Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2864

Strike round-up: University workers battle bosses—and union leaders

University strikes in Leicester, Lancaster and Cardiff, refuse workers resist scab Labour in Canterbury, Camden traffic wardens prepare for indefinite strike
Issue 2864
A picture of Cardiff university strikers in pink gowns as they strike during graduation

Cardiff University workers strike during graduation

Leaders in the university workers’ union have once again signalled that they want to end the dispute over pay, pensions and equalities.

The UCU posted an update about negotiations with bosses’ body Ucea on Twitter last Friday. “Today’s exploratory talks between Ucea, UCU and the other joint unions’ side secretary were constructive, although there is still significant ground to be covered,” it said.

“We have explored obstacles to resuming negotiations and bringing an end to the marking and assessment boycott (Mab), with both sides recognising the complexity of the issues. Both sides welcomed the positive tone of the discussion and have identified dates for further urgent talks.”

The statement did not signal that there was a new offer on the table. There was no mention of workers facing 100 percent pay deductions for taking part in the Mab.

Earlier this month, UCU general secretary Jo Grady backed a motion at the union’s higher education committee that called for an interim agreement with the bosses to suspend the Mab. 

Workers in Cardiff and Lancaster struck this week against punitive deductions. UCU finally called for a global boycott of the University of Brighton, where workers are on indefinite strike against job cuts.

The bosses recently revealed a hit list of 25 workers they plan to make redundant. Brighton strikers are also fighting threats to deduct 100 percent of their pay for participating in the Mab. Some workers received less than £30 in their last pay packet.

It’s a step forward that the union have finally called a boycott. But the best way to support workers at Brighton would be to spread the action.

Too often, Grady and other union leaders have used talks with a “positive tone” or the promise of talks with the bosses to justify calling off strikes and action. That’s why it’s vital for members to have democratic control of their dispute.

Refuse workers face scab Labour in Canterbury

Labour-run Canterbury Council is using agency workers to try to break strikes by outsourced refuse workers. GMB union members, who work for subcontractor Canenco, began a walkout last month.

Canenco bosses had offered them a tiny pay rise. The GMB members unanimously rejected this latest pay offer.

GMB regional organiser, Gary Palmer said, “Our members are surprised and very disappointed a Labour-led council would use Tory anti‑union laws like these to try to break a strike in the first place.”

Strikes take off in Brum

Security guards at Birmingham airport launched an all-out strike on Tuesday. The 50 Unite union members rejected a pay offer that would see their pay go up from £11.30 an hour to £12.49.

Meanwhile, some 950 Unite members working at London Gatwick Airport are set to strike later this month. They include baggage-handlers dispatchers and check-in workers employed by subcontractors ASC, Menzies Aviation, GGS and DHL Services. They plan a four-day strike from Friday of next week until 1 August, then from 4 to 8 August.

Unite members at DHL Gatwick Direct, Red Handling and Wilson James are also voting for strikes until Monday 31 July.

Don’t rely on courts

A High Court ruling last Thursday banned agency workers from covering striking workers’ jobs.

It came out of the unions’ judicial review to then‑business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng’s attack on strikes from June 2022.

Mr Justice Linden ruled the Tories’ law was “so unfair as to be unlawful, and indeed, irrational.”

Bosses will be barred from using agency workers to undermine strikes from 10 August. The unions—Aslef, Bfawu, FDA, GMB, NEU, NUJ, POA, PCS, RMT, Unite and Usdaw—brought the claim.

But unions cannot rely on the courts to defend workers’ rights. It will take strikes and protests to beat back the Tory anti-union laws.

Scottish defence workers walk out

Workers at a Ministry of Defence arms depot went on strike for the first time in its history this week.

Around 50 workers at the Defence Equipment & Support (DES) munitions depot in Beith, Scotland, took to picket lines on Monday.

The DES provides equipment, arms and support to the British Armed Forces. Overall 93 percent of GMB members at DES voted to strike over changes to their retention bonuses.

Socialists should support the striking workers. But we have to argue that defence workers’ skills should be used in socially useful sectors, not making weapons that cause death and destruction around the world.

Strike at Unipart Rail in Crewe

Engineers, clerical staff and others working for subcontractor Unipart Rail in Crewe struck last Wednesday. 

The RMT union members rejected a derisory pay offer of 4.75 percent. They had previously struck on 5 July.

London Overground votes for strikes

Ticket inspectors on the London Overground have voted to take strike. The RMT union members returned an 82.3 percent yes vote on a 77.2 percent turnout.

The union said, “Workers have become frustrated that a collective grievance into bullying has not been adequately dealt with.”

Train drivers call new overtime ban

The train drivers’ union Aslef has announced a week-long ban on overtime in their long‑running pay dispute.

Drivers at 15 train operating companies will stage the action from 31 July until 5 August. The rail unions should call hard-hitting strikes to win.

Paint workers won’t be brushed off

Paint factory workers employed by International Paints in Gateshead have voted to strike after rejecting a 4.8 percent pay offer.

The 230 Unite union members produce paints used on ships and offshore facilities.

Strikes are planned for Thursday of next week, and are set to take place every Monday and Thursday for a four-week period until 24 August.

Bristol Waste votes for new pay deal

A Refuse strike at Bristol Waste has been called off after workers voted on an improved pay offer.

Workers who collect bins, clean the street and operate household waste and recycling centres have accepted an 8.5 percent pay rise over 12 months and a one-off £500 payment.

The Unite union members will also get between £2,500 and £3,500 in back pay, dated to November 2022.

Meanwhile, action by 150 refuse workers employed by Suez in South Gloucestershire continues.

All-out action is just the ticket

Traffic wardens in Camden, north London, are set to begin an indefinite strike on Monday of next week.

The Unison union members are demanding a pay rise.

The mainly low paid and black workers voted 100 percent for strikes on a 73.1 percent turnout

St Mungo’s strikers remain determined 

St Mungo’s homelessness charity workers began their 8th week of strikes on Tuesday against low pay.

The Unite union members in London and the south of England are on indefinite strike. They rejected a measly offer last week.

Sign up for our daily email update ‘Breakfast in Red’

Latest News

Make a donation to Socialist Worker

Help fund the resistance