Solidarity 218, 28 September 2011

Turmoil in civil service union

The ruling Left Unity faction in the civil service union PCS is in turmoil, with the Socialist Party (the main force in LU) withdrawing support from Jane Aitchison, union president in the union’s most important sector, the Department for Work and Pensions.

Aitchison, a long-time member of the SP, has resigned from it.

The SP has said nothing publicly about this. First reports inside the union were that the SP had turned against Aitchison because she and her partner Rob Williams (also an SP member, and a PCS Exec member) send their daughter to a private school.

SNP passes on Con-Dem cuts

The Scottish National Party (SNP) is passing on the Con-Dem cuts and throwing in a few of its own. Pay, pensions, jobs and services were all targeted for cuts in Finance Secretary John Swinney’s first Spending Review earlier this year.

Scotland’s local authority workers already faced a three-year pay freeze. Now, as a result of Swinney’s announcement, the pay of all public sector workers in Scotland is be frozen not only for this year but in 2012 as well.

If there is a pay rise in two years time (a big if), it will certainly be less than the rate of inflation.

Site workers gain confidence

Four hundred workers took part in a protest on Monday 26 September at the Lindsey Oil Refinery as the campaign against the plan by eight big contractors to cut pay for construction electricians continues.

The 400 included some workers from West Burton and Saltend who had taken wildcat strike action to join the protest.

Protests were also held at the Manchester Town Hall construction site and the Tyne Tunnel site in Newcastle (where the tunnel was briefly blockaded) on 22 September.

College workers strike in Glasgow

Unison members in Stow College in Glasgow are beginning a campaign of strike action this week against the imposition of a pay freeze.

The union’s 90 members in the college include learning support workers, administration and clerical workers, caretakers, cleaners and catering workers. Many are low paid, with some earning only slightly more the national minimum wage.

Unions hold firm on pensions strike

Local government unions have vowed to continue building for strike action on 30 November despite new proposals from the Local Government Association intended to soften the blow of Tory pensions reforms.

The plan, which the LGA has presented to the Department for Communities and Local Government, would freeze the proposed increase in employee contributions for two years and provide greater protection for the lower-paid. The scheme also includes an option for workers unable or unwilling to increase their contribution to take a cut in their pension benefits instead.

University workers to strike

Academic workers at 67 of the UK’s biggest universities have voted for a “sustained campaign of industrial action” to resist changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS, the pensions scheme for workers in “traditional” — i.e. pre-1992 — universities).

Bosses want to increase employee contributions, reduce overall pension benefits for new starters and workers made redundant and remove inflation-proofing.

Tube: no sell-off for drivers

London Underground management are attempting to ride roughshod over tube drivers’ terms and conditions as they seek to impose a new working agreement for the London 2012 Olympics.

Council strikes make their mark

Council services all over Shropshire were closed on Thursday 22 September as over 1,000 local government workers struck against the council’s cuts plans, which include a proposed pay cut of 5.4%. 500 workers attended a rally at Shirehall in Shrewsbury.

BAE job cuts: workers need their own plan

Arms industry behemoth British Aerospace Engineering (BAE) has announced plans to axe 7.5% of its UK workforce with 3,000 job losses slated, mainly from sites in the north of England.

The BAE factory at Brough, near Hull, will lose 900 workers from a workforce of just 1,300.

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