Unions start to fight back

Submitted by AWL on 28 June, 2002 - 11:58

There is a growing anger over pay in many areas, but particularly in the public sector. NUT members have taken industrial action in London, and the lecturers' union NATFHE nationally. The FBU looks on course to take action and RMT Tube members are being balloted. We should use this mood to co-ordinate union action and build Public Sector Alliances. It may even be possible to organise coordinated one-day strike action across a number of unions.

Tube workers vote for action on safety
By a tube worker

RMT is soon to ballot for renewed strike action on the Tube around privatisation. The ballot has been forced by pressure from the rank and file. A majority for action looks certain. Activists in the union need to pressure the leadership to do some serious political campaigning - minimally a demonstration against privatisation or fo rail renationalisation.

For the four years since it was announced we have all known that the so-called Public-Private Partnership will be a disaster. We have seen the evidence on the mainline railway at Potters Bar, Hatfield and Paddington. We have seen evidence on the Tube, in Shadow Running and the antics of the cowboy contractors. In last year's strikes we wo some concessions that we would not have won if we had not taken action. But those concessions are not enough to save us from the disaster of privatisation.

Now the company says that PPP will be in place within a matter of weeks. We have to act now to stop it. Activists in the union need to campaign for a big majority in the ballot and a big turnout. We need more than a last-minute protest action.

Unfortunately an ongoing pay dispute has been left aside and not linked with the privatisation issue.

The biggest boost this strike action could get would be for ASLEF to join in. Last year RMT and ASLEF went out together and we brought London to a standstill. ASLEF members should demand that the union joins in this year too. Drivers are just as vulnerable under PPP as other grades.

Vote Pat Sikorski

There's an election in the RMT now for an Assistant General Secretary post. Solidarity supporters are backing Pat Sikorski for this new vacancy, despite our criticisms of him. It will be much easier to get him to lead a fight than his main opponent, New Labour stooge Phil Byalik.

London weighting strike
By Dion D'Silva, Wandsworth Unison

Over 40,000 London Unison council workers took two-day strike action on 12-13 June in support of our £4,000 London weighting claim. This followed one day of strike action taken in May. Branches reported a massive response from the membership although there was probably some fall off in support. There is also disappointment that GMB and TGWU haven't joined in yet.

The current London weighting is £1,400 for outer London and £2,600 for Inner London. This compares with over £6,000 for the Police and £4,492 for the Audit Commission. The claim was made in July 2001 but the employers are pleading poverty.

They did agree to meet the unions on 13 June and outside there was a lively lobby by Unison members. However, within an hour the negotiations had broken down as the Councils refused to offer any more money and said that central government wasn't going to help.

We must step up the industrial action but also link up all the unions and go on the political offensive.

What should be done?

  • GMB and TGWU members to vote yes for joint action and to get their leaderships to truly fight for the claim.
  • Unison branches and the region to put in London weighting claims in all sectors, including health, education and the private sector.
  • The next days of action to be jointly organised with other sectors and unions as soon as possible.
  • Support the London Public Sector Alliance and build active support on the ground.
  • Launch a political campaign to demand that central government properly funds public services.
  • Organise with the NUT, Natfhe, RMT, FBU and others to coincide their disputes, probably in September, with a one-day public sector/London weighting strike.

Vote yes for a national strike

Local government workers throughout England and Wales are being balloted in support of strike action for the national pay claim. The employers offer of 3% has been rejected. The unions are seeking 6% or £1,750. This time all the unions are balloting together and hopefully there will be a massive yes vote to take the first strike on 17 July.

Resentment in local government over low pay and lack of resources has been building up for some years. Over 20% of workers earn less than £5 an hour and local government has the highest level of temporary workers in the economy - about 10%. It's hard to give improved services with an insecure and demoralised workforce.

South Bank strikers call for national demonstration

Striking lecturers at South Bank University (SBU) are calling for a national demonstration to protest at the continuation of failed Tory education policies by the Labour government. The strikers believe that the start of the academic year would be the right time to mobilise staff and students.

A three-day strike was held on 11-13 June and was solidly supported.

The action will be followed by the withholding examination marks and further industrial action.

The action arises from Government-imposed cuts in the University budget of £6.1m this year and £8.5m next year. This has resulted in 128 redundancies. The Government have targeted most of their cuts on the new universities which are already disadvantaged by the class system of funding.

Higher Education Minister Margaret Hodge says she cannot meet union representatives until after the sackings are carried out. It is an attitude of callous indifference.

The current system of funding is based on institutionalised discrimination against working class and ethnic minority students.

The Tories were content to see "lower class" students get lower class funding and the Labour government has continued this system. At Cambridge funding per capita is over £9 thousand whilst funding at South Bank is around £4.5 thousand.

These are not the only problems in higher education. The system of governance set up by the Tories in the 'new' universities, has meant that management are not properly accountable. Management can make mistake after mistake without being brought to account. The cost of mismanagement is then borne by ordinary staff in cuts and redundancies.

We need a national campaign uniting staff and students. We need to extend and improve higher education and make it an opportunity which is free and equal for all.

Firefighters' fight gathers momentum

12,000 marched through London to support the FBU's pay claim. The union is demanding £30,000 a year or profession firefighters and emergency fire control staff. Talks between the union and employers are due to restart on 9 July


Submitted by Janine on Sun, 30/06/2002 - 11:07

I think that one of the most important issues here is that the rank-and-file members should control the strike action. If this were the case, then action would happen when and how the members wanted it to. The union's members would decide when strike action was called AND WHEN IT WAS CALLED OFF.

Instead, what ususally happens is that the members deliver a YES vote in the ballot, then any further control is taken away from them by the union leadership, who make all the decisions. Obviously, union leaders should take decisions, but there is a difference between leadership and bureaucratic dictatorship.

On London Underground, it was the rank-and-file activists who had to lobby long and hard for the strike ballot to be put on. We are now out canvassing for a Yes vote, whilst the leadership appear a bit half-hearted about it all. Yet despite showing real leadership now, they will no doubt assume full control of the action. We need to set up rank-and-file organising meetings to co-ordinate the canvassing, and then to become strike committees when the action starts.
e-mail: JBooth9192 at aol.com

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