Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 9 September, 2015 - 11:04 Author: Phil Grimm, Gemma Short and Ollie Moore

On 4 September, workers striking against privatisation of services at the National Gallery handed in a petition signed by over 133,000 people.

The delivery of the petition was timed to mark the 80th day of strikes at the gallery. Around a hundred people gathered outside the gallery on Trafalger Square to hand in the petition, which has garnered widespread support online.

Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn and left-wing backbench MP John McDonnell both sent messages of support and solidarity to the protest.

Gallery workers have been on indefinite strike since the start of August after 300 jobs were outsourced to the private security firm, Securitas. Picket lines are being held at the gallery from 9am to 11.30am every day as the strikes continue. At the time of writing, the strike has been ongoing for 28 days. The aim is to beat the privatisation before Securitas takes over the jobs in November.

Workers' have been further angered by the way in which the bosses have been messing around with their wages during the strike. Management had previously agreed that workers' pay would only be docked from the month in which the strike began, in mid-August. Instead, when strikers' got their pays slips through this year, they found that all of their pay for August had been docked. Luckily, the union's strike fund has allowed workers to continue their strike in spite of this.

The strikes have meant that a lot of rooms at the National Gallery have been closed to the public.

The gallery has been operating on a much-diminished staff, relying on scab private security brought in from outside to keep it open.

While this has meant many disappointed tourists and art-lovers, there is reason to be confident that there is significant public support for the stand the gallery workers are taking, not least thanks to the impressive number of signatories to the petition.

Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: "We do not believe the public want to see gallery services handed to a private security company." Gallery workers themselves echo this belief, arguing that many visitors to the gallery value a service staffed by regular, long-term staff who know something about the art that is being exhibited.

Apart from the fight against privatisation, the union is also campaigning for the reinstatement of its senior representative Candy Udwin, who was sacked shortly after strikes began after she made the bosses' plans for privatisation public.

An interim tribunal has found she was likely to have been sacked unlawfully for trade union activity in relation to the dispute, and she has won the right to full pay until her case is considered by a full tribunal.

Parking wardens strike for fair pay

Unison member working for NSL — Camden council's parking enforcement contractors — struck for better pay and conditions from 2-5 September.

Unison submitted a pay claim to take basic pay from £8.92 (currently below the London Living Wage) to £10.50 an hour. After extensive negotiations NSL refused to agree to a compromise from Unison for £9.50 an hour. Unison members voted by 89% in favour of strikes to increase the pay offer.

Workers mounted pickets throughout the strike, and received support from other council workers as well as other trade unionists.

Traffic wardens have a hard job, in all weather, and often face abuse. They rightly feel they deserve to earn more than the £9.27 NSL has offered, only 12p above the London Living Wage.

Tube unions pull back from strikes

London Underground unions withdrew strikes threatened for 8 and 10 September. Talks aimed at resolving disputes over job cuts, work/life balance, 24-hour running, and pay continue.

Union negotiators say they are making "progress" in talks, with London Underground backing off from threatened attacks to terms and conditions, particularly for station staff.

Unions are demanding increased staffing levels to distribute the burden of anti-social shifts, workable rosters, and more recuperation time after night shifts.

The rank-and-file bulletin Tubeworker queried the suspension of an early planned strike, arguing that it took pressure off the employer.

The bulletin has also argued for members to be kept better informed about the details of negotiations, as well as for unions to retain a focus on job cuts as a key issue in the dispute.

• For updates, see the Tubeworker blog.

Win at Pizza Express

After a campaign by activists with Unite, Pizza Express has scrapped its practice of deducting 8% of tips paid on credit cards.

The union organised nation-wide protests at Pizza Express stores and a 10,000 strong petition against the practice.

A planned protest for 3 September outside the chain’s Baker Street, London, branch, with Sherlock Holmes as a guest, was turned into a victory party.

Unite is continuing its protest against working conditions at Sports Direct, and will be holding protests outside stores on Wednesday 9 September.

Add new comment

This website uses cookies, you can find out more and set your preferences here.
By continuing to use this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.