Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 30 September, 2015 - 11:55 Author: Gemma Short, Charlotte Zalens and Ollie Moore

Workers in Barnet will strike on 7 October in an ongoing fight against privatisation.

Social workers, coach escorts, drivers, occupational therapists, schools catering staff, education welfare officers, library workers, children centre workers, street cleaning and refuse workers will strike on 7 October as their services face outsourcing.

These workers are some of the only ones left directly employed by Barnet council after mass privatisation, as the “easycouncil” aims to reduce its directly employed staff to less than 300.

Barnet council has already privatised social care for adults with disabilities, housing options, parking services, revenues and benefits, IT services, HR and payroll, pensions, health and safety, finance, estates, property services, procurement service, environmental health, planning, building control, Hendon cemetery and crematorium, highways services, trading standards and licensing, legal services, registrars and nationality services, CCTV, the music trust, public health and mortuary services.

Barnet council has branded this final phase as becoming the “Commissioning Council” — they aim to become the first council to function only by comissioning privatised services.

Workers will be on picket lines at Barnet House from 7 am, Mill Hill Depit from 6 am, and East Finchley Library from 9am.

A rally will be held outside Barnet House at 12 and all are encouraged to attend and show support.

Recognise our union

Bectu members at the Royal Albert Hall have been left shocked by a management decision to ignore a majority staff vote in recognition of their union.

Staff members voted 117-109, with a turn out of 72%, for Bectu to be recognised as their union. Management have rejected the vote, claiming that: “The union does not have the support of the majority of the employees within the Hall.”

Bectu general secretary Gerry Morrissey said: “We never considered that the legitimate and democratic vote of Royal Albert Hall staff would be rejected by management.

“It should be clear that BECTU will do everything in its power, both industrially and politically, to ensure that the voice of staff, reflected in vote for BECTU recognition, is heard.”

Over 100 days on strike

Workers at the National Gallery are now on their 106th day of strikes in their dispute over outsourcing.

On their 100th strike day they held a rally outside the gallery and released 100 balloons. The last week has also seen workers have solidarity visits from NHS campaigners and Barnet Unison, as well as messages of support continuing to flood in from across the country.

On Friday 2 October Right to Strike activists will join the National Gallery picket line from 5 pm, and from 6.30 pm the picket line will host a “poetry on the picket line” event, all welcome.

Staff and students fight redundancies

UCU, Unite and Unison are fighting the announcement of hundreds of potential compulsory redundancies at the University of Manchester.

Over 250 workers at the university have been told that they are at risk of compulsory redundancy. The university is also trying to push through changes to its redeployment system which would see workers who have been waiting for redeployment for more than three months being made compulsory redundant.

Despite several large cross-union meetings, and the unions organising against the plans, the university is refusing to recognise the situation as an official dispute. The university has announced that the consultation process has ended whilst unions argue no meaningful consultation has taken place, and not sufficient equality impact assessments completed.

Manchester UCU said in a statement “we would welcome the involvement of ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) to help resolve this dispute, However, given the Senior Leadership Team’s intransigence thus far, we also need to prepare the ground for possible industrial action, which is becoming increasingly difficult under this Tory government’s anti-trade union legislation.”

UCU, Unite, Unison and student activists have organised a series of lunchtime protests up to and during the university's “welcome week” and will hold another lunchtime protest on Thursday 1 October.

UCU is currently conducting a survey of its members to test the appetite for industrial action against the redundancies.

Parking workers strike for better pay

Parking wardens employed by contractor NSL in the London borough of Camden struck for seven days from Wednesday 23 September.

Workers struck earlier in September in their dispute over pay and conditions. Unison submitted a pay claim to take basic pay from £8.92 (currently below the London Living Wage) to £10.50 an hour. After extensive negotiations NSL refused to agree to a compromise from Unison for £9.50 an hour. Unison members voted by 89% in favour of strikes to increase the pay offer.

Unison branch secretary George Binette said: “These workers face daily abuse, often overtly racist, and even when physically attacked on the job there is no guarantee that they will automatically get occupational sick pay.”. They rightly feel they deserve to earn more than the £9.27 NSL has offered, only 12p above the London Living Wage.

Pay rates vary dramatically on London’s outsourced parking contracts with some CEOs in the capital making below £8.00 an hour, while unionised NSL employees in Kensington & Chelsea get a minimum of £9.31 an hour, in Ealing they receive a basic rate of at least £9.73 and in Waltham Forest the hourly rate tops £11.00.

Workers mounted pickets throughout the strike, and held a protest outside Camden Town Hall on Thursday 24 September.

Over 1,000 steel jobs to go

1,700 jobs are at risk in Redcar, Teesside, as steelmaker SSI has announced it plans to close its plant.

Unions GMB, Unite and Community, have said they will do everything possible to save the jobs.

Unite national officer Harish Patel said: “This is devastating news for Redcar and the thousands of people who depend on the steelworks for their livelihoods. Steel is the lifeblood of the local economy and runs through the community’s veins.”

Unions have launched a petition to save the jobs.

Tube controllers strike

Service controllers on the Waterloo and City Line on London Underground struck from Monday 28 to Wednesday 30 September.

The workers are demanding re-grading, as they are paid £5,000 less than workers in similar jobs across the Tube.

The dispute has been ongoing for a number of years. A previous offer to settle it was rejected by the workers as it involved job cuts in other areas.

The strike made the front page of the Evening Standard, which was horrified that such a small number of workers could take such impacting action.

Despite the Standard's claims, the RMT's strike ballot for the dispute would have passed even the thresholds demanded by the Tories' proposed Trade Union Bill.

The line only serves Waterloo (the London terminal station for suburban services to Hampshire and Surrey) and Bank (the capital's financial centre), and the journey time if the line is not operating is at least doubled.

Union activists speculate that the social composition of the line's passenger base may have been a factor in the Standard's particular outrage.

• Find updates on the Tubeworker blog.

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