Cleaning and security workers on London’s Docklands Light Railway (DLR) won a big victory before Christmas, settling a long-running dispute over terms and conditions for a deal that represents a 75p/hour pay increase, backdated to April 2015.
The workers, employed by outsourced subcontractor Interserve, struck several times throughout 2015. An RMT statement called the deal “a massive breakthrough”, which “gives some much-needed Christmas cheer to a group of London transport workers who have fought long and hard for pay justice.”
The statement continued, “this pay victory proves that low paid workers can get organised into a fighting trade union and use their collective industrial strength to win a fair deal in the workplace.”
Although under the publicly-owned Transport for London aegis, the DLR is privatised and operated by a consortium of contractors (Keolis Amey Docklands, KAD). KAD in turn outsources various functions, including cleaning and some security work, to Interserve.
Directly-employed DLR staff are also in dispute with KAD over a variety of issues, and have several strikes planned in the first four months of 2016.
Jobs battle continues on Tube
Tube union RMT has announced an indefinite overtime ban for station workers on London Underground (LU), as part of its ongoing fight against job cuts and attacks on terms and conditions.
The ban, which began on 3 January, could lead to station closures and other disruptions, as years of staffing cuts mean that many Tube stations rely on workers doing overtime to remain open.
London Underground plans to impose a new staffing model on stations in 2016, which will see hundreds of jobs lost, most workers re-graded to more responsible roles without any additional pay, and terms and conditions and contracts unilaterally changed.
The new model (called “Fit for the Future”) was first announced in November 2013, since when Tube workers have struck for a total of six days in an attempt to stop it, as well as using other tactics such as overtime bans and revenue strikes. Elements of the changes have already been imposed by Tube bosses, including the closure of all LU-operated ticket offices.
A Tube worker and RMT activist told Solidarity: “These changes will make our working lives much more stressful, and seriously affect the service we’re able to provide to our passengers. Footfall is going up, so staffing levels and services like ticket offices should be expanding as well, not being cut back.”
Supporters of the socialist rank-and-file bulletin Tubeworker are arguing for the overtime ban to be supplemented with a ban on higher-grade working, and for a programme of escalating strikes to be announced as soon as possible.
Tube unions also remain in dispute with LU about their 2015 pay settlement, now nine months overdue, and new staffing arrangements to facilitate the introduction of 24-hour running (“Night Tube”).
RMT gears up to defend Glen Hart
London Underground workers are preparing to ballot for strikes to defend London Underground station supervisor Glen Hart.
London Underground attempted to discipline Glen for closing his station during an RMT overtime ban in 2014, although he had followed railway regulations to the letter. After having to drop these trumped-up charges, they went after Glen on a ludicrous misconduct charge, essentially alleging that he had been rude to a manager... on no other evidence than the testimony of that manager!
A lively demonstration at Clapham Common station in December and a campaign of propaganda across Tube workplaces have left LU managers in no doubt that the RMT is prepared to use its full industrial muscle to defend Glen from victimisation.
Momentum on the streets
On Monday 4 January, Labour and trade union activists leafleted passengers at train stations across the country on the first working day since rail fare rises of 1.1% were implemented, making them the most expensive in Europe.
The protests were called for by Action for Rail, backed by rail unions and was the first protest of the year that Momentum called for activists to get involved in.
In Nottingham Momentum supporters from Nottingham East, Broxtowe and Sherwood CLPs handed out postcards for passengers to send to their MPs calling for no fare increases.
60 other stations were leafleted including Kings Cross where campaigners were joined by Jeremy Corbyn and the Shadow Minister for Transport Lillian Greenwood.
• To get involved in Momentum in Nottingham contact Tim
No mandate for Prentis!
Dave Prentis was re-elected as Unison General Secretary at the end of last year, with less than 50% of the vote, less than 10% turnout, and amid allegations of cheating.
A few days before the ballot closed a recording was leaked that implicated Unison full-time officials in campaigning in favour of Prentis in clear breach of unison rules. Both Unison and the Electoral Reform Services failed to declare the result null and void as a result of the full-timers actions.
Calls for an independent investigation, including by a large section of the NEC, were ignored, and instead Unison launched an internal inquiry. That inquiry has claimed that the recording shows signs of having been tampered with, yet does not try to deny any wrong doing on the part of the full-time officials. Either the full-time officials acted against Unison rules, or they did not!
Despite seemingly having full-time officials publicising him, and Prentis appearing in almost every article in the Union′s publications during the election period whilst the election — and other candidates — were not mentioned, Prentis′ vote took a huge battering. Since 2010 Prentis has gone from 185,000 votes to 66,000, losing 119,000 votes — two thirds.
This is no real mandate for Prentis to continue to sit back while public sector workers and services are attacked by the government.
• The whistleblower who made the recording has answered allegations that the recording was tampered with. Read the answer here
Arriva trains strike
Driver members of both the Aslef and RMT unions working for Arriva Trains Wales struck on Monday 4 January, leading to widespread disruption.
Unions suspended a planned strike in November, but reinstated action after Arriva failed to make a satisfactory offer on pay and conditions.
Aslef organiser Simon Weller said, “The company has not made a new offer. It has sent us a form of words. But it is not new and it is not an offer.” RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said, “This strike is about basic workplace justice and decent working conditions and it is down to the company to recognise the anger amongst the workforce shown this morning and to meet with the unions for genuine and meaningful talks on the issues in dispute.”
As well as pay, unions are concerned about how frequently workers will be expected to work past an agreed 9.5 hour shift length, arguing that the wording in the company’s current deal (that they will be expected to do so in “special circumstances”) is too vague, as Arriva frequently serves events such as football matches.
Lambeth librarians balloted
After striking unofficially in November, library workers in Lambeth have now been given an official ballot by Unison.
Lambeth council plans to shut half of Lambeth libraries, turn three into membership gyms with unstaffed book stations, and cut up to 25% of library workers′ jobs. Unison and local library campaigns have organised marches and protests against the cuts.
One such protest saw campaigners knitting shut the doors of one of Lambeth’s council offices on 18 December.