Striking for jobs and pay
By a civil servant
Members of the civil service union PCS have voted to strike (61% in favour) on 31 January over jobs cuts and pay. The government, having already cut thousands of jobs in the Department of Work and Pensions, is still set to cut many thousands more. An overtime ban will follow the action on the 31st. In addition PCS members in Revenue and Customs are now balloting over a “work to rule”.
What is the way forward?
These cuts are entirely politically-driven. That is why a demand for no compulsory redundancy guarantee will not stop the cuts; implicitly it is an acknowledgement that they are happening and will happen. Socialist Caucus and AWL think the union should relaunch a campaign to say why the job cuts should not happen, full stop.
We also have to keep pressure on the union’s executive to make sure that the pay demands are properly campaigned for.
This dispute must now be fought in a different way. That means a levy, selective action and other actions alongside national strikes and the most vigorous political campaigning we can get.
• The Socialist Caucus in PCS has called a special meeting for Saturday 27 January from 12-4pm at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London WC1 (nearest tube: Holborn)
By a UCU member
Former Natfhe official Roger Kline is running against the former-head of the AUT, Sally Hunt, for the post of General Secretary in the new merged union the University and College Union (UCU). The ballot papers are out in the next few weeks.
Kline describes himself as a socialist and as the “outsider” in the race. He says, “Sally Hunt says puts ‘members first, politics second’.” I’m not sure I understand what that means.
“A trade union should not be a surrogate political party. But it should certainly be political, albeit not party political. I am (just) a card carrying member of the Labour Party but I certainly won’t allow that to compromise my being a determined advocate for what members decide they want.”
Hunt was blamed by a recent higher education sector conference for her part in the badly-run HE pay dispute in 2006. Kline seems likely to pursue a better industrial policy than Hunt.
Both Hunt and Kline are opposed to the academic boycott of Israel.
The revolutionary left is backing Kline. In the case of the SWP they seem particularly bothered that if Hunt wins they will lose office space that Natfhe granted some of their front organisation, like Unite Against Fascism. Presumably that is the reason they have (recently) gone very quiet about the academic boycott question; and no doubt that will change as soon as the ballot papers are in.
Vote yes to pay strike!
by a Tube worker
Tube workers have now not had a pay rise since April 2005. London Underground have offered us a three-year deal with pay rises only a sliver above inflation each year. That small fractional rise could easily be wiped out by a rise in Council Tax.
Management's offer comes with an arbitrary and divisive “customer satisfaction bonus”, refuses to rule out more draconian attendance and discipline policies, and requires us to drop our demand for door-to-door staff taxis under later running.
The union is now organising a strike ballot. Everyone should vote Yes.
Fight the cuts
By Robin Sivapalan
In October last year Bill Rammell, Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning, announced massive cuts in the funding of “English as a Second or Other Language Courses”. On 15 January, the University and Colleges Union held a public meeting in London bringing together trade unionists, ESOL teachers and migrant and refugee organisations to launch a fight back.
Existing universal entitlement to free ESOL training up to Level 2 is to be removed with fee remission available only to people receiving means-tested benefits and tax-credits. Migrant workers are told that they or their employers should foot the bill for language learning, putting it out of the reach of many.
To apply for fee remission, a 20-page means-testing form has to be filled out in English!
Already migrants who have British spouses must wait a year to be eligible in their own right to access courses. With these cuts, if you’re an unwaged or low-waged woman who lives with a partner, your lifeline to a broader society — beyond the often oppressively narrow ethnic, national and religious communities — depends on the cooperation of that partner. Speakers at the meeting condemned this further attack on the independence of women. Children’s advocates warned of the additional pressure put on young people who would increasingly become the only English speakers in a family.
Rammell recently defended one of the most grotesque of his attacks — cutting ESOL provision for asylum seekers over 19. He said “With almost 80% of asylum claims now being settled in eight weeks, and well over half of these unsuccessful, is it really right that taxpayers’ money should support the learning of English for people whom we expect to leave the country? Most reasonable people wouldn’t think so.”
This campaign has to urgently move beyond the current “strategy” of submitting case studies, with MPs signing toothless Early Day Motions (383) and a planned lobby on 28 February. Our trade union movement, which has a patchy record of defending migrant workers and asylum seekers, cannot let these far-reaching and grossly hypocritical New Labour cuts come into effect. They need to force a government retreat through industrial action.
Save One-Plus jobs!
By Dale Street
Without any advance warning, 600 workers employed by Glasgow-based One Plus were made redundant last Monday (22 January).
One Plus is Europe’s largest provider of nursery and after-school provision. It runs, or ran, 31 after-school clubs and eight nurseries in and around Glasgow. Around 10,000 parents use those facilities, and other services provided by One Plus, each year.
Many of its employees are sessional workers paid little more the minimum wage. They were phoned at home on the Monday, told not to turn up for work as they were redundant, and also told that there might be no money to pay their wages for work they had done in January.
Last December the One Plus nursery-provision subsidiary Kidcare, was wound up without warning — just one day after One Plus had received that month’s direct debit payments from parents who used the service. 75 jobs were axed.
Towards the end of last year One Plus received £700,000 from Glasgow City Council to help it remain solvent. But further requests for £2 million from the Scottish Executive and for £3.5 million from Glasgow City Council were refused.
According to the local TGWU full-timer, One Plus is the worst employer he has had to deal with in his career. Last year it rejected a proposal from the TGWU for a joint union-employer approach to the Scottish Executive for additional funding.
The TGWU has stated that it will not be involved in any moves to try to save One Plus as an organisation (as opposed to its employees’ jobs and the services which they provide) until they receive assurances that its current board and “convenor” will not be involved.
One Plus was a registered charity. But, that’s no guarantee that it was even a halfway decent employer. Many such organisations are notoriously bad employers, trading off their reputation as a provider of services to the needy as a cover for treating their staff like skivvies.
One Plus, which has blamed its closure on a delay in European funding and a refusal by the Scottish Executive to provide the requested £2 million, was no street-corner charity. Employing 600 staff, it had an annual turnover of over £11 millions a year.
The Scottish Executive should provide the money needed to keep One Plus staff in work and to maintain the services which they provide. The Scottish Executive regularly bails out private sector companies. It should do the same for One Plus staff and services.
At the same time, One Plus should “open the books”. (Given that receivers have been called in, it will have to do that anyway.) Its employees and service-users have a right to know how the organisation ended up having to go into liquidation.
But demanding financial support from the Scottish Executive should not be at the expense of letting One Plus management off the hook.
Left discusses off-shoring
by a CWU member
At its recent AGM the Communication Workers Broad Left agreed to campaign for the union to recommend John McDonnell MP to its members in the forthcoming Labour leadership contest. They also agreed to campaign for support from CWU-supported MPs for his candidature.
Speaking at the AGM John welcomed the support from all sections of the union’s left organisation for his campaign.
The most heated discussion was on the policy of the Broad Left towards the offshoring of work to India. Whilst formally the left position is to campaign for telecoms jobs to be retained in the UK, an agreement has already been struck with BT Retail for a proportion of clerical/admin work to be offshored and a lower pay rate has been introduced for new starters. Current negotiations in other BT divisions may result in thousands of engineering jobs being lost. Certain categories of work have already been off shored, and BT management are insisting work must be done in India to keep the company competitive.
Members in affected divisions are due to be consulted on future proposals but unless there is a fightback many will accept job losses as inevitable, especially if voluntary redundancy is available.
The AGM endorsed its slate for the 2007 Executive and delegation elections and agreed to put forward John East, a current Telecoms Executive member as the BL candidate for the post of National Organising Secretary.