All out in Huddersfield
Caretakers at Huddersfield Technical college have entered their second week of indefinite strike action to win equal pay with their council counterparts.
The caretakers at the college, who are members of the Unison union, are paid £3,000 a year less than those in the council.
Last week saw excellent pickets by the caretakers with a significant number of cleaners and others refusing to cross the line. The college is thought to be considering trying to bring in contract labour to clean the college.
The shop stewards’ committee called a mass meeting for all members at the college for this week and was looking to escalate the dispute if the college takes that step.
The strikers are in good spirits and determined to win this dispute which aims to bring an end to poverty pay.
Roger Grigg, assistant branch secretary Kirklees Unison (personal capacity)
Messages of support and requests for speakers to Kirklees Unison, 20 Queen Street, Huddersfield. Phone 01484 511826 or fax 01484 450174.
Bus strike builds workers’ unity
Over 300 First Bus drivers in north Staffordshire took their seventh day of action on Monday.
The strike is the latest in a series of battles over pay and conditions by First Bus drivers around the country. The drivers, T&G union members, currently earn £6.60 per hour and want £8 an hour to bring them in line with many First drivers elsewhere. First Bus made £112 million profit last year, yet management insists that any pay rise must be linked to worse conditions including non-payment for link time.
The strike has brought together Polish and British drivers who work for the company — with over 100 drivers joining the union since the dispute began.
Further strikes are planned for 19 and 21 November.
West Midlands firefighters action vote
Fire Brigades Union (FBU) members in the West Midlands are to strike for three hours on Monday evening after a three to one vote for action over the way a new shift system is being implemented.
The vote — 861 to 263 on a 68 percent turnout — is an indication of the depth of feeling over the issue.
Firefighters reluctantly accepted the new, worse shifts earlier this year. They are the result of the settlement of the national pay dispute which opened the door to localised attacks on conditions.
But FBU members fully expected to be compensated for the new working arrangements. A compensation package was agreed by an independent national arbitration panel.
The chair of the panel, Professor Roy Lewis, recognised that there were key issues over holidays, travel expenses and late-finishing shifts arising from the introduction of the new system.
Killers in the army given free rein
A meeting in the House of Commons on Monday of this week, addressed by MPs and campaigners, launched a campaign to end the legal loophole that allows members of the armed forces to return to duty after being convicted of serious crimes.
Paul O’Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre spoke about the death of Peter McBride, a case that has provided much of the impetus for the new campaign. McBride, a Catholic teenager, was shot dead by soldiers at an army checkpoint in Belfast in 1992.
Two soldiers were jailed for the murder, but were released early as part of the peace process. Amazingly the soldiers were then allowed back into the army, and went on to serve in Basra in southern Iraq.
Geoff Gray, father of one of the recruits who died at the Deepcut barracks, said, “We want to find out how our children died. We want those responsible brought before the courts, and we want to prevent more deaths.”
Over 200 colleges set to strike
Lecturers at 80 percent of English further education colleges have voted for a one-day strike over pay. The result is the latest development in a long running struggle by lecturers for pay parity with school teacher colleagues, who earn an estimated 10 percent more.
The 71 percent yes vote means that up to 26,600 members of the Natfhe union at 226 colleges are set to walk out on Wednesday of next week.
On the same day hundreds of lecturers will join a rally in Birmingham organised to coincide with a visit by education secretary, Ruth Kelly.
Next week: how to take the pay battle forward.
Don’t let promise become history
Over 8,000 trade justice campaigners from across Britain gathered in Westminster on Wednesday of last week. They warned Tony Blair that generations of people will continue to live in poverty if his promise to allow poor countries to protect their markets is broken.
This call for trade justice was delivered to hundreds of MPs in a lobby of parliament. It called for the government to oppose moves to lever open markets in developing countries ahead of crucial World Trade Organisation talks next month.
Joan from Leicester said, “It’s wonderful to see so many people here. It shows that people want more than a few nice words from our politicians.We want action.”
Threatened by schools deal
Members of the GMB union in Swansea were to meet on Wednesday of this week to prepare a response to the education authority’s proposals to cut retainer payments and transfer staff to monthly pay.
The union has been negotiating on behalf of secretarial staff and classroom assistants as part of the school workforce re-modelling agreement.
The authority has now said support staff will have to transfer to monthly pay and relinquish their right to retainer payments, to which they are entitled during school holiday periods.
GMB regional organiser Jeff Burns says, “It cannot be right that school support staff who have been undervalued and underpaid for many years are now taking on new roles and additional responsibilities, worthy of a higher grade and more pay but are expected to concede long standing contractual rights.”
Journalists kept in the dark
journalists at the Bristol Evening Post are to hold a ballot to decide whether to strike in protest at threatened job losses. The NUJ union chapel at the Northcliffe-owned paper decided to act after management refused to answer questions about feared job cuts.
Managers told worried staff that there would be redundancies at the paper by Christmas but would not reveal whether these would be compulsory and what the selection criteria would be.