Industrial news

Submitted by Anon on 18 June, 2003 - 1:02
  • Heathrow hit by a 48-hour strike
  • Vote yes! Strike for safety on the Tube!
  • Remote sourcing - No to job losses! Yes to international trade union links

Vote yes! Strike for safety on the Tube!

By a Tube worker

RMT is balloting all its members on London Underground for industrial action over safety. The union's demands are:

  • an immediate return to 24-hour inspection of all Tube track;
  • a return to a regime of immediate introduction of speed restrictions wherever track defects are discovered;
  • a guarantee that there will be no changes in these standards or any reduction in maintenance staff without union agreement;
  • all track, signalling and rolling-stock maintenance work to be carried out by qualified LUL employees.

Importantly, the ballot covers all RMT members working for a London Underground employer. Despite the fragmentation of the workforce under PPP, the union is trying to keep people together in a united campaign.

The union is asking members to vote twice: once for strike action, and again for industrial action short of strike action.

As well as strikes, RMT is considering other forms of action, including driving trains at cautionary speeds, shutting overcrowded stations, and not working on the track with traction current on. Such action can cover the various grades involved, as well as the various companies.

Ominously, though, the union tells us that "The actual form of action will be decided by the General Grades Committee [part of the National Executive] once the ballot result is in".

It is imperative that reps and activists from the Tube discuss and decide what action we want and then tell the GGC. We saw with the recent about-turn on our pay claim that the Executive will ignore the wishes of rank-and-file members if they have half a chance to do so.

There is, as yet, no sign of industrial action on safety from the other Tube unions.

Remote sourcing - No to job losses! Yes to international trade union links

By a CWU member

Last month HSBC announced that another 4,000 jobs will be lost in the UK and that much of any subsequent work will be moved to India.

There were also reports from the Amicus union that UK train enquiries could be answered in India.

This is more evidence of the recent trend for companies to transfer technical, financial and administrative work that can be done remotely to India.

"Remote sourcing", as it is called, is not a new management strategy but it is one that is increasingly made viable by improvements in technology, especially communications technology. Indeed telecoms firms themselves are some of the biggest users of remote sourcing.

BT has threatened to move workstreams that currently cover 7,000 jobs to India, with the threat of tens of thousands more moving in the future.

The trade unions involved with this issue have differing approaches. The CWU is currently running a campaign with a pink elephant touring the threatened BT call centres. This campaign is based on the premiss that we are for "keeping UK jobs at home".

Whilst the campaign has been effective in terms of publicity and shaming BT, it is ineffective in giving a political answer to the problem of remote sourcing.

There is a possibility that industrial action could be called on this issue in the areas affected.

Among the other unions affected, both Connect and UNIFI have agreements to allow certain workstreams to be done in India, whereas the CWU will not agree to this.

There is due to be a DTI Select Committee on the issue in the coming months.

Maximum political pressure needs to be put on politicians to recognise the effect on jobs of this management strategy. And UK unions need to link up with unions in India in order to develop a global trade union answer to a global capitalist phenomenon.

Heathrow hit by a 48-hour strike

Hundreds of baggage handlers and check-in staff employed by Swissport at Heathrow went on strike this week.

The workers, members of the Transport and General Workers Union, staged a 48-hour walkout in a long-running dispute over pay and conditions, hitting up to 20 airlines who use their services. Swissport is the second largest baggage handling operation at Heathrow. Air China, Cyprus Airways, Kuwait Airways and Middle East Airlines were worst affected.

  • More details from the T&G press office, 020 7611 2500.

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