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Reports round-up—Optare strikers keep up the struggle for pay justice

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Issue 2729
Optare picket line
Workers have struck three times already and are preparing for more (Pic: Steve Johnson/Facebook)

Workers at bus manufacturer Optare, near Leeds, remain determined to win higher pay as they prepare for another two-day walkout on Thursday this week.

Over 100 Unite union members have staged three 48-hour strikes over bosses’ “broken promises” over pay 

Kevin, a Unite member at Optare, told Socialist Worker, “The number of people on the picket line demonstrates the strength of feeling behind the action. I’d say there were 50 people there.

“We’ve also had people from other branches coming to show support. There is a realisation that the management don’t care what we think and feel. We’re trying to resolve the issue and they’re ignoring us.” 

Kevin added that strikes are having an impact on production with “not many buses being produced”. 

“I think they sold two buses from an older order that was cancelled during lockdown,” he said. 

“You’ll have a few hundred grand from the sale of a decker, but apart from that it’s having an affect.” 

Every trade unionist should support the Optare workers fight. 

Send messages of support to [email protected]

Heriot-Watt names strike days over redundancies  

Workers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh have called six days of strikes in a fight to stop compulsory redundancies.  

The first walkout was set to take place on Tuesday of next week. 

UCU union members plan to follow this with escalating strikes.  

Heriot-Watt UCU rep Marion Winters told a UCU Left meeting last week that bosses are “trying to play staff and students off against each other”.  

“We need solidarity,” she said.  

Workers are fighting the threat of 130 redundancies after bosses refused to rule out compulsory job cuts.  

Marion said workers have received lots of support from union members elsewhere. 

“Strathclyde has initiated a boycott of Heriot-Watt, followed by Liverpool and Stirling,” she said.  

“Dundee UCU and Soas Unison have donated to our fighting fund. We’re really moved by this. We hope management will move but if not, we’re ready to strike.”  

Send solidarity messages to [email protected] 

UCU members at Brighton university are holding a consultative ballot over planned job cuts in IT support. And those at the University of East London (UEL) are balloting over compulsory redundancies.  

Bosses have threatened 11 compulsory redundancies, and UCU activists are among those in the firing line.  

Send messages of support to UEL workers at [email protected]  

The UCU called off its planned online conference last week citing “technical issues”. 

Workers had been set to discuss the fight to defend safety and jobs in universities, among other issues.  

Students hold rent strikes 

Some university students have begun rent strikes in protest at how they have been treated. Thousands have been forced to isolate after returning to campuses.  

Manchester university student Matty told a UCU Left meeting last week that students there have had a “pitiful” level of support from management.  

“Students were told they weren’t allowed to take out their laundry or bins, so were in squalid conditions for two weeks in isolation,” she said.  

“I’ve been self-isolating for a week and received one email from Uni. And none from my department. It seems the uni is concerned about preventing spread in halls, and if you don’t live in halls they don’t want to know.  

“And in halls it’s not about protecting mental health. We’ve had a case of suicide. 

“I’m regularly answering phone calls from friends in the middle of the night saying, what have I done wrong? But obviously it’s not their fault.”  

She said that around 150 students are taking part in a rent strike there.  

We need more resistance, by workers and students, as university bosses and the Tories continue to put lives at risk.

Anti-racists say Geffrye must fall 

Hackney Stand Up to Racism held its fourth demonstration at the Museum of the Home in east London on Friday of last week. 

It demanded the removal of the statue of the 17th century slaver Robert Geffrye.

Protesters called on the trustees of the museum to abide by their own consultation, and remove the statue. 

A projector was used to throw images onto the museum illustrating the horrors of slavery and the struggles of slaves to be free.

Tanker drivers’ action is called off

Tanker drivers at Hoyer Petrolog, who were due to strike on Monday, have ended their dispute.

The Hoyer drivers, members of the Unite union, deliver petroleum products from the Stanlow oil refinery in Cheshire to retail outlets.

The strike was over job cuts and attacks on conditions.

Unite announced, “Both sides have agreed that the details of the agreement remain confidential.”

Ikea drops Living Wage commitment 

Furniture giant Ikea has ditched a commitment to being an accredited Living Wage employer.

The move affects 300 workers at Ikea’s distribution centre in Peterborough, who were expecting a pay rise in January.

Ikea agreed with the GMB union to pay the Real Living Wage in January 2020. Nine months on, it has reneged.

The firm sacked activist Richie Venton earlier this year. A battle continues for his reinstatement.  

Tube canteen workers begin a strike ballot 

Canteen workers in London Underground depots are balloting for industrial action. This follows a decision by private contractor Sodexo to slash 30 jobs, nearly a third of the workforce.

The RMT union says the proposals will see workers “placed on the scrapheap”.

Sandwell battle is postponed—for now 

A strike planned for this week at Sandwell Leisure Trust (SLT) has been called off for further talks.

SLT has postponed a proposal to dismiss and re-engage all staff away from the national NJC negotiating body for pay, terms and conditions. 

Unless SLT withdraws its proposals completely a strike called by the Unison and GMB unions for 27 November is set to go ahead.

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