Socialist Worker

Struggle on Serco’s Caledonian Sleeper + Heathrow strike vote + Bus drivers fight sign on scheme + Yodel pay

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2725

On the picket line at Euston station in London at midnight

On the picket line at Euston station in London at midnight (Pic: Alan Kenny)


Railway workers began their first 48-hour strike for safe working conditions on the Caledonian Sleeper last Sunday.

Workers, who are members of the RMT union, are fighting for enough berths for workers on the overnight service.

The service, which underwent a £150 million upgrade in 2019, is run by outsourcing giant Serco.

Workers organised socially distanced picket lines along the route, which runs from London to Inverness.

Services were cancelled as a result of the first phase of strikes, and workers were planning a second 48-hour walkout from this Sunday.

They are also refusing to work overtime or do higher grade duties and rest day working. Mick Cash, RMT general secretary said, “It remains a scandal that Serco appears to have deliberately provoked this dispute.

“Instead of working with the union on a solution to the very real issues of safety and fatigue they have declared war on their staff.”

Cash blasted the Scottish government, which has “not lifted a finger to help us settle this dispute. They should get off their backsides and haul Serco into action.”

He said that Nicola Sturgeon’s administration was “distracted” by the political crisis caused after SNP MP Margaret Ferrier, who was Covid-19 positive, travelled from Glasgow to London and back.

Cash said the workers were “demanding nothing more than a safe working environment”.


Heathrow 'fire and rehire' action vote

Heathrow airport could be facing a complete shutdown this autumn, as members of the Unite union prepare to ballot for strikes.

They are fighting the company’s attempts to slash the pay of 4,000 workers by up to £8,000 a year.

Workers employed directly by Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL) including security officers, engineers, airside operatives and firefighters were set to start a vote on Thursday this week. It closes on 5 November.

HAL has issued Section 188 notices to “fire and rehire” staff on vastly inferior pay and conditions.

Workers face losing up to 25 percent of their pay.  Bosses claim the pay cuts are inevitable because of the pandemic.

But Unite said that HAL’s true intention is to use the “cover of Covid” to implement long-held plans to cut staff pay to boost profits.

HAL’s chief executive grabbed £3 million in pay and pensions last year. There were 49 directors at Heathrow who earned over £21 million last year between them.

Unite regional co‑ordinating officer Wayne King said bosses were, “picking the pockets of loyal workers yet leaving their super-salaries unscathed and shareholders’ bounties’ untouched.”


Fightback by bus drivers over remote sign on scheme

Bus operator Hackney Community Transport has withdrawn proposals to introduce remote sign on at its garage in north east London.

However major bus operator Metroline is still trying to force through the introduction of remote sign on for its routes in north and west London.

Remote sign on means bus drivers do not begin work at a depot but meet their bus at an outside location. This would mean there will be no checks to ensure the driver is fit and well to drive a bus.

There would be no toilet facilities, rest and canteen provision. And drivers will be forced to wait for their bus to arrive in all weathers.

Unite union members at Metroline are holding a strike ballot.


Yodel must deliver on pay

Delivery firm Yodel could face strikes after GMB union members overwhelmingly turned down the firm’s pay offer.

The deal is worth a miserly  1.6 percent this year and then 1.5 percent from July 2021.

It was overwhelmingly rejected by 84 percent of the GMB’s more than 1,000 members.

The offer comes despite the logistics giant seeing what is says are “Christmas volumes every day” due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Gary Carter, GMB national officer, said, “If Yodel wants to avoid a strike throughout the peak season, they need to come back with a better pay offer.

“The public are on the side of key workers.”


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