Dreaming of a Hot Christmas...

Submitted by AWL on 14 December, 2016 - 9:42 Author: Darren Bedford

A small wave of strikes is developing in a variety of industries and workplaces. Although not quite perhaps on the scale of the Autonno Caldo, the "Hot Autumn" of Italian factory worker militancy in 1969, these strikes could make for a "hotter" Christmas than Britain has experienced for some time.

Rail workers

Drivers and guards on the Southern rail franchise are continuing an increasingly bitter struggle to prevent the imposition of "Driver Only Operation". A strike on 14 December led to the cancellation of all Southern services from London Victoria. Further strikes are planned for 16 and 19-20 December, 31 December-2 January, and 9-14 January.

Cleaners employed by Servest, working on the Great Western Railway, will strike from 16-17 and 23-24 December, in a dispute demanding increased pay, and parity with directly-employed staff. GWR cleaners voted by a 98% majority for strikes on a 58% turnout.

Catering workers on Virgin Trains East Coast are striking from 14-15 December, and 20-22 December. An RMT statement said:

"The £30 million catering supply contract to Virgin West Coast Train services is held by the giant German owned DHL Global group after it was outsourced by Virgin in 2014. The contract covers supplies of pre-prepared food, sandwiches, drinks, confectionary, crockery and cutlery for the delivery of on board catering services right the way through from London to Glasgow.

"DHL have offered an increase of 2.2% effective from 1st July 2016 instead of the original anniversary date of 1st April. However, this will only be applied to members who did not receive any increase in line with the National Minimum Wage (£7.20) made effective in April 2016 – effectively trying to drag back the wages of the low paid to the absolute lowest of poverty thresholds.

"DHL’s proposal does nothing to meet our aspirations of a decent pay offer and does not match that which has already been accepted by directly employed Virgin West Coast staff."

London Underground station staff are currently imposing an overtime ban in a dispute against job cuts, which could escalate to strikes. Drivers on the Hammersmith and City and District Lines will return a ballot for strikes over Christmas and New Years' working on 15 December. A ballot of Central Line drivers in two depots to win the reinstatement of unfairly sacked colleague Dean Storey is returned the same day.

In August, the rank-and-file blog Off The Rails, published by Workers' Liberty, has called for rail unions to coordinate local fights against Driver Only Operation into a national dispute, backed up by a labour-movement campaign for public ownership.

Picturehouse Cinema workers

Workers at Picturehouse Cinemas in Brixton and Hackney have been striking to win the London living wage. They are set to be joined by workers at a third Picturehouse site, Picturehouse Central on Piccadilly, where Picturehouse bosses have rejected workers' claim for living wages and recognition of their union, Bectu.

Workers at the Hackney Picturehouse plan strikes from 15-19 December, aimed at disrupting the launch of the new Star Wars film.

For more details, including how you can donate to the strike fund, see the Ritzy Living Wage and Hackney Living Wage Facebook pages.

Post Office workers

3,000 workers at 300 Post Office branches across Britain plan strikes across five days from 19 December. Counter staff will strike on 19, 20, and 24 December, with other workers striking on 22-23 December.

The dispute is part of a long-running battle by the Communication Workers' Union to resist job cuts threatened by the Post Office's plan to downsize 61 branches into concessions in WH Smith stores. The CWU says the move, effectively a privatisation, threatens 400 jobs. The Post Office also plans cuts to its workers' pensions.

British Airways workers

British Airways cabin crew workers have voted, by a four-to-one margin on a 60% turnout, for strikes to win pay increases.

Unite says workers recruited since 2010/2011, when a series of strikes failed to stop the imposition of a two-tier workforce, are being paid well below the rates at which their jobs were advertised.

Initial job ads for "Mixed Fleet" workers promised wages of between £21,000 and £25,000, but in reality workers have started on £12,000, plus a £3/hour "flying pay" top-up. BA has offered a 2% increase, which workers have rejected. Customer service managers are also demanding collective bargaining rights.

Unite says around half of its members in "Mixed Fleet" jobs have to take on second jobs to make ends meet, with 84% saying they have experienced stress and depression since joining BA.

BA, and its parent company IAG, posted €1.4 billion profits last year, up 64% on previous figures. BA boss Willie Walsh, a notorious union buster, pocketed €8.8 million.

Unite has said it will call strikes from 21 December, but is yet to name specific dates.

Argos workers

Delivery drivers employed by logistics firm Wincanton on a contract from Argos had planned strikes from 20-22 December, in a dispute to win back pay amounting to an average of £700 per workers, but these have since been suspended.

Workers will now vote on a deal from Wincanton. If it is rejected, strikes could be reinstated.

Tangerine sweet factory workers

Workers at confectionery factory Tangerine, in York, are set to strike again, after members of the GMB union rejected a 1.25% pay offer.

The workers, who produce sweets including mint humbugs and sherbet lemons, struck on 23 and 30 November and 1 December. The GMB says the company's proposed pay deal doesn't cover recent increases in the cost of living. GMB organiser Ben Kirkham said that Tangerine would now "have to deal with further strikes in the run up to Christmas, their busiest time of year."

Give the gift of solidarity this Christmas: donate to the Picturehouse workers' strike fund.

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