Recent industrial news from the UK, including the Firefighters Strike, The ongoing Astrazeneca dispute in Macclesfield, and more.
London firefighter strikes are on
Firefighters in London have overwhelmingly voted to take strike action in a dispute over new contracts.
The first strike is scheduled for the 23rd of October, with the second following on the 1st of November. The strike was backed by 79% of Fire Brigades Union members in a secret ballot, with the outcome announced earlier in the month. As part of a series of provocative measures in the run-up to the announcement of the result, management withdrew fire engines from stations around the capital and handed them over to the private contractors AssetCo.
The changes would equalise the length of day and night shifts. However, the real significance as far as firefighters are concerned is that the new shift pattern would make it much easier to close certain fire stations in the evening. With spending cuts on the way, the London Fire Authority has already been discussing making cuts of 20%-40%, with significant jobs losses. The contract dispute is widely seen as the first stage of the cuts.
Meanwhile, the union-busting chief of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority has threatened to “do a Ronald Reagan” and sack the firefighters who don't sign the new contracts – in his own estimation cutting London's 5,600 firefighters down to 2,000.
Taxi drivers in Rossendale vote to strike
Taxi drivers in Rossendale, Lancashire, have voted for strike action in protest against the council's plans to implement penalties on drivers.
Under the scheme, drivers will be hit with point-based penalties if they break one of 34 rules. Drivers who accrue more than 20 points in a year will have to resit their test or have their licence revoked. For example, sounding a horn to announce arrival at an address will result in four points.
The decision was taken at a mass meeting of 150 cabbies. At the time of writing, the Taxi drivers have voted to strike within the next fortnight.
Sellafield workers in strike over pay
Workers employed by Babcock, a contractor at Sellafield nuclear plant, have struck and held up traffic at the entrance to the site.
The workers, who are members of the Unite union, are owed back pay relating to a promised annual pay rise which never materialised. They have been taking regular strike action and have imposed an overtime ban. They held up traffic at all four entrances to the site leafleting other workers.
Strikes at Swindon Leisure Centres
September saw two strikes at Swindon's leisure centres, parks and car parks after the Tory-run council moved to withdraw shift allowances for compulsory overtime at antisocial hours.
The ballot was organised by Unison, which backed the strikes. The cut represents a significant drop in pay for many workers, resulting in the loss of as much as £300 a month. The strike has led to the closure of car parks and the winding down of leisure centre activities. The hardship fund set up for the strike is reported to have received £1500 in donations so far.
AstraZeneca workers fight on
The strike by workers at AstraZeneca in Macclesfield has continued into October. The dispute began last month after the company, which reported pre-tax profits of £1.8 in the three months to June this year, implemented cuts to staff pensions (whilst Chief Executive David Brennan boosted his pension entitlement to £17,500 a week).
The strike vote saw a 70% backing for action being given by GMB members, with the Macclesfield drug factory seeing the first strike in its history.
A GMB-organised demonstration marched from the AstraZeneca site to Macclesfield town centre on the 6th of October before returning back to the site, on what was the sixth day of strike action.