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Workers on strike on election day

A number of workers struck on election day, fighting from below for their demands
Issue 2912
Redbridge council Workers on strike

Redbridge refuse workers struck on election day

Refuse workers in Redbridge, east London, walked out on Monday and were set to strike every day this week over working conditions. Redbridge Civic Services (RCS)—a council-owned subsidiary—employs the workers, who are in the Unite union.

Labour leader of Redbridge council Jas Athwal set up RCS in 2019. Striking over the general election “is a way of holding him more accountable,” Nick, a Unite regional officer, told Socialist Worker. RCS workers experience worse working conditions than the rest of Redbridge council workers because they technically work for RCS, not the council.

Workers consistently start and finish late due to vehicles breaking down and not being repaired. This means they are forced to work an extra hour daily.

This is despite contracts saying this would happen only in “exceptional circumstances”. And bosses pressure workers to work overtime every weekend.

Pay is also a key issue— refuse workers get ten sick days, whereas council workers get six months of full pay and six months of half pay. “Essentially, we have a Labour council that has used a loophole in employment law to have full control of a company, but without taking responsibility for those workers and the conditions they put them in,” Nick said.

“Workers shouldn’t be taking the brunt of council cuts. They are frontline workers who are essential workers, who work in blistering heat and freezing cold.

“They are appreciated by Redbridge but not by the authority they work for.” On Friday last week, Redbridge workers met with RCS and the council.

Workers and the Labour council were close to agreeing a deal. But management walked away from it.

Nick said, “Our members aren’t too alarmed by that because they didn’t see it as a good deal to begin with.” The strike was set to end on Sunday of this week and will be followed by an overtime ban until the end of this month.

Striking over the general election puts pressure on Labour to meet Redbridge workers’ demands.

  • The GMB union has postponed strikes by refuse workers at South Tyneside council. Workers had planned to walk out Tuesday for three weeks over bullying allegations. The Labour-led council said it had offered talks but the remaining two weeks of strikes are still set to go ahead if there isn’t a deal.

School workers prepped for action in north London

Teachers and support staff at Devonshire House Preparatory School in north London are set to strike on Thursday over pay. NEU union members are demanding a 9.2 percent pay rise for all staff.

So far, management has refused to negotiate. Staff want an above-inflation pay increase as many are struggling to pay rent and mortgages.

In real terms pay, workers have seen a 16.1 percent reduction in pay since September 2020. Devonshire House school is part of Dukes Education Group, which owns a number of private schools.

Last year its profit was £34 million. Despite these profits, the school has attacked the conditions of staff by forcing new staff to enroll in a pension scheme that is worse than the Teachers’ Pension Scheme, the standard pension among teaching staff.

One striking teacher, who has asked to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation by their employer, said, “We work hard for our students at Devonshire House.

“We thought the harder we worked, the more our employer would value us. It’s now obvious this isn’t the case.

“Access to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme has already been removed for new starters, and our wages have remained stagnant. We want change, it’s time for Dukes to listen.”


Security guards fight to secure their pay rise

Some 200 PCS union members working as security guards in job centres across England are set to begin a four day strike from Thursday to Sunday. It’s a positive decision to strike on the day of the general election.

It sends a message to the incoming government to pay up. This group of workers has already completed a seven day strike over pay in June.

Employer G4S, which turns over billions of pounds every year, pays only the minimum wage. The mood to fight can be seen from the ballot, where there was a 95 percent vote to strike on a 55 percent turnout.

The strikes have caused a number of job centres to shut when members walked out. This week’s action is part of 18 more days of strikes PCS has scheduled in response to the lack of movement from G4S.

PCS members have organised picket lines up and down England. With support for the action high, there were many first-time strikers on the picket lines.

The next round of strikes will take place from 15 July to 21 July and from 29 July to 4 August. There are picket lines in 12 locations, including Grimsby, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Sheffield and multiple London jobcentres.

The GMB union scheduled strikes from Monday to Sunday this week and then from 15 to 21 July and 29 July to 4 August. To see the list of picket lines to visit across England go to tinyurl.com/PCSJobCentre


Jiffy workers demand new pay package

Over 50 workers at the Jiffy packaging plant in Winsford, Cheshire, started pay strikes on Monday. Bosses offered workers in the Unite union a mere 1.5 percent pay increase, despite the current cost of living crisis and inflation eating into wages.

Unite’s members are demanding an 8 percent pay increase backdated to 1 April 2024. Workers are furious that bosses only give them eight weeks of sick pay and want to see an increase to 12 weeks.

Workers are also demanding the reinstatement of breaks during the working day and changes to bank holiday practices. Strikes are planned to continue until 13 July


No retreat in Barnet

Mental health social workers in Barnet, north London, are due to finish their latest round of strikes on Friday next week. The Unison union members have valiantly fought for proper retention and recruitment payments.

The workers have vowed to keep up their fight against the strike-breaking Labour council. Strikers have been campaigning and giving out their newspaper to local residents with information about their strike and the service they provide.

Unison should call out other workers in solidarity. Escalated action by other council workers and pressure from Unison nationally to support the strikers is the way to win this dispute.

  • Tweet messages of support to @barnet_unison For further details go to barnetunison.me.uk

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