Health & safety

As lockdown eases, fight for workers' control

With the new stage of lockdown-easing, from 12 April, comes more agitation from the Tory right to lift restrictions more speedily. The question is: who will decide? And on what terms? Scientist Ian Mackay, author of the “Swiss cheese model” of virus control, writes that in the recurrence of Covid waves across the world: “A driving pressure was to get back to making profits and to restore individual freedoms at the expense of societal safety... Wherever restrictions were dropped while lots of cases still circulated... a surge was sure to follow. It usually only took a holiday or a seasonal...

DVLA strike solid

The strike at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) complex in Swansea, from 6-9 April, was very solid. Workers there were striking against having been forced to come into the physical workplace in far greater numbers than necessary. Around 2,000 workers have been made to come in, when during the first lockdown, numbers in the low hundreds were required on site to perform essential and emergency work only. We estimate that, of that 2,000 or so, around 1,400 joined the strike, so that’s a significant number and one that’s had a big impact on the work there. I think the employer was...

Now win full isolation pay for all

For the past few months the Safe and Equal campaign (S&E) has been working with Labour MPs to demand full sick and isolation pay for all frontline Test Centre workers. On 29 March 2021, S&E and Emily Thornberry MP got a letter from Sodexo HR Director Greg Austin: “Since receiving your enquiry I am pleased to report that the DHSC have approved the payment of occupational sick pay for periods of self-isolation for all workers at Test Centres. This commitment has also been included in the tender specification for the new Test Centre contract which commences in July 2021.” Previously, G4S and...

DVLA strikes 6-9 April

Workers at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) complex in Swansea will strike from 6-9 April. It’s clear from last-ditch talks that the bosses aren’t budging, so strikes will go ahead. The issue is workplace safety; far more workers than strictly necessary have been made to come into the workplace, leading to numerous Covid outbreaks. Our demand is for all workers to be sent home, and for an emergency working arrangement, overseen by union reps, to be agreed which ensures only emergency and essential work is done on-site. Longer term we want investment in equipment and software to...

Victory for Test Centre workers

Cross-posted from Safe and Equal, http://safeandequal.org For the past few months Safe and Equal has been working with Labour MPs to demand full sick and isolation pay for all frontline Test Centre workers. Yesterday [29 March 2021], we received a letter from Sodexo confirming that Test Centre workers will now be entitled to full isolation pay and that this provision will be written into new Test Centre contracts when the government puts them out to tender in July 2021. In a letter to Safe and Equal and Emily Thornberry MP, Sodexo HR Director Greg Austin writes: “Since receiving your enquiry I...

"We need to develop workers' capacities"

Henry Chango Lopez (pictured above, centre, before the pandemic) is the new General Secretary of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB). He spoke to Sacha Ismail. In recent years the IWGB has had a high profile in part because it’s grown quite a lot when trade unions in general have stagnated. Why is that? It’s really just about the situation of workers at the moment, the way the economy is, outsourcing, precarious employment – these are problems that many unions have not tackled. Unions do not effectively organise workers in these situations. The problem is so wide...

School cleaners' strike wins

Cleaners in the United Voices of the World union (UVW) at La Retraite Catholic girls’ school in south west London have secured a 24% wage increase, full contractual sick pay, and the repayment of withheld wages, just three days into a planned 40-day strike.

The strike, which involved cleaners...

Metroline bus ballot closes 9 April

A ballot of over 4,000 London bus drivers working for Metroline is continuing. The vote is due to close on 9 April. The dispute centres on the company’s plan to impose a remote sign-on system, which the workers’ union, Unite, says could lead to pay cuts and decreased safety. Meanwhile, drivers working for London United, a subsidiary of French firm RATP, struck again on 17 March, in a dispute over pay and conditions. However, planned strikes of drivers at Quality Line and London Sovereign, also RATP subsidiaries, were called off as Unite began a referendum on the employers’ latest offer. Should...

Diary of a paramedic: "Proceed with caution"

I’m working with a new paramedic. After we check our equipment we sit and have a quick cup of tea. We talk about the pay offer, the miserable 1%. He says he can’t believe that the government is using the crisis to pit those that have suffered most financially against us instead of recognising our work. Our conversation is interrupted by our first call. We go out and get on with the job. On our break there’s, unusually, a few other crews on station. One of them is writing a report about a violent incident they’ve been to, and we get into a discussion about everyone’s experiences. A few people...

John Moloney's column: DVLA action from 6 April

The union has been in last-ditch talks with bosses in the DVLA [Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency] about the Swansea complex, where our members have voted for strikes over safety concerns. Vastly more workers than necessary have been compelled to come into work, and there have been multiple Covid outbreaks. We held a members’ meeting on 18 March, and there is determination to go ahead with action. Many activists are pushing for strikes to be called as soon as possible. Therefore the union is going for strike action from 6 to 9 April 2021 and action short of strike action from 10 April 2021...

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