Industrial news in brief

Submitted by AWL on 12 December, 2018 - 12:28 Author: Ann Field and Ollie Moore

Station staff on London Underground’s Bakerloo Line South Group, which includes Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, Charing Cross, Lambeth North, and Elephant and Castle, have voted by 88% for strikes against short-staffing. Tube union RMT has announced strikes for 26 December and 14 January.

RMT has also declared victory in the “battle of Baker Street”, after London Underground reinstated an unjustly sacked station worker, and trumped-up disciplinary charges against another were dropped. Tube bosses were forced to back down after 41 out of 61 workers balloted at the station voted for strikes (on a turnout of 45).

The Tubeworker blog said: “This showed a clear strength of feeling at the station and made certain that any strikes would have a serious impact.”

Local reps and activists say this is the first battle in an ongoing fight against a culture of management bullying.

Meanwhile, RMT drivers on London Underground’s Central Line will strike on 21-22 December, to demand the reinstatement of a colleague sacked despite passing a drugs test. The strike also doubles up as action in an ongoing campaign against authoritarian management on the line.

Drivers’ union Aslef, which was due to participate in the action, has pulled out, citing concessions LU bosses have offered on attendance management. Many activists argue, however, that these concessions amount to little more than warm words.

A supporter of the Tubeworker bulletin told Solidarity: “We hope that Aslef’s rank-and-file have more stomach for the fight than their leaders, and won’t cross RMT picket lines.”

Universities: fight the job cuts!

In the past ten days, three different universities have announced redundancies, and are not ruling out compulsory job losses.

The University of Gloucester is planning to cut almost 100 posts while at Cardiff all 7,000 staff have had letters telling them the university is offering voluntary severance, in the third round of redundancies in six years. Staff at Bangor University are also facing cuts of 50-60 jobs – after previous redundancies just last year. At Hull, students in the modern languages department have been told it’s threatened with closure. Campaigns against redundancies are already underway at Queen Margaret University in Scotland, where staff protested outside University Court on 5 December, and at SOAS, where 25% of library jobs are under threat.

This is the consequence of a marketisation policy that has left universities scrapping for a declining number of 18-year-old students in an applications free-for-all. Three universities are reported to be close to bankruptcy, and one relied on a £900,000 government loan to tide it over the summer. But the government has said such loans will not be available in future.

Staff and student unions need a national strategy to fight these cuts and closures. UCU will reballot over pay in the New Year: no job cuts must be a demand of the dispute.

Shelter (non-)strike

A three-day strike by Unite members in the housing charity Shelter was called off on Monday 10 December after members voted to accept an improved pay offer. The improved offer which Unite members voted to accept was a consolidated increase of 2. 25% and a lump sum payment equivalent to 1. 75% but distributed on the basis of a flat-rate calculation.

Compared with the original offer, this marks real progress and reflects the pressure management was under as a result of ongoing campaigning by Unite members in Shelter in recent months. But the offer still lags well behind the current inflation rate of 3. 5% and is therefore a further real-terms pay cut. A one-off lump sum payment next February will not compensate for this.

Some Unite members also have a sense of ″déjà vu″ about a Shelter strike due to take place in December and January being called off at the last minute — exactly the same happened four years ago. This time the pay offer ballot closed at two o’clock on Monday, with the first strike scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the same week. Holding last-minute talks and an e-ballot effectively undermined preparations for a strike, should it have gone ahead.

Ritzy reps to be reinstated

An Employment Tribunal has ruled that two union reps sacked by the Ritzy cinema in Brixton, south London, part of the Picturehouse chain, should be reinstated to their jobs. The workers will be reinstated from January.

The Tribunal judge ruled that there had been a “lack of neutrality at the investigation and disciplinary stages” and “an assumption of guilt on the part of the claimants.”

The workers were part of a group of reps for the Bectu union, now part of Prospect, sacked during an ongoing dispute across Picturehouse cinemas through which workers are fighting to win living wages and union recognition.

Head of Bectu Philippa Childs said: “This is an extremely rare ruling and once again highlights the unreasonable behaviour of Picturehouse towards Bectu’s representatives. These individuals have been leading Bectu activists and their reinstatement will bolster the campaign for Picturehouse staff to be paid the living wage.”

Tribunal cases are ongoing, or pending, for another two sacked reps.

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