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Reports round-up: First steps towards pay strike in FE colleges

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News in brief from workers’ struggles, including a coming strike ballot by local government workers and a protest in Croydon
Issue 2845
A large crown of people on strike stand on the steps of Lewisham college

Workers at Lewisham college on strike last year (Jess Walsh)

The UCU union has launched a consultative ballot via email on strikes in further education. The union’s further education committee is recommending a Yes vote, and supports the aim to launch a national strike over these issues.

After the consultation ends there will be a special further education sector conference to debate how to implement its decision. The push to win a national strike is a shift from recent years when strike ballots were called and counted separately from one another.

The UCU Left organisation says it’s necessary because, “Unless everybody’s wages and conditions rise together it is difficult to make gains at a local level for more than a short period.”

Local authority strikes coming?

Local government workers could be headed for strikes, after receiving the latest pitiful pay offer. Workers in England and Wales under the National Joint Council (NJC) have been offered an increase of £1,925 a year for 2022-23, despite inflation still being sky high.

The level of anger among Unison union members was so great that they are going straight to organising a strike ballot. It is set to run from 23 May to 4 July.

The Unite union is consulting its members on the offer, recommending a rejection. The GMB’s NJC committee was set to meet this week to decide its position.

Around 50 people marched on Saturday from Croydon University Hospital in south London to the town hall in protest at the Tory mayor’s proposals to raise council tax by 15 percent.

The march, made up of trade unionists, local community associations, residents, Labour members and councillors, took to the street and went through the town centre, earning plenty of support from shoppers, car drivers and bus passenger.

The mayor wants to impose the increase after central government slashed funding. Successive council regimes—Tory and Labour—have engaged in disastrous speculative property investment.

Fran, a local resident and teacher said, “A 15 percent increase in council tax is outrageous, especially during a cost of living crisis. Croydon council is expecting ordinary people to pay for its own mistakes and mismanagement.”

A rally outside the Town Hall was planned for Wednesday of this week as the council met.

Michael Holland

Revolt at bosses’ pay at St Mungo’s

Workers in the Unite union at St Mungo’s homeless charity are balloting for strikes over pay. Over 500 workers across southern England including London, Bristol, Brighton, Oxford, Bournemouth, Reading are voting.

Since 2013 St Mungo’s Chief Executives have seen their pay at the charity spiral by 77 percent. But the real value of the wages of St Mungo’s workers, many of whom work on the streets helping the homeless, has plummeted by 25 percent over the same time.

Cleaners’ victory in Frimley NHS

Workers at Frimley Health NHS Trust in the GMB union have won a battle over language tests. The union is balloting its members on a proposal from Trust management that would have seen cleaners go up a grade.

But the workers would have been forced to pass a mandatory English exam before being entitled to this uplift. The Trust has now offered new contracts to all affected staff with no mention of the exams.

The ballot will remain open, as the union will now be demanding back pay for the workers.

Gains made at Drax after walkouts

A strike by over 180 Unite union members at the Drax power station in Yorkshire has ended after workers accepted a pay deal worth up to 16 percent for the lowest paid. The workers previously rejected an 8 percent pay increase. Workers struck in February.

There is still a dispute at the Drax Hydro Limited site in Scotland that operates power stations. Strike dates are set to be announced soon.

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