Industrial news in brief

Submitted by AWL on 23 August, 2017 - 12:28 Author: Jim Denham, Simon Nelson, Brenda Allen and Ollie Moore

Birmingham refuse workers have forced the Labour council to back down on plans to cut jobs and pay. The dispute has been suspended after seven weeks of discontinuous action, a day before Unite was to have balloted to extend the action to Christmas.

In talks at ACAS, the council agreed to withdraw the threat to leading hands’ jobs and pay: in response Unite has agreed to discuss the possibility of a move from four-day to five-day working and other potential cost savings.

Clearly, such changes can only be accepted following a full, democratic discussion and vote by the workers who will be affected.

Members of South Birmingham Momentum mobilised to support the workers, visiting picket lines and pressuring councillors to demand the council leadership back down from its initial intransigence and enter into serious negotiations with Unite.

Unite’s acting Regional Secretary for the Midlands, Howard Beckett, said, “The council has addressed our member’s concerns, including the safeguarding of the grade three post that is vital to safety at the rear of refuse vehicles.

“Unite also welcomes the fact that our suspended rep is now returning to work.”

BA workers continue strikes

Mixed Fleet British Airways workers have extended their strike until 30 August as Unite has confirmed their will continue with legal action against the airline. The dispute has so far seen over 60 days of action with BA attempting to sanction and victimise those on strike.

BA are intent on spending millions to lease aircraft from Qatar airlines, rather than raise the pay of the workers in dispute. Unite are taking legal action to address this alongside BA’s removal of bonuses, incentives and travel concessions. If BA are stopped from the so-called “wet leasing” of other aircraft then the impact of the strike will be dramatically increased, but it would not be impossible for BA to make a new deal with another airline.

There are no prospects yet of other sections of the BA workforce or other crews joining the dispute. Crew in the lower-paid mixed fleet, working out of Heathrow on long and short-haul flights, are already in the middle of a lengthy walk-out and will extend the strike to cover the period from Wednesday 16 August to Wednesday 30 August.

Oliver Richardson from Unite said: “We would urge British Airways to start treating our members fairly and drop the bullying tactics to avoid the escalating cost and disruption that continued industrial and legal action brings.”

BA has made a profit of £14bn yet still pays the mixed fleet staff a basic wage of £12,000 with wages that can vary dramatically depending on the flights crew staff.

No pay rise for 10 years!

Eighteen workers, members of the Community union, who work for ROM, a steel manufacturing company in Sheffield, struck for two weeks (ending on 7 August) because they have not received a wage rise for 10 years. Workers report no response from their employer, but they are ready for a prolonged dispute and expect to announce further strike dates.

Their assessment is that ROM had built up supplies prior to their action but as the dispute continues their action will have a deeper effect on the firm. ROM, a subsidiary of the international Celsa group, supply reinforced steel to the construction industry. ROM have made pay offers to workers from other sites and are continuing to negotiate in an attempt to stop the strike spreading. Despite this, Sheffield workers report there are potential ballots elsewhere.

The action has been 100% solid amongst permanent shop floor workers. The company has had a policy of divide and conquer and has employed around 50% of agency workers for many years, on different terms and conditions. The Community members have made attempts to unionise these workers, but up to now the threats of being finished have affected this and the agency workers have worked through the strike. Solidarity has begun within the Sheffield labour movement for what could be a long hard battle.

DOO strikes continue

Strikes over Driver-only operation (DOO) on train companies across the country are continuing. Workers on Northern, Southern and Merseyrail will strike again on 1 and 4 September. Rail union RMT held a protest at Waterloo station on Monday 21 August to pressure new the South West Trains operator to retain guards on the trains. Guards on Greater Anglia trains are also being balloted for strikes over plans by the company to introduce and/or extend DOO on some of their routes.

• An interview with a Northern rail worker can be read here

Central Line drivers plan strikes

Drivers on London Underground’s Central Line are balloting for strikes to win reinstatement for Danny Davis, a driver of 20 years’ service who was recently sacked following a platform incident. Danny missed a passenger boarding his train at Ruislip Gardens station, who was hit by closing doors — a routine error which any driver can make, and which is routinely dealt with as a performance and coaching issue.

After a shoddy disciplinary process, in which CCTV footage from only two of Ruislip Gardens’s 17 cameras was used, Danny was summarily dismissed, despite his unblemished record. The RMT, Danny’s union, has described the sacking as a “travesty”, and “miscarriage of justice”, which, if it is not reversed, could establish a precedent whereby other drivers are sacked for routine mistakes. The union is balloting its driver members at all Central Line train depots for strikes, with a ballot timetable yet to be announced.

Cleaners’ struggles round-up

Outsourced workers at SOAS have won their campaign to be taken back in-house. The announcement came soon after strikes by workers at LSE resulted in the university returning them to in-house employment. The United Voices of the World union, who organised workers at the LSE, has also announced that cleaners employed to clean Ferrari and Maserati showrooms in south Kensington will be balloting to strike for the living wage.