As previously reported in Solidarity (461, 7 February), the Communication Workers′ Union Postal Executive has endorsed the agreement reached between CWU negotiators and Royal Mail, which will now be put to a vote of the membership. The outline of the deal is: the creation of a new single pension scheme for all workers; extension of all current agreements and protections until 2022; two one-hour reductions in the working week (in October 2018 and October 2019) without loss of pay; a later last delivery, but not as late as Royal Mail wanted; a three year pay deal which the CWU claims equates to 12.33% (with two basic pay rises totalling 7% plus the reduction of the working week without loss of pay).
While this agreement represents a significant step back for Royal Mail from the company′s position prior to the strike ballot, the potential to push for more should not be given up so soon. On pay, the company has been forced into a higher pay offer, but the actual deal means some years will see a below-inflation pay deal. The whole pay offer is likely only to take workers marginally above inflation over the three years of the deal. The creation of a single pension scheme is a significant victory for workers currently on an inferior pension scheme. Royal Mail bosses have also stepped back from introducing a defined contribution pension scheme which would have left workers′ pension pots at the mercy of the stock market. However the proposed ″collective defined benefit″ scheme while meaning a ″wage in retirement″ like currently, would have only ″targets″ rather than a guarantee for how much this ″wage″ will be.
Such schemes are not currently legislated for in the UK. Implementation requires secondary legislation to be added to the Pensions Schemes Act 2015 before the scheme can be launched. If this much was got from Royal Mail with the threat of strikes, more can be obtained by rejecting the deal, returning to negotiations but scheduling strikes to keep them on the mind of Royal Mail negotiators. • The deal can be read in full here: bit.ly/2E7sP6q
No academy at Childeric!
Around 50 people attending a public meeting about the proposed academisation of Childeric School in Lewisham on Tuesday 30 January. The audience comprised around 20 workers from the school, a couple of parents, and labour movement and anti-academy activists. We heard from GMB and NEU activists as well as from local councillor Joe Dromey, and received a statement from Vicky Foxcroft MP.
All were clearly and vehemently for the school remaining a local authority school. A Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) based in Southwark has approached the leadership of Childeric Primary School wanting the school to join. The leadership and some of the teachers at the school feel Lewisham Local Authority has poorly served them. This is based on a mixture of the problems all schools face due to cuts and some genuine failures on part of Lewisham education.
At the meeting, people argued that the solution was not joining a MAT but joining together to improve education in Lewisham. It was also pointed out that there was no more money for the school joining a MAT. The only way the MAT would deal with the pupils requiring more resources was to remove them from the school. At the end of the meeting several people said their views had shifted against academisation. Lewisham has managed to keep the vast majority of the schools under local authority control thanks to campaigns by unions and the labour movement.
The council now say it isn’t interested in pushing academisation as a solution. Parents from Childeric, supported by the local councillors, are now urgently seeking a meeting with the school governors to discuss their concerns. The unions have written to the head and chair of governors asking for clarification over the consultation process. A petition calling on the governors not to academise has been launched and is rapidly gaining signatures.
South Western Railway guards strike
RMT Guards at South Western Railway (formerly South West Trains) are taking action short of strike for four days on 16-19 February. Their members have been instructed not to undertake any rest day working during that period and to refuse to carry out “key” aspects of their jobs — it is not clear from RMT press releases which parts of their jobs they will be refusing to do. RMT also says that SWR has been writing to its members threatening unlawful deductions from wages if they participate in the action.
The action is being taken over Driver Only Operation, also the subject of RMT disputes with Arriva Rail North (Northern), GTR Southern, Abellio Greater Anglia and Merseyrail. However, this action is confined to SWR.
Cinema workers strike for seven days
Workers at Picturehouse cinemas will strike for seven full days starting Saturday 17 February. Workers at the Ritzy cinema in Brixton, Picturehouse central in Soho, and Hackney, East Dulwich, and Crouch End Picturehouses will strike from 5am Saturday 17 February until 5am Saturday 24 February. The strikes coincide with the Bafta awards ceremony, which happens at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday 18 February.
Picturehouse managers reacted to a period of 13 strikes announced in January by announcing an effective ″lock-out″ of workers in the Ritzy cinema, and threatening workers at all cinemas that they would be deducted a whole shift′s pay if strikes started part way through a shift. Faced with these threats, strikes from 22-27 January were called off, but workers still struck on 20-21 January.
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School workers meet
Workers’ Liberty members who work in schools met to discuss our political and union work on 3 February.
The meeting started with a useful discussion about Labour’s education proposals. We welcomed a more positive tone in the 2017 manifesto than in previous elections but recognised it was light on specifics and detail. It did not commit to stop any new academies let alone bring all schools under local authority control. The meeting also discussed revitalising critical discussion about education on the left. We agreed that UCAS should be abolished and to continue our fight against testing, which blights every part of education. We are going to draft a longer article discussing the sort of education system we want.
The meeting spent much time on the practical preparation for the National Education Union’s (NEU) conference at Easter. At conference we will focus on pushing to make the NEU a genuine school workers’ union for all school workers, on getting the union to boycott testing in primary schools, on the fight against academies and free schools, on the union’s relationship with Labour and stopping the union spending money on sending members for jollies in Stalinist Cuba amongst other issues.
Finally, we discussed with comrades in Unison about how to organise school support workers. There was agreement that there needs to be one school workers’ union, and that the NEU represents a step in this direction that needs to be built on.
Union fighting derecognition
Unite is balloting workers at Fortem, which undertakes maintenance and repair work on Rotherham′s council housing stock. The company had announced it had derecognised the union. The derecognition announcement coincides with the company planning to make 20 workers redundant. Fortem derecognised the union without any warning after Unite sought negotiations over the redundancies. Fortem had previously voluntarily recognised Unite and Unite reps.
More DLR strikes planned
Cleaners, security workers, and travel safe officers on Docklands Light Railway (DLR) in London will strike again on 22-24 February. Workers previously struck on 1-3 February and the RMT union has also called action-short-of-strike from 5-10 February, in the form of a work-to-rule around risk assessments. Workers involved in the dispute are contracted by ISS to work on the DLR. ISS has refused to negotiate over the RMT′s pay claim and over changes to working practices at work.