Counterfire’s weekly digest with the latest on strikes and workplace struggles
500 Liverpool dockers will go on strike for a fortnight from Monday 19 September. Given the port’s decision to work through the state holiday, the dockers have voted overwhelmingly to picket from 7pm (the time the employers have set to open the dock).
They will be joined on Friday 23 September by a delegation of 1,900 Felixstowe dockers who will also be striking from Tuesday 27 September for eight days. The company implemented its 7% pay award, backdated to January, plus £500 lump sum in the hope it would see a kickback against the strike. It spectacularly backfired, as the workforce voted by over 80% to continue the action
Textbook militancy from the briefs
Criminal barristers, members of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) are continuing their industrial action with a continuous and indefinite strike. They are contesting what they describe as an insufficient increase in the legal aid budget, stating that it is not enough to cover costs.
The Ministry of Justice is refusing to negotiate with the CBA in a continuation of the pattern seen with the rail unions, while also allegedly unlawfully requesting the names of striking barristers in another blatant attack on workers’ rights.
Wandsworth ticket wardens cut a deal – for now
Parking wardens in Wandsworth have called off their 4 remaining days of strike action after securing a pay rise of 11.5% from employer NSL Parking Services. GMB members in the borough staged 20 days of strikes in order to win this settlement, which also includes guaranteed pay rises for the next 2 years.
GMB regional organiser Paul Grafton said,
‘This offer shows that the money was there all along and if NSL had been honest about what they could afford from the outset, we wouldn’t have seen so much disruption on the streets of Wandsworth.’
UCU: FE colleges still trailing the blaze
Further Education colleges in England are about to be hit by the biggest wave of industrial action in the sector since national pay bargaining was abolished by the Tories in the 90s. UCU members in 26 colleges have voted for 10 days of strikes throughout September and October.
The action is in response to a derisory 2.5% pay offer from the Association of Colleges. College staff pay has already fallen by 35% over the last decade, and with the current cost of living crisis, lecturers and support staff are now facing even greater hardship as inflation heads towards 20%.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady has rightly called out the failure of employers to adequately address the pay crisis in the sector:
‘College leaders need to wake up to this crisis, stop dining off the goodwill of their workforce and make a serious pay offer.’
Stormy weather ahead for windfarms
96 RMT members working for Ørsted, the offshore power generation company, have voted for strike action over pay and conditions. The union has called two 48-hour strikes, to start on 23 September, and 30 September. The union is calling for an inflation-plus pay rise, and the RMT members feel that the Prospect union, recognised by the company, is not reflecting the frustrations of the workforce.
Another massive majority for action on the London bins
Bin workers in Waltham Forest are the latest to return a near-unanimous vote for strike action when the privatized employer, Urbaser, offered them a 3% non-increase in pay and continuing to fail to provide proper sick pay. The GMB members have yet to announce dates.
Posties back on track
The CWU have announced further strike dates in their dispute with Royal Mail. While the previous strike days have been about pay, the action on Friday 30 September and Saturday 1 October is over the employer breaking the ‘pathway to change’ agreement. The agreement protects the terms and conditions of posties and prevents the employer from creating a two-tier workforce.
By taking executive action and ripping this up Royal Mail have left union members with no options but to fight back through strike action.
Prison educators: in the nick of time
UCU members across the prison system are to be balloted for strike action over a below inflation pay award. The offer of 2% this year and 3% next year will see union members vote on strike action between 14 September and 5 October. According to their union, education staff working in the prison system have seen their pay decrease in real terms by 25% since 2009.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said:
“Prison educators urgently need a pay rise to help them meet the cost-of-living crisis, yet the employer wants them to accept a real term pay cut. This is completely unacceptable, our members in prison education are at real risk of facing poverty this autumn because historically low pay means they are already financially insecure.”
GMB University of the Arts: strikers clean up
High Holborn cleaners are striking from 26 to 30 September, they are fighting for an end to unsafe workloads and harassment. The workers are employed by outsourcer OCS, OCS took over the contract earlier this year, GMB says as a result the cleaners’ workload has doubled. The workers have been demanding additional staff and the cleaners say their workload is extreme and unsafe. You can donate to the strike fund here.
Heathrow: Unite’s keeping the pressure up
Unite Heathrow-based engineers working for American Airlines are going to vote to go on strike after being offered a 3 year below inflation pay deal. The crew chiefs and technicians are set to receive pay rises of 3.8% and 5.3%, well below RPI inflation. Ballots opened on the 13 September and close on 30 September.
RCN ballot opens
The RCN's strike ballot over pay opens on 6 October and closes on 2 November. This comes as workers in all health unions are gearing up for strike action with consultative ballots taking place.
On the site:
TUC: where’s the leadership when we need it?: The TUC shows its commitment to trades union democracy by cancelling its annual conference, giving no notice. See Counterfire for the Angry Trucker’s response
UCU strike: A short guide to getting the vote out: Counterfire UCU members give some tips for activists and branches on how to achieve a high turnout in the national UCU higher education strike ballot
Why health workers should vote yes to strike: As NHS unions ballot their members for strike action, Helen O’Connor explains why health workers getting organised and taking industrial action is essential to saving the NHS
How our branch smashed the threshold in the Unison HE strike ballot: Nathan Street explains how the University of Bristol Unison branch won their ballot and will be striking for the first time after a decisive campaign
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