjum Mirza
Before you go...
Counterfire is expanding fast as a website and an organisation. We are trying to organise a dynamic extra-parliamentary left in every part of the country to help build resistance to the government and their billionaire backers. If you like what you have read and you want to help, please join us or just get in touch by emailing [email protected] Now is the time!
More articles from this author
- Posties pile on the pressure: CWU’s new strike days - News from the Frontline
- Arriva London North: All-out strike! - News from the Frontline
- Making a splash on the Mersey
- It's all-out class war - Counterfire Freesheet September 2022
- Chris Kaba: no slowing down in the fight for justice
- Felixstowe and Liverpool: the struggle resumes with a vengeance - News from the Frontline
- UCU strike: A short guide to getting the vote out