Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 24 April, 2013 - 7:36

On Monday 22 April, 80 local residents and trade unionists attended a Fire Brigades Union (FBU) meeting to protest against the closure of Downham fire station in Lewisham, south east London.

The local campaign is being driven by the FBU, led by local rep Kelly Macmillan.

The meeting was addressed by local Labour MP Heidi Alexander and London Assembly members Darren Johnson (Green Party) and Len Duvall (Labour).

The Tories are aiming to make ÂŁ45 million in cuts to the fire service in London. They want to shut 12 of the 112 London fire stations, cut 520 firefighters, and 18 engines.

The cuts will mean nearly five million Londoners will face longer response times to emergency calls.

Bosses' awards targeted

Anti-blacklisting campaigners staged a protest outside a construction industry awards ceremony at a prestigious London hotel on 16 April.

The awards were being hosted by Kier Construction Ltd., one third of the BFK consortium (along with BAM Nuttall Ltd and Ferrovial Agroman) which runs construction work at the Crossrail sites in London. In September, BFK sacked 28 electricians after their shop stewards raised concerns about safety abuses at the Westbourne Park Crossrail site. Since that time, sacked steward Frank Morris and supporters have been holding daily pickets at the site, as well as direct actions at the flagship Crossrail site on Oxford Street in central London.

The 16 April protest stopped rush-hour traffic outside the Lancaster Hotel. On Thursday 18 April, campaigners targeted the National Building Awards at the Grosvenor Hotel on Park Lane, and on Friday 19 April the Westbourne Park picket succeeded in stopping some deliveries to the site.

Anti-blacklisting direct actions are increasingly winning official backing from union officialdom and Labour politicians — a testament to the hard work of the rank-and-file led Blacklist Support Group in bringing the issue to prominence and taking the fight to the blacklisters’ doorsteps.

Teachers strike against bullying

Teachers at Littlehampton Academy in Sussex struck on 17 April in the first of a series of planned strikes against management bullying.

The workers, who include members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) say excessive observation and inspections have led to the development of a micro-managerial culture that makes it impossible for teachers to do their job.

There is recent precedent for teachers’ strikes stopping micro-managing bosses in their tracks. The threat of strikes from NUT members at Bishop Challoner school in East London forced the headteacher to cancel a planned “mock Ofsted” inspection. There, the head is now victimising union reps in response. The school NUT group has voted in an indicative ballot for strikes.

Elsewhere, a planned strike at the Globe Academy in Southwark, south London, has been called off after the school (owned by the ARK chain which operates 18 schools around the UK) threatened legal action because of balloting irregularities.

Teachers face eight compulsory redundancies.

Birkbeck cleaners fight pay cut

Cleaners at Birkbeck, one of the constituent colleges of the University of London, face a 12.5% pay cut after management unilaterally announced a cut in their hours.

Trimming time off workers’ contracted hours is an increasingly common tactic for cleaning contractors looking to cut costs.

The cleaners’ employer, Ocean Contract Cleaning Ltd., propose to cut 15 minutes from the working day of every cleaner. Most cleaners work two hours a day, usually alongside similar length shifts elsewhere, so a 15 minute cut in a given shift amounts to a significant loss.

Although cleaners at the University of London won the “London Living Wage” (currently £8.55/hour) in 2012, many still face attacks such as this, as well as inequality in terms of sick pay, holidays, and pensions with directly-employed University of London staff. Ocean Contract Cleaning’s record as an employer speaks for itself; it did not pay the living wage to cleaners it employed at St. George’s Hospital in south London until an industrial campaign forced it to. Ocean cleaners at Guildhall also struck to win living wages in late 2010 before the contract was transferred to Sodexho.

Supporters of the Birkbeck cleaners have begun a petition to demand that university bosses pressure Ocean to reverse the cut.

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