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Industrial round-up: Barnet workers strike back

Barnet mental health workers have been on strike for over 10 months
Issue
Mental health workers on strike outside Barnet

Mental health social workers on their 57th day of strike (Photo: twitter/barnet_unison)

Barnet mental health social workers started the week on day 57 of their strike, which has been run­ning for ten months.

The strikers have been campaigning and giving out their newspaper to local resi­dents with information about their strike and the service they provide.

They are fighting their strike-breaking north London authority over a proper reten­tion and recruitment pay­ment. The strikers walked out for 27 days between Septem­ber last year and February.

This was followed by two weeks of action from 15 April. Now they plan to be out until 12 July—which means nine weeks of continuous action since 13 May. The Barnet Unison union branch has now circulated a letter to the council for the strikers’ sup­porters to sign to end the use of recruitment agency Impe­rium Solutions.

On Friday 17 May, in an email to all staff, a senior council officer announced they were going “to employ social workers to carry out work which would normally be done by our strikers”.

Unison union wrote that if this happened, the council “would be procuring the ser­vices of an employment busi­ness… and a criminal offence would be committed”.

Barnet Unison has also called out the Labour Party— claiming that its policy on Delivering A New Deal for Working People “is at odds” with the council’s actions.

“There is no place across the trade union movement for use of agency workers to break strikes,” the branch added.

Unison nationally has to keep using its weight to expose the Labour council’s strike breaking.

With Unison’s local gov­ernment conference starting this weekend, and its national conference next week, del­egates should be raising the strikers’ fight.

And they should pressure Unison to up the ante—and get more branches to support the strike.

Escalated action by other council workers and pres­sure from Unison nationally to support the strikers is the way to win this dispute.


Museum strike forces bosses to pay up

PCS union members at the National Museums Liverpool (NML) have voted to accept an improved pay offer.

The workers were on strike for more than 60 days in their fight for a £1,500 cost of living payment.

This was part of the government’s pay offer for 2022/23.

The strikers’ action led to gallery closures at the Museum of Liverpool, the World Museum, the International Slavery Museum and the Maritime Museum.

It also impacted the Walker Gallery, Sudley House and the Lady Lever Art Gallery. The strike was lively with good-sized picket lines.

Workers found ways to keep their spirits throughout the long strike with fancy dress theme days.

PCS suspended strikes from 28 May to 2 June so that the NML members could vote on an offer from management.

PCS rep and branch officer Matt told Socialist Worker at the start of their action, “We look after priceless objects but the most priceless thing NML has is its staff.

“It’s time it valued us and treated us with the respect we deserve.”

Last Monday the union announced that the day before strikers had accepted an offer of a one-off £1,200 payment, two extra days’ holiday a year and a 35 percent discount in museum cafes.

PCS Liverpool Museums said on Twitter, “We are glad this dispute is now concluded with long-term benefits to our members as well as a needed cost of living payment. Solidarity!”

The strikers, with their creative and fun pickets, fought hard to stay out and win what was theirs.


Union must come up with plan to fight job cuts

Workers in universities are fighting a battle against redundancies.

At the University of Winchester, the bosses plan to cut around 40 jobs and increase the workload of the existing staff.

Angry workers headed to picket lines last Thursday. Striker Barbara Loester said she is “gutted” by the redundancy threats.

“My job is under threat and is very likely to go and this, for me, means pretty much the end of my career in Britain,” she added.

Members of the UCU union at two more universities, who are facing some of the worst cuts, have voted to strike.

The bosses at the University of Lincoln plan to cut 220 workers across the institution. This would amount to one in ten academic staff losing their jobs.

And workers at Sheffield Hallam University have also voted to strike. The bosses want to gut the university of as many as 400 professional services jobs.

About 140 academics have already left the university after it opened a voluntary severance scheme. The bosses are doing this as they invest millions into new building projects.

More branches voting to strike is a good thing.

But they should be part of a joined-up battle to fight bosses who are taking a sledgehammer to higher education.

Those at the top of the UCU must set out a real plan for how their members can fight and win against redundancies.


Rail strike over poor pay

Workers on Northern Rail struck last Saturday over poor pay and dreadful working conditions.

RMT union members employed by outsourcer Carlisle Support Services work at Northern Rail ticket gates but are paid less than directly employed staff and cannot enter the company pension scheme or receive sick pay.

The contractor also does not recognise RMT for the purposes of collective bargaining.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said, “All these workers want is to be treated equally and get the same pay and conditions as their colleagues in Northern Rail.”

  • Catering workers on Avanti West Coast rail struck last Friday after the company introduced new rosters that, the RMT union says, “have led to significant stress and exhaustion among employees”.

Seven-day strike in NHS

Health workers employed by North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust and South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust began a seven-day strike this Monday.

Workers took to picket lines at the start of this week. They say they are not paid for completing more complex duties than they are employed to do.

The members of the Unison union took to big picket lines, carrying a banner that read, “We deserve more.”

The health care assistants are on a salary band 2 and should only provide care such as bathing and feeding.

The trusts have offered to move the workers to a higher salary band and include back pay to July 2021—but Unison says it wants this to go as far back as July 2019.

Workers have lost around £2,000 in pay each year over ten years due to the issue.

They plan to continue the strike until this Saturday and then strike for a further 48


Strike dates must be set in stone now

School support staff at the Stonehenge School in Amesbury, Wiltshire, are voting to strike over changes to their working hours.

Members of the GMB union are angry that management has suddenly decided to change their working day, which has been the same for years.

The ballot opened this week and will close on 1 July.


Redbridge could absolutely stink

Refuse workers in Redbridge, east London, are voting on strikes.

Redbridge Civic Services Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the council, employs the workers.

However, they are subject to far worse conditions than their directly council-employed colleagues.

Workers are unhappy with a range of issues that the council has failed to address.

If the ballot—which opened last Friday and closes next Monday—is successful, the first round of strikes could take place in the week before the coming election.


Packaging workers fight fire and rehire

Workers at packaging company Envases were set to strike this week over bosses’ plans to fire and rehire them.

The printers, who are members of the Unite union, are angry at new contracts that require them to work in the company’s production hall when required.

Strikes are planned for Wednesday this week until Friday this week. They also plan to strike from next Monday until next Friday and then from 24 June until 25 June.


A Berry good deal for Norwich strike

The unite union has called off strikes at Berry Norwich after an improved pay offer was put forward by the company.

The workers voted to accept an above inflation pay deal worth five percent.

The deal also moves those on the lowest pay up to the next pay band.

The workers walked out from 19 May to 21 May.


Delivery drivers win after one day

Delivery drivers in Hartlepool, north east England, have won against Just Eat bosses.

Workers were angry that the delivery app removed a 50 pence order bonus for riders per delivery. They said this would hit already poorly paid workers hard in a cost of living crisis.

After striking for just one day, Just Eat contacted workers to say that the bonus was back.

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