Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 4 October, 2017 - 12:28 Author: Gemma Short, Mark Kent and Ollie Moore

On Saturday 30 September, workers and supporters protested outside the HR Owen car showrooms in London.

HR Owen sells a number of luxury sports cars, including Maserati and Ferrari, some of which sell for over £250,000 each. Last year it made a profit of £400m. Yet it only pays the minimum wage (through an outsourcing company) to its cleaners for the last five years. The inequality between rich and poor could not be clearer.

Workers have been balloted by their union, United Voices of the World (UVW), to strike for the London Living Wage (£9.75 an hour). After the ballot Freddy Lopez and Angelica Valencia Bolanos were suspended without pay. The UVW said “This is an attack on all workers — especially low-paid migrant workers — who are unionising, organising and fighting back against miserly and unscrupulous bosses”.

Forty people, including workers from SOAS, LSE and Picturehouse campaigns, joined chanting and singing outside the two showrooms, and disrupting the traffic in affluent South Kensington for several hours. The showroom manager took photographs and was seen giving the middle finger, and calling protestors words that rhyme with hunt.

Protestors vowed to continue the fight until Freddy and Angelica are reinstated and paid the Living Wage

DOO round-up

Guards on Northern, Merseyrail, Southern, and Greater Anglia struck on Tuesday 3 October in the ongoing dispute over Driver-Only Operation (DOO).

They will strike again on Thursday 5 October.

RMT members on South West Railways have also balloted for strikes over DOO. Their ballot, which ended on 3 October, returned 80% in favour of strikes on a 76% turnout.

On 29 September the Welsh Government announced that it will guarantee that the next Wales and Borders franchise will have to commit to keeping the safety-critical role of guards.

Royal Mail workers to strike

Workers at Royal Mail have voted by 89.1% for strikes.

The dispute has four main demands: an end to the two-tier pension system, and for a decent pension for all; a shorter full-time working week of 35 hours with no loss of pay to mitigate the effects of automation on work; union agreements extended past 2018; no two-tiered workforce in order to achieve Royal Mail′s plan to have 9-5 delivery; a decent pay rise and no introduction of future pay awards linked to the company′s success and efficiency savings that year.

Royal Mail made £712 million in operating profit alone in the last year alone, and has been making year-on-year payouts to its shareholders, but are only offering workers a £250 lump sum pay increase. Royal Mail can afford to pay its workers a better wage.

The ballot reached a huge 73.7% turnout, more than beating the thresholds imposed by the Trade Union Act. This is the first national ballot of it’s kind after the Trade Union Act, and will boost confidence for others considering national strikes.

The union mobilised its grassroots members to win the ballot, with members gathering in workplaces to post their ballots together and take solidarity photos.

Strikes had not been announced when Solidarity went to press.

• More information here

Progress in fight to reinstate sacked Tube driver

After drivers on London Underground’s Central Line voted for strikes by a huge majority to win reinstatement for sacked colleague Danny Davis, Tube bosses offered to reinstate Danny as a member of station staff.

The RMT union has now requested a “Director’s Review”, the highest forum in London Underground’s disciplinary procedure, to reexamine the Case. Union reps and activists insist that the aim of their dispute is to reverse Danny’s sacking entirely and get him back driving trains; until this is achieved, the dispute will continue.

Meanwhile, a planned strike by members of the Aslef union was due to go ahead on Thursday 5 October, although talks at conciliation service Acas were continuing as Solidarity went to press. Aslef are demanding that a four-day week working pattern trialled on the Jubilee Line be extended to the rest of the network. RMT, which is also in dispute over work/life balance issues but has issues with the Jubilee Line model, has warned that models which merely compress existing working hours into fewer days threaten terms, conditions, and safety. RMT has called for a referendum of drivers to take place before the model is trialled or implemented elsewhere. Nevertheless, the union has reminded its driver members that they are legally covered by Aslef’s ballot, and that not crossing picket lines is a basic trade union principle.

RMT reps and activists working in LU infrastructure, engineering, and maintenance are also preparing to meet to discuss the transfer of formerly outsourced “TubeLines” staff back into London Underground.

Vote yes in PCS pay ballot

PCS members in the public sector are being balloted on whether they will be willing to take industrial action in order to break the continued 1% pay cap implemented on public sector employers by the treasury.

The pay cap has existed since the coalition took power in 2010. Since then real-term earnings of civil servants has dropped between 15 and 20%.

PCS activists will be using the period as an opportunity to speak to members, organise, and recruit.

Unlike the vote being run by the CWU, this is not a statutory ballot. Officially because the leadership wants to understand the strength of feeling amongst members before it calls an official ballot. The reality is that the union is in its worse organisational state ever.

While the union faced down the government’s attempt to destroy it by removing its ability to collect subs automatically at source, there has still been a haemorrhaging of members in large departments. Density in the best organised Department — DWP — has fallen from a high of 78% six years ago to below 60%. In the Ministry of Justice, a third of the membership left the union in one year.

Even without those statistics, the best turnout the union has ever had in a national ballot was 42%, far short of the new legal threshold.

It doesn’t help that members in the four most junior grades in the DWP — the largest group in the union — are effectively taken out of the picture as a consequence of the union recommening a dreadful “deal” to members which locks them into a four year pay settlement where members have sold terms and conditions for crumbs from the table in terms of pay.

The tired broad-left way of behaving in the union movement has utterly failed in rejuvenating the rank-and-file in the union it has controlled for 16 years.

We will be campaigning for the highest possible vote in the indicative ballot, using it as an opportunity to continue the bread-and-butter organisational and recruitment work necessary to rebuild the union from the workplace up.

There is still an open question as to whether the union will call a statutory ballot if we get near the threshold and whether they will call action even if the threshold isn’t reached.

When the results of the ballot are announced the leadership must publish the turnout figures at a national, group, and workplace level which at present they are refusing to do. This needs to happen firstly because we need to be honest with members and activists about our situation. Secondly even if we don’t make the threshold nationally we will be able to identify areas of strength – industrially and organisationally – where we might be able to take action and areas of weakness where we need to focus resources.

Vote yes to industrial action to break the pay cap.