Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 24 May, 2017 - 12:56 Author: Gemma Short, Charlotte Zalens and Peggy Carter

Cinema workers at East Dulwich Picturehouse in south London will strike on Saturday 27 May to coincide with the opening of the new Pirates of the Caribbean film. Workers at the other cinemas involved in the dispute have just voted for further strikes, and will be on strike on 3-4 June to coincide with the Sundance Film Festival, which Picturehouse hosts.

Cineworld held its Annual General Meeting on 18 May and Picturehouse strikers bought some shares in order to go along and embarrass Cineworld bosses. Three Picturehouse workers asked company chair Tony Bloom for Cineworld to start paying the Living Wage. Bloom said Cineworld would meet with the union Bectu as long as both sides acted in ″good faith″ — presumably meaning workers should stop striking and lose their bargaining power. Bloom also said that Cineworld should not become a Living Wage accredited employer, saying: “If we agree to the living wage and it rises to £15 next year we’ll be bound to follow that.” Yes, Mr Bloom, and so you should be bound!

Workers will have a picket line and demonstration at Picturehouse Central during their strikes on 3-4 June.

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Argos warehouse workers strike

Workers at Argos warehouses across England, Wales and Ireland have been taking part in a two-week continuous strike since 17 May in a dispute over job security and terms and conditions. Argos attempted to get the strike called off but a High Court judge threw out the case the day before the strike was due to start.

Argos has refused to give guarantees that jobs will not be contracted out, and workers fear a culture of contracting jobs out will lead to job losses and worse terms and conditions. According to the union Unite, earlier in the year Argos revealed plans to transfer nearly 500 workers from one distribution hub in Leicestershire to a contracted-out hub in Kettering, meaning workers will have to travel 26 miles to work.

Workers who do not want to or cannot transfer will be faced with leaving their job with no redundancy pay.

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Students support lecturers’ strike

UCU members at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) were due to strike on 24 and 25 May over cuts which will see the University close its campus in Crewe, leaving 160 staff unsure of their future. The strikes were suspended after the bombing in Manchester on 23 May.

As reported in Solidarity 438, these cuts are part of an increasing pattern across Higher Education with 150 jobs at risk at Aberystwyth, 139 at University of Wales Trinity St David, and with voluntary redundancies at Sunderland, Durham and Plymouth. The University of the Arts London has also announced course closures at its Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon sites. The University of Manchester has announced 171 job cuts.

Students at the University of Manchester have launched a campaign against the cuts, and will be holding a solidarity demonstration with the MMU strikes on 24 May. Their statement says: ″the University of Manchester has announced plans to lay off 171 members of staff, with over 900 being told their jobs were at risk.

″This comes as part of Manchester’s ‘2020’ plan – which aims to ‘streamline’ the University by 2020. The plan has ties to the Higher Education Bill and the Teaching Excellence Framework, both which aim to turn Universities into profit-making machines. The goal is to become a smaller but more elite university, regardless of the costs to staff or the impact on students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Student numbers will also be slashed to increase the University’s score in the TEF.

″The University has tried to blame Brexit for these changes, but in reality holds over £1 billion in reserves and in excess of £465 million cash in its bank account. These cuts are not necessary and they are not fair.

″If the University is allowed to get away with this, it will be just the beginning of a whole host of unfair policies introduced as part of the 2020 scheme. One member of the senior management team even said, “In the corporate world, we’d be laying off 400-600, so this is nothing.”

We say it isn’t nothing – it is the lives of real people, and the education we are paying so much for! “We didn’t let them get rid of catering staff, now let’s say no to losing our lecturers. Save our Staff!″

Train companies threaten striking guards

Rail workers are continuing to fight the spread of Driver-Only-Operation despite threats from employers and the threat in the Tory manifesto to limit the impact strikes can have on train services. Drivers on Southern Rail, organised by Aslef, will stage an overtime ban from 2 June after drivers rejected the latest deal.

At Northern Rail Aslef has secured an important ″no discipline agreement″ for drivers who refuse to cross the picket line. This is a significant move and will hopefully encourage more drivers to support the guards′ strike and not cross picket lines. However on Merseyrail guards who are RMT members have been threatened with removal of their eligibility for promotion to driver if they continue to strike.

Aslef conference, happening as Solidarity goes to press, has passed a motion in solidarity with the guards. The motion instructs the General Secretary to ″serve notice on Merseyrail that Aslef will be balloting our members on Merseyrail over this outrageous intimidation and victimisation of trade union members for taking part in legal industrial action.″

Guards on Northern, Southern, and Merseyrail were due to strike on Tuesday 30 May, but as Solidarity went to press those strikes had been suspended.

• Follow our Northern Rail workers’ bulletin On Guard online here

LSE threatens cleaners

Cleaners at the London School of Economics (LSE) will continue their weekly strikes with the next strike on Wednesday 24 May despite threats from the university. On Monday 22 May workers received a letter from LSE thanking cleaners who have broken the strike, and accusing striking cleaners of ″breaching the Government Code of Practice on Picketing″ and of being ″selfish″ and causing the ″suspension of student exams″. The letter continued that LSE would be gathering evidence to take action against those involved.

Ironically the letter also asked workers not to take part in the strikes as it ″damages the reputation of LSE″! Cleaners are strike for parity of pay and conditions with directly employed workers.

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School strikes suspended

NUT members at Forest Hill School in Lewisham have suspended their strike action against swingeing cuts for the duration of the exams. In doing this, the teachers were motivated by concern for their pupils. They are demanding that the school leadership distribute their statement about the suspension of action to all parents. They are also seeking a debate with the school leadership and the council over the cuts. The NUT group is considering how best to keep the campaign going and defend their school.