Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 7 October, 2015 - 12:46 Author: Gemma Short, Charlotte Zalens, Luke Neal and Peggy Carter

Strikers at the National Gallery, London, returned to work on Monday 5 October after 111 days on strike.

They have secured a deal which protects members’ terms and conditions and sees their sacked PCS rep reinstated.

The deal, which was made on Friday 2 October, does not stop the privatisation of gallery services but is a big climb down by gallery management in most areas, and the gallery has agreed to review the private contract after one year

Sacked PCS rep Candy Udwin will be reinstated. Staff will be paid the living wage, which will also be uprated on basic pay in future years. Guarantees have been made on terms and conditions for staff transferred to Securitas. They cannot be changed without union agreement. Terms and conditions for newly recruited Securitas staff will be broadly comparable with those of existing gallery staff.

There are also guarantees on rosters, staffing levels, health and safety and other benefits.

A spokeperson for the strikers said : “We could not have succeeded in winning the outcome that we have without your help on our picket lines, showing solidarity and raising funds to keep our strike going.

“We will continue to campaign to reverse the privatisation and will help promote a national campaign to keep museums and galleries free, publicly owned and publicly run. We will keep you informed of the next steps.

“Thank you again for your fantastic solidarity. Out strike has shown that workers who stand up and fight will get support and can win.

`’We hope that we will encourage others to do the same and our success will help build a national movement against cuts, privatisation and for an alternative to austerity.”

Fight redundancies at Manchester University

Over the summer, senior management at the University of Manchester announced that over 250 workers, predominantly in IT services, were at risk of compulsory redundancy.

This was a bold and unprecedented move on their part: in the past a “collegial” approach had been sought, with compulsory redundancies avoided and the option of lifelong membership to a redeployment register for workers subject to voluntary severance. The campus trade unions – Unite, Unison and UCU – have been engaged in negotiations over the issue, and are likely to ballot for industrial action following the response of management expected on October 7.

The campaign, however, has been fraught with difficulties and compromises, for instance that very deadline for a response, which was overly generous and increases the amount of workers likely to take a voluntary package in the meantime. From a seemingly strong start with 300-strong meetings and demonstrations in the last fortnight of August, some momentum has been lost. Leftist students and a few rank and file union members have made an intervention through agitation amongst the student body and direct pressure on the joint-union committee for open meetings, demonstrations, the inclusion of IT-based and student speakers, etc.

At points we have taken the initiative outside of trade union structures:. Last week, for instance, we called a demo as they had refused to. They later backed and promoted it anyway, which shows the value of an independently organised leftist rank-and-file-type group. On that demonstration a media worker described the situation: “this [UoM] is a great institution. But it is as if, since the fees gone up, they care less and less about the people that make the place work. It's noticeably more impersonal.” His last phrase reminded me of Michael Heinrich's (2011) characterisation of capitalism as a system of “impersonal domination”.

On the ground in higher education workers are beginning to feel the effects of financialisation and marketisation ever more sharply.

As elsewhere, the immediate obstacles are those placed in front of working class militancy in the form of the disorganised and bureaucratic union leadership.

John Burgess for Unison general secretary

Barnet Unison secretary, John Burgess, has now been nominated for Unison general secretary by 47 branches and by the South-East region.

The nominations mean that John is now on the ballot papers, with a week to go before nominations close.

Workers’ Liberty is supporting John and urges activists who want to see a more democratic union to get involved in his campaign.

Support Barnet strikers

Workers in Barnet will strike on Wednesday 7 October in their ongoing dispute over privatisation.

Social workers, coach escorts, drivers, occupational therapists, schools catering staff, education welfare officers, library workers, children centre workers, street cleaning and refuse workers will strike on 7 October as their services face outsourcing. These workers are some of the only ones left directly employed by Barnet council after mass privatisation, as the “easycouncil” aims to reduce its directly employed staff to fewer than 300.

Workers will be on picket lines in the morning and a rally will be held outside Barnet House at 12.

Tube drivers in strike vote

Tube union RMT will ballot driver members on London Underground's Piccadilly Line for strikes, in a vote opening on 6 October and closing two weeks later.

The union says there has been a "comprehensive breakdown of industrial relations" on the line, with workers saying that local bosses have become increasingly authoritarian and disciplinarian. The situation was brought to a head over the recent sacking of driver Paul Okoro, who was dismissed for allegedly answering his phone in the train cab, despite witnesses attesting that he handed over control of the train to another colleague before taking the call.

An RMT statement said: "The wholesale abuse of procedures and agreements by management on the Piccadilly Line is rife and amounts to the development of a campaign of bullying, harassment and intimidation that the union will not allow to continue."

RMT is also balloting is members on the Docklands Light Railway, which is operated by private contractor Keolis Amey, for strikes over changes to working practices. The ballot is due back on 22 October, meaning any action could be coordinated with potential strikes on the Piccadilly Line.

Rank-and-file bulletin Tubeworker is calling for Tube unions to reinstate industrial action in network-wide disputes with London Underground if the company doesn't deliver concessions on job cuts and work/life balance.

Lidl: Pay fairly

Supermarket chain Lidl has dismissed a worker from it’s Belfast store for questioning their discriminatory pay policy.

Lidl became the first in a stream of supermarkets to announce they will be paying the living wage last week, but the rate only applies to their stores in England, Scotland and Wales, and not to those in Northern Ireland. The worker who was sacked questioned the fairness of this pay discrepancy in Facebook comments.

Union Unite has called a protest outside Lidl’s Belfast store at 5 pm on Thursday 8 October, and calls for activists outside of Belfast to support the protest on social media.

Carlsberg workers fight for pay rise

Workers at Carsberg’s Northampton plant are operating an overtime ban and work-to-rule in a dispute over pay.

Workers, members of Unite, have not had a pay rise since April 2014 and voted by 89% for action short of strikes and 77% for strikes. Unite says if the action short of strikes does not make management negotiate the union will organise strikes.

Workers argue that Carlsberg staff across Europe have had pay rises this year as part of a two-year pay deal, but only workers in England haven’t.

Unite also says workers are in dispute over the planned closure of their final salary pension scheme in April 2016 and the transfer of many workers to an inferior pension scheme.

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