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Big rally as Chep pay strikers vote to hold more action + BT+ round-up

They have been out for almost five months over pay and it's time to break the impasse
Issue 2801
About 50 Chep pay strikers behind a display of union banners

Rallying for the Chep pay fight last week

Up to 250 trade unionists, supporters and strikers joined a solidarity march for the strike at Chep UK pallets in Trafford Park Manchester on Wednesday of last week. There were banners from other Unite union branches, as well from Unison and the GMB and the People’s Assembly and trades councils. 

Bfawu general secretary Ian Hodson was among the speakers. The march went from the BBC HQ at Media City to the Chep plant, accompanied by the PCS union samba band. 

To loud cheers, Unite regional official Ian McCluskey announced the result of a recent consultation on the company’s latest offer.  On a 95 percent turnout, 89 percent voted to reject and continue the strike. This is a great boost to the strikers who have now been all out for nearly five months. 

It also sends a strong message to the bosses, but if they don’t budge there needs to be a serious strategy of escalation. Chep repairs and supplies pallets for companies including InBev, Heinz, Heineken, A&B Containers, Encric and TDS.

The union, which has a mandate to strike until 19 May, will now ballot Chep members in a third vote for further strikes beyond that date.  The ballot was set to run from Thursday this week to Thursday 5 May. 

Meanwhile, strikers are appealing for funds. As mental health nurse Karen Reissmann said when addressing the rally, this is a fight for everyone.  A victory for Chep workers will be a shot in the arm for all those suffering as the cost of living rises.

  • Donations to Unity Bank NW/1 Strike Fund. Sort code 60-83-01 Account 20217873.

Sue Caldwell

Ballot after pay insult

Tens of thousands of workers at telecom giant BT could ballot for strikes. If follows bosses’ decision to impose a pay increase this year that’s effectively a wage cut.

BT gave all workers a pay rise of £1,500 earlier this month. This would be an increase of 8 percent for the lowest paid workers, but just 3 percent for others. With the RPI rate of inflation close to 10 percent, that’s a real terms pay cut for everyone.

The CWU union said it rejected the offer and would “immediately prepare for a statutory industrial action ballot.” The workers affected by the pay cut are mainly those who work at its retail stores, engineers who work at its Openreach subsidiary, and the call centre employees.

US nukes at Suffolk base

Campaigners are gearing up for action after news of the possible return of US nuclear weapons to RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk after 14 years.

There are reports that the US department of defence has added Britain to a list of Nato nuclear weapons storage locations in Europe being upgraded under a multimillion dollar infrastructure programme.

RAF Lakenheath hosted US nuclear weapons for more than five decades, first arriving in September 1954. By the time of their removal in 2008, the site had 33 underground storage vaults with around 110 B61 bombs that could be dropped from F-15E warplanes based there.

Lakenheath received the latest nuclear-capable fighter—the F-35A—in December 2021 and a total of 24 F-35As are expected to be based there. 

Further battles on pay 

Workers at the factory that makes Glacier Mints and other sweets for supermarkets like M&S completed their first day of strikes on Thursday of last week. Bosses have told GMB union members in York to sign up to new contracts or be fired.  

The firm has also offered workers a below inflation pay rise. 

  • Workers at Sandwell leisure centre in the west Midlands have voted to strike after bosses refused to negotiate on pay. 

More than 84 percent of workers, who are members of the GMB union, voted to strike. 

Strikes across nine separate sites in Sandwell are likely to start next Monday. 

  •  Staff at Burnley College, Bury College, Hopwood Hall College, City of Liverpool College, Nelson and Colne College and Oldham College are ready to strike. The UCU union members want an 8.5 percent rise.

UCU regional official Martyn Moss said, “Following the repeated refusal of employers to give staff a proper pay rise we were left with no choice but to ballot for strike action. 

“Colleges can afford to pay staff more and leaders now need to do the right thing and give staff a decent pay rise or face strikes across the region.”

  • It is now ten weeks since food delivery workers in Chesterfield began strikes against a 24 percent pay cut. 

Stuart, a subcontractor of fast food delivery service Just Eat, has cut workers’ wages from £4.50 to £3.40 for every trip in several cities.

Strikes quickly spread across the country to cities including Blackpool, Sunderland, Newcastle and Huddersfield.

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