Cleaners on the Tyne and Wear Metro have struck for the twelfth time in their battle against poverty wages.
The strike took place on 24 January. Strikers lobbied a meeting of the Labour-led Integrated Transport Authority to demand that it forces the private company which runs the Tyne and Wear Metro (and which contracts its cleaning work out to another private firm, Churchills) to pay living wages.
Workers currently earn just £6.19, and also used the strike day to set up a soup kitchen in Newcastle city centre to highlight the poverty conditions into which low pay is forcing them.
Cleaners from across the transport industry will gather in Doncaster on 11 February for the Rail, Maritime, and Transport workers union (RMT)’s National Cleaners Forum.
The gathering will discuss ongoing coordination between cleaners’ struggles in different sectors and regions.
Brighton Greens bloc with Tories to attack workers
The Green Party leadership of Brighton and Hove Council has allied with the Tories to force through changes to council workers’ allowances that will lead to massive pay cuts for many low-paid staff.
The changes, which will primarily affect refuse workers, care workers, security guards, and lower-paid school workers, involve a complete overhaul of the allowance system. Council workers’ pay currently includes allowances for overtime and working outside of normal hours, which could be abolished under the new proposals.
Union representatives say that up to £4,000 of the £17,000 basic salary of a refuse worker is made up of allowance payments, and accuse the council of using the rationalisation of the allowance scheme to cut pay.
Unison and GMB members took direct action at a meeting of the council’s Policy and Resources Committee on Thursday 24 January.
The committee was considering proposals to grant the council’s Chief Executive and Finance Director the power to impose the cuts unilaterally if talks with the unions fail. This could lead to mass redundancies and reengagement on worse terms, a tactic public sector employers have used before to shortcut around negotiations with unions. Although Labour councillors opposed the measures, the Greens pushed them through with Tory support.
Council unions are considering strikes in response to the cuts threat. The changes would affect up to 6,000 of the council’s 8,000 staff.
Mid Yorks health workers begin strike
Health workers at Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust began a five-day strike against pay cuts and job losses on Monday 28 January.
120 workers picketed hospitals.
Trust bosses are seeking to make £24 million cuts, and their proposed changes could cost some workers £2,800.
Since the workers’ last strike, in November 2012, 300 staff have been issued with dismissal and reengagement notices.
Management has already begun to budge, with an offer to extend the period workers could remain on their current salary from a year to 18 months. But the workers want to beat back the cuts altogether.