Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 13 January, 2016 - 12:49 Author: Ollie Moore, Michael Tron and Gemma Short

Lambeth Libraries staff have voted overwhelmingly for strike action to save jobs and keep all ten Lambeth libraries open.

Staff voted 89% to strike against plans to close libraries and cut jobs. Unison will now be discussing extended strike action with the library workers in the borough. This strike vote follows a community campaign to keep the libraries open, as well as a walk out by staff in December when news circulated that books were already being taken out of one of the libraries.

Several Labour Party wards have passed motions criticising their own council’s library closure programme and supporting the library staff and local community in their efforts to keep the library service open.

Tube unions call new strikes

Tube unions Aslef, RMT, and Unite have named strikes for 26-27 January, 15-16 February, and 17-18 February.

Each strike is for 24 hours, commencing on the evening of the first day and continuing until the following evening. TSSA's leadership is meeting as Solidarity goes to press, and may decide to join the action.

The strikes are part of an ongoing dispute over pay, terms and conditions, and staffing arrangements for 24-hour running ("Night Tube").

Rank-and-file socialist bulletin Tubeworker said: "That three unions have returned to battle stations after months of quiet is a hugely positive and welcome development. We have to make these strikes count: the shutdown of the network needs to be total, picket lines need to be well supported and vibrant, engaging with the public to explain that, contrary to tabloid myths, we're not simply striking for more money but for a decent settlement on terms and conditions that protects our work/life balance."

RMT also has a live ballot mandate for action involving station staff, in a dispute against the "Fit for the Future" scheme, a job cuts and restructuring programme that will see hundreds of frontline jobs go, and all station workers forced into a new grading system under new contracts.

RMT has said it will consult station reps and activists about launching further action around the proposed imposition of "Fit for the Future", which is set to launch at King's Cross and some Central Line stations on 7 February.

• For more info and regular updates, visit the Tubeworker blog

Teachers struggle against cuts

Secondary school teachers in Scotland have voted by 93% in favour of industrial action in a consultative ballot over excessive workloads.

Their union, EIS, says teachers are facing mounting workload as a result of a new qualifications system. EIS will now formally ballot its members over organising boycotts of the qualifications.

Teachers in West Dunbartonshire, Scotland, struck on Tuesday 12 January, in a dispute over cuts. The teachers, also organised by EIS, say the cuts will mean subjects as diverse as English and Geography being managed under one faculty, losing specialist teachers and losing pastoral roles.

Struggles in schools across England continue. More strikes are expected at Listerdale school in Rotherham (see Solidarity 382) after talks broke down with academy sponsor the Children′s Trust. Teachers at Trinity academy in Somerset have voted to strike over bullying and harassment.

Teachers at Small Heath School in Birmingham have struck against proposed academisation and are fighting for the reinstatement of their NUT rep Simon O’Hara.

• Reinstate Simon petition

Support LANAC candidates in NUT

Workers’ Liberty member Jade Baker will be standing as the LANAC candidate for one of the two London seats on the NUT’s National Executive. LANAC supporter Kirstie Paton will also be standing. LANAC supporters in London will be holding a meeting to discuss the campaign on Tuesday 19 January, 6pm, Menard Hall, EC1V 3SW.

20,000 job losses, 1,200 more to go

Over the past 15 years 20,000 local authority jobs have been lost in Birmingham.

1,200 more job losses are planned in the next two years.

New leader Cllr John Clancy was a former soft-oppositionist to previous leader Cllr Bore. Cllr Clancy, for whom the term “Clancynomics” was coined, had run for, and lost, the Birmingham Labour leadership multiple times over the last few years. His opposition economic program was not truly “anti-cuts”, but rather he challenged Bore on his lack of progress in dealing with overspend on outsourced contracts such as the Service Birmingham Capita contract, whose costs have spiraled from £55 million a year to £120 million.

Bore’s city council repeatedly failed to do anything about the contract and were criticised heavily in the press as a result. This year Birmingham Labour has managed to find £2.5m worth of savings in this IT contract. Despite this the council is still making huge cuts to much more crucial spending areas, including the 1,200 jobs they are planning to axe.

Corbyn has personally intervened, telling the press that Birmingham is being “uniquely attacked” and is receiving the biggest central government funding cuts in the country.

Despite small moves away from the private sector looting of the public purse, Bore’s replacement, and Birmingham Labour moving (at a glacial pace) towards greater opposition to austerity, Birmingham is still facing vast cuts.

So what next? With more cuts coming next year and every year for the next five years there is increasingly little option for small anti-cuts gestures.

The only remaining option is for councils to disobey Tory rule and begin refusing to vote through cuts budgets at all.

Fighting for fair 16-19 funding

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) is conducting a consultative ballot of its members in Sixth Form Colleges over funding cuts.

Funding for 16-19 education fell by 14% between 2010 and 2015, and Sixth Form Colleges have been hit hardest by these funding cuts. By August 2015, 72% of colleges had dropped courses and 81% of them had increased class sizes.

It is estimated that sixth form colleges have lost more than £100 million of funding since 2010. In contrast, the Government agreed to spend £45 million in 2014 to establish just one 16-19 free school in Westminster at a cost of about £90,000 for each student.

The NUT plans to move to a formal ballot, and will hold a national demonstration which will hopefully coincide with a national strike.

FE college pay strike planned

Unison members in Further Education colleges are being balloted to join UCU action over an imposed pay freeze.

UCU members struck against the pay freeze on 10 November, but were not joined by Unison members, despite the union saying it was planning on balloting its members. UCU has submitted a pay claim for a £1 pay rise, but the Association of Colleges rejected the claim and instead imposed at 0% pay rise.

UCU’s Further Education committee met in December and agreed to propose to Unison a date for joint strikes on 2 March, the day that the Association of Colleges is due to hold its conference.

Fighting union busting

Sheffield recycling workers, employed by The Green Company, will be re-balloted by their union, GMB, in a long running dispute over bullying and health and safety concerns.

Workers have been in dispute since November 2014, and have struck several times. Two GMB reps have been sacked, and just prior to Christmas two more GMB members were victimised.

One of the members has been summoned to a disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct after they phoned into the local radio station to question council leader Julie Dore on what she would do to resolve the dispute.

Workers are demanding that sacked reps are reinstated; that staff who contributed to whistleblowing of bad practices are reinstated; that they are paid the living wage; for an end to bullying; for an end to zero-hours contracts; and for decent staff facilities on sites.

They also argue for the service to be run in the public interest not for private profit.

Sheffield housing strike

GMB members working in Sheffield council’s housing service struck on 6 January in a dispute over worsening terms and conditions after the introduction of a new management scheme, Housing Plus.

Workers say the restructure will result in pay cuts as well as a deskilling and downgrading of their jobs. The new system has been piloted in areas of the city and workers say it doesn′t work for staff or for service users.

Workers started action with a work to rule in mid-December, after the council announced it would be extending the new scheme throughout the city.