Monday 13 March will see the biggest and most widespread action yet in the fight to maintain the job of guard (conductor) in the UK rail industry. As well as another day of action on Southern Rail, the RMT union is calling its guard and driver members out on the Northern and Merseyrail franchises.
This is a very significant in the development of this dispute, as the disruption this is likely to cause at Northern and Merseyrail should be bigger in comparison to that at Southern, where many services already operated under Driver Only Operation (DOO) when the dispute there began. It will become clear on the day how effective the Train Operating Companies’ contingency planning has been.
Meanwhile the other union involved, drivers’ union Aslef, continues in talks with GTR/Southern after its members rejected the proposed sell-out settlement that was brokered by TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady and recommended to them by Aslef leadership. As with the TUC talks, no information is being released as these talks go on, raising concerns that whatever new proposal comes out of the talks will just be a “tweaked” version of the same sell-out.
At Merseyrail and Northern, Aslef is at the moment sitting out the fight when they could play a decisive role in the defeat of DOO by ensuring that no trains can run at all, even with managers and scabs available to operate the doors. Despite the statement released by the leaderships of both unions at the back end of 2015, it is clear that the two unions are not currently working together to fight on the issue of DOO. To have the best chance of winning this fight, and winning it comprehensively, this needs to change.
The Aslef leadership has clearly done immense damage to the prospects for genuine unity by its recent actions on Southern, but RMT must share blame for the lack of proper communication and co-ordination before and since. In the absence of a single industrial union for the rail industry, the two unions should act as one on this issue, for the sake of rail workers and passengers alike, and look to build and spread the fight against DOO.
The push to introduce this method of operation comes primarily from the Tory government and is really about smashing organised labour in the rail industry, one of the last strongholds of trade unionism in the UK.
Attempts to introduce driver-only trains are at various stages across huge parts of the network. Plans are afoot to introduce it at London Midland, Great Western Railway and Virgin East Coast, for example. A near-national rail strike could and should be built in response, with the potential to inflict a huge defeat on the government and take a major step forward for the whole labour movement.
Outsourced cleaners demand parity
Cleaners at the London School of Economics have voted by 100% to strike for parity of pay and conditions with other LSE workers.
Workers, organised by the United Voices of the World, will strike on 15 and 16 March. LSE outsources its cleaning contract to Noonan, who employ cleaners on inferior terms and conditions to those that directly-employed LSE staff receive. Cleaners receive only statutory sick pay, statutory maternity/paternity/adoption pay, and 28 days paid annual leave compared to 40 for in-house staff, 1% pension contribution from their employer compared to 16% for in-house staff.
The cleaners are also demanding a reduction in excessive workloads, and an end to harsh and discriminatory disciplinary procedures. On Friday 24 February UVW called a protest in support of a Noonan worker who had been the victim of homophobic bullying at work which was dismissed by bosses.
Noonan bosses dismissed the claims by saying that ″it′s in their culture″ — managing both to dismiss homophobia and to be racist!
Picket lines will be organised for the strikes on 15 and 16 March and workers welcome supporters to join them.
• Donate to the strike fund and find out more here
King’s cleaners win concessions
Unison members at King’s College London, employed by outsourcer Servest, have agreed to suspend their dispute after an offer from the company. Servest agreed to employ at least 10 new workers to deal with workload issues, as well as review after four weeks to see if more staff are needed in consultation with Unison. Unison remains opposed to restructuring and redundancy and will restart the dispute if Servest does not hold to its agreement in the four week period. Students at King’s have set up a petition to make support of the cleaners’ struggle official student union policy.
Fifth cinema joins strike
Workers at the Duke of York cinema in Brighton run by Picturehouse have voted by 100% to join strikes already involving workers at four Picturehouse cinemas. Workers at the five sites will strike
on Saturday 18 March, with workers from Brighton striking for the first time.
Workers from the four London sites (Ritzy in Brixton, Hackney, Crouch End and Central) will travel down to Brighton to join Duke of York workers for a protest on the day. Workers at the four London sites had originally agreed to call a strike for Wednesday 8 March, to coincide with International Women′s Day and highlight the demand for company maternity pay. However the BECTU section of Prospect, the workers′ union, called off the strike.
An Early Day Motion has been tabled in Parliament by Helen Hayes, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood. The Ritzy cinema in Brixton is in Hayes′ constituency. The EDM condemns Picturehouse, and its parent company Cineworld, for not paying the living wage as set by the Living Wage Foundation. It has so far been signed by 25 MPs. A boycott has now been called for Picturehouse and Cineworld cinemas.
Cabin crew strike again
British Airways Mixed Fleet cabin crew based at Heathrow airport struck from Friday 3 March to Thursday 9 March. As previously reported in Solidarity, Mixed Fleet cabin crew are fighting low wages which Unite their union describes as being poverty wages.
Unite estimates that on average mixed fleet cabin crew earn £16,000 a year, including allowances. During the dispute British Airways have lived up to their reputation for bullying and have threatened to strip striking cabin crew of their 2016 and 2017 bonuses, incentive payments, and staff travel.
On Friday 3 March, strikers travelled to Brighton to protest at the i360 seafront tourist attraction, which is sponsored by British Airways. Workers on the i360 are paid at least the independent living wage and have a starting salary which is nearly £5,500 more than that of mixed fleet cabin crew.
Unite members from across the country have started a food bank to support the striking mixed fleet crew.
• Donate to the strike fund and send messages of support here
Fujitsu job cuts strike
Workers at Fujitsu sites across the country struck on Friday 28 February in an ongoing dispute over job cuts, union recognition, pay and pensions.
Workers struck at sites in Warrington, Basingstoke, Belfast, Birmingham, Blackpool, Bracknell, Crewe, London, Manchester, Stevenage and Wakefield. The London picket coincided with senior management holding a meeting about the job cuts. A further strike will happen on Friday 17 March, the last working day before bosses propose to make the first redundancy dismissals on Monday 20 March.
• Send a message of support by email or to Unite the Union, Fujitsu MAN34, Central Park, Northampton Road, Manchester, M40 5BP
• Donations payable to “Manchester IT Workers Group” can be sent c/o John Wood, 50 Brooklyn Street, Crewe, CW2 7JF. Or transfer online to Account: 00980539, Sort Code: 30-91-48 and email with details.
• Follow and promote the campaign on social media using #FujitsuFightback.