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Go North East indefinite bus pay strike + East London NHS battle

Issue 2880
Group of Go North East bus pickets over pay in yellow hi-vis jackets

Go North East bus strikers are determined to win on pay (Picture Unite North East)

Over 1,300 bus drivers in the north east of England are on the second week of an all-out strike over pay.

The strikers, in the Unite union, escalated their action on 28 October after two weeks of earlier action.

They also showed their strength and determination by voting 81 percent on a 93 percent turnout against  a 10.3 percent uplift. They had already rejected a 9.1 and 9.5 percent pay rise.

Unite regional officer Dave Telford said, “If you put the latest offer across £12.83 an hour that brings it to £14.11, which is still significantly below the next-lowest paid in the Go Ahead Group which is £15.

“Our claim of 13.4 percent doesn’t fully close that gap to £15, but it goes some way. The offer that was made this week just wasn’t good enough.”

Go North East workers have not had a pay rise for over five years when adjusted for inflation, and their salaries have fallen by five percent since 2018.

But the highest paid director grabs over £188,000.

Bus drivers are striking in Consett, Gateshead, Hexham, Percy Main (North Shields) Sunderland and Washington. They are paid just £12.83, while colleagues in Go North West Manchester are paid £15.53.

Scab office workers and managers with bus driving licences are attempting to cover the gaps left by strikers.

Unite union general secretary Sharon Graham accused Go North East of “betraying” its workers and pointed the blame at bosses.

She said, “This stubbornness, refusing to pay a decent wage to their workers, is what’s caused this dispute and only Go North East can end it by improving their offer. Unite will be backing our members to the hilt in that fight.”

The dispute also involves working conditions. Go North East wants to reduce paid meal breaks and paid time to travel between depots.

Meanwhile around 150 engineers at First Glasgow are set to strike on Thursday and Friday of next week.

Unite members at First Glasgow (No1) and First Glasgow (No2) are fighting for an above inflation pay rise.

Isabel Ringrose

Group of determined-looking workers with Unite union banner on pay strike

Marching at The Royal London Hospital on Monday in the fight over pay (Picture: Guy Smallman)

East London health workers demand the bonus they are owed

Hundreds of workers for Barts Health NHS in east London are on strike in a long running battle over pay, staffing and conditions—and a host of local issues.

The strike started on Monday morning and was set to continue for three days.

Nurses, lab technicians, catering workers, domestics, porters and security staff all swelled picket lines across four main hospital sites.

Loud chanting and the sound of horns made them impossible to ignore.

This week strikers were joined for the first time by a group of 25 pathologists working for the East and South East London Pathology Partners. 

The biochemistry group is owned by the Barts NHS trust. 

Workers there said they’d joined the action because management are trying to push through new rotas.

The new system would mean workers based in south east London could be forced to work at Whipps Cross hospital, for example. That could mean a journey to work of over an hour and a half.

The biggest issue behind the dispute remains Barts bosses’ refusal to pay the government’s £1,600 Covid bonus to staff who were previously contracted out to Serco.

Unite branch treasurer Anna Livingstone told Socialist Worker that the mood was “confident” and that the strikers are “strong”.

“People on the picket lines are really angry with management,” she said.

“But the strike is not just about the local issues, and people’s terms and conditions.

“There is really strong support for saving the NHS from the Tories.”

Anna also pointed out that the government’s latest offer to pay its Covid bonus to staff working for the NHS but employed by private firms is unlikely to be offered to the striking ex-Serco workers.

“They are only paying that to those who were already on NHS Agenda for Change terms and conditions,” she said.

Yuri Prasad

Victory for strikers  in Wirral NHS pay battle

Hundreds of clinical support workers on Merseyside have won a fantastic victory at Wirral University Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust.

In a long-running strike, workers battled to be re-graded as band 3 staff because of the clinical work they do alongside their regular patient care responsibilities.

Managers eventually agreed to put them on band 3. It meant workers got an instant pay rise of up to £2,000 a year. 

But they refused the union’s demand for back pay to 2018, saying they would only pay band 3 salaries from December 2022.

That would have seen workers on the Wirral shortchanged by thousands of pounds.  

But after more rounds of strikes, and with still more planned, the bosses caved in last week.

Unison union members in the north west of England have put up a great fight for some of the worst paid workers in the NHS.

But the battle is not over. There are now strikes over grading at Warrington and Halton.

Unions must fight to save steel jobs

British Steel bosses are wrecking lives with plans to slash thousands of jobs.

They announced on Monday the closures of blast furnaces in Scunthorpe, putting up to 2,000 jobs at risk.

The business, owned by Jingye Group, wants to replace them with two electric arc furnaces—one at Scunthorpe and one at Teesside.

The Tories are bunging the firm £300 million to implement the plan—and slash jobs.

Another firm, Tata, announced earlier this year it would close its two blast furnaces in Port Talbot and replace them with electric arc furnaces, with an expected loss of up to 3,000 jobs.

The unions have allowed tens of thousands of jobs to go in steel without a fight.

They are still hitting the wrong target. Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of the Community union, said he was “deeply concerned” by the plans to switch to only electric arc furnaces, which he described as “dangerous and foolhardy”.

But greener production is good. It doesn’t have to mean job cuts.

It could mean fewer hours and less stress at work for those who remain, and guaranteed jobs for those who leave.

Paul Nowak, general secretary of the TUC union federation said, “Workers won’t stand back and watch as Britain’s steel industry is dismantled in real time.

“The Conservatives are presenting a false choice,” he said.

“Other countries have shown that it is possible to transition to zero-carbon steelmaking and protect good steelmaking jobs for the future. We can do the same here.”

Charlotte Brumpton-Childs from the GMB union said the closure would be “a hammer blow” for UK steel and “devastating” for the people of Scunthorpe

Unions have already threatened industrial action over Tata’s plans. That needs to happen now.

Union leaders have repeatedly used nationalist arguments about “saving British industry” in an effort to persuade the government to save jobs. This has utterly failed.

Now there needs to be a new approach. It has to involve serious strikes and a fight for public ownership of steel under democratic control.

That can win a sustainable industry and save jobs.

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