Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 14 May, 2014 - 2:07

Workers at the Ritzy cinema in Brixton, London are balloting for more strikes. The campaign is gathering momentum but management are still refusing to negotiate on demands for the London Living Wage. Workers have struck three times in the last three weeks.

Students support Lambeth College strike

The dispute at Lambeth College between workers and management continues. UCU members at the college are fighting against reduced terms and conditions for new workers, as well as threats to the conditions of current staff.

Staff went on what was planned to be an indefinite strike on 1 May, but a court injunction prevented them from extending the action beyond one day.

Another day of strike action by Unison members had been planned for 22 May, but it has now been postponed after the college made an offer.

Management have offered more protection for existing staff, but have made no concessions for new workers. The union is recommending rejecting this new deal, since it would produce a two-tiered division in the workplace.

The deal would also be of little comfort to existing workers, since there is no guarantee of how long the protections would last.

Student activists have been involved in organising support for staff. On 13 May, members of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts talked to students at the Clapham site of the college, making the case for supporting the strikes.

Many students took an interest, prompting a flustered Paul Chambers, the Director of Learner Services give activists a piece of his mind. Apparently attempting to win over students was “despicable” and “contemptible”, since the strike would disrupt students’ exams.

NCAFC activists replied that if management were so concerned about effects of the strike on students, then why wouldn’t they agree to the workers’ demands? Chambers was unable to give a reply beyond repeating “despicable!” etc — presumably his “learner services” don’t include a thesaurus.

Workers and students will be rallying at Clapham Common, 12 pm, 17 May.

Church of Scotland workers on strike

Since 9 May employees of the Church of Scotland have been engaged in industrial action against management’s decision to impose an inadequate pay rise on the workforce.

An ongoing ban on overtime commenced 9 May. A one-hour strike is being staged on Wednesday 14 May to coincide with the royal opening of the Kirk’s General Assembly. A 48-hour strike will begin on Friday 16 May.

Negotiations about the 2014 pay rise began five months ago. Management’s line was that the Church of Scotland could afford only £80,000 for this year’s pay rise, but it was up to Unite, which has collective bargaining rights for the Kirk’s entire office workforce, to decide how that amount should be “divvied up”.

After consultations Unite proposed the lowest-paid should receive a rise of £350, anyone on £60,000 a year or more should have a rise of £250, and the “middle-paid” a rise of £300.

This was aimed at reducing, to a limited degree, the vast inequalities in pay among the 227-strong workforce. The lowest-paid are on around ÂŁ17,000 a year.

But in late March the Kirk’s Central Services Committee announced that a flat-rate increase of £300 was being imposed.

Faced with management’s abandonment of pay talks, its imposition of a pay rise, and its by-passing of collective bargaining machinery, over 70% of Unite members who participated in the ballot on industrial action backed taking action.

Last-minute ACAS talks collapsed last week when the Kirk’s representatives walked out of the talks.

“In all my years of representing workers’ interests I have rarely come across a management that is so contemptuous towards the welfare of its own employees, which is bitterly ironic given the context we are in here,” said Unite full-timer Gillian Mackay.

“Our members view their job as a vocation and deserve better. The church needs to start practising what it preaches.”

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