Privatisation

Support cleaners' fight for dignity and fair pay

On 4-5 June 17 cleaners at Ark’s Globe Academy, just south of the Elephant and Castle in Southwark, South London, walked out over unpaid and underpaid wages. The workers are members of the small, radical, United Voices of the World (UVW) union. Their employer, the cleaning company Ridgecrest, seems to have now addressed some of the issues of money owed. Nevertheless some of these badly paid workers had faced the threat of eviction for non-payment of rent as a result of not being paid properly and on time. The workers are now fighting for the London Living Wage, which would represent a...

Organise to make the future safe and equal for all

The great wave of street protests after the killing of George Floyd on 25 May still continues, but the pace looks like slowing. Activists will be thinking about how they can continue their efforts over the months and years needed to win and consolidate change. That this killing has generated so broad a protest must be partly because a pandemic which has hit the worst-off hardest everywhere, and a wave of job cuts which has done similar, especially in the USA, are in everyone's minds.

Call for action on social care

Late May has seen significant developments in the fight around social care. After months of refusing to even address the issue of sick pay and isolation pay for care workers, the Tories have announced a £600m “infection control fund”. Guidance for the fund states that part of its purpose is to “maintain the normal wages of staff who, in order to reduce the spread of infection need to reduce the number of establishments in which they work, reduce the number of hours they work, or self-isolate”. This is potentially an enormous victory. But the announcement has been very quiet, no doubt because...

Section 44 and the civil service

Civil service employers have been reticent to go for a return-to-work drive in the short to medium term. The Cabinet Office informed the union that they would continue to support homeworking. That approach isn’t completely uniform, and the Cabinet Office hasn’t exerted any particular pressure to rein in departmental employers who are taking a different approach, but there has been no central, concerted, back-to-work lurch. The major exception to this is the outsourced contractors, who have behaved appallingly and are forcing workers to continue working despite the buildings they clean or...

PCS to meet with Cabinet Office over Covid-19 issues

The union has commenced discussions with the Cabinet Office on a return-to-work protocol for the entire civil service, but we’re having to fight the managements of individual departments who want to pre-empt that by unilaterally bringing in their own return-to-work plans, prior to a national agreement being in place, or simply pressuring people back to work. The first formal meeting with Cabinet Office will take place this week. Our National Executive Committee will meet to review our position; currently our policy is that home working should continue for all workers who can work from home...

The social care emergency

On 6 May Nottingham East MP Nadia Whittome, who returned to her old care job after the Covid-19 crisis hit, was sacked for speaking publicly about PPE shortages in the industry. She used the burst of publicity to argue not only for workers’ rights and unionisation, but also for “democratic public ownership” of care. Labour movement activists should take up that call. Nadia wrote in the Guardian: As an MP, I am financially secure and can afford to speak out over a lack of PPE and testing, and risk getting sacked. Across the country, there is a policy of gagging and enforced silence… the...

Social care: rise to the challenge!

“Me and my colleagues in care work are risking our lives for just over £8 an hour… Whether it’s PPE shortages, faulty tests, or low sick pay, key workers are treated like collateral” Nadia Whittome MP (who has returned to her old job during the crisis) “The big challenge is not to go for the lowest common denominator but be far more ambitious … It’s obvious what the problems are, but the question is can the labour movement take the initiative with radical solutions? ... The care sector highlights the problems we face, unable to deliver decent standards for the people it looks after or for the...

Workers’ control of PPE!

There is alarm amongst many about the lack of PPE [Personal Protective Equipment] being provided to workers at risk of exposure to Covid-19. Rightly so. The information regarding protection has been confusing, with different recommendations initially coming from the World Health organisation (WHO) and Public Health England (PHE). Workers in the frontline are being told what to do rather than being involved in the decisions that affect them. We don’t trust our bosses to protect us. Many workers are superseding recommended protection with support of trade unions. For example in my workplace, an...

The civil service in the crisis

We now have a civil-service wide agreement that all outsourced workers will be paid in full if their workplaces shut down, or they have to self isolate. We are awaiting confirmation they will receive full sick pay as well. The union has to be active in policing the agreement. There are agency staff in some government departments, doing processing and admin work, and the employer has agreed to furlough them on 80% pay if they have to self isolate etc. That’s better than nothing, as the risk was that their contracts would simply be terminated, but the union is pushing for those workers to be...

Industrial news in brief: London Underground, Royal Mail, civil service

Tube drivers vote for strikes, Tube workers make C-19 demands London Underground drivers in the ASLEF union have voted by a 95.2% majority for strikes to win an improved settlement on pay and conditions, on a 74.5% turnout. Although ASLEF is a minority union on the Tube overall, it represents a slight majority of drivers. The result is significant, and smashes the arbitrary thresholds of the Tories’ anti-union laws. ASLEF’s pay claim overlaps substantially with other unions’ claims, including in its demand for a 32-hour, four-day week. It also includes a sectional claim for a driver-specific...

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