Reports round-up: more strikes at Preston school as academisation nears

Posted on: January 25th, 2022 by Nick No Comments
A redbrick primary school building

St Matthew’s Church of England primary school in Preston

Workers at St Matthew’s Church of England Primary school in Preston have completed nine days of strikes against academy plans.

The members of the NEU union are set to strike again for three more days from Tuesday of next week—the day the academisation begins.

Over 40 of the 65 workers have struck holding picket lines on the school gate and outside academy trust Cidari’s headquarters in Blackburn.


Messages of support to NEU rep Julie Copeland at [email protected]


Teachers at Abbots Hill School in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire struck for two days over pensions and against the threat of fire and rehire.

NEU and NASUWT union members were set to walk out again on Tuesday and Thursday of this week.

Teachers are angry at the school governors for removing their pension scheme and using fire and rehire tactics to achieve it.

Teachers at Gordano School in Portishead, Somerset, are set to strike from Thursday of next week over workload after an overwhelming vote for action.

NEU union regional officer Ian McCann said the workload level is “having a detrimental effect on our members’ welfare”.


Messages of solidarity to [email protected]


Strike threat gets results on pay

Vehicle technicians at Mercedes Benz Retail Group have won a 13 percent pay increase for 2022 after threatening strikes. Bosses previously offered no pay rise—effectively a pay cut.

The 185 Unite union members had planned four days of strikes this week before accepting the offer.


Workers show true grit to get new offer

Workers that grit roads in Carmarthenshire have suspended strikes after council bosses made a new offer.

The gritters struck for two days earlier this month over bad treatment by bosses.


Hospital cleaners hold off action

Security guards at Great Ormand Street Hospital in central London suspended strikes last week after members of the hospital’s boards announced improvements to terms and conditions.

Members of the UVW union want to be brought in house and receive the same benefits as staff directly employed by the NHS.

Workers say if they don’t receive a clear proposal from the hospital, they will strike for six weeks from Wednesday of next week.


Protesters support scaffolders’ fight

Supporters of the Scunthorpe scaffolders in their pay dispute protested on Monday.

The scaffolders are employed by Actavo. They were set to begin a continuous strike from Wednesday of this week.

The workers are being paid up to 15 percent below the nationally agreed rate for the job. One Unite member, Dayne,  told Socialist Worker, “We’re putting our message across that we’re not happy with what they are doing.

“All the other companies on the site are getting paid the rate that we want.”

He added, “We’ll be escalating things a bit more this time.

“We got a lot of support off a lot of people, but standing there waving a flag wasn’t getting the message across.


Coalition to fight cuts in Wirral

Wirral Council has proposed £19 million of cuts to services. It is set to make its final decision on 28 February.

Wirral trades council, and public sector unions are preparing opposition. A grassroots organisation Wirral Needs Action is also spearheading a broad campaign of activists to fight back.

Norman Meddle

Train cleaners across Britain fight for higher pay

Posted on: January 25th, 2022 by Nick No Comments
Striking cleaners in the RMT union picketing in Crewe

Atalian Servest cleaners picketed across Britain (Picture: RMT)

Outsourced train cleaners employed by Atalian Servest Limited are taking to picket lines in widespread strikes for higher pay.

Despite working throughout the Covid-19 pandemic many receive just £9.68 an hour and have no sick pay.

So far only workers outside of London have been offered a measly pay rise of 2p an hour. Bosses refuse their demands for £9.90 an hour.

Workers held picket lines between Thursday and Saturday in several towns and cities including Carlisle, Liverpool and Wembley, north London.

Strikers know there is money for pay. Their union the RMT, revealed that the company paid £10.8 million to its parent company last year.

This money would be able to give 300 cleaners £15 an hour three times over.

Another pay battle among hundreds of cleaners is brewing across the south east of England. Workers on four separate services provided by outsourcing company Churchill are balloting.

The cleaners work on Thameslink, Southern, Great Northern, Southeastern, High Speed 1 and Eurostar services.

Many of the cleaners are paid only £8.91 per hour. But Churchill paid a £12 million dividend last year which would be enough to rise all wages to £15 per hour.

“We’re having to literally fight with them when they could easily give a pay rise to us,” Churchill cleaner Bella told Socialist Worker.

“It comes from pure greed and they’ve got away with it for so long. Attacking our terms and conditions, keeping us on minimum wage and minimum everything, including uniform standards.”

Alongside pay Churchill cleaners are fighting for free transport, “It’s the guys in London I feel sorry for”, said Bella. “A lot of them are paying about £240 a month just to get to work.”


Hit hard to win on Tube

Workers on the London Underground have begun a work to rule against attacks on jobs, pensions and working arrangements.

Yet the workers—members of the RMT—voted by 94 percent to strike in a ballot that ended earlier in January. Bosses want to make workers pay for the fall in income from passengers during the pandemic.

The workers showed clearly they’re ready to strike. RMT should call strike dates immediately.


The RMT union has written to London mayor Sadiq Khan over suggestions that strikes could have forced a retreat over Night Tube working. Members of the RMT union are striking every weekend against plans to make every worker take at least one Night Tube shift a year.

Yet at a London Assembly committee, deputy mayor Seb Dance said, “It is not the case that drivers will have to work a night shift.” Strikes should not be suspended until the attacks are fully withdrawn.

Muslim hate flows from top

Posted on: January 25th, 2022 by Sophie No Comments

At a protest against the fascist Tommy Robinson

Middle and upper class people are more likely to hold prejudiced views about Muslims than working class people.

A detailed survey about racism in Britain revealed that 23.2 percent of people from “upper and lower middle class groups” held prejudiced views about Islam.
 
In comparison 18.4 percent of people from “working class groups” had those views. The University of Birmingham survey, carried out with analytics firm YouGov, was based on interviews with 1,667 people between 20 and 21 July 2021.
 
Overall, people in Britain are three times more likely to hold racist views of Muslims than other religions. Muslims are the second “least liked” group, after Gypsy and Irish Travellers, with over a quarter of people feeling negatively towards them. 
 
Those behind the survey suggest that negative stereotypes of Islam in society cause these ideas.
 
The report cites the example of Tory minister Nadine Dorries supportively tweeting racist remarks made by fascist Tommy Robinson as one reason why Islamophobia was so widespread.
 
And the normalisation of hatred towards Muslims—what it described as “dinner table prejudice”—also comes from people who know little about Islam. 
 
What this study also shows is that racism doesn’t come from the supposed bigotry or ignorance of ordinary people. It come from the top to keep workers divided and create scapegoats. 

Tory crisis must be a call to action for the left

Posted on: January 25th, 2022 by Sophie No Comments

Anti-Tory protests earlier this month

The Tory crisis should be the gift that keeps on giving to the Labour Party, the left, the trade unions, and everyone who hates the Tories.
 
Every fresh revelation of yet another Downing Street party is another opportunity to put the boot in. Yet Labour just won’t accept the gift. Its leader Keir Starmer is nowhere to be seen.  And its leading politicians are so careful not to go too hard they seem scared of their own shadows.
 
In a BBC interview on Tuesday, Labour’s chosen spokesperson MP David Lammy wouldn’t even say if he thought Boris Johnson’s birthday party was a party.
 
For Labour, the big scandal is not that the Tories partied while many ordinary people were still separated from their families.  It’s that the revelations are a distraction from the government’s warmongering in Ukraine.
 
The consequence of all this is that Labour is now frightened that, when Johnson does go, the Tories will recover. One anonymous Labour shadow minister told the LabourList website they want to keep Johnson in place for as long as possible.
 
“It’s a nice and unusual feeling to be ahead of the polls,” they said. “I suspect it may evaporate once Johnson goes.”
 
Solution
 
The solution to this is to turn Johnson’s crisis into a crisis for the whole of the Tory party. But Labour is frightened to do that.
 
It would mean hammering away at how the Tories put the interests of big business ahead of the lives of ordinary people.
And just as bosses are pushing up prices to protect their profits, the Tories plan to hit us with a national insurance increase and a massive rise in energy bills.
 
Labour insisted on supporting the Tories throughout the pandemic because it also wants to prove itself the friend of big business. 
 
So Labour won’t attack the bosses for jacking up the cost of living.  And it won’t oppose lifting the energy price cap because it doesn’t want to upset the Big Six energy companies. 
 
All of this means that, amid the biggest crisis for the Tories—and the system—in years, the left isn’t playing a part.  The working class are left as spectators. 
 
The trade union leaders that could do something about this take their cue from Labour. 
 
They could organise the mass demonstrations and strikes that could make the Tories’ crisis about much more than birthday parties. But they would rather sit on their hands and wait for a Labour government.
 
In reality, that means waiting for a Labour government that won’t do much for working class people either. We need more resistance urgently. Anything else means giving the Tories’ gift back to them.

Is oil company Repsol using disaster to duck responsibility for spill in Peru?

Posted on: January 25th, 2022 by Nick No Comments
A cleanup worker holds up a bedraggled, oil soaked bird

The oil spill killed wildlife and damaged fishers’ livelihoods (Picture: Oefa Peru)

The Peruvian government declared a climate emergency this week after 6,000 barrels of crude oil, owned by the company Repsol, spilled into the South Pacific Ocean.

The spill has hit over 20 beaches along the country’s coasts, killing and injuring marine life. Hundreds of dead birds have been seen floating in the sea covered in oil. And the spill is already having a devastating impact on those who live in Peru’s coastal areas.

Fisher Bernardo Espinoza told reporters, “Right in the middle of high season they have gone and basically cut off our arms,”

“We can’t work. We already are using up the last of our savings.”

Another fisher, Giovana Rugel, said, “Nothing is selling at all. The fish more than anything comes out with the smell of oil, and people don’t buy it, they don’t eat it because they are afraid of getting poisoned by it, by the oil spill.

Fishers protested and held a sit-in outside Repsol refinery in the province of Callao to demand action be taken against the company last week.

They held signs reading, “Repsol killer of marine fauna,” and, “No to ecological crime.”

The spill is likely to have a terrible impact on biodiversity and industry in the years to come, but what caused it is highly contested.

The widely supposed view is that large waves caused by the eruption of an undersea volcano near Tonga hit an oil tanker that was unloading. This is the version of the story that Repsol has gone with.

The company denied all responsibility for the incident, saying it could not predict the weather conditions that supposedly caused the spill. But a new report from Peru’s Supervisory Body for Investment in Energy and Mining contradicts this. 

The report conducted by scientists found no connection between the spill and the eruption of the volcano thousands of miles away.

Instead the report concluded the spill was much more likely caused by sudden movement by the Mare Doricum tanker, causing it to rupture. 

The Supervisory Body for Investment in Energy and Mining has now asked Repsol what it did to stop the spill. Initial reports by the company said that only very small amounts of oil had spilt into the ocean.

And in a statement Peru’s environmental assessment and enforcement agency agreed that Repsol had not done enough to stop more damage to wildlife after the spill.

Irresponsible companies dead set on making as much profit as possible are causing devastation to the planet that will impact the poorest first.

New strike days in First Manchester bus pay fight

Posted on: January 25th, 2022 by Nick No Comments
Dozens of strikers with red Unite union flags on First Manchester picket line

First bus workers on strike

Bus drivers employed by First Manchester have returned to picket lines in a dispute over pay.

Over 300 workers struck on Thursday of last week and Monday and Wednesday of this week. They are set to strike again on several dates throughout February.

The members of the Unite union are fighting after bosses refused to backdate any pay increase to August 2021.

August is the month when the annual pay increase was due.

Unite branch secretary Sohail told Socialist Worker, “We’ve not had a pay rise for the last couple of years. Even the pay rises we are getting are so low they don’t cover our household bills.”


Manchester bus driver Tracey Scholes is celebrating victory following a campaign in her defence.

Changes to the busses left five foot tall Tracey unable to reach the pedals when looking in the mirrors.

Bosses at Go North West threatened her with reduced hours or the sack.

But after protests, they backed down and agreed to protect her hours and pay.


More than 360 workers at Stagecoach bus depots in Bristol, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Stroud, Coalway, and Ross-on-Wye could strike over pay.

A strike ballot began on Tuesday of this week and is set to end on Thursday 10 February.

Anti-fascists will protest against Nazi Tommy Robinson in Telford

Posted on: January 25th, 2022 by Sophie No Comments

Activists protests against the Tories Nationality and Borders bill last year (Guy Smallman)

Fascist Tommy Robinson is planning to visit Telford on Saturday in an attempt to use child sexual exploitation to further his far right agenda.
 
While Robinson does not have the strength he had four years ago, he is still set on stoking up hate against Muslims.
 
Shropshire and Telford Stand Up To Racism have called a demonstration against Robinson’s visit and are calling on anti‑racists to join them.
 
“While we resolutely support justice for the victims in Telford, we oppose racist attempts to stigmatise one community,” it said.
The protest will be held at 1pm in Southwater Square, Telford town centre.
 
And next Saturday, Stand Up To Racism and the TUC are holding a conference on fighting racism in the workplace.
 
Workshops are covering the borders and police bills, the pandemic, teaching the legacy of slavery and the rise of the far right globally.
The conference will be in the lead up to  Stand Up To Racism protests in March.
 

Demonstrations are taking place on 19 March in London and Glasgow, and 20 March in Cardiff.


More information at – standuptoracism.org.uk

Anti-vax marches—a warning from the right

Posted on: January 25th, 2022 by Yuri No Comments
Anti-vax demo in London last week attracted some NHS workers

The anti-vax demo in London last week attracted some NHS workers angry at the mandatory vaccination policy (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Tens of thousands of people marched against vaccines in central London on Saturday—and they were joined by hundreds more in other towns and cities across Britain.

The demonstrations built on ­previous protests by the ­conspiracy-driven movement that has consistently mobilised large numbers of people.

But now the movement’s ­organisers hope to latch on to health workers that face losing their jobs for being unvaccinated.

As with previous demonstrations, the march on Saturday brought together people representing a ­spectrum of anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination ideas.

It includes an element of people frustrated or hit hard by lockdowns, including small business owners and some workers. It also included people sceptical or unconvinced about the safety and ­effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccine—and those who believe it is some sort of conspiracy.

In both cases, the trajectory was to the right.

Far from a fringe element, those pushing “harder” conspiratorial ideas, often rooted in antisemitism, are at the core. 

And although the ­demonstrations are not a fascist movement, they are places where a variety far right groups are tolerated and even welcomed.

The most significant ­difference on Saturday’s march was the organised presence of some health workers.

A group called NHS 100k ­organised a large feeder march of people in specially-produced blue hoodies. Most appeared to be genuine health workers and their ­families or supporters.

Many carried homemade ­placards demanding freedom of choice and informed consent, and emphasising the threat to jobs and the NHS, rather than advancing conspiracy theories.

Some even declared they’d had the vaccine themselves, but were against it being imposed on others.

But the main march’s ­organisers used the health workers to give the movement a stronger sense of respectability and legitimacy. They encouraged those in blue hoodies to lead the demonstration chanting, “Save our jobs.” 

The “harder” element among the marchers linked vaccine mandates to their own conspiracy theories.

And the NHS100k website, where the health workers on the march bought their blue hoodies, casts doubt on the effectiveness of the vaccine and promotes false anti-mask “research.”

Demanding

It provides a model email to send to trade unions demanding to know what they are doing to oppose ­vaccine mandates. And it encourages its ­supporters to join the right wing English Workers Union, which is run by the leader of the far right English Democrats party.

Clearly, the right hopes to build on frustration and disillusion among some health workers at the major unions for failing to oppose sackings of unvaccinated health workers.

In the same way, the ­anti‑­vaccination demonstrations have established a large following in a vacuum left by trade union ­leaders, the Labour Party and the left.

When there has been so little opposition to the Tories—few strikes and even fewer demonstrations—the anger at Johnson finds other outlets.

The danger is—particularly among health workers currently—that these are paths to the right.