Counterfire’s weekly digest with the latest on strikes and workplace struggles
Over 2,000 bus drivers at Arriva London North have announced an all-out strike from 4 October over pay (including back-pay). The strike at eight depots – Ash Grove, Barking, Clapton, Edmonton, Enfield, Palmers Green, Tottenham and Wood Green – will hit services across North London.
The recent bus strikes at RATP in west London, of which one of the four days of action were coordinated with the RMT strikes across London Underground and London Overground in August, has secured a 10% pay rise (9% backdated to 4 December 2021) while negotiations continue on issues concerning conditions. The next pay-round for 2023 begins in December.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said:
“Our members at Arriva have generated huge profits for the company for decades.
“Arriva can afford to offer a pay increase that meets the real rate of inflation, but it has put profits before people and declined to do so. Unite will leave no stone unturned in the support given to our members during this dispute.”
Unison bringing out uni workers
Unison members at Manchester Metropolitan University are to take strike action over pay in October.
Members have had below-inflation pay offers for the last 13 years and have had enough. Strike action will take place on Tuesday 4 - Wednesday 5 October.
Thousands of Unison members including administrators, cleaners, library, security and catering employees across English and Scottish universities went on strike to protest the below-inflation pay award from the employers.
At the University of Glasgow, there was a big and vibrant picket line at the main gate on 20 and 21 September, the first days of the new academic year. On the second day, all four campus unions held a joint rally.
There is a real chance this year that all the unions may strike at the same time because they all got the same pay offer. Unity will strengthen the chance of victory.
GMB at Amazon: is the appetite there for unionisation?
Following the Amazon wildcat strikes, slowdowns and walkouts this summer, GMB have announced that GMB Coventry Amazon workers are voting in a strike ballot over pay.
The ballot is open and closes on 19 October. GMB said in September that 300 members in the warehouse had voted by 97% to strike in an indicative ballot. The warehouse will have thousands of members, this needs to be a genuine attempt by GMB to unionise the workforce for the workers themselves.
Defend Des Freedman and Gholam Khiabany: No to trade union victimisation at Goldsmiths
An important rally is being organised by Goldsmiths UCU branch in defence of Des Freedman and Gholam Khiabany on Tuesday 27 September at 6.30pm at New Cross Learning Centre with Michael Rosen, Gargi Battacharyya (UEL UCU), James Eastwood (Queen Mary UCU), Helen O’Connor (GMB rep), the Students’ Union and others.
Des and Gholam were suspended for sending an email to students about the impact of the marking and assessment boycott at Goldsmiths. While they were reinstated two months later, they have not been allowed to resume duties as co-Heads of the Department of Media, Communications and Cultural Studies.
Management has admitted that the email was accurate. Des and Gholam are some of the most active trade unionists in the branch and almost 5,000 people have signed a petition in response to the suspension.
Goldsmiths UCU is demanding their full reinstatement. It is also an attack on the branch as a whole at a time when the union has been taking action against redundancies and when the union is balloting at a national level over pay, workload, casualisation, inequalities and pensions. Please rush messages of support to [email protected] and if you live in London come along to the rally.
Turbulence hits Teesside Airport
Firefighters and air traffic controllers are balloting on strike action at Teesside Airport.
The municipally-owned airport is refusing to make a pay offer that matches inflation, and the GMB union has said that its members are already struggling to pay their bills.
A GMB spokesperson said:
“They are not balloting because they want to strike, they are balloting because they can’t afford not to.”
Post Office to use managers as scab labour
Senior Royal Mail bosses have ramped up their attempts to undermine the upcoming strike action by CWU members on Saturday 1 October.
Bosses plan to entice non-operational managers, who work Monday to Friday, to come in on the Saturday and be used as scab labour by offering them a day off in lieu and £150 in shopping vouchers!
CWU General Secretary, Dave Ward said he will raise the issue with the Unite General Secretary, Sharon Graham as head of the union representing the managers.
Unions in race to beat NHS ballot threshold
The NHS pay dispute is gaining momentum as unions announce ballot dates. GMB and Unite ballots run until 27 September and 30 September respectively, while Unison members will have their opportunity to vote between 27 October and 25 November.
The RCN has updated its ballot dates to between 6 October and 2 November, while the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is yet to announce dates. The advice from every union is to reject the blanket pay award imposed earlier this year as it falls far below the current rate of inflation and does nothing to address the staffing crisis plaguing the NHS.
NHS Staff Voices are hosting a Zoom meeting Tuesday 27 September at 7pm to hear perspectives from strikers and staff who want to strike but feel unable to do so.
Meat-free, but big beef: Quorn workers strike over pay
Over 60 members of the Unite union will walk out of Quorn’s Billingham factory on Teesside on Friday 30 September if the company doesn’t improve its 4% pay offer.
The company posted operating profits of £236m earlier this year, and paid its CEO, Marco Bertacca, £1.7m - but is trying to impose a real-time pay cut on its workforce.
A worker said:
“They are prepared to offer a one-off payment of £1,000. But our bills are not a one-off. We need a pay rise that means we can afford to pay our bills next year as well.”
The initial 8-day strike will be followed by more action if the company remains obstinate.
Schoolkids show solidarity with teachers
NEU workers at Calverton Primary School in Newham were on strike this week over terms, conditions and workload.
The picket lines were lively with many teachers holding homemade placards saying ‘support our staff- support our children’. The school staff are on strike Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays each week till November. Send messages of solidarity to [email protected].
Shift changes leave sour taste at Muller Milk
Around 70 lorry drivers, shunters and warehouse staff at Muller Milk walked off the job at the Stonehouse depot in Gloucestershire on Thursday.
The dispute is over rota changes the employer had guaranteed not to impose only last spring. Before the ink was dry, they tried to impose a ‘5 and 2’ shift pattern at Stonehouse. The staff are “not prepared to put our family lives on hold to boost Mr Muller’s profits” and will strike for 8 days.
This is on top of an earlier 9 days strike, and will disrupt supplies to Tesco and Sainsbury stores, as well as Waitrose and M&S.
EiS reject teacher pay deal
The teachers' union in Scotland has formally rejected a 5% pay rise. Negotiations have broken down with Cosla, the body responsible for representing Local Authorities in Scotland. In a ballot, 94% of members who took part rejected the pay offer and 91% supported strike action.
A formal ballot for strike action will now take place. If this vote is successful, strike action will bring schools to a stand still.
Even the more traditional non-striking union the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association members have rejected this deal. SSTA has recruited teachers in the past who didn't wish to strike. They seem to miss the point that strike action is sometimes the only way to achieve members' demands.
Other school staff went on strike last month in Scotland. Elsewhere, industrial action was suspended at school exams marking body Scottish Qualifications Authority. This strike was about to impact 55,000 exam appeals. An increased pay offer was made worth 7.2%.
Outsourced NHS workers back out on strike
More strike dates have been announced in the long running dispute between outsourced staff at 8 NHS sites across South Cumbria and Lancashire and their employer OCS.
As previously reported in News From The Frontline, the employer and NHS Trust are refusing to allow the outsourced workers the same pay and benefits as directly employed colleagues in the same roles. The new strike dates run from 27 September to 9 October.
Unite’s binworker battle continues in Newham
130 Newham Unite bin workers are back on strike until 3 October over pay, following an earlier strike that began at the end of August.
Unite says refuse workers in Newham are paid close to £2,000 less than bin workers in Greenwich and Hackney. The workers are employed by Newham council and the pay offer they have rejected would only amount to £950 and with strings attached meaning the workers would have to work all bank holidays weeks.
Newcastle manufacturing workers to ballot
200 GMB workers at Baker Hughes Energy company in Newcastle are balloting to strike after rejecting pay offers of just 4 and 4.56%. The workers make pipelines for the oil and gas industry.
On the website:
Liverpool: Solidarity forever! - “till the day I die”: Tayo Aluko reports on struggles past and present on day two of the Liverpool dockers’ strike
Workers’ fightback resumes in a divided country: On 1 October, strikes across the docks, railways and post need to spark solidarity struggle, the only way to defeat the Tories, argues Unjum Mirza
Making a splash on the Mersey: Liverpool dockers on strike win support from near and far, reports Tayo Aluko
Felixstowe and Liverpool: Workers’ democracy vs. bosses’ autocracy: Striking dockers in Liverpool and Felixstowe are demonstrating to every working person who really makes the wealth in this country, writes Richard Allday
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