Industrial news in brief

Submitted by AWL on 12 October, 2016 - 2:26 Author: Gemma Short, Ollie Moore,Simon Nelson and Peggy Carter

Workers at the Ritzy Picturehouse cinema in Brixton struck on Friday 7 October, and will strike again on Saturday 15 October. The Ritzy cinema was completely shut down by the strike, and films due to be shown as part of the London Film Festival moved to other venues.

Workers picketed the Ritzy after they walked out at 1pm, they then protested outside the BFI South Bank cinema (the BFI gives large grants to Picturehouse cinemas and Picturehouses in London are part of the London Film Festival going on at the moment), before proceeding to Leicester Square to protest outside a London Film Festival premiere at the Odeon and at the Picturehouse Central cinema.

On Thursday 6 October, workers at Hackney Picturehouse voted by 100% to join the dispute and will join Ritzy workers on strike on Saturday 15th. Links have been made with workers in several other Picturehouse branches in London and the dispute may spread further.

A worker at the Hackney Picturehouse spoke to Solidarity: “I think it’s fair to say there are two reasons for what’s happening at Hackney. One is the Ritzy and the example they’ve shown to Hackney workers; it’s an organising point for us here, to be able to say – the Ritzy did it, so we can too. Then there were several flashpoints involving people being unfairly dismissed which the union was able to stop. It was a mixture of bullying and management incompetence.

“I’d say the most important demands for staff here are the living wage and sick pay. Currently people are only offered sick pay after eight days, and then only if you’ve worked for them for a year. There’s another issue, which is that we’ve moved from fortnightly pay to monthly pay. Because staff are on irregular, zero-hours contracts, they often solve shortfalls by working a lot one week and paying off their debts that week; it’s harder to do that when you get monthly pay packets.

“On Saturday, it’s the first day that the Ritzy and the Hackney Picturehouse have gone on strike together. The Ritzy and Hackney pickets will meet up in Hackney and do a joint demonstration – we think people will find that inspiring. We want to make links with local activist groups and other local unions. It costs about £2,500 per strike day, in terms of printing costs, other costs, and the hardship fund. We’re looking for endorsements and collections from other organisations, MPs, and union branches.

“Come and join us at 270 Mare Street at 11:30 on Saturday 15 October. When workers walk out at 12 we want them to see a big crowd outside – so that people are cheering for them and it isn’t just us walking out under the eye of managers. But if you’re in south London, the Ritzy want people down at Windrush Square from noon that day as well.”

The demands of the Picturehouse workers would mean a significant improvement in working conditions them. Most precarious workers desperately need these changes. However by and large these workers have not yet in large numbers taken up the most effective tools of struggle. They have not yet piled in droves into their trade unions as previous generations did.

The Picturehouse workers are not unique. Many young workers face similar conditions and pay. The labour movement should rally round to support the Picturehouse strikes. An important act of solidarity would be to organise other such workers to spread these disputes. Sucess in Picturehouse would inspire others to follow in their example.

• Support the strike on Facebook

Southern workers strike again

Rail workers on Southern struck on 11 October, as their fight to defend the role of the guard and defeat the imposition of “Driver Only Operation” (DOO) continues.

The strike, which was planned to last until 13 October, is the first in a programme of planned actions.
Further strikes are planned on 18-20 October, 3-5 and 22-23 November, and 6-8 December.

Southern bosses, who recently spectacularly escalated the dispute by threatening to sack any guard who did not agree to downgrade themselves to a new role of “On Board Supervisor” (OBS), are seeking a High Court injunction to have the strikes called off. In the face of the threat of mass sackings, the workers’ union, RMT, has advised them to accept the new OBS contracts, but says it will press ahead with its industrial and political campaigns to force Southern bosses to climb down.

The union plans a national demonstration at Parliament on 1 November to oppose the imposition of DOO.

#Unisongate hearings to start

A number of Unison members made complaints to the certification officer about the conduct of the General Secretary election in 2015.

The complaints, together known as #unisongate, centre around the recording of regional officials discussing how to elect incumbent Dave Prentis and include how to work around “hostile branches” and engage with “sympathetic employers”.

A leak of emails showing the same sort of collusion between full time employees of the union was also discovered. Their efforts were rewarded with Dave Prentis’s re-election on less than 50% of the overall vote cast but just 10% of members taking part.

Solidarity does not support the use of the Certification Officer and the courts in dealing with matters of trade union democracy, but will follow with interest the outcome of the complaints. The initial hearings will be 19, 20 and 21 December.

• The first 11 complainants, many from the Barnet Unison branch, will be reporting from the hearing here

Traffic wardens fight for unsocial pay

Traffic wardens in Hackney, east London, struck on Thursday 22 September in a dispute over unsocial hours pay and victimisation of trade union activists.

Workers also struck in August and October 2015 and won the London Living Wage and a company sick pay policy. Traffic wardens are currently only being paid a normal hourly rate for working evenings and weekends, and are arguing for overtime payments for working unsocial hours. Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “The employer seems to think that our members are machines without families, home life or the need for some leisure time.”

Sheffield bin workers strike

Bin workers in Sheffield struck for 24 hours on Wednesday 5 October over a derisory pay offer. The GMB union put in a claim for a 2% pay rise but Veolia, the contractor used by the council, offered 1.5% over two years.

Workers in a variety of Veolia′s rubbish collection and processing sections in Sheffield have come into conflict with Veolia over the last six years. In April, the same group of workers struck over bullying and aggressive management tactics.