Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 4 June, 2014 - 11:53

Doncaster Care UK workers struck for 14 days in May in a fight against a 50% cuts in wages and massive reductions in sick pay.

A strike committee has now been formed for the 80 out of 120 rank-and-file Unison members who have refused to accept these conditions

Gina Beaumont, a member of the committee, told Solidarity how the workers have learned to run the dispute as they have gone along; have for example made decisions about mobilising strikers to demonstrate at Care UK offices across the country from Newcastle to London, while keeping a picket in Doncaster; about gathering support from unions to sustain the strike fund and morale. Gina said “the strikers are leading now; we’ve taken this in to our own hands!”

Care UK has told workers they must accept the new terms and conditions by 16 June or be sacked. After over a month’s worth of strike days and with time running out, the committee want and need a strike ballot so they can legally take action. Gina said, “we don’t want a consultative ballot, we should go for a straight vote, we want to go out again!”

Unison is pushing the consultative ballot but this would delay action and risk losing momentum at a critical moment in the dispute when they need more action to win.

The mood at the end of the strikers’ last two weeks of action was buoyant and fuelled by support from meetings they attended as part of what they have dubbed their “UK tour”.

Having withdrawn an original offer of transitional payments, Care UK has come back with a second bribe to get workers to accept the permanent reduction of pay. With ongoing court action to prove the company has breached TUPE regulations and unfairly dismissed staff, this may be Care UK’s last ditch attempt to buy workers off before a legal decision.

The strike committee believe that they cannot rely on the law to protect them; the court case is alongside, not instead of, a militant and democratic campaign.

• Send donations payable to Doncaster, District and Bassetlaw Health Branch 20511 via the Unison Office, Jenkinson House, White Rose Way, Doncaster DN4 5GJ along with messages of support to admin@unison-dab.org.uk

Rep wins in court

Mark Harding, a prominent rep for Tube union RMT, has faced criminal charges since February 2014, relating to allegations about his conduct on a picket line during the 4-6 February Tube strikes. Mark finally heard his verdict at Hammersmith Court on 2 June and was found not guilty.

The pursuit of the case against Mark was obviously politically-motivated, and designed not merely to victimise him but undermine effective picketing.

Mark was supported outside the court by a large demonstration of activists from RMT and other unions.

That a trade unionist could be dragged through the courts for three months shows the need for a real labour movement fightback against the anti-union laws which Cameron’s Tories are determined to tighten and extend.

The trade union movement needs to build on this victory.

Tube day of action 13 June

The Hands Off London Transport (HOLT) campaign, a coalition including student activists, Disabled People Against Cuts, Occupy London, and Tube union RMT, plans a day of action on Friday 13 June to protest against staff cuts and ticket office closures on London Underground.

The RMT is still negotiating with LU management over their plans to axe 953 jobs and close every ticket office on the network. Strikes in February and April secured concessions around station supervision and salaries, with management forced into a guarantee that no worker affected by the changes would be reallocated to a lower-paying grade. But the union remains opposed to the cuts plan as a whole, and is working with HOLT to build public political pressure.

The union also plans a labour movement and community conference on 26 July to engage with unions, passenger advocacy groups, community organisations, and others about the future of the Tube. LU bosses have refused to carry out public consultation over their plans, as they know the closure of ticket offices is deeply unpopular. As Boris Johnson committed in his election not to close any ticket offices, LU management and the GLA are politically vulnerable on the question.

The RMT still has a live ballot and industrial dispute with LU, and could strike again in the near future.

Garden Halls workers to strike

Members of the Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB) at the University of London have voted 100% in favour of strike action over the loss of more than 80 jobs at the Garden Halls, student halls of residence near King's Cross.

The IWGB has served notice of five days of industrial action against the two main outsourcing companies at the University, Cofely which runs cleaning and maintenance services, and Aramark who employs catering staff.

The strike will begin on Friday 6 June and will continue from Monday 9 June to Thursday 12 June.

Refurbishing of the halls begins at the end of June and will last around two years. Current workers will be laid off.

There is also a danger that the University of London plans to hike rents or, ultimately, to sell off the halls.

Students and others are organising solidarity with the strikes, and are asking supporters to visit the picket lines from 7.30am on each of the strike days. In recent weeks, activists have occupied the head offices of Cofely in London and targeted the company’s prestigious contract at the Shard near London Bridge.

The University of London Union (ULU), the IWGB and the 3 Cosas Campaign have also gave notice of a “summer of disruption” to the University’s summer conference season.

The University of London IWGB and the wider 3 Cosas campaign have always been willing to go on the offensive and fight to win. A two-day strike in November 2013 won major concessions on sick pay and holiday pay, and the momentum was continued in January with three days of strike action.

Central to the union’s strategy has been the use of strike funds. The strike fund will be crucial to sustain these five days of strike action, and those wishing to donate can do so at the IWGB website.