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Reports round-up: Cleaners at Foreign Office walk out

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Issue 2680
Workers picketing on Tuesday
Workers picketing on Tuesday (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Outsourced workers at the Foreign and Commonwealth office struck for four days from Thursday of last week until Tuesday of this week.

The PCS union members—including cleaners, security and maintenance workers—are in a long-running battle with bosses at outsourcer Interserve.

They are demanding union recognition and higher pay. Workers say that Interserve reduced cleaners’ working hours following a previous week of strikes. Bosses have also scuppered talks that looked likely to lead to union recognition.

They previously looked set to recognise the union, having agreed a “bargaining unit”—a group of workers to be considered for recognition. Yet they then added more workers, who haven’t been involved in the strike, to the group.

Bosses don’t have to recognise the union unless 50 percent of workers in that group call for it.

Museum workers prepare for next round of action

Library and museum workers in West Yorkshire are heading for their longest period of industrial action in their fight against millions of pounds in cuts.

Unite union members in Bradford were set to walk out for four days on Monday of next week.

The Labour-run council wants to push through nearly £2 million of cuts over the next two years.

It plans to slash £950,000 from April 2019 and a further £1,050,000 from April 2020. The workers also struck for three days last week. They have called a five-day strike from Monday 2 December.

Meanwhile, library workers in Bromley, south east London, remain on indefinite strike against jobs cuts.

The Unite union members are fighting against subcontractor GLL’s plans to slash 35 percent of frontline jobs.

Donate to the Bromley strike fund—account name Bromley Unite LE/531, account number 20272821, sort code 60-83-01

The protest in Bradford

The protest in Bradford (Pic: Neil Terry)

A protest outside Bradford city hall was held last Wednesday as the West Yorkshire Pension Fund (WYPF) held its annual general meeting.

It was organised by Momentum Leeds and Leeds TUC to highlight WYPF’s investment in fossil fuels.

Workers at St Catherine’s Catholic School in Bexleyheath, south east London, began a three-day strike on Tuesday.

The action, by NEU union members, follows a two-day strike last week and a 24-hour strike on 30 October.

Strikers are fighting what they describe as bullying from the head teacher, Yvonne Connolly.

Bexley district secretary of the NEU Debbie Jones said this included banning union meetings, suspending staff—including the NEU rep—and sacking a worker.

“Members have repeatedly raised their concerns with governors who have failed to take swift, appropriate and effective action,” she added.

Union members voted overwhelmingly for strikes in a ballot, with 55 out of the

58 who voted backing action.

Following last week’s strike, the head said in a letter to parents that pickets made it difficult for students coming through the school gates.

The NEU said, “At no point did staff last week prevent pupils from entering the school site. We are shocked that Mrs Connolly seeks to portray striking staff as posing a danger to pupils.”

The head also claimed that just 33 teachers struck last week. But strikers held up numbers showing that 50 joined the picket line.

Victory for Nottingham?

UCU union members at Nottingham College are considering a new offer from bosses.

On Monday of last week they suspended planned strikes for two weeks to consider the offer.

Workers are in dispute over new contracts that slash pay, halve sick pay, cut holidays and end protections on workload.

There was some criticism that the union suspended strikes at short notice.

The latest offer could mark a significant victory. A branch meeting last week overwhelmingly recommended acceptance.

One retired UCU member from the college sent an update on the dispute to Nottingham trades council last week. He said the new offer rolls back all of the attacks in the new contract and means bosses have conceded that they have to negotiate with unions.

But he added that through taking action, the dispute and workers’ confidence has grown. Many now want the chief executive to resign.

The dispute has seen more people join the union and take on responsibilities within the branch. Workers have struck for 16 days.

Five days of action at Coventry university 

Workers at Coventry university plan five days of strikes and a marking boycott over appraisals.

UCU union members plan to walk out on 21, 26 and 29 November, and 3 and 4 December. The union is fighting an appraisal system that it says makes workers “jump through hoops” to achieve an annual pay rise that is standard elsewhere.

Some 75 percent of union members who voted backed strikes in a recent ballot.

Scots debate global revolt

Around 200 people joined the Marxism in Scotland conference in Glasgow last Saturday.

There were lively discussions about the rise of global resistance, the general election, the Scottish independence movement, the fight against racism and fascism, climate action and many other issues.

Activists from Hong Kong, Iraq and Chile joined the opening rally.

The debate on independence included a contribution from Robin McAlpine, director of the Common Weal think tank. There were discussions and disagreements over whether to back the Labour Party or the Scottish National Party at the general election.

But there was unity about the need for a fundamental transformation of society and to kick out the Tories and their business friends.

The event was hosted by the Socialist Workers Party.

Jobless after fall of Thomas Cook

A survey of Thomas Cook’s airline workers has revealed that six weeks after the company collapsed they are struggling to find work, and suffering severe financial hardship.

In total 93 percent of respondents to the survey have not yet found work with another airline.

Two thirds have not secured any form of employment. Just 10 percent of the affected workforce have secured full-time permanent employment of any form.

Of those who have applied for Universal Credit just 19 percent have received a payment.

Solidarity for Kurds against invasion

Around 150 Kurds and their supporters rallied in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, last Saturday. The demonstration was called as a protest against the Turkish invasion of northern Syria.

Protesters called for an independent Kurdish homeland.

They also demanded a welcome for refugees from war, dictatorship and climate change.

Hiwa, the secretary of the local Kurdish Association, spoke about the terror that is being inflicted on the Kurdish people following the invasion.

Thelma Walker, Labour MP for Colne Valley, sent a message of support.

Martin Jones

Fight against any cuts by new steel owners

Multinational company Jingye was close on Monday to a deal to buy British Steel.

British Steel has been receiving government support to continue operating since May.

The company employs 5,000 workers directly with a further 20,000 workers in the supply chain.

Unions have cautiously welcomed Jingye’s move.

They should not accept anything less than the employment of all the existing workforce on the present pay, pensions, terms and conditions.

The best solution to the collapse of the former owners would have been nationalisation.

Forbo flooring fights on

Forbo flooring workers began a two-day walkout over pay and allegations of bullying on Tuesday of this week.

The Unite union members at the Derbyshire factory have struck every Tuesday and Wednesday for the last four weeks.

Spirits have remained high through the dispute.

Pathologists combat disease of new shifts

Pathologists at the Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust in east London suspended a strike set for last week.

Talks have resumed between the Unite union and the management over plans for new shift patterns that will impact on 88 biomedical scientists.

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