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Optare battle continues + Rolls-Royce resistance + Gosh success + Buses could stop + BT ballot

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Issue 2735
Defiant on the picket line
Defiant on the picket line (Pic: Unite the union on Twitter)

Workers at bus manufacturer Optare near Leeds were “staying strong” as they began their ninth week of industrial action over pay.

Unite union members at the factory struck on Monday and Tuesday of this week. They planned to strike on Thursday and Friday, and for more days from 21 December.

Kevin, a Unite member, said workers are fed up with bosses “poking us in the chest all the time, creating tension”.

“It’ll be three years come February when we first started discussing a pay rise,” he told Socialist Worker.

“Optare CEO Graham Belgum promised us an above 1 percent rise, but then he said he never said that.

“They offered us Christmas Eve off if we came back to work, but we rejected it by a big number.”

Workers are also angry about plans to outsource 31 workers to an agency.

Kevin said, “While outsourcing is not officially part of the action, it makes the feeling stronger.”

Bosses have claimed the industrial action isn’t having an impact. But Kevin argued it already has—and that pressure will increase on the company.

“They have new orders and they need us,” he said. 

Donate to the strike fund. Account: Unite NE/200/1 Optare Branch. Account number: 20327132 sort code: 60-83-01

Rolls-Royce Barnoldswick action at key stage

Workers at Rolls-Royce Barnoldswick were continuing their strikes to save jobs up to Christmas Eve.

Unite union members at the aero engineering factory in Lancashire walked out in November over bosses’ plans to slash 350 jobs and outsource production.

Bosses escalated the dispute at the beginning of this month with a Christmas lockout, shutting down the factory until the New Year.

One striker said, “No one wants to be on strike in the North of England in the middle of December.

“Yet there’s been 100 percent support because we all recognise that we have to fight for our jobs and we have to fight for our communities and for our families, because there’s no alternative.”

He added, “I think everyone accepts Christmas is going to be different this year.

“But the reality for many of the workers here is that without these jobs, Christmas could be different every year.”

If Rolls-Royce bosses get away with pushing through the attacks in Barnoldswick, they will increase attacks across the company.

The action against the attack must spread.

Messages of support to [email protected]

Gosh—it’s a success story

Cleaning workers in the  UVW union have forced management at Great Ormond Street Children’s hospital (GOSH) to bring hundreds of outsourced cleaning staff back in house.

Many of the cleaning staff at the hospital are outsourced to multinational contractor OCS.

But from 1 August they will be NHS employees.

This victory is the result of months of campaigning and a readiness to fight.

The UVW held a consultative ballot which saw a unanimous vote in favour of strikes.

The threat pushed management to concede some of the workers’ demands.

Genevieve a cleaner at the hospital, said, “Being in-house and an NHS staff member is the best thing that has happened to me.

“We can now get all the benefits that the NHS offers and we will no longer have to come to work when we are sick.”

A mood for strikes at BT

Telecoms workers at BT, Openreach and EE have voted by 98 percent in favour of strikes, in a consultative ballot organised by the CWU union.

BT bosses are pushing ahead with a “restructure” that would sack hundreds—if not thousands—of workers, and assault pay and conditions.

But CWU members said they would back strikes, in a ballot with a turnout of over 74 percent.

CWU general secretary Dave Ward said, “Our members have stood up and I have absolute confidence they would deliver in an official ballot as well.

“If it had been a genuine strike ballot, it would have given the union an overwhelming mandate for action under the Tories’ anti-union laws.”

The CWU described the result as a “warning shot” and called for new talks. The best way to fight the job cuts is to build on the campaign and push ahead with a proper strike ballot.

Fights coming on the buses

Hundreds of Bradford bus drivers are preparing to walk out over “dangerously unsuitable” scheduling at First West Yorkshire.

Some 300 Unite union members voted to strike so the firm would restore staff schedules to pre-pandemic levels.

Bus drivers are reporting a return to normal passenger figures yet are forced to work the extended shifts that bosses brought in during the first lockdown.

Workers are planning to announce strikes in January.

Darren Rushworth, Unite regional officer, said, “The conditions drivers are operating under are unsafe for themselves and the public.”

And two strikes could be on the way in London as drivers begin voting on action.

Workers at the RATP firm, which runs some services in west London, are set to begin a strike ballot over pay and proposed cuts to their terms and conditions.

And some 3,000 workers at Metroline, which operates bus routes in north and north west London, are also due to start voting on strikes soon.

The Metroline workers are battling remote sign on—a process where drivers start work at locations away from garages.

The bosses’ push to introduce remote sign on will make bus routes more dangerous for workers and passengers during the pandemic.

Workers, who are members of Unite, voted by 97 percent to strike against remote sign on in October. But bosses used Tory anti-trade union laws to contest the ballot.

The laws must not be allowed to prevent effective action.





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