Pat Hutton, GMB rep at Queen Elizabeth Hospital where workers have been on strike to win the same terms and conditions as in-house workers, spoke to Solidarity.
"Since our last strikes at Christmas, GMB has been going round hospitals where they recruited scabs — in Liverpool, Coventry, Westminster, Chelsea, Kingston — organising to stop it.
A lot of the scabs were casuals and didn’t know what was going on. With the help of GMB in those places we put a stop to it.
Here at QEH we’ve been pushing on with recruiting new members — we have over 250 now — and geeing people up.
We had a plan for the whole week of strikes this week. Picket lines 6am to 6pm Monday. A demonstration in Woolwich Tuesday. Lobbying Parliament Wednesday, and a protest at the ISS head office in Woking on Thursday, before more picketing Friday.
Then last Wednesday ISS contacted our regional secretary asking for urgent talks on the Thursday, and we got an offer, so we suspended the strikes.
What they offered will take Band 1, which is porters, domestics and ward hostesses, up from £7.10 to £7.72. Band 2, security and switchboard workers, up from £7.32 to £9.10. Before they were offering Band 1 21p and Band 2 nothing. Next April Band 1 should get another 14p on top.
We didn’t get the increase in unsocial hours pay we were demanding, and we didn’t get London weighting for duty managers like me. But overall I think it’s a pretty good deal.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be meeting and balloting. We’re recommending a yes vote.
The GMB is stronger at QEH now. ISS know that we are more organised, and can’t go round bullying us any more. Members have got a feeling of solidarity, after the experience of coming out together, particular since we’ve won concessions.
I want to say that we couldn’t have done this without our GMB full-timer, who has been great. I’ve been in the union 18 years, and she’s pretty unusual. I thought it might be because she’s a new generation, but actually she’s more old school. This is trade unionism where workers don’t mess around, like the miners.
If workers at Lewisham hospital, which is the other side of our trust, want a similar campaign, we can help and would be happy to. We’re in touch with Unite, which is stronger over there.
Beyond that what I’d like to see is a national campaign from the GMB and the other unions to bring all NHS workers and services back in house, across the country."
National Gallery strikes continue
Staff at the National Gallery started their next seven days of strikes on 14-15 March.
The strikes will continue between the 24-28 March in an ongoing dispute over the outsourcing of 400 gallery assistant jobs to security firm CIS. When given an exhibition to run as a trial last year, CIS, removed gallery assistants chairs and intimidated staff.
CIS has contracts in many industries, but not art galleries. Staff fear they could be transferred to other workplaces or have their terms and conditions undermined by CIS employing any new staff on worse conditions.
In February, union PCS submitted formal proposals to National Gallery director Nicholas Penny and chair of trustees Mark Getty for changes to rotas and flexible working that would avoid the planned sell-off of all the gallery’s visitor services. PCS says gallery bosses have refused to allow their proposal to form part of ongoing negotiations.
PCS rep at the gallery, Candy Udwin, was suspended on the eve of the first strike and has not yet been reinstated.
On Saturday 14 March strikers and supporters took part in a conference about “the future of arts and culture”, as well as organising direct action outside the gallery.
Strikers are asking for support:
• Sign the petition:
• Sign the petition for Candy’s reinstatement
• Join picket lines between 24-28 March from 7am
• Ask your MP to support Early Day Motions 300 and 796
• More information here
Essex FBU extend strike to nine days
999 fire control operators in Essex have extended their strike to nine days.
Originally a 72 hour strike over an imposed radically different shift system the strike was extended to eight days before another day was announced on 11 March. The strike will now finish at 7 am on 19 March.
The operators’ union, the FBU, says the new shift pattern will see many being forced to work 12 hour long shifts resulting many workers with caring responsibilities in the majority women workforce being forced to leave their job or reduce their hours.
Emma Turnidge, an Essex control operator and FBU rep, said the extension demonstrated the strength of feeling between members: “Control operators in Essex cannot accept the new shift patterns which have forced a number of professionals out of work, and led to many of us having to reduce our hours or job share.
“No one here wants to strike, but the local fire service have left us no option. We will lose more than a week’s wages but the working shift pattern is untenable and we are united in our stand against it.”
Messages of support to Essex FBU
Defend all jobs on the Tube
Reps and activists from Tube union RMT met on 16 March to discuss the next steps in the union’s fightback against the effects of London Underground’s plan for £4.2 billion austerity cuts.
Supporters of the Tubeworker bulletin argued for strikes to be reinstated as soon as possible, but some reps and officials were more cautious.
Anger amongst many Tube workers is running high at the moment, with proposed new rosters for station staff set to wreck work/life balance. An insulting 0.5% pay offer from the company has added to discontent.
RMT has a live ballot mandate in its “Every Job Matters” dispute, having struck twice in 2014 and imposed overtime bans throughout last year, most recently in September-October. To strike over pay, the union would have to re-ballot.
Tubeworker argues that the “Every Job Matters” campaign must be seen as a fight against the effects of the cuts on jobs in all grades, rather than a narrower campaign against station staffing cuts, or against roster changes.
Re-emphasising the initial all-grades focus of the dispute, and naming strikes as soon as possible, is the only way to reinvigorate the campaign.
No Academies in Lewisham
After their sucessful strike against academisation at four schools in Lewisham, Lewisham NUT is organising a demonstration on Saturday 21 March.
The demonstration meets at 12 noon at the clock tower on Lewisham High Street and will march to Hilly Fields school, one of those faced with academisation.
Activists have also launched a new petition calling for a parental ballot on whether Prendergast Federation schools (three of the four schools facing academisation) should convert to academy status.
• Join Workers’ Liberty members on the march, meet 11 am at Lewisham DLR
80% of jobs to be outsourced in Barnet
Unison is balloting local government members in the London borough of Barnet over plans to outsource up to 80% of jobs.
On the 3 March Barnet council approved a plan to explore “other options” for delivering council services including: Libraries, Adult and Communities services, Children’s centres, Street Scene services and Education, Skills and School meals service.
Unison claims this will be up to 80% of jobs being outsourced as Barnet Council has rejected the “in-house” option in 11 out of 12 commissioning bids in the last three years.
The strike ballot will run from 18 March to 8 April.