Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 3 June, 2015 - 8:45 Author: Ollie Moore and Gemma Short

Train drivers for Southern rail will vote on a new pay offer, after they voted by 91% and 95% for strikes and action short of strikes to win a better deal.

The strike votes, which saw turnouts of around 85%, followed the rejection of the company's initial pay offer of a 2.65% increase even against the recommendation of officials from the drivers' union ASLEF. Such resounding votes against union recommendations are rare anywhere in the labour movement, and show a clear strength of feeling amongst Southern drivers to win a better deal.

Strike plans were suspended, however, after Southern made a revised offer, involving a backdated pay increase of RPI + 0.25% from October 2014 (approximately a 2.65% increase at current RPI rates), followed by a 3.3% pay increase from August 2015, and a further 3.16% increase from April 2016.

A Southern driver told Solidarity: “The deal looks good at first glance but is actually pretty bad if you look at the dispute as a whole. The initial offer was 2.65%. That's been rejected by the membership in a referendum, and then they voted 91% in favour of striking against it. The new offer is.... 2.65% again. But ASLEF are recommending acceptance.

The deal now involves an extra few per cent next year, which Southern have been adamant all along was something they did not have the power to offer. It takes Southern drivers' salaries up to about £49,000, but that is still lower than many London-based Train Operating Companies (TOCs), and will be quite a lot lower by the time we actually see the increase, when those other TOCs will also have had at least one pay deal. This is a real opportunity to catch up with wages elsewhere, and the offer proves quite clearly that Southern have been bullshitting all along and are quite scared of action now. The decision to not press the point is really rather ridiculous.”

The referendum on the deal concludes on Monday 8 June. ASLEF officials are once again recommending acceptance.

Tube unions plan strikes

The four unions organising on London Underground (LU) are preparing to ballot their members for strikes.

The dispute is over pay and changes to terms and conditions relating to the proposed 24-hour running (“Night Tube”) in September 2015.

Bosses made a two-year pay offer — a 0.75% increase in year one, followed by an increase pegged to RPI in year two. Also offered is a non-consolidated, one-off payment of £250 for all staff when Night Tube is introduced, followed by a further £250 payment in January 2016 if company targets are met. Drivers, signal workers, and track workers have been offered an additional £250.

RMT, ASLEF, TSSA, and Unite have rejected the offer, insisting that the pay award does not reflect increases in the cost of living, and non-consolidated one-off payments are not adequate compensation for the impact that moving to 24-hour running will have on many workers' work-life balance, and health.

Tubeworker bulletin has argued that demands for more time off work must be central to unions' claims in the dispute. Scientific studies have show that shift working, particularly sustained night working, are detrimental to workers' health.

RMT is also re-balloting its members who work on stations for further strikes in its campaign against plans to cut nearly 1,000 frontline stations jobs and impose new rosters and working arrangements. LU has already begun closing ticket offices, and plans to close every office by the end of 2015. Cuts are also ongoing elsewhere, such as the LU training department, with design commissions already under way for driverless trains.

The union struck twice as part of this dispute in 2014, winning some concessions from the company, but lost momentum since an overtime ban and planned strikes in October 2014 were called off.

The decision to ballot station workers only, rather than members in all grades (who were balloted when the dispute was first launched in November 2013), represents a narrowing of the dispute. Tubeworker argues for the union to remind drivers, engineers, and other non-stations workers of the significance of the dispute for all grades and areas, in order to rebuild an all-grades focus.

Timetables for the intended ballots are yet to be announced. Strikes involving all four Tube unions are almost unprecedented.

DLR cleaners strike

Workers employed by contractor Interserve on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) struck from 27-29 May, demanding a decent pay deal.

Interserve is a multi-billion pound company with an enormous portfolio of contracts across the railway industry, providing cleaning and other services to various railway operators, including Keolis Amey Docklands (the private consortium which runs the DLR on a contract from Transport for London).

RMT is also in dispute with Interserve on London Underground and Network Rail over issues including short, and non-payment of wages, bullying and harassment of staff by managers, and the victimisation of union reps.

Recycling workers protest against sackings

A rally was held at Shiregreen Recycling Plant in Sheffield on Sunday 31 May in support of GMB members who have been sacked or threatened with dismissal in the last month.

The issues at the site, ongoing for several years, include working conditions, pay, and zero hours contracts. Recently, new grievances have arisen over the bullying of disabled staff. In defence of these members a wildcat strike was called; as a result of this, the GMB reps were sacked.

A rally outside the plant (the first of several planned) was attended by 70 people, including UCU and PCS members.

Speakers included Harry Harman, the recently elected Labour MP for the area, who addressed the allegations of corruption surrounding the charity organisation set up to run the site and made a statement of his support for returning outsourced operations to council control.

National Gallery protest

Workers fighting privatisation at the National Gallery are striking for another 10 days.

On Saturday 30 May they held a rally against the privatisation in Trafalgar Square, and on Monday 1 June activists with “BP or not BP” protested in the gallery against oil-giant Shell's sponsorship deal with the gallery and in solidarity with sacked PCS rep Candy Udwin. Activists marched through the gallery carrying a banner saying “kick out Shell, reinstate Candy!”

Also on Monday 4 June national gallery strikers joined striking council workers in Barnet on picket lines and in a special screening of The Emperors' New Clothes.

The gallery has just announced that it will now be paying the London living wage — but neglected to mention that is as a result of union pressure!

London Met strike

Unison members at London Met university have voted by 77.6% in favour of strikes against job cuts.

UCU members at the university struck on 21 May but Unison members were still awaiting the result of their ballot. Both unions will strike together on Thursday 4 June, and will picket the university governors' “strategy meeting”.

Labour MPs David Lammy and Diane Abbott have publicly supported the campaign to save 165 jobs at the university. So far over 1000 people have signed a petition against the cuts.

Interview with Unison Branch Secretary

Strike against LeSoCo cuts

UCU members at Lewisham and Southwark College (LeSoCo) will strike on Thursday 4 June in their campaign against job cuts and course closures.

Workers voted by 85% for strikes to stop the loss of up to 175 jobs in a £7 million cuts package. The cuts will also see the closure of the Camberwell site of the college. Picket lines will be held on Thursday morning and a rally will be held from 11-12 in Friendly Gardens, just off Lewisham Way.

When the UCU branch met in May it agreed to a series of escalating strikes in June.

On 15 April staff were called into a meeting by the college's principal-designate, Carole Kitching, who announced the cuts, but were not given the option of asking questions. Staff in Unison and UCU believe the cuts will have a devastating effect on the college and on local communities.

The notion that the cuts will “save” the college is farcical.

Despite the cuts to teaching and support staff, senior management will be gaining another post!

The restructure will also create new posts. The precedent, as seen in Lambeth college, is that these jobs will be on worse terms and conditions than current jobs.

A lively community solidarity campaign has sprung up, with involvement from students at the college.

The campaign held a lobby of the college governing body on Tuesday 19 May and a fundraising social on Thursday 21 May. The campaign will also be holding a public meeting on 10 June to inform the community about the cuts and put pressure on college management.

Protests have also taken place at the Camberwell site with students holding placards saying why they need their college.

Lively community campaigns alongside strikes will be needed to see off cuts.