On Tuesday the 13 January the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) branch of the PCS union voted by an overwhelming majority to call strikes over pay.
The ICO has been lagging behind civil service pay for some time, with members’ salaries a grade behind what the rest of the civil service receive.
This year’s pay offer was limited to a 3% rise for workers who have been in the job longer, and bumping newer workers up the pay scale. Whilst this allows management to bribe newer staff with superficially large increases in pay this is money they are contractually obliged to over time. It does nothing to address the wider disparity between the ICO and the rest of the civil service.
Meanwhile the Executive Team at the ICO recently granted themselves pay rises of up to 18% each. Perversely they have justified this on the grounds that the ICO has been historically underpaid compared to the rest of the civil service! Their pay rise was carried out in secret, with the union and other employees only finding out after the deal had been completed.
Disappointingly, despite initial talk of sustained strike action, the plans announced by the branch so far are only two days of strike action on 3-4 February followed by eight weeks of work-to-rule and overtime bans.
Two token days on strike followed by weeks of passive action will do little to draw in new members or encourage members disillusioned by the union’s ineffectual response to years of Tory attacks on public sector pay and conditions.
Where's the money ISS?
Outsourced workers at Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in Woolwich South London have learned that contractor ISS has been given enough money by the NHS to pay them full NHS wages — but still isn’t paying!
Workers struck several times in a dispute about the two-tier workforce and are planning more strikes.
Documents obtained by GMB union show that ISS has been awarded the contract for another five years, but with the addition of over £1 million to give full NHS agenda for change terms and conditions to ISS employed staff. Yet ISS has not yet passed this on to workers.
GMB will be holding a protest at the NHS trust board meeting, QEH Conference Centre, 10 February at 9am. They also ask for members of the public to submit questions to the board and call for an investigation into where the money has gone.
Strikes against academisation
Lewisham National Union of Teachers (NUT) branch are balloting members in five secondary schools about strikes to prevent the schools being turned in to academies.
The NUT has written to the governors of the schools seeking assurances that they will not be seeking academisation. This follows indicative ballots where each schools’ members voted by at least 95% in favour of strikes to prevent their schools becoming academies. If successful these will be the first strikes against academisation to have occurred before the schools have started the process of becoming academies.
Sedgehill, the school which is furthest along with their academisation, has been placed under an Interim Executive Board. However, pressure from children, parents and staff at the school has meant that Bethnal Green Academy, which the council had been lining up to take over the school, has pulled out of the deal.
It shows that our pressure can make a difference. However there is a big fight ahead of us.
NUT left stakes out its ground
Workers’ Liberty member Patrick Murphy received 15% of the vote in the Deputy General Secretary election in the National Union of Teachers (NUT).
Incumbent Kevin Courtney won with 61% of the vote and right-winger Ian Grayson received 23%.
The low turn out of 10% can be partially explained by the poor timing of the election, straight after the Christmas break. Such timing makes a left-wing challenge to an incumbent difficult. In these circumstances the vote means the rallying of a significant constituency within the union round a clear alternative to the leadership, and to the “old left” represented by Kevin Courtney.
Teachers who campaigned or voted for Patrick have a practical task ahead of them.
We will work with Patrick and others in the Local Associations National Action Campaign to transform the union on the ground to be able to fight for the demands that Patrick put forward in his campaign.
Lambeth College deal
Workers at Lambeth College have voted to accept a new offer they received on Wednesday 21 January.
The new offer means existing workers will not have new contracts, but new staff at the college will be given the new contracts. The offer also retreats from attacks on sick pay. It is clear management would not have retreated without the strikes, but the offer sets up a two-tier workforce for the future.
Workers have been in dispute over contractual changes since April, totalling 42 strike days. The workers, who are University and College Union members, have accused the union of not giving the dispute its full support.
No to outsourcing at National Gallery
Workers at the National Gallery, London, have voted for strikes against the privatisation.
Workers, members of the union PCS, voted 94% in favour of strikes on a 62% turnout.
Gallery bosses plan to outsource 400 staff, including guards and visitor assistances.
CIS, the company that will employ the staff once outsourced, has contracts in many industries, meaning that staff could be transferred to other workplaces.
PCS also argues that TUPE protections only protect existing staff, and new staff can be employed on worse terms and conditions.
In The Guardian on 20 January, Polly Toynbee revealed how CIS removed chairs used by gallery guards when bought in to run one current exhibition.
PCS says the gallery has also reneged on a previous agreement to pay the London living wage.
Workers are now deciding dates for strikes.
• Sign the petition against privatisation here