Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2799

Chep UK strikers appeal for wider union backing + round-up

Unite must make sure this epic battle is won
Issue 2799
A brazier on the Chep picket line with the words "My boss is a Chep skate" cut into it.

A defiant message from the Chep picket line (Pic: Unite North West)

Unite union members at Chep UK pallets in Trafford Park, Manchester, have entered their 19th week of strikes. This makes theirs the longest-running strike in the history of the union.

Talks over pay have stalemated, with management trying to tie any deal this year to a rotten deal for next year. Inflation is already significantly higher than it was at the start of the strikes.

Striking rep Gary told Socialist Worker, “The company has fed us back their final offer that has been rejected. Now the union is looking at further escalations. We’re hoping Chep will come back to the table.”

Unite has approached Chep customers, but the emphasis is on getting their bosses to pressurise the company rather than mobilising against the use of scab pallets. Unite general secretary Sharon Graham has been in touch with strikers to firm up support ahead of a reballot for another 12 weeks of action. This was appreciated, but further escalation would be a bigger boost.

Local trade unionists are encouraged to visit the 24‑hour picket line. And with the strike likely to continue, it is important that activists everywhere raise solidarity and financial support where possible. 

Gary said it’s “pretty certain” the strikers will vote again in favour of further action for the second time. The union has been brilliant, and the local trade union movement has been fantastic,” he said. 

“Keep spreading the word. Some of us are starting to feel the pinch so we appeal for any financial support too.”

Sue Caldwell

  • Donations to Unity Bank NW/1 Strike Fund. Sort code 60-83-01 Account 20217873. Tweet messages of support to @unite_northwest

Pay battles at GE Aviation and the Fawley oil refinery  

Workers at the GE Aviation factory in Gloucester are striking every Friday for better pay. 

Around 90 Unite union members rejected a two-year pay offer worth 4.5 percent.

Unite has accused the company of using “dirty tricks” to intimidate strikers by changing the sickness policy. 

Workers now have to provide a certificate for sickness-related absences on the first day rather than after five.

GE has also banned workers from taking annual leave during the dispute, including the days the strikers are in work. 

  • Around 100 workers at Exxon’s Southampton oil refinery at Fawley were set to strike on Friday of this week and then on 25 April and 6 May. The strikers are employed by Trant Engineering Limited, Veolia Services and Altrad Services. 

Bosses offered workers a 2.5 percent pay rise and are angry that they receive no sick pay, yet workers employed directly by Exxon do.

The site was also a target last week for Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil activists fighting the oil giant.

Supporting one another can make important links between trade unions and the fight for climate justice.

  • Action at Riverside Baking in Nottinghamshire has been postponed while the 170 workers vote on a deal. Workers had voted for an all out strike due to begin last Wednesday.

EIS lecturers vote for pay action

Scottish college lecturers in the EIS union have voted overwhelmingly for action over pay. They beat the ballot threshold and voted 73 percent for strikes and 89 percent for action short of strikes. Both tactics will be used in a campaign scheduled for April.

Lecturers in Scottish colleges have struck almost every year since the return to national bargaining in 2015 because of intransigent employers bent on tearing up deals they signed. 

After successful strikes, full time Scottish lecturers are relatively well paid compared to some public sector workers. 

But we know that if the bosses and the politicians lower the living standards of one group of workers it weakens all. We could strike alongside the UCU university workers. 

Donny Gluckstein


Post office strike vote

Post Office workers have voted to strike against a pay freeze.  Members of the CWU union voted by 97 percent for strikes in a ballot that ended on Monday of last week.

CWU leaders say strikes by counters, admin and supply chain workers would close every Crown Post Office and stop cash deliveries to sub post offices.  But they have used the ballot result to call for talks with bosses instead.

  • Royal Mail managers in the Unite union could soon be voting on strikes over plans to sack nearly 1,000 people and re-employ them on worse pay. 

Many Royal Mail workers in the CWU union will rightly feel that managers are the people who implement bosses’ demands. 

But successful fire and rehire won’t help anyone.


Ballot at Cardiff council, but Heathrow strike off

Cardiff City council workers voted by 98 percent to strike over bullying culture in the Waste Services Department. 

Over 60 percent of the workforce say they have been bullied or witnessed bullying.

The council’s treatment of its workers stinks—it has also been accused by the Unite union of health and safety failings and leaving agency workers on contracts for 15 years.

  • Workers at Mahle Engine Systems in Kilmarnock who make components for motorsport engines have been offered a two-year pay deal of 5.5 percent for 2022 and 5 percent in 2023. The workers are being balloted until 19 April.
  • More than 160 Unite union members employed by Heathrow airport baggage engineering contractor Vanderlande Industries voted for strikes for this weekend. On a turnout of 77 percent, 97 percent of workers voted in favour of action. 

But strikes were postponed on Monday after a new offer.

Technicians, engineers and control room operators are angry that bosses have frozen their pay while recording a 14 percent growth in profits last year.

The Unite union will now ballot its members over the next two weeks. 

They should not accept anything less than a rise of 10 percent given the current 8.2 percent inflation rate.

  • Wiltshire council traffic wardens are starting a ballot over pay.  The workers are facing a pay cut of 10 percent—£2,000 a year. The ballot is due to open on 6 April and close on 30 April.

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