Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 19 November, 2014 - 12:23 Author: Charlotte Zalens, Ollie Moore, Gareth Devonport and Gemma Short

Cleaners working for contractor Interserve at Waterloo station struck on 17-18 November after a manager claimed “we shouldn’t be employing black people.”

The strikes follow earlier action on 10-11 November, and a further 24 hour strike has been called starting at 3pm on 21 November.

The RMT union says bosses have refused to address the allegation through agreed procedures. The union also says Interserve has underpaid wages, as well as victimising, bullying and harassing staff.

Cleaners at Waterloo are not the only ones facing these conditions, or fighting back. Across various contractors, cleaners experience low pay, unsafe and unpleasant conditions, and substitution by agency workers.

Cleaning working on the Bakerloo, Central, and Victoria Lines will be balloted for strikes. The BCV contract was transferred from Initial to Interserve and, predictably, workers have lost out in the process.

Management bullying and harassment has increased, wages are not being paid on time, and RMT reps are being victimised by managers.

RMT has decided to ballot members for strikes and action short of strikes.

Tube drivers ballot to defend colleague

Tube drivers at the Morden depot on the Northern Line are balloting for strikes to win reinstatement for sacked colleague Alex McGuigan.

Alex was sacked after failing a breathalyser test that failed to take into account his type-two diabetes, which can give false positive readings, and which failed to test a urine sample for alcohol.

The ballot closed on Tuesday 18 November, as Solidarity went to press.

Alex is one of several Tube workers to have fallen foul of authoritarian sackings recently; Vicky Hayward was sacked on the basis of managers' testimonies about what they say they saw on CCTV footage (to which her and her rep were denied access), and Noel Roberts was "medically terminated" despite not missing a day sick in 10 months, and despite everyone from his own GP to his local manager to London Underground's Occupational Health department declaring him fit for work.

Tube union RMT is fighting for reinstatement of Alex, Vicky, and Noel.

Train drivers' pay offer

ASLEF members at Northern Rail have voted to strike over pay by 82.2%, on an 82% turnout.

The company offered a further 0.3% in year one of the deal, plus commitments on "retention" talks for drivers on 17 November. As Solidarity went to press the union's Executive Committee had resolved to hold a referendum on this offer, with full details promised with the voting paper.

This seems an odd choice for the union leadership to make, rather than rejecting what is still a measly increase with a very strong strike mandate backing them up. It is especially worrying as ASLEF's tends not to put pay deals out for referendum unless it is recommending acceptance.

The referendum closes on 8 December, just three days before the expiry of the strike mandate, meaning ASLEF will need to notify Northern of a strike by 4 December, before voting closes, or be forced into holding another strike ballot.

RMT, the union representing the majority of non-drivers at Northern, has put the company's previous offer (2.7% in 2014, 2.5% or RPI in 2015) to a referendum of its members, with the message that their reps "strongly [recommend]" acceptance.

This is a worryingly conservative approach for the union to take, especially when they will almost certainly face massive job cuts after the new Northern Rail and Transpennine Express franchises are agreed in 2016.

Defend Julie Davies!

Teachers at two schools in Haringey, London, struck on 12-13 November to defend suspended branch secretary Julie Davies.

The teachers at Fortismere and Highgate Wood struck for the first time in the dispute on 5 November. Teachers' union NUT, says it will escalate to three days if the issue is not resolved.

On 11 November the Daily Mail published a front page article attacking the strikes. Teachers responded in anger, using #hatemail on twitter.

Teachers in two more schools, Park View and Hornsey, are being balloted to join the strikes.

There will be a lobby of Haringey council at 6pm on 24 November and more strikes to be announced.