Socialist Worker

Reports round-up

Issue No. 2504

Southern rail bosses go off the rails

Bosses at Southern Rail have gone on the offensive against train conductors resisting attacks to working conditions and safety.

Southern is trying to force the conductors into a new “on-board supervisor” role focussing on selling tickets and issuing penalty fares to passengers. This will leave train drivers with sole responsibility for safety critical duties.

Their RMT union said its members received a “very aggressive” letter from bosses in which they claimed to have “no choice but to collectively dismiss and re-employ conductors”.

Moving to the new role is supposedly voluntary. But RMT argues that bosses changing the “selection process to a ‘first come, first served’ basis” breaks existing collective bargaining agreements.

Conductors have been told the deadline to respond is Friday of next week, which was set to be the date of their next strike. Bosses hoped to intimidate people out of striking.

But the guards have now brought their strike forward by two days to Wednesday. And bosses have been bleating in the past week about “a high level of conductor sickness, which is causing ongoing disruption to Southern services”.

Every trade unionist should back the guards’ struggle.

‘Summer of stench’ looms

Refuse workers at Tory-run South Ayrshire council walked out on Thursday of last week. 

The Unite union members are on strike for a week to stop bosses imposing new shift patterns. Striker George told Socialist Worker, “If we didn’t sign the new contract by 11 April we were threatened with the sack.”

The new shifts now see bin collections up to 10pm, where previously workers’ shifts ended mid-afternoon.

George said, “It means a total change in lifestyle. It means those with young families spending more on child care.”

George also raised safety concerns. “There’s a lot of extra traffic on the streets at that time and more children around that you just don’t get during the day,” he said.

One boss’s visit to the picket line with Maltesers only made workers angrier.

The local press has warned of a “summer of stench” marring the prestigious Open golf championship.

Firefighters' conference debates European Union

Delegates at the FBU firefighters’ union conference in Blackpool last week debated the European Union (EU) referendum.

The London delegation successfully challenged the standing orders committee, which ruled out of order their resolution to support a Leave vote.

There was an early intervention as TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady argued for a Remain vote in her address. After a debate delegates backed the leadership’s position of supporting Remain.

We also took tentative steps to building a pay campaign. But the 2002/03 pay campaign and the more recent the pension campaign weighed heavy on the national executive and the conference.

If this is to amount to any sort of campaign, it will have to be built from the ground up.

The pivotal industrial debates were around defending national conditions. Delegates passed several resolutions that could lead to local disputes.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn attacked Tory austerity when he spoke on the last day. He offered his usual clear message on taking on the Tory government’s ideology.

But firefighters are still faced with Labour Fire Authority are attacking our service and terms and conditions.

Simon Hickman, FBU Greater Manchester brigade organiser (pc)

Walkout to save libraries

Library workers in Lewisham, south London, were set to strike on Saturday against the Labour-run council’s plan to close four libraries.

Unison union rep Tim Parkin told Socialist Worker the £1 million cut “also means an £800,000 wage cut that disproportionately affects part time and Saturday workers”.

Library users and workers are angry that the council ignored a public consultation last year that rejected the cuts. Campaigners are set to march on the strike day.

Workers from Lambeth, whose Labour council is also cutting libraries, plan to join them. A protest was planned at Lambeth council’s meeting on Wednesday.

To send solidarity messages and donate to the strike fund go to [email protected] 

For demo details go to 
For updates from Lambeth

Anti-fracking protesters in Dearne Valley

Anti-fracking protesters in Dearne Valley

Protests tell bosses to get the frack out of Yorkshire

Protesters were set to rally in Northallerton on Friday. North Yorkshire county councillors are to decide whether to let Third Energy frack in Ryedale.

It would be the first test fracking in Britain since 2011. Thousands of residents oppose fracking, as does the district council.

Over 60 people joined a walk through the Dearne Valley in South Yorkshire last Sunday (above) to protest against fracking licences being issued.

Over 40 protesters also lobbied a meeting in Stavely. Ineos was on a “charm offensive” there to convince councillors to let it frack in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire. Councillors said they heard the chanting and hooting of support from passing cars.

Thanks to George Arthur

A parade to mark victory

Campaigners in Slaithwaite (Slawit) near Huddersfield are celebrating after it was revealed that their lively and vigorous campaign had saved the local health centre.

Slaithwaite Health Centre is the only one in Britain to escape cuts arising from the abolition of the Personal Medical Services contracts.

This is a victory for Slawit Health Centre SOS, a patient and community group supported by GPs. They have organised many events, including lobbies, public meetings and petitioning.

To celebrate—and to prepare to fight if cuts come back—the campaign held a “Patients’ Parade” around the village. It was followed by tea, cakes and speeches in the canteen of a local factory.

Martin Jones

Save York's mental health services

Protesters in York

Protesters in York (Pic: Jane Carter)

York’s Defend our NHS and People’s Assembly campaigns organised the protest. Local Labour MP Rachael Maskell spoke of her support for the NHS.

Health regulator CQC had closed it with just four days notice in January.

No provision has since been made for the patients who were dispersed or for the users and future users whose service has been decimated.Some 250 people marched through York last Saturday in protest at the closure of York’s only psychiatric hospital, Bootham Park.

Lights, camera—and strike action

Workers at the Rio cinema in Dalston, east London, are set to strike next Wednesday.

The Bectu union forced bosses to pay workers back pay from 2013. But bosses then slashed hours and plan to get rid of the posts held by union reps.

TUC calls meeting to reclaim Pride

The TUC LGBT Committee has called an open meeting of trade unionists to politicise the London Pride march set to take place on 25 June.

Monday 23 May, 6pm, Congress House, WC1B 3LS

Wood workers drill into bosses’ plans

Wood workers in Lincolnshire were set to strike against low pay next Thursday. The GMB union members rejected the Metsa bosses’ miserly pay offer.

Ballot at Argos to stop outsourcing

Some 420 Argos lorry drivers are being balloted for strikes against plans to outsource 96 drivers based in Leicestershire to privateer Eddie Stobart. They are Unite union members.

  • The Unite union is balloting Hertel oil refinery workers in Teesside for strikes against bosses’ zero percent pay offer.

Defend Unite union rep Alison Morris

Unite union members at CGL Reachout Recovery in Birmingham protested in support of sacked colleague Alison Morris last Friday.

Unite said Alison was sacked in January 2016 for her trade union activities.Alison was attending an appeal as Socialist Worker went to press.

Harish Dalal

Rush messages of support to [email protected]

Sheffield bakers refuse to roll over

Bfawu union members at Pennine Foods in Sheffield were set to strike this Thursday and Friday.

Bosses are trying to force through reductions in holidays and overtime pay.

One union member said, “They cannot expect people to work for less money.”

Teachers refuse to take it sitting down

Teachers at Listerdale Primary School in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, plan to strike on Wednesday of next week to defend their head teacher.
The NUT union members say that suspended head teacher Craig Roberts has faced unreasonable treatment at the hands of academy bosses.

The Children’s Academy Trust bosses suspended Craig last September.

The trust has said Craig will face a disciplinary hearing, but the NUT said there is not enough evidence.

It follows a two-day strike last December. Talks at the conciliation service Acas failed to resolve the dispute.

  • Teachers at Swinton High School in Salford held a two-day strike on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week. The NASUWT union members are fighting threatened compulsory redundancies.
  • NASUWT members at Kings Norton Boys’ School in Birmingham struck over job cuts last Wednesday. Workers say that bosses had unfairly selected staff for redundancy. They say there’s no need to impose job cuts because 13 workers have taken voluntary redundancy.

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Article information

Tue 17 May 2016, 16:33 BST
Issue No. 2504
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