Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 15 October, 2014 - 11:41

Outsourced workers at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich employed by ISS struck for the first time in their campaign to win parity of pay, terms and conditions with directly employed NHS staff on October 8.

There were several lively GMB picket lines outside the hospital in Woolwich, South London.

About 50 workers were on the pickets at 9am, and picketing continued late into the evening.

GMB members were also out in force for the national NHS pay strike on 13 October.

The dispute is for the same pay rates, weekend enhancements and unsocial hours rates as the staff directly employed by the Trust.

The GMB members are employed as cleaners, security, ward hostesses, caterers, on the switchboard and as porters.

Messages of solidarity to Nadine Houghton

Recycling workers strike for pay and decent conditions

GMB members struck at and picketed five major recycling plants in Sheffield over a four day period this week.

The strikes are part of an ongoing dispute with The Green Company, who runs recycling centres as a subcontractor to Veolia, itself a subcontractor for Sheffield City Council.

The recycling workers have been fighting this battle in various forms over the last several years. Their demands are for a decent living wage — workers currently work weekends and evenings without a premium wage — and protection of their income as decreased working hours make their job an increasingly precarious one.

However, this is only one aspect of the dispute; unbelievably, not all recycling operated by The Green Company have shower or even toilet facilities. Striking workers told me that at one plant, in the event of a serious chemical accident, they would need to go to nearby houses for water or to wash down.

The Green Company is owned by Salvaire, a registered charity. Salvaire’s website describes its objectives as "to assist in the resettlement and rehabilitation of offenders; to promote the prevention and reduction of crime; and to assist the integration of socially-excluded people into society". As part of this, the plant employs young people on probation, who are "encouraged" to operate the plant on strike days.

A local news report suggested that a number of companies connected with Salvaire through mutual board members received large payments for consultancy services.

Peter Davies, regional GMB officer said that "£60,000 is being paid out" at a time when staff hours are being savagely cut.

These figures show a callous disregard for a workforce that, at some sites, doesn’t even have a place to get changed.

TSSA union staff strike

GMB members working for another union, the TSSA, struck on 8 October in a dispute over a “botched restructuring exercise”.

GMB national officer Gary Smith said “TSSA management told over 30 employees that they have been displaced from their jobs. All full time officials and support staff have been told they will need to go through an assessment process and apply for their own jobs.”

TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, has been accused by the GMB of using profoundly anti-union language, including labelling strikes as “blackmail”.

The GMB claims their demands are not “blackmail” but the legitimate demands of a trade union supporting its members, just as the TSSA would do for its members.

Picturehouse Cinemas renege on Ritzy deal

Picturehouse Cinemas have reneged on parts of a deal won by Ritzy strikers over pay.

From Ritzy strikers’ Facebook page: “It has come to our attention in the last two weeks that the back pay section of our agreement has not been fulfilled by the company, leaving workers out of pocket by at least two thirds of the back pay due. This has come about due to ‘bonus pay’ having been taken out of back pay.

“At every single point of this campaign we have fought hard to make the company realise that we do not recognise bonus as pay and have consistently rejected any deal which includes bonuses. On several occasions we have made it 100% clear to senior management that we the workers deserve better pay and nothing less...

“We are gathering our workers and are officially disputing the misleading way in which the company have treated their commitment to paying us back pay to October 2013. Please be aware that this could result in industrial action.

“It should also come to your attention that Picturehouse/Cineworld have employed someone with a reputation as a union buster to deal with all union relations, including BECTU’s attempts to gain union recognition at other Picturehouse branches.”

Tube strikes suspended

London underground strikes planned for 14-16 October were called off after RMT union negotiators decided the concessions won from LU management were enough to suspend the action.

Those concessions are real, and will make a difference to workers’ lives.

They include: the inclusion of medically-restricted staff in salary/location guarantees; a slight reduction in the level of staffing cuts; less disruption of the negotiation/representation structures; and a continuation of negotiations and consultations.

Industrial action has already forced LU to guarantee that no-one will face a pay cut through re-grading, and make a "30 minutes travelling time" commitment on potential relocations. Until now, though, that commitment did not including medically-restricted staff. This meant some staff could have been effectively been forced out of a job by being redeployed into a role they can’t perform because of our medical restrictions.

The original figure of 953 job cuts has now come down to 897 — a tiny reduction, but is accompanied by a commitment by the company to look at ways of further reducing the figure. This is progress from their previous stance that the level of cuts was fixed and inevitable.

The company had wanted the RMT, along with the other unions, to move from a negotiation/consultation phase into an "implementation" phase. This would have effectively ended our fight against cuts and forced us to engage with how they’re implemented, rather than whether they happen at all. The removal of this demand keeps the dispute alive.

Tube workers are still facing a huge fight. Management still wants to slash jobs and close every ticket office on the network. We should still try and stop them.

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