Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 10 November, 2016 - 2:19

On 8 November, the Dockworkers’ Union started industrial action, including a ban on overtime, at the Gothenburg terminal which handles 60% of Sweden’s container trade. It has also called for a blockade on traffic redirected from Gothenburg.

Problems in Gothenburg have increased over the last five years since APM, the container-terminal offshoot of the giant Maersk group, took over, and especially since, according to the union, about a year and a half ago, the company adopted “an anti-union stance”, presumably in response to the continued stagnation and sharper competition in global container shipping.

The union is demanding: • No sanctions against elected union representatives • No unilateral transfers of dockworkers’ job to other parts of the workforce • Full compensation for extra shifts • Retraining and redeployment for sick or ageing dockers, without conditions • Re-established health and safety cooperation • Full provision of annual leave and parental leave. It had four 24-hour strikes in April and May over those demands, then paused for new talks. APM Terminals has not budged, so the union is relaunching its struggle and asking for solidarity.

Durham TAs strike

Teaching assistants in Durham struck on 7 and 8 November. As previously reported in Solidarity, teaching assistants are fighting the imposition of a new contract which will cut their pay by up to 25%.

Durham county council is planning on sacking all the teaching assistants and reemploying them on the new contract to force through the changes, Durham council′s proposed ″solution″ in negotiations would mean some workers only losing 10% of their pay — but working more hours for the privilege!

Durham teaching assistants have received huge support from across the labour movement both locally and nationally. Further strike dates are yet to be set but there are as yet no signs of the council backing down.

Support Picturehouse workers

Picturehouse cinema workers at the Ritzy cinema in Brixton and Hackney Picturehouse are planning to strike again before the end of November. On Tuesday 8 November workers at the Ritzy confronted Mooky Greidinger, CEO of Cineworld, and Renana Teperberg, new Managing Director of Picturehouse, who were visiting the cinema. They presented them with a letter calling on Cineworld and Picturehouse to negotiate. Support the strike fund bit.ly/2fmmJmF

Southern guards fight on

Guards on Southern Rail struck again on 4-5 November. A guard and union activist spoke to Solidarity about the dispute.

The strikes on 4-5 November were solid. There are almost no scabs at my depot. People are still very much up for the fight; the 4 November deadline to sign the new contracts has passed, but the will to fight is still there.

People are still angry. Management has treated us with no respect, and even people who feel like we might be going down want to drag the bosses down with us! We don’t care whether our job title is “guard” or “supervisor”: what matters is retaining our safety-critical status. That’s crucial. The strength of feeling at the demonstration and rally the union held at Parliament, and the demonstration in Brighton, show the will to continue fighting. More of these demos are needed.

We can mobilise passengers, many of whom are already on our side. At my workplace, passengers have joined our picket line. Industrially, things are deadlocked. Aslef coming into the dispute would have a very positive impact, but we can’t rely on them. The administrative problems with their ballot [which was sent out, then withdrawn and redistributed, setting the process back] seem very poor.

Workers on other train companies are watching our dispute; they know that rail bosses want to extend Driver Only Operation, and if we lose, they’re next. We’ve had workers from Northern rail and elsewhere come down to our picket lines to support us. Ultimately this is about breaking union power and organisation in the railway industry.

The government is handing taxpayers’ money to Southern bosses. That’s money that should be invested in a publicly-owned railway. We all know the case for public ownership is clear.

• Southern guards are due to strike again on 22-23 November and 6-8 December. Donations to their strike fund can be send c/o RMT, 39 Chalton Street, London NW1 1JD.

Barnet librarians strike

Hugh Jordan, Barnet Unison Libraries Convenor, spoke to Solidarity at the National Demonstration for Libraries, Museums and Galleries.

We are on strike today, 5 November, to tie in with the national demonstration. We will be on strike again on Saturday 12 November and then we will have a five-day strike from Monday 28 November to Friday 2 December.

We aim to give as much publicity as we can to our campaign, leading up to a final decision by Barnet Council. Barnet Council is seeking to restructure and cut back Barnet’s library service. They want to impose 46% redundancies on libraries staff as part of their plan to move to a more volunteer-run and staffless service, as well as reducing the physical space at all of the libraries.

Four of Barnet’s libraries are to be handed over to voluntary sector organisations (i.e. to be privatised) — these libraries are to be run without any of Barnet’s current libraries staff involved, almost certainly without any paid staff at all.

The local libraries campaign, Save Barnet Libraries, has been pointing out the risks and problems with this service model. Barnet UNISON has been working with the libraries campaign as well as pursuing our own campaign in defence of our library workers.

So far we have already achieved important success — postponing the cuts for two years and forcing the council to backtrack from its initial plans for even bigger cuts to staffing and library space. It shows that industrial action combined with working with local communities can make a real difference. We are now reaching the endgame and are putting pressure on Barnet Council to reconsider the decision ahead of its General Functions Committee on 6 December where the final decision will be taken.

Eight out of 14 libraries were closed today. This is a success for our action, especially considering the employment of agency staff who have been difficult to recruit to the union and organise — although we’ve made some progress with recruiting agency workers. We are asking Barnet Council to reconsider its plan which is completely unnecessary, indeed costly.

As well as being utterly destructive, it is costing more than £7 million to restructure the library service in order to save little over £2 million. Instead, Barnet should maintain at least the current staffing levels, staffed opening hours and library space. We have issued a detailed response to the planned restructure, outlining an alternative plan — see here

• Send messages of support to Barnet Unison

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