Socialist Worker

Reports round-up

Issue No. 2102

Redistribute the wealth at Argos

Two thousand distribution workers in the Unite union at Argos are currently balloting to strike over pay.

Workers at Magna Park in Derbyshire, Bridgewater in Somerset, Castleford in Yorkshire, Basildon in Essex and Heywood in Lancashire will all be balloted.

The workers have rejected the company’s 4 percent offer. Argos also intends to erode the sick pay scheme and implement monthly pay instead of weekly pay without any compensation.

Argos made an overall profit before tax of £433 million in the last year, up 15 percent on the previous year. Most distribution workers earn between just £17,000 and £20,000.

Unite national secretary Jennie Formby said, “The company made record profits and they thank our members by cutting their sickness benefits, throwing their finances into disarray and offering a below par pay increase.

“Our members are already struggling to manage with soaring food prices, housing and energy costs.”

First Great Western rail action threat has an impact

The RMT rail workers’ union called off strikes by over 400 train maintenance, shunting and cleaning staff set for last Sunday at eight First Great Western sites after the company conceded to its demands.

First Great Western has dropped plans to extend the use of contractors within engineering and agreed to pay all overtime within the engineering grades at time and a quarter with effect from Sunday 8 June.

The company also agreed to implement 35-hour week rosters and a 25 percent increase in earnings for some of the lowest paid cleaning grade members.

Staff at Bristol, Reading, Oxford, Penzance, Exeter, Plymouth, Swansea, and Old Oak Common in London had voted by three to one to strike over the issues.

Big vote for strike at Fujitsu

Members of the CWU union at Fujitsu’s Birmingham plant have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action in response to the company’s threat to move production overseas.

In a 77 percent turnout the workforce voted unanimously for action short of a strike and by 68 to one in favour of strike action. Jeannie Drake, CWU deputy general secretary, said, “Fujitsu shouldn’t be under any illusions about our intention to take industrial action unless serious progress is achieved.”

Mining a rich seam at National Coal Mining Museum

Workers at the National Coal Mining Museum for England have voted to take industrial action, including a possible strike on Sunday and Monday of next week, over a three-year pay deal of 2.5 percent.

The 100 workers in the Unison union at the Wakefield museum are angry at this below-inflation offer.

Challenging the market in education conference

Activists in the UCU lecturers’ union held a conference on “Challenging the market in education” last Saturday.

Speakers included Sally Hunt, the general secretary of UCU. Speakers opposed the parallel education system that is developing through the outsourcing of courses and departments, and the growth of academies and trust schools.

Many delegates spoke of the importance of the “Our Schools, Our Colleges, Our Communities” campaign, which brings together education workers from all levels but also activists in the wider community to fight for a different vision of education.

Defending local GP surgeries

Doctors are gearing up for a major fight to defend NHS-run local surgeries with a march on Downing street. Dr Kailash Chand, a member of the General Practitioners’ Council, initiated the call for a march on Thursday 12 June.

His call has now been backed by scores of others. The doctors’ BMA organisation is also running a campaign to promote and defend NHS general practice.

According to the BMA, family doctors are concerned about government plans for new polyclinics and GP practices, many of which may be run by commercial providers on short term contracts.

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Tue 20 May 2008, 18:46 BST
Issue No. 2102
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