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Industrial round-up – Nurses consider walkouts against Tory pay cap

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Issue 2549
RCN students protesting in 2015
RCN students protesting in 2015 (Pic: Julie Sherry)

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said it will consult members on taking industrial action against the Tories’ 1 percent pay cap. That’s an effective pay cut because of inflation.

The RCN hasn’t decided what form the industrial action would take. It said, “Members will be asked about the impact of pay restraint and how the college should respond, including whether members should consider taking industrial action.”

Health workers should use the RCN announcement to pressure Unison and the other health unions to ballot their members for action.

Unison’s conference is set to take place in Liverpool at the end of this month. The Unison leadership has proposed that each of the union’s 12 regions launch a dispute over pay regrading at some hospitals.

This should be a bridge towards national action, not a substitute for it.

Teach college bosses another lesson in Scotland

Lecturers at Further Education colleges in Scotland have voted by 96 percent for strikes to force colleges to honour a national pay deal agreed a year ago.

The ballot, involving over 4,600 lecturers across Scotland, saw a turnout of 60 percent.

EIS-Fela union members routed bosses last year. More than 30 days of strikes were planned but the employers buckled after just one.

The union also exerted political pressure. Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon didn’t want the dispute getting in the way of the Scottish parliamentary elections. Stubborn bosses agreed a historic equal pay deal.

No strike dates had been set as Socialist Worker went to press.

But calling further strikes before the Scottish council elections in May could embarrass the SNP and give the bosses another bloody nose.

BMW workers announce eight days of strikes

workers at BMW car factories have announced eight strike days against bosses’ pension robbery beginning on Wednesday of next week.

Unite union members voted by 93 percent for strikes to stop the closure of their final salary pension scheme.

The dispute involves up to 3,500 workers at four sites, though not all are involved in every strike day.

These are the Mini plants at Cowley in Oxford and Swindon, the Rolls-Royce plant at Goodwood in Sussex and the Hams Hall engine plant in Warwickshire.

Workers protested at the gates of the Swindon plant on Wednesday of last week, following similar protests in Cowley the week before.

The BMW strikes could be the start of large-scale resistance to the onslaught against private sector pension schemes.

Unite should make sure they go ahead—and trade unionists should get down to the picket lines to show support.

Strike details:

  • Wed 19 April—Cowley, Hams Hall and Swindon
  • Sun 23 April—Cowley and Swindon
  • Wed 3 May—Hams Hall
  • Fri 5 May—Goodwood
  • Tue 16 May—all four sites
  • Thu 18 May—all four sites
  • Sun 21 May—Cowley and Swindon
  • Wed 24 May—Goodwood and Hams Hall

Ferry workers can sink bosses

Ferry workers on the Thames river are planning walkouts on the Woolwich ferry in south east London later this month.

The GMB and Unite union members plan 24-hour strikes on 18 and 21 April.

They are fighting against the alleged sexual harassment of a female worker by a manager and management bullying.

Bosses at private contractor Briggs Marine have also been running down the maintenance and putting health and safety at risk.

Two engineers collapsed after toxic fumes from the engine overwhelmed them.

The workers previously struck twice in January and February and had planned ten further strikes, but they were called off for talks.

Now the action is back on every trade unionist should build solidarity for their fight.

Social workers want walkouts in Kirklees

The ongoing dispute at Children’s Social Work Teams in Kirklees resumed with a bang last week.

A full time official from the Unison union reported to a members’ meeting that no progress had been made in negotiations. Members responded to his recommendation to take industrial action by voting unanimously to strike on 2 and 3 May.

Unison had previously given the impression that it would sanction strikes. But the Kirklees branch received a letter from the regional official on Friday saying action could not proceed without the branch defining what an acceptable offer would be to call off the strike.


Tory council takes leaf out of Labour council’s book

Library workers in Bromley, south London, ended an eight-day walkout last Saturday over the privatisation of 14 libraries in the Tory-run borough.

Around 60 Unite union members struck.

The union said its campaign “has seen construction firm Carillion and a scheme run by volunteers withdraw from the bidding process, leaving only one private bidder with its hat in the ring.

“Unite understands that is Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL).”

GLL is the same firm mired in the scandal at neighbouring south London Lambeth council.

There, Labour is the one handing control of public libraries to a private outfit.


London Bridge station workers ballot for strikes

Tube station workers in the RMT union at London Bridge and nearby stations are balloting for strikes.

It comes after one member was sacked and two others disciplined for intervening to stop a serious assault.

The incident took place last November when a passenger without a ticket was challenged by the staff members. The union said the passenger assaulted three members of staff, one of whom was pregnant.

One of the workers has been sacked and two others given final warnings. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said it was “one of the most appalling abuses of the disciplinary procedure that RMT has ever come across”.

The ballot closes on Tuesday of next week.

Activists meet for their conference on resistance

Over 200 social workers, academics, trade unionists, social work students and service users attended the Social Work Action Network (Swan) conference last weekend.

It was held over two days at Teesside University in Middlesbrough around the themes of the fight against racism, welfare reform and anti-privatisation.

Workshops looked at working with refugees and migrants, and how to deal with massive cuts to the welfare state.

Speakers emphasised the need for unity in resistance.

Discussions stressed the need to move away from blaming individuals for their difficulties.

The focus should be on how society, or a lack of housing or decent paying jobs can have more of an impact on wellbeing than anything else.

It was agreed to put together an anti-privatisation pamphlet to be used in colleges, workplaces and trade unions as a tool for education and agitation.

Sharon Campion

Strike threat brings Night Tube victory

Tube drivers’ unions RMT and Aslef are claiming victory after London Underground bosses backed down from a “senseless and damaging policy”.

Workers’ were set to walk out last weekend against a block that stopped Night Tube drivers from moving into vacant full-time posts for a period of at least 18 months.

But the strike was called off after bosses backed down.

The workers were angry that all other staff, including part time Night Tube station staff, were eligible to apply but not them.

New proposals mean that bosses will fill full-time vacancies from waiting lists in line with agreements. And Night Tube drivers won’t be “jumped” by new recruits.

Tens of thousands to ballot for action

Thousands of Unison union members working in Scottish councils have voted by 78 percent in a consultation to reject a pay offer from council bosses.

Workers are demanding a £1,000 uplift for all workers to start to address years of wage cuts.

But bosses have offered just £350 for those earning under £35,000 and 1 percent for everyone else.

The union is now set to ballot 70,000 workers for strikes.

Bosses want scabs for cinema walkout

Workers at six sites of the Picturehouse cinema chain were set to strike this Saturday.

Members of the Bectu arm of the Prospect union will walk out in Brixton, Central London, Hackney, Brighton, Crouch End and East Dulwich.

Management is running a scabbing operation and has recruited extra staff specifically for the purpose.

Supporters at the Hackney site have called a solidarity protest at 5pm outside the cinema to dissuade potential customers from breaking the strike.

Union rejects uni bosses’ pay offer

The GMB union has rejected a miserly pay offer by university bosses—and given them until 27 April to come back with a new offer.

The GMB is part of pay negotiations alongside the UCU, Unison, EIS and Unite unions. Its members include IT, admin and clerical workers, cleaners, drivers and security guards.

Bosses offered a pay deal that was well below inflation.

If bosses don’t cough up more money GMB should ballot for strikes—and other unions should join them.

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