Health & safety

Hong Kong: “Resist tyranny, join a union”

Published on: Wed, 12/02/2020 - 12:28

Chen Ying

A notable feature so far of the eight-month political protest in Hong Kong has been the absence of industrial action. However, the five day strike by health workers at the start of February promises to dramatically change that perception.

The strike was not about wages or job cuts. At first glance it appeared to be xenophobic, as its main demand was shutting Hong Kong’s borders with China to keep out carriers of the new coronavirus from the mainland.

Strikers however saw themselves as trying to protect their working conditions and to save Hong Kong and its under-resourced health service from

Industrial news in brief

Published on: Wed, 29/01/2020 - 08:33

Ollie Moore and Darren Bedford

Although the action is yet to be announced, the next round of the university and college union (UCU) dispute appears set for the second half of February.

Where strike ballots exist, they are either related to action defending the USS pension scheme, or over casualisation, pay, workloads and equalities (the “four fights”), however in most universities live ballots exist for both disputes simultaneously. A further 37 branches are currently being re-balloted, which alongside the live 98, would significantly enhance the strike’s impact, which in November and December saw thousands of UCU members

Industrial news in brief

Published on: Wed, 08/01/2020 - 09:01

Ollie Moore

Rail union RMT has begun re-balloting its members on South Western Railway (SWR) for further industrial action to defend the role of the guard. SWR guards concluded a month-long strike on 1 January, and are now re-balloting as the six-month mandate of their current ballot, stipulated by anti-trade union legislation, has now expired.

The new ballot closes on 23 January. If it returns a majority and meets the required thresholds, SWR guards could take further action. No direct negotiations have been held between SWR and RMT since November.

Elsewhere, RMT members on the Tyne and Wear Metro struck

Diary of an engineer: cable routes and changing rooms

Published on: Wed, 04/12/2019 - 16:15

Emma Rickman

I’ve been working with the electrical team routing cables through the plant. Cables need to be kept as dry, clean and secure as possible, following logical routes. I’ve learned that they are often in filthy and inaccessible places.

The control room computers have been on the blip; the signals from the PLCs (portable logic controllers), which communicate with all the plant’s instruments, have been switching themselves off and on at random. After a process of elimination, the ‘tricians A and J decide to replace the cables between the PCs and the PLCs.

First, A and J plan the route. The control

Don't fall off!

Published on: Wed, 06/11/2019 - 08:27

Emma Rickman

I’m in the Control Room with two older operators, ‘N’ and ‘V’, an electrical engineer ‘M’, an older mechanical fitter ‘I’, and an ops assistant, ‘MC’. N is a generally serious and capable shift leader who rides motorbikes. V is a high-voltage electrical engineer sometimes called “Colonel” because his beard is very like the KFC logo. V begins:

“When I was an apprentice, I used to get punched all the time! But you can’t do that now — you’re not allowed to.”

“No, you can’t.” I reply “And that’s a good thing.”

“Look I used to work in a massive steelworks — yeah?” V looks me in the eye the way he

Strikes at Virgin, West Midlands, South Western Railway

Published on: Wed, 06/11/2019 - 07:39

Ollie Moore and Jay Dawkey

Rail union RMT has called strikes on Virgin Trains, West Midlands Trains, and South Western Railway (SWR).

On the latter, the union has named a calendar of strikes throughout November and December, which will see walkouts on 16, 23, and 30 November, and 7, 14, 21, and 28 December. West Midlands Trains is the latest Train Operating Company to see its workers plan industrial action over the imposition of Driver Only Operation (DOO).

On Virgin Trains, train managers, a grade of customer-facing train crew, on the West Coast franchise will strike on 19 November to demand the reinstatement of an

Diary of an engineer: Winter Wonderland

Published on: Wed, 23/10/2019 - 08:46

Emma Rickman

Last week there were two lime leaks at our Combined Heat and Power plant. A problem – yet to be identified – caused the Ventura to blow instead of suck, and the harsh white powder covered the plant.

Operators needed full face-masks and huge torches to get through the thick grey clouds on every level, and we lost half of the lime supply.

Lime is highly alkaline, absorbent, and turns hard as rock when mixed with water (like concrete). On the plant lime is used to absorb the pollutants in the gases emitted by the furnace, so it’s critical for preventing toxic waste. Its also eats through pumps,

Industrial news in brief

Published on: Wed, 23/10/2019 - 07:41

Charlie George and Tom Saff

USDAW, the shopworkers union, is facing a financial shortfall due to large numbers of its members being made redundant.

This is particularly felt at Tesco, which is the largest employer for the union’s members, but also where the union has refused to put up any resistance to the loss of around 9,000 jobs this last year.

Instead of launching a massive recruitment campaign or fighting back against the bosses, the union is instead considering getting rid of the part-time rate for new members, at its next annual conference, presumably a prelude to getting rid of it all together.

This would double

“Twenty additional colleagues”?

Published on: Wed, 09/10/2019 - 08:50

Ollie Moore

London Underground’s response to the successful ballot for action on the East End of the District Line over workplace violence has been to announce “20 additional colleagues”.

Good news, you might think. An acknowledgement that lone working and understaffing are the fundamental problems. But alas, the reality is not so encouraging.

These “colleagues” aren’t additional tube staff, but staff drafted in from Transport for London’s (TfL) Surface Transport department – workers who deal with taxi enforcement and revenue issues on buses. They are not trained or licensed to work on tube stations. They


Northern guards: put the action back on!

Published on: Wed, 02/10/2019 - 22:39

Word has it that Northern Rail management have come up with a spiffing new idea for undermining the role of guard, and seem to think that we may be daft enough not to see through it.

It goes like this. The train pulls in to the station. The driver opens the doors. The guards steps onto the platform. When the PTI is clear, the guard presses the buzzer to tell the driver that it is safe to close the doors. The driver closes the doors.

Of course, there is the small matter that the buzzer is not live while the doors are open. But in case they get a technical fix for that, the bigger question is: If the guard can press a buzzer to communicate with the driver, then why can't the guard press a button to close the doors?

The answer, of course, is that they can. So why would the company get the guard to press something to tell the driver to close the doors when they can just as easily have them press something to close the doors themselves? The only answer to that question is that their longer-term aim is to scrap the guard.

First, it will be the guard pressing a buzzer to tell the driver. Then it'll be in-cab CCTV meaning that no guard is needed. We can see where this is going, amd this plan is not acceptable.

We say 'Word is ...' because it has been hard to find out for certain what is going on. Discussions are taking place behind closed doors and above the heads even of our company council reps. RMT promised its guard members in July that it would give us an update by the end of September. That was frustrating enough, but it is now October and we still have no definite news.

If the union keeps on keeping us in the dark, it will find that our patience runs out. We have been fighting this dispute for a long time and we won't allow all the momentum to drain out of it.

It is high time for us to go back on strike, and not stop our action again until we have secured the future of the guard.


Submitted by Uncle Joe (not verified) on Mon, 28/10/2019 - 08:53

It's a fabrication to say Company and even local council level reps have not been involved.

Company council reps have been part of the negotiations on the method of work and local level reps attended consultations in July, one in Doncaster and one in Liverpool to be briefed and asked for feedback. All reps attending believed the proposed method of work was acceptable. Aside that, in true democratic fashion all members are now being asked about how they now want the direction of this dispute to go.

Typical Trot nonsense from the AWL, trying to tell the woring class what to think.

Submitted by Shelagh Hewitt (not verified) on Mon, 28/10/2019 - 12:45

Company council were not involved in the ACAS talks that led to this idea. From RMT there was Mick Cash, Micky Thompson and Steve Nott. I asked the question about who was involved at our branch meeting which was incidentally attended by our chair of company council, Billy Kimm. Steve Nott attended our next branch meeting and confirmed who was there. I notice you don’t actually print your name but I would like to know where you got your information from.

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