Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 22 March, 2017 - 12:34 Author: Justine Canady, UCLU Women’s Officer-elect (personal capacity), Simon Nelson and Luke Hardy

UCL Student Union’s senior management have agreed cuts in the region of 90k to the cleaning budget. Secura Clean, the company contracted to carry out UCLU cleaning, have promised there will be no redundancies. However, hours will be drastically cut, meaning that some cleaners possibly losing one-third of their hours.

Many cleaners are currently organised through independent trade union CAIWU. It is likely that they will ballot for industrial action if these cuts go through. There has also been some controversy around the cleaners′ pay. UCLU is a London Living Wage employer. However, some cleaners provided pay stubs showing that they in fact received slightly below LLW. UCLU Board of Trustees will be meeting 23 March to discuss the cleaners’ situation.

It is likely, the board will not want to overrule management’s decision to make cuts, despite the Union Council passing a motion earlier this month to support the cleaners. UCL students are currently circulating a petition calling for the Board of Trustees to “respect UCLU’s cleaners and respect democracy”.

UCLU is currently running a deficit, and needs to balance its books; with cleaning currently accounting for such a high cost, it would appear to make sense to go after this budget first. Balancing the books must not be done by sudden, drastic changes to the contracts of the most vulnerable at a moment’s notice. Instead, the cleaners should be made in-house staff and cuts, if needed, should be made to managerial pay.

Sacked for using holy water?

Three cleaners at Kinsley Academy near Wakefield have been sacked on trumped-up charges relating to allege religious discrimination against the employers! The three cleaners, employed by C&D cleaning, struck for 68 days for union recognition and the living wage.

They returned to work in December with a settlement, but just before Christmas were sacked. The outrageous charges stem from their Halloween protest, the “Kinsley 3 Vampire Gathering”. C&D claims that the mere notion of dressing as vampires and throwing “holy water” amounts to an attack on their Christian faith. It would appear laughable if it were not these women’s jobs on the line. C&D themselves have shown complete disdain for the workers and have refused from the beginning to engage with, let alone recognise, their Union.

Picturehouse strikes spread to six cinemas

On Saturday 18 March, workers at five Picturehouse cinemas struck in their ongoing dispute for the Living Wage and union recognition. It was the first strike by workers at the Duke of York cinema in Brighton. The strike was successful.

The Duke of York strike marks the first time our campaign has reached out of London. In addition to about 50 workers coming down from London to demonstrate outside of Duke of York’s, we were joined by lots of supporters from Brighton. The Duke′s workers came away feeling quite positive about it.

Over the course of the day they recruited quite a lot of new members — some workers who weren′t working the day shift, and had previously not joined the union, ended up not go in for their scheduled evening shift. We also marched from the Duke to the Komedia cinema, another Picturehouse branch in Brighton. We are confident that staff at the Komedia will soon get involved in the dispute.

East Dulwich Picturehouse is currently being balloted to join the strikes, with the result expected on 29 March. This will be the sixth cinema in the chain on strike. We want to tour other UK Picturehouses, which are currently not on strike, and organise meetings with workers. We are starting a campaign for statutory recognition.

This won't happen overnight, but we think we currently have half the numbers we need to win a statutory recognition ballot. We don’t want to rely on the law, though, and whilst we do this we want to spread the strikes to new sites.

There is also now a boycott of Picturehouse and its parent company Cineworld. A lot of celebrities are getting involved in the boycott campaign and calling on Cineworld and Picturehouse to pay the Living Wage. In addition to individuals boycotting Picturehouse and Cineworld, which could be useful but won’t be decisive in the dispute, the boycott is gathering pace with Picturehouse partners. For example the Human Rights Film Festival has said it will not host its festival with Picturehouse next year if it does not pay the living wage, and NUS NEC has passed a motion calling for its member student unions to remove Picturehouse from their freshers’ fairs.

More strikes are planned for 31 March, to coincide with the release of Ghost in the Shell. Picturehouse and Cineworld have demonstrated that they are not prepared to ″play nice″. The union and individual activists have been receiving legal letters with ludicrous threats, which are factually incorrect. But none of these threats have yet resulted in legal action. The intent is to intimidate the union and activists, whether or not there is any substance in the threats, and to tie the union up in replying to and examining legal threats.

As a consequence of this, as well as the new Trade Union Act, we have seen greater regulation put on our picket lines and protests. The latest issue is having a picket supervisor, and our union Bectu is currently not allowing this to be a lay activist but rather a full-time union official, meaning Bectu does not have enough staff to cover pickets at all sites. We have the capacity to organise strong and effective picket lines which turn away cinema-goers, and the campaign has great momentum.

It is frustrating when we have that sort of momentum to have restrictions placed on us organising effecive picket lines by the law, but also by our union which, rightly or wrongly, is increasingly nervous of legal action and is therefore being overly cautious. We should be cautious to not put members at unnecessary risk, but it needs to be weighed up with the need to win the dispute. At a certain point we have to push back so our action is effective.

• The Picturehouse strikers have a new website with resources for supporting them

• Lewisham Momentum will be leafletting Greenwich Picturehouse for the boycott on Friday 7 April

• Write to your MP and ask them to sign EDM 1000 in support of the strikes

Teachers say: “not our deficit!”

Teachers at Forest Hill school in Lewisham struck on Wednesday 21 March. Joe Cowley, the NUT union rep, spoke to Solidarity:

In September we were told that the school had fallen into budget deficiet — a projected £1million — and that this would necessitate a massive restructure in the school. This is about job losses, and the detrimental impact that will have on workload, and therefore on students’ education. It will impact the curriculum, particularly in areas such as the creative arts and technology. Everything that we as teachers believe in, providing quality education for young people in our community to address the imbalance of inequality, will be made difficult if not impossible by the restructure. We’ve already had cuts through natural wastage, which has meant that the special educational needs department has been deccimated.

We were told that the deficit was due to both external and internal factors. The external part is that of a bigger crisis facing education in the change to the national funding formula. The NUT projects this will mean cuts of up to £25 million in Lewisham schools alone! Alongside the increased national insurance and pensions contributions. As for the internal factor — clearly something has gone catastrophically wrong, and as of yet we have been unable to find any reason for the deficit or anyone to hold accountable. Neither senior management or the council seem to want to have that discussion. They just bat our questions away and describe the situation as “financial mismanagement”, so it’s difficult to know where the deficit came from and suggest alternatives. The council has said it will provide some deficit management aid, but this comes with strict stipulations on cutting the wage budget — clearly there will be no RBS bailout for schools! We want to force the council into accepting that it’s their job to protect education in Lewisham, and the varied curriculum we provide to students.

As the NUT we are demanding that redundancy payments (at a projected £450,000) are covered by the local authority, who are legally responsible, not the school as we are currently being told will be the case. This could make a huge difference to the school budget. We will be holding a demonstration at Lewisham council cabinet on Wednesday 22 March, and we expect to be joined by members from the Forest Hill parents’ action group and students who have jumped at being part of the campaign we have been building. More strikes are named for Wednesday 29 and Thursday 30 March. There is a real committment amongst the union group to win this. I don’t see any reason why we would cease until we win. The NASUWT is not currently involved in the dispute, but some of their members would like to get involved, and they won’t be covering any NUT members’ work on the strikes they are not currently involved in.

Sacked for organising

Deliveroo drivers in Leeds are fighting for the reinstatement of seven workers and for union recognition. The workers had an online discussion group for workers which got into the hands of management. Two riders were sacked and five had their hours cut.

Deliveroo employs about 300 workers in Leeds, with only 30 working full-time. Deliveroo rider and IWW member Jack Hannam said: “One rider who was disgruntled for some reason showed it to management and within a week two union members who were active on it had their contracts terminated, Five of us had our hours cut.

“I had about 40 hours scheduled and they have been taken off me.”

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