Socialist Worker

Fight GKN bosses + Clarks fire and rehire + Tower Hamlets council

Issue No. 2762

Rallying at GKN Sankey on Monday

Rallying at GKN Sankey on Monday (Pic: Andrew Brown)

Workers at wheel manufacturer GKN Wheels and Auto Structures in Telford, Shropshire, began strikes on Monday.

Unite and GMB union members are fighting for a pay rise without damaging losses in conditions.

Unite regional officer Jason Richards said, “Our members are incensed at being offered a pay rise only on the condition that the collective redundancy agreement is weakened.”

Further strikes are planned on 12 and 19 July.

The GMB issued a press release saying, “Hundreds of England fans will go on strike today”. It went on that the company “needs to show the sense of English fair play embodied by the Three Lions”.

It added, “Workers on the picket line will be wearing their England football shirts in honour of the Three Lions’ quarter final win over Ukraine on Saturday night.”

This nationalist framing doesn’t take the battle forward—and could potentially prove divisive. Is every worker an “England fan”?

And if the bosses back England are they on the same side as the workers?

Meanwhile workers at the GKN Automotive factory in Birmingham are preparing for a strike ballot.

The Unite union called the vote as part of a campaign to keep the factory open. In January the 500 workers were told by owners GKN Melrose that the plant was set for closure in 2022.

Unions should fight both of these battles together with hard-hitting strikes.

Clarks shoes fire & rehire

Over 100 workers at Clarks shoes are considering strikes against fire and rehire.

The firm was taken over by a private equity firm in February.

Around 109 of the 145 workers in the Clarks warehouse in Street, Somerset, are on contracts signed before the takeover. They are on better terms than people recruited more recently.

Bosses want them to accept a new contract. It would slash pay by 15 percent, cut three days’ holiday a year, worsen sickness terms and eliminate some breaks and free hot drinks.

Clarks has begun a 45-day consultation, after which it could sack all its workers and say they will be re-employed only on the new contracts.

The workers’ Community union has said all options are being considered, including strikes.

Tower Hamlets ready to fight again

Workers at Tower Hamlets council in east London staged a physical and online protest on Tuesday of this week to help build support for a strike ballot.

Members of the Unison union are voting over whether to strike over worse contracts forced on them last year.

The Labour-run council used fire and rehire tactics to impose new pay and conditions on workers, despite an impressive strike.

Now it has refused Unison’s demands for fairer wages for the lowest paid workers. The ballot is set to end on Thursday 22 July.

Security guards begin three week strike

Security staff at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading are set to go back on strike from Monday of next week until the end of July.

The 20 security guards voted by 84 percent for strikes against their outsourced employer Kingston Services Group Ltd.

Unite union members say the company has failed to meaningfully negotiate a decent pay offer for 2020.

They also say bosses won’t take health and safety concerns seriously, or address disparity in sick pay between colleagues.

The guards, employed by the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, have been involved in a “David and Goliath” battle over pay and conditions since December.

Strikes want to be employed in house under NHS management when their current three-year contract ends on 31 December this year.

Bexley bins are back battling again

Around 140 refuse and cleaning workers employed by outsourcer Serco in Bexley, south London, are set to strike from Monday of next week until Monday 25 July over a 1.5 percent pay offer.

Bosses’ refusal to hand over back pay have also angered workers.

The Unite union has also accused Serco of victimising union members through the unfair policing of its substance misuse policy.

It’s all kicking off in Ashby-de-la-Zouch

Engineers employed by Brush Electrical Machines, in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire, are striking against bosses’ fire and rehire plans.

Thirty Unite union members began strikes on 25 May and are set to continue until Monday 16 August.

Fire and rehire plans will result in a pay cut of between £10,000 and £15,000 a year.

Ealing traffic wardens rally...

Outsourced traffic wardens in Ealing, west London, started a two-week strike on Wednesday of last week.

More than 40 Unite union members are fighting bosses’ plans to force them to accept severance packages.

Strikers began their action with a rally outside the council offices.

The strike is set to end on Wednesday of next week.

...and Hackney wardens set to join

Parking wardens in Hackney, east London, are set to ballot for strikes over pay against employer Apcoa Parking (UK).

They are also fighting the victimisation of a union rep, unfair disciplinary measures, deductions of pay and the imposition of shift changes without consultation.

The ballot is set to run from Wednesday 21 July to Wednesday 18 August.

Pay fights coming in universities?

Unison union members in higher education have rejected a pay offer, and the union’s service group executive has lodged a formal dispute.

The pay offer was a 1.5 percent increase for most workers with slightly more for the lower paid.

Meanwhile, the Unison union is balloting members at 48 higher education institutes this summer in protest against a pay freeze imposed for the past year.

The ballots in England opened this week and are due to open in Scotland in a few weeks’ time.


  • Waste collection workers outsourced to Serco at Sandwell council in the West Midlands are voting on whether to strike over bullying from management.

GMB union members are also being balloted to strike after management decided to sack disabled workers who were forced to shield due to Covid-19.

The ballot is due to close on 22 July.

  • Some 500 workers at British Sugar factories in Norfolk, Suffolk and Nottinghamshire have rejected a two percent pay offer by 86 percent in a consultative ballot.

Technicians, engineers and supply chain operatives in the Unite union began a strike vote on Monday.

British Sugar made pre‑tax profits of £55 million in the year up to August 2020.

  • Workers for delivery company Yodel, in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, will vote in a consultative ballot on whether to strike over pay and conditions. The GMB union says the company has brought in agency drivers that are being paid more than those directly employed by Yodel. This is a breach of an agreement.

Drivers are also angry that Yodel changes shift patterns without consulting them.

  • Bosses at Newsquest are using fire and rehire tactics at the Oxford Mail to force through cuts to NUJ union members’ terms and conditions. Proposed cuts include stripping journalists of bank holiday payments.


Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.