Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 18 June, 2014 - 2:13

Tube cleaners in the RMT union have faced a lock-out as managers sent them home for refusing to use “biometric booking-on” machines.

The machines are intended to replace the existing system of booking on by signing in with station supervisors, and by phone. They require cleaners to enter a fingerprint.

The RMT has raised concerns about the use of the machines to collect data on cleaners, many of whom are migrant workers, as well as their possible use as a further pretext for reducing station staffing levels. A ballot of RMT cleaner members working for ISS returned a large majority in favour of boycotting the machines.

Several cleaners came to work but insisted they would only book on using the existing system were sent home by ISS managers. The RMT said it was “in urgent talks” to resolve the situation, and that it would support any member facing a lock out.

RMT members across London Underground are concerned that, if ISS are allowed to get away with using “biometric booking-on” systems, they will soon spread to other contractors and ultimately to directly-employed staff too.

Eamonn Lynch, Secretary of the RMT London Transport Regional Council said: “We are totally opposed to this technology, which we believe is a breach of civil liberties and a threat to jobs.”

St Pancras cleaners ballot

Cleaners on the Initial contract at St. Pancras International station in London will ballot for strikes over job cuts, and attacks on pay and conditions.

A proposed restructure will see a 30% reduction in staff, re-grading of workers with no protection of earnings, the abolition of two grades, and changes to working hours.

TFL strike

Members of RMT, TSSA, and Unite working for Transport for London struck on Friday 13 June in an ongoing dispute over pay and pensions.

Unions are opposed to the introduction of a “Pay for Performance” scheme, which they say will amount to a pay freeze and reduce pensions as well.

Workers picketed at TfL central offices, and demonstrated at City Hall. They will strike again on 10 July, alongside other public sector unions also involved in pay disputes.

Next Tube cuts protest 25 June

The Hands Off London Transport (HOLT) campaign organised a Day of Action on Friday 13 June, with leafleting, demonstrations, and other actions outside Tube stations including King’s Cross, Brixton, Wimbledon, Finchley Central, and Leytonstone.

The aim of the day was to raise awareness of London Underground’s plans to massively reduce staffing levels and close every ticket office on the Tube network. The actions brought together RMT activists, disability rights campaigners, student unionists, community campaigners, as well as activists and supporters from other unions and left-wing groups.

Katie Kokkinou, Welfare and International Officer at University College London Union and HOLT Convenor said: “The demonstration was well attended by student activists, RMT activists, campaigners from the National League of the Blind and Disabled (NLBD), and Community, and also support from passersby who stopped to support the action.

“The action went very well — we were leafleting and talking to members of the public about the proposed cuts: hundreds of leaflets were given out, and a small rally was had outside the Tube station.”

HOLT’s next planned action is a joint demonstration with the RMT outside Boris Johnson’s “State of London” event, at IndigO2 at the O2 Arena in Greenwich. The demonstration takes place at 6pm on Wednesday 25 June.

Garden Halls strike solid

Outsourced cleaning, catering, and security workers at University of London’s Garden Halls (an intercollegiate halls of residence near King’s Cross) staged six solid strikes between Friday 6 June and Thursday 12 June, picketing from 7am to midday each day and holding demonstrations at the University’s Senate House building.

The workers were demanding guarantees of redeployment following the announcement that Garden Halls was slated for closure, threatening 80 jobs.

The workers are members of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB). They are also demanding that the University, and the outsourced contractor GDF Cofely-Suez, negotiates with their union, which organises the majority of outsourced staff.

Currently, it only recognises Unison, which only represents a small minority of outsourced workers.

Posties boycott The Sun

Postal workers at several offices across the North West refused to deliver the free copy of The Sun produced for the World Cup and intended for delivery to 22 million homes across Britain.

The right-wing tabloid is particularly reviled in and around Liverpool, because of its coverage of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster which blamed Liverpool supporters for the tragedy and fabricated reports of their bad behaviour.

8,000 people signed a petition supporting the workers’ action.

Solid strike at Lambeth

Unison members at Lambeth College joined UCU members on strike last week (11 and 12 June) in protest against the introduction of inferior working contracts for new staff.

Despite management’s attempts at turning the unions against each other (the new contracts would have little impact on Unison members), Unison joined UCU who have been on indefinite strike since 3 June.

The Unison branch at the college had not been on strike for decades previous, but had 35 people on the picket lines last week.

Union branches are calling for members and supporters to lobby the AoC (National Association of College Principals) meeting, on Wednesday 18 June, on negotiations in further education pay.

A student rally has been organised at the Clapham Centre on Thursday 19 June, 12-2 pm for students to find out why their tutors and staff are on strike.

200 job cuts at LeSoCo

At least 95 jobs are to be cut by December at LeSoCo (Lewisham College including Southwark College), and three departments face risk of complete closure.

Management have predicted even more slashed to jobs, up to 200, over the next 3 years.

Planned restructuring of the departments and services could result in the jobs of Student Support staff being cut, which would affect mental health support provided for students.

This time last year, management announced 35 job cuts, severe changes to the floristry and science departments and the closure of two nurseries, resulting in 86% of UCU members who took part in the ballot to vote in favour of strike action.

The UCU branch at LeSoCo has organised a meeting to plan the defence of the community college.

Debate ruled out

Unison Local Government Conference (15-16 June) committed the union to fighting the greatest squeeze on wages since the 1870s but was prevented from discussing the tactics and strategy that can win!

Motions calling for a ballot of all school support staff and for ongoing campaigning including action short of strike after 10 July were ruled out by the Standing Orders Committee to avoid “issues of legality”. Delegates attempted to oppose this but were left to attempt discussion on this as part of the leadership backed main motion on pay.

Two fringe meetings on fighting for fair provided a forum for discussion on how to take the pay campaign beyond a one or two day strike action.

Workers’ Liberty members distributed 500 bulletins and welcomed the opportunity to discuss and debate our ideas with delegates from across the country.

Mitie cleaners win on FGW

Cleaners employed by Mitie on a First Great Western contract have won a 6.75% wage increase, backdated to March 2013, and an increase to the London Living Wage from March 2015.

The workers, who are members of the RMT, have struck several times during the course of the dispute.

Mitie made £58.8 million pre-tax profit last year, and paid out £20.6 million to its shareholders (an increase of 11.9% from the previous year). The company’s highest-paid director is paid £1.37 million.