Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 23 May, 2012 - 9:25

A strike ballot of London bus workers is underway as transport workers’ campaigns for decent Olympic working arrangements continue.

The Unite union is balloting its 21,000 members across London’s bus services for a strike. The union is demanding a £500 flat-rate Olympics bonus for the workers, who are employed by 21 separate service providers. Unlike other transport providers, the bus companies have so far refused to award bonuses for the extra workload their employees will face during the Olympic Games. 800,000 extra people could travel on the buses during the period of the Games.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), which represents workers on the London Underground, has already secured bonuses for its members at several companies, including London Overground and Docklands Light Railway. Its campaign to secure a no-strings bonus for its members employed by London Underground Ltd. has been undermined by the drivers-only unions ASLEF, which signed an agreement for a £500 bonus conditional on various breaches of the existing collective agreement which regulates working conditions.

RMT’s campaign to win a bonus that does not require workers to sacrifice their hard-won terms and conditions continues.

Privatisation threat at Sussex University

Students and workers at the University of Sussex will protest the visit of potential private investors to their campus, as the university attempts to privatise its catering, estates and facilities services.

Over 200 workers face outsourcing to private employers, more than 10% of the workforce. A protest on Thursday 24 May follows a similar action on Tuesday 22 May, held to coincide with visits by private service providers preparing bids to run the outsourced contracts.

A joint campaign involving Unite, Unison, academics’ union UCU, and the Students Union has held meetings and is running a petition against the privatisation.

Maureen Winder, the branch secretary of the Unison branch on campus, said: “If staff become employees of a private company their future pension rights and working conditions will change significantly, and we will have a two-tier workforce, as new staff will be employed on different terms and conditions. The plans were sprung upon us with no discussion about finding solutions in-house.

“The university seems determined to outsource regardless of the impact on quality or future costs, and this is devastating for the whole University community.”

• Petition against privatisation here

New jobs at Ellesmere Port, but with round-the-clock working?

Car workers at the Ellesmere Port plant of auto industry giant General Motors voted overwhelmingly to accept a deal that keeps work at the plant until 2020.

The new deal, which brings the production of the new Vauxhall Astra to the plant, will also create 700 new jobs. A further 3,000 jobs could be created in the supply chain.

However, the deal is based on what managers call “groundbreaking” levels of flexibility and could require workers to work round the clock to meet production targets if necessary.

The deal could also mean job losses at General Motors plants elsewhere in Europe that were also potential sites for the Astra production.

Greenwich library workers win

Greenwich library workers will retain their local authority contract terms after a strike against potential cuts, related to transfer to a private sector employer, succeeded.

The workers, who are members of Unite, struck in April, closing 11 of the 13 libraries facing transfer to Greenwich Leisure Ltd. Although GLL will still take ownership of the libraries, bosses have guaranteed the protection of terms and conditions beyond the minimal protection offered by “TUPE” legislation (which protects contracts at the point of transfer but allows new employers to change them soon afterwards for “economic, technical, or organisational” reasons).

Unite officer Onay Kasab said: “I am proud of the fact that these workers were prepared to stand up and fight in defence of pay and conditions.

“It is only because they have made clear that they will strike, that these assurances have been won.”