Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 17 June, 2015 - 12:34 Author: Gemma Short, Charlotte Zalens, Tom Harris, Dale Street and Anne Field

Strikes over privatisation continue at Bromley Council.

Workers are on strike between 10-20 June in a series of selective strikes. Unite members in adult services and transport workers will strike from 10-15 June, library staff between 13-20 June and central council workers on 16 June.

The council's cuts plan involves outsourcing most of its services, reducing the number of council employees from 4000 to 300, and privatising 14 libraries. Unite, Unison and community campaigns organised a march through the borough on Saturday 13 June.

As well as the privatisation plans Bromley council has withdrawn facility time arrangements from Unite.

Steel workers strike

Steelworkers across the country are set to strike on 22 June in a dispute over pensions.

The strike will be the first national strike of steelworkers in 30 years. Tata Steel, which has owned British Steel's remaining production since 2007, is closing a final salary pension scheme to existing members and scrapping provisions which allow workers to retire at 60 — effectively raising the retirement age to 65.

Union members in Community, Unite, GMB and UCATT will all take part in the strike. Members in Community voted by 88% for strikes on a 76% turn out, with similar results in the other unions. Workers will also take part in a work to rule and overtime ban around the strike.

Tata steel has operations all over Europe, and one Dutch union, LGV, has already pledged that its membership will refuse any work sent to plants in the Netherlands from Britain during the strike.

Reinstate Candy!

On 11 June workers at the National Gallery struck again in an on going dispute over privatisation of visator services.

The strike took place shortly after a judge at an interim employment tribunal hearing found that Candy Udwin, PCS rep sacked for revealing the cost of the use of private companies, was likely to have been unfairly dismissed. Candy was sacked for “gross misconduct” the day before the first of the strike days protesting against privatisation.

Workers have now been on strike for 35 days. Picket lines were outside the gallery from early morning, and all but one entrance into the gallery was closed off. A rally was held in Trafalgar square at lunchtime, addressed by Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn among others.

The PCS says it will push for Candy's reinstatement at a full tribunal if necessary, but that the gallery should give her back her job at once.

The findings of the preliminary tribunal mean that Candy can now get full pay and benefits until the full tribunal takes place in October.

Solidarity with Robert O' Donnell

As Solidarity goes to press, Glasgow City Council Unison is considering the next steps in its campaign to secure the reinstatement of health and safety rep Robert O’Donnell.

Robert was sacked in late May by the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC). On Friday 12 June he was informed that his appeal, held earlier in the week, had been rejected.

Robert was sacked following an unwitnessed alleged incident with his supervisor. He was sacked despite having worked for the SECC for twelve years and despite having a clean disciplinary record throughout that period.

Robert's Unison branch has said “[we are] totally convinced that this was a trumped-up charge and that the dismissal relates to Robert’s role as a trade union activist. Over recent years the SECC has refused to recognise trade unions for collective bargaining purposes and has been hostile to trade union recruitment activities.”

Among the organisations which use the SECC as a conference venue are trade unions. The STUC, Unison and the UCU have all held conferences there. UCU congress was taking place the day Robert was sacked, and Unison is holding its conference there this week. Delegates at Unison conference have organised solidarity protests for Robert.

The SECC is 91% owned by Labour-controlled Glasgow City Council. But e-mails protesting Robert’s dismissal have received a standard reply from the Council’s Chief Executive — “Mr. O’Donnell is an employee of the SECC and should follow the procedures open to him to appeal against the decision to dismiss him.” — and no reply at all from Council leader Gordon Matheson.

E-mails protesting Robert’s dismissal have also received a standard lengthy reply from the SECC Chief Executive rejecting any suggestion of hostility towards trade unions and no reply at all from the SNP councillor who sits on the SECC Board of Directors.

• More information here

Homelessness caseworkers fight on

Labour-controlled Glasgow City Council has a special present for delegates attending Unison’s local government and national conferences which are being held in Glasgow this week — a 12 week old indefinite strike of homelessness support workers.

Since March — following on from seven weeks of action short of strike action – 70 City Council homelessness caseworkers have been out on indefinite strike in a dispute over pay grading.

As reported in Solidarity management have now effectively conceded the case for regrading — but demand that the regrading be “self-financing”. This meant cutting the workforce by around a third (23 posts). More recent management proposals involve a cut of around ten posts.

Strikers were invited to apply for what were effectively their own posts. But since there would not be enough posts to go round, this would mean some strikers doing themselves out of a job. It would also allow management to target strike leaders.

The strikers have unanimously rejected all proposals for cutbacks. They are not prepared to accept a single job being cut — not just because it would be contrary to their own interests, but also because it would mean a worse service for their clients.

The strike has also highlighted the abysmal role played by Glasgow City Council Labour councillors who see their role as being “managerial rather than political”. All they could do, they claimed, was to “run the council” on an ever shrinking budget — instead of campaigning against the SNP’s cuts in council funding.

But the strike has shown them up for not even playing a managerial role.

Challenged as to why they have not done anything to bring the dispute to an end, their response has been that the dispute is not their responsibility(!) but something for social work management to deal with.

Management and councillors are both aware that there are more regrading claims in the pipeline. They do not want to set a precedent by conceding the claim.

To coincide with this week’s Unison national conference, the strikers have called a mass rally outside the Glasgow City Chambers at 5.45pm, Thursday, 18 June, City Chambers, George Square

• Send donations to strikers’ picket lines, or by cash or cheque (Glasgow City UNISON branch) to Unison, 84 Bell Street, Glasgow G1 1LQ.