Industrial news in brief

Submitted by AWL on 24 June, 2015 - 7:42 Author: Gemma Short and Ollie Moore

UCU members at seven London colleges struck today as Solidarity went to press (Tuesday 23 June) in disputes over job losses.

Strikes will happen at College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London, South Thames College, College of North West London, Croydon College, Greenwhich Community College, Hackney Community College, and Lewisham Southwark College (LeSoCo).

Today's strike is the fourth for workers at LeSoCo, who struck on Thursday 18 and Friday 19 June. Management plan to cut as many as 175 jobs at the college and close the Camberwell site, severely reducing the quality of education for students and the ability for the most needy to access courses.

On Thursday March 18 Hackney UCU members struck and organised a “march to the city” to protest against cuts in FE funding.

On today's strike UCU members will be marching to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Tube unions set for strikes

ASLEF, the union organising the majority of drivers on London Underground, has returned a 98% majority for strikes on an 81% turnout in its dispute over pay and the settlement around the introduction of 24-hour running (“Night Tube”).

It has named a 24-hour strike, beginning on the evening of 8 July and ending on the evening of 9 July. The three other Tube unions, RMT, TSSA, and Unite, have strike ballots due back on 30 June and are expected to coordinate their action with ASLEF's named date.

Unions are demanding a collectively-negotiated agreement for the introduction of Night Tube. London Underground has attempted to devolve consultation on drivers' rosters to local level, without a network-wide agreement. Station staff also face the imposition of new, anti-social rosters and a new set of terms and conditions that would allow management to change their shifts at 24 hours' notice and send them to work anywhere up to 45 minutes from their station.

RMT is demanding a four-day, 32-hour week for all grades, arguing that more time off work is the only way to offset the negative health impacts of prolonged shift working, and particularly night working. RMT has also re-balloted its stations members in an ongoing dispute over job cuts. Nearly 800 frontline station jobs could go in early 2016, as part of a cuts programme that also includes the closure of every ticket office on the Tube. Tubeworker, the rank-and-file London Underground workers' bulletin published by Workers' Liberty, has argued that the fight against job cuts should not be narrowed down to a “stations” dispute, but should focus on the effect of budget cuts on jobs across grades and departments.

Coordinated strike action by all four Tube unions is almost unprecedented, and would see the network grind to an almost complete standstill. For detailed reports and daily updates, see Tubeworker's blog.

Construction workers say: Pay the rate!

Construction workers at a SITA/Sembcorp construction site in Wilton, Redcar have been campaigning against the company using migrant workers to undercut the national agreement for construction workers.

Workers have been holding regular protests at the site, and other sites run by SITA, aruging that SITA should “pay the rate”. Unions including Unite, GMB and Ucatt say they have been prevented from talking to migrant workers and blocked from organising them into the union by SITA.

A Workers' Liberty activist spoke to workers at the protest. Tony, a worker active in the cross-union Teesside Construction Activists group linked to national rank and file construction workers organisations, said "We called off our regular Friday demos when they offered negotiations but it was a con, a stalking tactic, we got nothing out of it." Tony's anger was reflected at the activists’ mass meeting on 12 June, where activists agreed to send a bus to Merseyside to protest at a different site owned by SITA.

"It's not only about paying the rates," added Billy, another activist, "there's safety issues, we know there have been accidents and we've got photos of dangerous practices. Then some workers have a three-hour journey each way on top of their shift, which doesn't allow the proper sleeping time. That's out of order — and unsafe."

Activists with the Teesside People's Assembly and Love Teesside Hate Racism have been supporting the protests and organising solidarity with migrant groups.