Socialist Worker

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Issue No. 1944

Holiday pay row derails Central

Over 500 conductors on Central Trains struck solidly for 24 hours on Sunday in a dispute over compensation for working on bank holidays over the Christmas period.

The dispute centres on the company’s failure to compensate members who worked on dates designated as bank holidays because last Christmas fell on a Saturday.

The RMT transport workers’ union has called two further strike days on Easter Sunday and Sunday 3 April.

Central Trains tried on Friday of last week to get the strike declared illegal. “It didn’t have much of an effect, except to reinforce our determination,” said one striker.

“We’ve been raising this issue for nine months. If the public experiences disruption, then we are sorry, but the company is clearly to blame.”

The train conductors worked the public holidays over the Christmas period in good faith and now they are simply asking for compensation.


No clawback on 35 hour week

Merseyrail guards were set to strike on Friday of this week in a dispute over implementation of a 35 hour week.

RMT union members voted by 20 to one to take industrial action after rejecting “unacceptable” strings attached to proposals for a 35 hour week.

The company wants workers to pay for the cut in hours through worse rosters, leave arrangements and sick pay.

The vote for action was 104 to five and a further 48 hour strike is scheduled to take place in two weeks’ time.


Progress made in CalMac dispute

The RMT union has suspended a strike at ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne, planned for Thursday of this week, after securing progress over jobs, pay and pensions.

The company has made a series of assurances over workers’ conditions. The Scottish Executive has also promised it will demand that there is no worsening of pension arrangements if the ferry operation is put out to tender.

The issue of the sell-off of CalMac remains, but the threat of strike action has won concessions and points to how that can be stopped.


Aslef plans ballot over Tube safety

Tube drivers in the Aslef union are to ballot for strike action over safety on the District Line. They warn that missiles are being thrown at trains, putting the safety of passengers and drivers at risk.

Stations on the eastern end of the District Line are notoriously understaffed. But London Underground is relying on the British Transport Police rather than increase staffing levels.

Police have been deployed to back up immigration checks at stations, or to investigate tube staff at the behest of management, rather than deal with dangers to passenger safety.


Health Workers

Cleaners, porters and caterers working for contractor Serco at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital have voted for strike action to win equal pay with colleagues directly employed by the NHS.

Over 430 workers in the Unison union are planning to strike on 30 and 31 March after a 74 percent vote for action.

Under the government’s Agenda for Change scheme, NHS staff will earn £5.69 an hour. Staff employed by Serco, doing identical jobs, will continue to earn just £4.82 an hour.

Tony Blair last week announced that he had met his pledge to end the two-tier workforce in the NHS — but a new code of practice will only apply when contracts are retendered. The Norfolk and Norwich Serco employees will gain nothing.

The hospital was built under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). Serco is one of the shareholders in the PFI consortium. Unison argues that a recent refinancing deal, which gave the PFI consortium a £100m windfall, would more than cover the cost of the Serco workers’ claim.


BBC

Broadcasting unions have pledged to “fight and resist” job cuts at the BBC after the corporation announced this week that another 2,050 posts are to go.

That blow came after BBC management had already announced 1,730 job losses.

Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said, “This represents a devastating blow to BBC news and programme making. We will fight to stop the job cuts.”

Activists report that there is anger over BBC management’s slash and burn approach. It is vital that all the broadcasting unions move to ballot for action swiftly before the mood turns to resignation, they say.


Unite Against Fascism

OVER 100 people came to the Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR) gig in Keighley, West Yorkshire, on Thursday of last week. It featured top bhangra act RDB and was the first in a series of local anti-fascist events.

Nick Griffin, leader of the fascist British National Party (BNP), plans to stand in Keighley at the general election. Unite Against Fascism is now gearing up the campaign against him in the town.

“Music is a tool to unite ordinary young people,” says Umit Jemal, a local Unite activist and member of the Natfhe lecturers’ union. “These gigs help people understand the nature of fascism and expose the racist nature of the BNP.”

“This was a very positive event for Keighley, especially the young people,” he adds. “Afterwards many young people commented that the town needs more gigs like this.”

Unite activists will be out leafleting against Griffin and the BNP on Saturday 2 April. The next local LMHR gigs are planned for 23 and 24 April in Victoria Hall, Keighley.


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Sat 26 Mar 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1944
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