Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 26 October, 2016 - 12:55 Author: Gemma Short, Charlotte Zalens, Ollie Moore and Simon Nelson

Teaching assistants in Derby and Durham have been fighting attacks on their terms and conditions.

As previously reported in Solidarity, teaching assistants in Derby will have their pay slashed by 25% to bring them onto term-time only pay.

Durham teaching assistants face a similar cut in pay, and the council is planning on sacking all the teaching assistants and reemploying them on the new contract to force through the changes, Durham council′s ″solution″ would mean some workers only losing 10% of their pay — but working more hours for the privilege!

Teaching assistants in Derby struck on Thursday 20 and Friday 21 October when the council threatened to call the police on the pickets — because they were giving out balloons to students and parents! Their next planned strike has been suspended to allow for negotiations with Derby council.

On Wednesday 19 October, Durham teaching assistants, members of Unison, voted by 93% for strikes. A ballot of ATL members returned 84% in favour of strikes.

On Monday 24 October, Durham teaching assistants started a week long silent vigil outside County Hall in Durham for half-term. They are taking shifts during the week to have a constant presence at the County Hall which will end with a demonstration from 8 a.m. on Friday 28 October.

Durham campaign organiser Tina Patterson said: “We want to remind councillors that we are real people facing real financial hardship if the council goes ahead with these life-changing pay cuts.”

Ritzy strikes again

Workers at the Ritzy Picturehouse cinema in Brixton will strike again on Monday 31 October in their fight for a Living Wage, sick pay, maternity pay and other improvements to terms and conditions.

Since the last strikes on 15-16 October, ACAS has approached both the workers and the employer offering conciliation but Picturehouse has refused. Workers will strike from 4 p.m.-3 a.m. on 31 October and will stage pickets and a Halloween themed living dead protest in Windrush Square in Brixton.

• Support the strike fund here

Terror alert shows staff cuts risk

A controlled explosion was carried out on a suspect package at North Greenwich Tube station on 20 October, highlighting the ongoing possibility of a further terrorist atrocity on London Underground.

Nobody was injured this time, and the diligence and professionalism of the workers involved must be recognised. On 7/7, frontline London Underground staff were amongst the first to respond, rushing to incident scenes, arranging and facilitating emergency service response, and evacuating passengers to safety at stations across London.

However, at North Greenwich, the station was understaffed, and the control room was shut. This is a direct result of London Underground cutting hundreds of front line staff who were once responsible for the safety of hundreds of thousands of passengers. Workers at North Greenwich responded excellently, but this situation could have turned out very differently.

Tube bosses’ job cuts and de-staffing of control rooms has made the Tube less safe. RMT and TSSA are preparing ballots of their members on Tube stations for strikes against the cuts. All Tube unions have called directly on the government to reinstate central government funding to TfL, which the Tories plan to end entirely by 2020.

Southern guards strike, and drivers ballot

Guards on Southern Rail who are members of the RMT union will strike again on 4-5 November.

Drivers’ union Aslef will also ballot its members on Southern from 4 November, with the ballot closing two weeks later. Southern guards’ most recent strikes, from 18-20 October, were solid and saw lively picket lines at stations across the Southern network.

The company is forcing guards to sign up to new contracts as "On Board Supervisors", and has attempted both bribery and threats. RMT has said it will continue to fight against the imposition of "Driver Only Operation" and the de-skilling of the guard role regardless of whether the new role comes into effect.

The November strike was initially due to begin on 3 November, but this was cancelled after an appeal to the RMT from the Royal British Legion, who said the strike would disrupt their planned day of poppy selling at stations and on trains.

Although the RMT is understandably keen to avoid a damaging public relations war with the British Legion, an undeniably popular institution, the cancellation is not without risks. It sets a precedent for any other organisation to make its own special case to a striking union on the basis that the strike will disrupt some planned activity. It is also politically controversial, as the Royal British Legion, and the entire institution of official "Remembrance" are hardly politically neutral, but rather based on a promotion of the British state’s own narrative about its military history.

Activists within the RMT, whose AGMs have passed vociferously anti-imperialist and anti-militarist policies on all manner of international questions, will undoubtedly be keen to debate the merits of giving way to the RBL.

An RMT demonstration in support of the Southern guards at Parliament will take place on 1 November.

No HMRC redundancies

Following the decision by HMRC management to cull vast swathes of their estate and move operations to a number of central hub locations, a round of voluntary exit packages was announced.

This was done in the hope the department woudn’t make compulsory redundancies. They didn’t get as many people volunteering their jobs away as they’d wanted, leaving around 40 members of staff who are unable to relocate from sites faced with closure in the first round.

These staff are now party to a 90-day consultation period which may lead to them losing their jobs. Following this, the following rounds of closures will impact more and more staff, likely leading to further compulsory redundancies.

Civil service union, PCS, once had a principle that a national ballot would be triggered if the civil service announced any compulsory redundancies.

This year, with the threat of these cuts hanging over our head, comrades outside of the ruling Left Unity faction, including the Independent Left, supported a motion to codify that principle. The leadership, led by members of the Socialist Party, argued against this, and the motion was defeated.

Since conference we’ve seen very little movement on behalf of the national union or the HMRC group. The principle is correct. An injury to one is an injury to all. While it’s true that the union is in a worse state organisationally than it has been for a while, if we don’t fight we will lose.

35 days and more on strike

The strike of three women cleaners at the Wakefield City Academies Trust school in Kinsley, West Yorkshire has continued past 35 days with the employer refusing to backdown and attempting to employ scabs to cover the work.

Unison maintain that C&D Cleaning have cut pay, holiday and sickness, refusing to recognise the TUPE arrangements from the previous employer, Wakefield Council. With rallies that have included support from John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn, the fight of three low paid women is one that should be taken up by the entire labour movement.

A demonstration in Barnsley to C&D’s offices and further actions planned around Halloween will continue to build a profile for the women and help raise more money for their support fund.

• You can follow the campaign on Twitter by following @KinsleyCandD

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