Solidarity 233, 8 February 2012

Teachers must plan rolling campaign on pensions

On 2 February over 100 National Union of Teachers branch secretaries met for a national briefing at the union’s HQ in London to discuss the next steps in the pension campaign and to consider resistance to new performance management and capability arrangements which are likely to increase workload and monitoring.

The main business was pensions. The mood was as positive and determined as could be expected given the outright surrender by many unions on public sector pensions, and the lack of action since 30 November by others.

Syria moves closer to civil war

The Syrian army has used mortars, tanks and heavy machine guns against Khaldiyeh, an area of Homs, in an effort to re-take an area which had become a no-go zone.

The state killed nearly 200 people on Friday 3 February as tank shells destroyed private homes. The bombardment of Homs continued over the weekend, killing many more.

Barak threatens to bomb Iran

On Thursday 2 February, Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak threatened an Israeli missile attack on Iran soon.

He said he believed that Iran’s nuclear programme would soon be so far shifted to heavily-shielded underground centres that bombing could not hinder it.

Washington Post journalist David Ignatius followed up by reporting that US defence secretary Leon Panetta believed there was a “strong likelihood” that Israel would attack Iran’s nuclear program within the next six months — as early as April.

Unite and PCS to merge?

Over the past months there have been persistent rumours of a merger between the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) and Unite, Britain’s largest union.

Tanker drivers extend strike

Fuel tanker drivers employed by logistics company Wincanton supplying Jet petrol station forecourts across the UK will extend their strike action to Thursday 16 February.

Depots at Immingham (near Hull), Kingsbury (in Staffordshire) and Stockton-on-Tees will be picketed as workers take on their bosses over a number of terms and conditions grievances.

Journalists set for strike action

National Union of Journalists members at Thompson Reuters will strike for two days from Monday 9 February after they voted by 83% for action in a dispute over pay.

Bosses have offered a below-inflation increase of 1.75%. NUJ deputy general secretary Barry Fitzpatrick said: “The management is proposing a below-inflation pay deal, while holding back money for a merit scheme. This is just not on.”

More action at Balfour Beatty

Unite members working for Balfour Beatty Engineering Services have voted by a 66% majority to take strike action to stop their bosses unilaterally imposing a new agreement for electrical and mechanical construction workers’ terms and conditions.

They also voted by a 70% majority to take action short of a strike.

BBES workers last voted to strike in December but were forced to take action unofficially after Unite caved in the face of BBES legal threats.

BBES bosses will again challenge the ballot result and will seek a High Court injunction on Tuesday 7 February.

UCU suspends pension action in older universities

The conference on 31 January of representatives of University and College Union (UCU) branches in “pre-92” (“redbrick”) institutions voted 66 to 41 in favour of suspending industrial action over the Universities Superannuation Scheme.

USS is the pensions scheme for academic workers in pre-92 institutions.

Michael MacNeil — the National Head of Higher Education — gave a lengthy background to the dispute, slanted towards the negotiators’ recommendations.

PCS: another pensions strike in late March?

It looks as if the civil service union PCS may move for a further strike on public-sector pensions around 28 March.

Since PCS was the only big union to reject the Government’s December “final offer” on pensions clearly and immediately, a continuing campaign for public-sector pensions hangs heavily on PCS initiative.

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