Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 26 September, 2012 - 12:15

French ferry workers employed by Brittany Ferries, which serves several ports in the UK, launched a prolonged strike against pay cuts and increases in working hours.

The workers, who are members of the CGT and CFDT unions (both based in France), walked out on Friday 21 September after bosses refused to back down on plans to recoup some of the company’s £56 million deficit by increasing working hours by up to 25%.

The strike has already caused considerable financial disruption to the company, forcing them to reimburse passengers whose journeys were disrupted.

Rail workers in pay strike

Members of the Rail, Maritime, and Transport union (RMT) working for rail contractor Amey will strike on Saturday 29 September in an attempt to settle a pay row that has been ongoing since April 2012.

Unions accuse Amey bosses of consistently undermining pay negotiations, first by demanding separate negotiations with the RMT and white-collar union TSSA (which also organises Amey staff), and then by their senior managers refusing to attend meetings even after they had notionally agreed to joint talks. Amey have now withdrawn the interim pay offer that had been on the table and under discussion.

Amey posted pre-tax profits of £87 million on its last set of accounts.

Civil servants strike to defend jobs

Workers in the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) staged a coordinated strike on Friday 21 September.

They picketed local offices in the morning before travelling to London for an afternoon rally. The strike involved 12,000 workers nationally, and is in response to a management plan to cut jobs and close offices in the departments.

In an interview on the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) website, one worker said: “We are here to protest against the announcements that will see the closure of every single DVLA office in England, Wales and Scotland with the loss of up to 1,200 jobs.

“Everyone is at risk of redundancy and we want to let the DVLA, the DfT and members know the fight is still going on.”

Argos workers strike for pensions

Over 1,000 drivers and warehouse workers employed by retail company Argos struck from Wednesday 19 September until Monday 24 September.

The workers, based at distribution centres in Basildon, Bridgewater, Lutterworth in Leicestershire, Heywood in Lancashire and Castleford, are taking on their bosses in a battle over pensions. Like many other private sector employers — such as Unilever — Argos are planning to close their employees’ final-salary pensions scheme and replace it with a “defined contribution” scheme, whereby workers contribute to a fund linked to share prices. The move could hit workers’ pensions to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds.

The cuts are taking place despite Argos remaining profitable, and despite chief executive Terry Duddy taking home over £1 million last year and accruing a pension pot of nearly £5 million.

Unite has said that Argos bosses have been “impervious to reason” during negotiations, and warned that further strikes could be on the way.

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