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Industrial round-up: steel workers are set for fight to save jobs

Port Talbot steel workers take action, transport workers across Britain want better pay, Amazon workers could win union recognition and more
Issue 2911
Port Talbot steel workers demonstrating earlier this year (Photo: Guy Smallman)

Port Talbot steel workers demonstrating earlier this year (Photo: Guy Smallman)

Over 1,500 steelworkers in the Unite union at Port Talbot and Llanwern in south Wales plan an indefinite strike from 8 July.

Working for Tata Steel, they are fighting bosses’ plans to end blast furnace steelmaking.

Tata insists there will be no U-turn on its plans to close the two blast furnaces at Port Talbot. This will see blast furnace No. 5 shut down at the end of this month and No. 4 at the end of September.

The closures will see 2,500 jobs losses immediately across Britain and a further 300 over the following years. Workers employed by Tata contractors say these figures only cover those directly employed and thousands of jobs will go at these satellite firms.

Last week steel workers began an overtime ban and work to rule at Port Talbot and Llanwern—the first time for 40 years that there has been industrial action in the British steel industry.

It’s hugely welcome that Unite has called a strike—at last. It’s already over two months since workers voted for one.

There must be no deal unless all the jobs are saved and workers’ futures secured. Unite ought to demand the industry is brought into democratic social ownership.

In its general election manifesto Labour committed to a £2.5 billion fund to support the decarbonisation of steelmaking over the next decade.

It’s unclear how much of that would be assigned to Port Talbot and whether it would make any difference. Labour has backed a union plan for a phased approach to decarbonisation at Port Talbot by running blast furnace No. 4 until its expiry date in 2032. But Tata has insisted this will not work.

Tata maintains it will not shift its decision to close the blast furnaces regardless of who wins the election. It has made threats to speed up its closure plans and to withdraw the enhanced redundancy plans presently on offer if a strike goes ahead.

Leaders of Community, the biggest steel union, have not called for its members to strike, despite them voting for action.

Unite members should call for mass pickets and for all steel workers, in all unions, not go to work.

A victory over steel jobs would be an excellent way to welcome the new government and show workers are ready to fight.

Coventry workers can win over Amazon union rights

In what could be a breakthrough for union recognition, more than 3,000 Amazon workers in Coventry are preparing to vote on union rights.

The legally binding ballot, overseen by the government’s Central Arbitration Committee, could force Amazon management to recognise a trade union.

Recognition would mean Amazon would have to negotiate with the GMB union on terms, pay and conditions for Amazon workers at the site.

It would be the first time Amazon has recognised a trade union in British history.

Amazon bosses are pushing hard to stop a pro-union decision. The strike vote comes after the year-long dispute between GMB union members and Amazon, which has seen over 30 strike days. Workplace meetings to discuss the ballot began last week.
Voting runs from 8 to 15 July.

Recent workers’ discussion in meetings saw them say, “Workers together vote yes.

  • Yes for better pay.
  • Yes for a better life
  • Yes for better working conditions
  • Yes for equal treatment.
  • Yes for equality.
  • Yes for a safe workplace.
  • Yes for power.
  • Yes for hope.
  • Yes for change

We can make history as one giant union family”.

Workers’ action has won this opportunity. Now they have to organise from below to win the vote by the biggest possible majority and then to organise the grassroots for a fighting union.

Battles over pay on the buses and trams

Nearly 500 Stagecoach bus drivers across Merseyside struck on Monday and Tuesday this week over pay. They will also be out from Thursday next week for four days, and again from 12-15 July.

They have also threatened an all-out strike.Earlier in June their Unite union called off a strike as a “goodwill gesture”. But the members knew better and have escalated.

Over 600 workers on Manchester’s Metrolink tram and light rail system are voting for strikes over a low pay offer. Tram bosses offered a 4.5 percent increase for 2024 despite years of below-inflation pay offers.

The workers, who are in the Unite union, also want guarantees of above-inflation rises over the next three years.

Nearly 600 bus drivers in Plymouth, Devon, are voting on whether to strike over pay. They want their wages to be the same as their colleagues in other parts of the country. Go-Ahead drivers in Oxford are paid £2.84 more an hour than Plymouth drivers.

Workers employed by Greater Manchester Accessible Transport are set to strike from Monday to Sunday next week over pay.

The Unite union members transport elderly and disabled people from their homes across Greater Manchester, helping them get to medical appointments and other important activities.

Unite university fights to win on jobs and education

Workers at Goldsmiths university in south London struck against plans to begin redundancies last week.

On Friday of last week members of the UCU union took to picket lines and held a large rally. Goldsmiths’ bosses plan to cut at least 130 full time academic positions.

They plan to get rid of more than half of the sociology department, half of the history department and almost half of the English and creative writing department.

Workers also struck on Monday and Tuesday and were set to strike on Friday of this week. For months workers have been taking part in a marking and assessment boycott. It’s promising that workers have voted to escalate their action.

But workers at Goldsmiths are isolated. And it is not the only university where jobs are being slashed.

Across higher education the bosses are taking a sledgehammer to jobs. The UCU leadership needs a better strategy, and must push to link up the fights to stop this ongoing assault.

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