Solidarity wins against Sodexho
Catering staff at Haggerston School in Hackney, with the support of NUT and UNISON members, have forced a pay increase from their multi-national bosses Sodexho, taking their below minimum wage £4.51 per hour to £9. On their first day of strike action 35 teachers and two technicians refused to cross their picket line, forcing the school to send students home; in fact, many students joined the picket. Sodexho backed down with a second strike day planned.
This significant victory which points the way forward for all super-exploited catering staff in our schools owes no thanks to the leadership of the NUT whose general secretary intervened four times to urge his members to disrespect the picket or face no support from the union if disciplined by the school. The NUT executive is conducting a review of the action taken by the union which will look more generally at addressing an appropriate trade union response to members taking unofficial solidarity action.
Relocation and cuts
Unions are campaigning against plans to relocate the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) policy division, which risks haemorrhaging key expertise within the safety body.
Under the proposals the majority of non-operational functions will move from London to a single headquarters building in Bootle, although field operational staff will remain at Rose Court until 2013.
The unions argue that HSE has already admitted that the move will not save money and will lead to many experienced staff leaving, which will undermine safety provision for the foreseeable future.
Government funding cutbacks have already led to the loss of 350 jobs, making it highly unlikely that most workplaces will see an inspector more than once in 20 years.
The final decision is not expected to be taken until later this year, giving unions time to organise.
The RMT and TSSA unions have begun balloting 2,600 Metronet workers over strike action. Since Metronet — responsible for the maintenance of nine London Underground lines — went into administration last month, there has been no guarantee against job losses or forced transfers and workers face a 10% cut in pensions. TfL and Ken Livingstone show no signs of taking the step of bringing work back in house.
If it happens, this will be TSSA’s first strike action since the 1926 general strike and it is good to see the two main unions on the tube co-operating. Both unions should also ballot all grades of LUL workers to fight the planned closure of 40 ticket offices.
Meetings between the RMT and management have come to nothing after one day’s strike action last month of detrainment workers and drivers on the northern end of the Bakerloo line. Detrainment workers, who ensure trains are empty when they reach the end of the line, are being pushed into working by themselves despite the higher levels of assaults in that part of north west London. Workers who are medically restricted often do this job, and on the picket lines management openly said they had to make these cuts because workers were off sick too often! Passengers also want to know that stations are safe, especially at night. Lone-working had to be revoked after a passenger fatality at Liverpool St.
It seems that drivers are unwilling to take another day’s strike action which would leave the detrainment staff seriously weakened in this dispute. During the last strike all ASLEF unionised drivers crossed RMT picket lines. RMT members should work with the strikers to broaden this campaign on a public safety front, supporting the provisional date set for the next strike on 22 August, the day of the England vs. Germany friendly at Wembley.
An agreement have been reached between Salford City Council and the refuse collection workers in the T&G section of Unite. Union members voted unanimously to accept the deal and end a dispute involving strike action. They were fighting casualisation of jobs and the undermining of council pay and conditions. The council has now committed to ensuring that staffing levels for refuse collection and street cleansing are established on the basis of need, and any additional staff will be recruited on permanent contracts. Recycling services will transfer to direct council contracts by 1 November.