Socialist Worker

Reports round-up: Protests on national day of action against NHS cuts

Issue No. 2692

Health campaigners outside Leeds General Infirmary

Health campaigners outside Leeds General Infirmary (Pic: Neil Terry)

Health campaigners protested across Britain on Saturday of last week.

It was part of a national day of action against funding cuts and privatisation called by Keep Our NHS Public.

‘We need to learn French lessons on how to fight’

Hundreds of delegates from across Britain joined debates at the Unison union’s women’s conference in Bournemouth last weekend.

The impact of Labour’s general election defeat was tangible.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said, “It is only Labour in power that will end austerity.”

But when delegates spoke about organising to resist Boris Johnson’s government, they were well received. Speaking on the threat to the NHS, health worker Janet Maiden said to applause, “We need to take French lessons on how to fight back.”

York local government worker Julie Forgan spoke on women and the climate crisis.

She argued, “The trade unions could be part of mobilising for a sustainable world where the planet and working class people were put first”.

Gate meetings build ballot

Postal workers across Britain were set to hold a day of mass gate meetings on Tuesday of next week as they prepare a national strike ballot

Workers in Royal Mail are in a long-running battle to halt a major attack on their jobs and working conditions.

The national strike ballot by the CWU union is set to run between 3 and 17 March. CWU members at several Royal Mail workplaces are also asking for regional strikes as bosses push ahead with attacks.

The union called action off last year after bosses got a high court injunction against a previous ballot.

Workers have to deliver another strong vote for strikes—and be prepared to defy the law if necessary.

Support fight at Brogan’s Cafe

Workers at Brogan’s Cafe in Swindon walked out on Monday over low pay and working conditions.

The Brogan’s Workers Union said, “Bosses have repeatedly mistreated staff & maintenance responsibilities.

“We had no other option but to strike. Our demands were simple—end zero-hour contracts, pay living wage, repair kitchen dishwasher and union recognition.”

Trade unionists should raise solidarity for their fight.

Donate to their strike fund at

Harrods strike to secure better pay

Security guards and CCTV workers at posh people’s shop Harrods in west London were set to strike on Saturday.

The Unite union members are fighting over pay and working conditions.

They plan further walkouts on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday of next week and on 4 and 7 March.

Strikes can bag workers pay rise

Baggage handlers at London Heathrow Airport were set to stage a four day strike over pay from Saturday.

The Unite union members are demanding that subcontractor Global Baggage Solutions Ltd pays them the London Living Wage of £10.75 an hour.

They held a four day strike at the beginning of the month.

Engineers’ pay fight in Kilmarnock

Around 185 workers at Mahle Engine Systems in Kilmarnock, Scotland, could be heading for strikes over pay.

Talks between the Unite union and bosses collapsed last week. A ballot for strikes is expected to open on 28 February and run until 14 March.

Meanwhile, bosses at Darcast Crankshaft in Birmingham have agreed to talks after workers threatened strikes.

The Unite union members are fighting for higher pay.

Strikealoo line in fight over timetable

Strikes could be coming on the London Underground this week over plans to change timetables.

RMT union members on Barkerloo Line are set to walk out for four days from Friday after a 95 percent vote for action.

The union says that the “unworkable” changes will mean their members are put “under intolerable levels of personal stress”.

Workers at Natural England, the government’s advisor for the natural environment, are balloting for strikes over pay.

The members of the PCS union say they have had minimal pay rises over ten years, and that their services are chronically underfunded.

The ballot began on Monday and is set to end on 9 March.

Cleaners at HMRC tax offices in Liverpool and Bootle are re-balloting for strikes in their long-running battle over pay.

The members of the PCS union are demanding that outsourcer ISS pays them a living wage of £10 an hour, and have already held several strikes.

The ballot is set to end on 2 March.

Newham fights academies

Workers at two schools in Newham, east London. stuck together for two days last week.

NEU union members at St Bonaventure’s and St Michael’s schools are taking action against a planned Multi Academy Trust.

Some strikers thought the best way for a quick resolution was to escalate to three days strike every week. Others are worried about how relations in the school are being affected.

The issue of NASUWT teachers being asked to cover work of striking NEU colleagues was taken up by Dominic Byrne, an NEU exec member. He promised to inform NASUWT and stop this going on.

Miriam Scharf

Students and workers held an angry protest at Goldsmiths, University of London, on Friday of last week. The action called for no cuts at the university and opposed bosses’ “Evolving Goldsmiths” restructure scheme.

Nearly 600 people have signed a statement calling on bosses to halt the scheme.

Don’t roll up carpet battle

Carpet workers in West Yorkshire are pushing for a new ballot for strikes to keep up the fight against low pay.

Westex carpets workers in Cleckheaton went back to work on Monday after over 12 weeks of an indefinite strike because of the Unite union’s failings.

It came as workers rejected a 2.4 percent pay offer.

A letter from the union strongly implied workers had to accept the pay offer or face the possibility of victimisation.

One Unite union member told Socialist Worker that the vote was “overwhelming”.

“There were just nine people in favour, and they filled out their ballot paper after reading the union’s letter,” he said.

Workers are frustrated that Unite failed to reballot.

Anti-union laws say a mandate for strikes have to be renewed after six months.

Another law says that during the first 12 weeks of a strike workers are protected from “selective dismissal”. But unions can reballot to renew this protection.

Unite should immediately reballot workers for strikes over pay.

Strikers telling the truth to students about St George’s

Security guards at St George’s medical school in south London—who have held a series of strikes— planned a day of action on Thursday this week.

The UVW union members are fighting to be brought back in-house from subcontractor Noonan.

This week they were set to be at St George’s open day, letting prospective students know the truth about what kind of university St George’s really is.

UVW said, “All the security guards are asking for is equality and yet St George’s is still despicably justifying outsourcing them to a private contractor.

“This ensures they are excluded from the St George’s community and receive the worst terms and conditions the law will allow.

“There is no excuse for a two-tiered workforce and prospective students deserve to know the truth.”

Elior workers, the contract caterers for Nottingham University Hospitals’ patients, visitors and staff, are starting an industrial action ballot.

The Unison union says workers have lost out on £1,500 a year following their outsourcing from the NHS.

Unison regional organiser Dave Ratchford said, “This is an utterly shameful situation. Our members are repeatedly recognised nationally year after year as providing a service of excellence.

“They have worked hard in the NHS and feel they have been sold down the river.”

Three strike ballots could mean action on the bins

Bin workers at two boroughs in London could walk out over pay and allegations of bullying.

Around 120 refuse depot workers in Bexley and 250 bin workers in Tower Hamlets were set to finish voting in ballots for strikes on Friday.

Unite union members in Bexley, south London, are angry that they earn £4 an hour less than colleagues in the neighbouring borough of Greenwich.

They work for the outsourcing giant Serco on a contract to the Tory-run council.

Unite union members in Labour-run Tower Hamlets in east London are owed up to £9,000 each in holiday pay arrears by the subcontractor Veolia.

Unite has said that it could ballot around 180 bin workers on the Wirral, Merseyside, over pay.

Talks over the 2019 pay claim between the union and subcontractor Biffa broke down.

As well as a failure to make a reasonable pay offer, Biffa management also announced that they intended to move workers from weekly pay to monthly pay, without consultation.

Workers have no confidence in Biffa paying them correctly, with serious mistakes being made on a regular basis under the current payroll.

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Tue 18 Feb 2020, 13:06 GMT
Issue No. 2692
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