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Striking Liverpool dockers

Striking Liverpool dockers. Photo: @DockersDog / Twitter

Counterfire’s weekly digest with the latest on strikes and workplace struggles

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The 600 Liverpool dockers, striking for a pay rise, have refused to be intimidated by “lying cheating bosses” as they reject the latest fake offer from Peel Ports.

The employer is claiming that the latest offer is worth 10.3% (or 11% if you listen to Dave ‘The Huckster’ Huch, CEO of Peel Ports’ operation in Liverpool). John Lynch, Unite’s convenor of the port shop stewards, dismisses that as “fake pay” saying that the 10.3% could only be reached by shift workers working the maximum permissible hours of overtime.

Dockers reps told NFTF that they had been led to believe that a deal had been cut by the end of last week, that would have ended the dispute, only to find, in the meeting itself, that it had been scuppered by senior executives, over the heads of local management.

“It makes you wonder if they really want to resolve this dispute,” said one rep. “The threat of redundancy to 132 of our fellow dockers is not going to make us back down. It only makes us angrier.”

Peel Ports are now looking to other local employers to turn up the heat: Goldstar Transport (a haulage outfit owned by the Turner group of companies) has stood down its night drivers, on half-pay ‘until further notice’ citing the lack of work due to the dock strike.

Wagon drivers need to say loud and clear that they will not be used as pawns to break the dockers.

Backward step on the railways

Rail unions RMT and TSSA have called off planned strike action on the rail network in a move that does not bode well for their position in the wider rail dispute.

The employers, and the Tory government, have been on the back foot over the rail dispute up to this point – we can see this from the sudden, unlamented, scrapping of Great British Railways – but have not so far offered concessions.

With the strikes continuing to be popular and well-supported, it cannot be seen as a good move to back out of strike action at this time. More to follow on Counterfire in the following days.

ScotRail: RMT ramps up the action ahead of the winter holidays

RMT members are set to walk out every Friday and Saturday in December in a wave of strike action before Christmas as part of an ongoing pay dispute.

The bosses had offered all staff a 5% pay uplift plus add-ons, with the lowest-paid workers offered a 7.5% increase. The workers have spiked this offer.

RMT’s Mick Hogg says:

“We need to find a resolution to this dispute. We don’t want the carnage but if no solution is found soon, it will be havoc.

“Our members want a decent cost of living pay increase that actually reflects where the inflation rate is. I’m talking 8.2 per cent or thereabouts. If there is no solution, there will be complete havoc on ScotRail between now and Christmas.”

ScotRail returned to public ownership in April. It needs to start behaving like it.

Security guards in the market for better pay

Security guards at New Covent Garden staged 7 days of strike action from 27 October over low pay. This escalation follows 3 days of effective action in September.

Outsourcing employer OCS refuses to negotiate with Unite or pay security guards the London Living Wage despite them providing first aid cover for the site in addition to their security role.

Unite regional officer Steve Rowlatt insisted that while the strike would cause serious disruption it “is entirely of OCS’ own making” as the highly profitable company continues to force poverty pay on their workers.

CWU "de-escalates" Royal Mail strikes

Following 8 days of solid strike action which saw Royal Mail use tactics such as scab labour and threats of up to 10,000 redundancies to try and demoralise workers they have now played the lawfare card. The idea of a court case with the employer has been enough for the CWU to backtrack and cancel the previously announced 19 days of functional strikes.

The two days of action still planned, 12 and 14 November were then cancelled on Tuesday during an online all-member meeting, and on Friday the union put out a joint statement with Royal Mail saying they were "de-escalating". New 48-hour strikes were announced for the weeks that include Black Friday and Cyber Monday (24-25 November, and 30 November - 1 December) - if the talks with Acas don't progress. New strike dates are to be welcomed, but momentum is everything. We can’t afford not to strike, but we can’t afford to lose the momentum either.

More to follow on Counterfire in the following days.

Roll out the barrel! GXO drivers win up to 12.5% pay deal

Over 1,000 dray drivers and mates employed by GXO have called off their strike action following the company doubling its pay offer.

The deal, accepted overwhelmingly by the members of the Unite union, means pay rises between 9.5% - 12.5%. It also means strike action, which could have halted 40% of all beer deliveries nationwide, is off - allowing supporters of the home nations to cry into their beer during the upcoming World Cup.

Warning: the pay deal may have been sorted, but the future of the Dagenham distribution centre is still under threat. This victory over pay will hopefully give confidence to the fight to keep Dagenham open.

East Suffolk refuse workers strike for living wage

Refuse workers at East Suffolk council are to strike in their fight for a real living wage.

Just over 96% of Unison members voted in favour of strike action on an 88% turnout. They have been offered a £1,925 rise, as well as an extra 75p an hour, but the union says that this still leaves workers well below the real living wage.

Unison Eastern regional organiser Cameron Matthews said:

“Refuse workers are desperate to avoid any disruption to the communities they serve, but they can’t survive on these wages much longer.

“Years of lousy pay deals have left these key workers struggling to pay their bills, especially with the cost of living skyrocketing this year. The employer’s offer may seem sizeable but pay has been stagnant for so long that it falls short of a decent wage”.

Strike dates have yet to be announced.

Tram workers fight for the dignity of sick colleagues

Operating staff on Nottingham’s ram system have balloted for action to two defend two of their colleagues whose pay is being cut while they suffer from terminal illnesses.

The GMB workers insist that the employer had previously agreed to continue to pay sick members properly and are now reneging, provoking them to pursue strike action.

The workers are receiving a great deal of local support for standing up for their friends, including from all three of the city’s MPs.

Co-op Funeralcare: militancy from beyond the grave

As previously reported in News from the Frontline (21 October), Unite members at Co-op Funeralcare’s sole coffin-making site in Bogmoor Place, Glasgow are striking over an ongoing pay dispute.

The workers are upping the ante from 14 November with a further week of walkout planned.   

Unite’s Willie Thomson says:

"This is the only manufacturing facility the Co-op has in the UK so should this dispute not be resolved it is hard to see that the supply of coffins will not be affected.

“Our members are prepared to take this until they get an offer from their employer that recognises their value, their contribution and the cost of living.”

Their Halloween strike certainly raised spirits. Sometimes you can’t keep the lid on workers’ anger. Let’s hope it’s enough to secure a victory.

Employer condemns strike action as “hasty”. Shock!

Briggs Marine Contractors, one of the UK’s largest specialists in petroleum loading / offloading, storage and distribution, and marine vessel maintenance, faces its Immingham facility being seriously disrupted by strike action being taken by around 30 members of the GMB union. The company has condemned the action as “hasty and counterproductive”.

The 30 pickets outside the Queens Road site in Immingham have a rather different take on it:

“We saw this company through Covid; we’ve seen the petroleum companies make megabucks, and our company doing very nicely out of it thank you, but when it comes to the workers, they want us to accept a below inflation deal.

“That’s a pay cut. And we’re not wearing it. Let’s see them doing the job if they think it’s so easy. It’s about time some of them worked for a living anyway.”

Rail cleaners rise up against low pay

The RMT is balloting around 1,700 cleaners across numerous privateer subcontractors throughout the rail network throughout the month of November.

The poverty pay that supposedly self-employed cleaners are paid in the sector has been a national-level disgrace for decades and linking their cause to the mass rail strike is seizing a real opportunity for these workers to fight back.

West Midlands Metro strike

Unite members at West Midlands Metro are continuing their strike action in a battle for a fair pay deal. Staff on the service, which covers Birmingham and the Black Country, receive the lowest rates of pay in the country for the jobs they do.

The union is seeking a minimum rate of pay of £27,000 for tram drivers and customer representatives who are currently paid just £21,939.

There are also serious safety concerns over the skeleton service that is being run on strike days with vehicles being run by scabs who aren’t fully trained to drive trams.

Unite regional officer Sulinder Singh said:

“Unite has serious safety concerns about the skeleton service that West Midlands Metro is intending to operate. Rather than attempting to operate a second-rate service, West Midlands Metro should be tabling a pay increase which meets our members’ expectations.”

The main picket line will be at Great Western Street, Wednesbury WS10 7LH between 08:00 and 17:00 and strike action will take place over 30 days from 4 November to 5 January.

Compensation payout for sacked teacher

Members of TEFL Workers Union have secured compensation for a sacked English teacher, following the union holding a series of pickets across Britain and Ireland.

The online English teacher, Lara who was working for the British Council and employed by the Impellam Group employment agency was abruptly dismissed in March. She was given no reason for her dismissal.

The lead rep on this dispute, Gabriella Cioce said:

“Precarious work is an issue across language teaching and especially within online teaching. 

“When combined with employment through an agency, teachers are often left at the whims of capricious and exploitative employers. This is why it’s so important to be a member of a union.”

UCL: striking for pay and union recognition

IWGB outsourced security workers working at UCL will commence strike action on 14 November over pay and union recognition.

The workers are employed by outsourcer Bidvest Noonan and are asking for a pay increase that would give them pay equal to what they were paid twenty years ago when the workforce was employed in-house.

There are 200 security workers employed at the university, three-quarters of whom are in the IWGB. They are currently paid £13-14 an hour and are fighting for £15 an hour.

Farhana Uddin, one of the security staff said:

“With the rising cost of living, many of us are struggling to make ends meet. We know staff in the past were paid much more than us [in real terms].”

You can donate to the strike fund here.

On the site:

An injury to one is an injury to all: Barnet Unison repairs workers are on strike over sick pay in an important dispute over outsourced workers’ rights

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