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Industrial round-up: Call steel strikes now

The Unite union is considering strikes by steel workers
Issue 2908
A protest march through Port Talbot defending steel jobs in February (Picture: Guy Smallman)

A protest march through Port Talbot defending steel jobs in February (Picture: Guy Smallman)

The Unite union is considering strikes by steel workers. It comes as Tata company bosses contemptuously brushed aside plans for lower level industrial action and ramped up its attacks on workers. Last week Unite said around 1,500 steel workers based in Port Talbot and Llanwern in Newport would begin a work to rule and overtime ban from 18 June.

This was in response to the company’s plans to close its South Wales blast furnaces and cut 2,800 jobs. But it didn’t call a strike. This was a major mistake. A strike would be front page news and put pressure on Labour as well as the Tories.

Sensing weakness, Tata responded with a brusque statement saying, “Neither the general election nor its outcome has any impact on the timings or our decision to proceed with the winding down of our heavy-end operations (blast furnaces).” Tata also threatened “to bring forward” the closure of blast furnaces, to take legal action against the Unite industrial action ballot and to withdraw enhanced redundancy terms.

Faced with this full-on assault, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Unite and its members will not tolerate Tata’s bully boy tactics and neither should Labour. The union is now preparing to escalate industrial action in direct response to the company’s threats.”

On 11 April Unite announced steel workers had voted overwhelmingly for strikes. It has taken seven weeks for action to be called. Workers in the larger steel union, Community, have also backed strikes. There can be no more delay. Unite and Community have to call all-out strikes—now

Joint action to boost guards

In Oxford last Wednesday a handful of unionised security guards succeeded in shutting down their place of employment—ironically—the city’s DWP Job Centre. This is part of a national GMB union backed strike of over 1,000 security guards employed by outsourcing firm G4S.

Almost all are paid minimum wage. In 2022, they asked for a reasonable 13 percent but were offered 6 percent. The guards typically struggle to make ends meet. One worker said he worked a second job. Another saves by living outside the city and commuting in. This was the first strike these Oxford workers had taken part in.

They have been banding together outside their workplace, brandishing their union flag and explaining their cause to the public. They have started to appreciate their power as an organised collective to demand better conditions.

They’ve discussed how they could escalate their demands to win over issues such as sick pay. They’ve also realised that their level of industrial action could also be increased. GMB nationally has given notice that if G4S management fails to meet its demands, escalation to week-on and week-off strikes could be on the cards.

Geoff Taylor

  • Some 200 security guards and PCS union members working in job centres across Britain are set to strike for seven days for fair pay from midnight on 17 June. The PCS members also want better pay. The GMB and PCS unions should coordinate their strikes to make sure they have the biggest impact.

Swift action over bus workers’ pay in Liverpool

Nearly 500 Liverpool Stagecoach bus drivers are set to strike over pay disparity between themselves and Arriva Liverpool drivers. Arriva drivers in the city get £1.40 more an hour, equating to around £3,000 a year, for the same role.

The strike is planned for six days from Thursday next week until 18 June. Stagecoach has the money to cough up. It announced revenues of £773.2 million for the half year to 28 October 2023, up from £669.6 million during the previous six months.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “For too long Stagecoach has gotten away with paying its Liverpool drivers on the cheap. It can totally afford to equalise pay with Arriva. Unite’s Liverpool Stagecoach members have their union’s total backing.”

As well as hitting day-to-day travel, the strike will impact transport to events such as the concerts by singer Taylor Swift and Pink’s performance at the Anfield football ground. Unite says that if the dispute is not resolved the strikers could consider all-out strikes

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