UK workplace struggles roundup - December 2011

December saw strikes on the railways and London Underground, and action by IT, factory and warehouse workers, amongst others.

Submitted by Django on January 1, 2012

Boxing day tube strike

London Underground train drivers struck on Boxing Day despite attempts by management to gain an injunction banning the action.

The strike stems from a row over overtime payments and time off for work on bank holidays. LU's attempt to gain a High Court injunction – a tactic used successfully against private sector workers over the past several years to ban strikes on minor technicalities or force unions to reballot – failed and the strike was declared legal.

The Aslef union has since called off three further strikes scheduled for January and February on the basis of “constructive” discussions.

Scottish Signallers walkout

Signallers in the West of Scotland staged a 72-hour strike in a row over career progression. According to the RMT Union management have abolished a longstanding agreement whereby signallers are “slotted” into new roles when they become available.

Some services were cancelled as a result of the strike, and a reduced timetable was run on a number of routes.

IT workers strike at Steria

Unite members at IT company Steria took strike action in mid-December over an ongoing pay freeze at the company.

Union members, who work as analysts and system developers, returned an 81% mandate in favour of strike action. The company cites financial performance as reason for the real-terms pay cut (inflation is currently running at over 5%), but have nonetheless posted profits and awarded pay increases to executives.

The IT workers have signalled their intention to take further strike action.

First UK Unilever strike in history

Workers at a Unilever plant on the Wirral have gone on strike for the first time over management moves to scrap the UK final salary pension scheme for its 7,000 members. Further action is likely, with workers reporting a vindictive atmosphere in the wake of the December 9th strike, as Christmas parties were canned by management.

Moves are being made towards national strike action which would involve staff at sites in Warrington, Norwich, Purfleet, Port Sunlight, Gloucester, Manchester, Leeds, Burton-on-Trent, Crumlin, in Wales, Bedfordshire and Leatherhead, in Surrey.

Unilever reported an increase in profits of 18% this year.

Wincanton Warehouse workers strike

Workers for Wincanton at its Marks & Spencer distribution centre in Swindon launched a 24-hour strike over the introduction of a two-tier workforce.

The company's new pay offer for its workers includes a cut in pay for new starters from £8.00 to £6.45 and means cuts in shift premiums and overtime pay. Staff voted overwhelmingly for a 24-hour strike and indefinite work to rule.

Unite, which organised the ballot, said: ‘This is a blatant attempt by Wincanton, on behalf of Marks & Spencer, to circumvent the Agency Workers Directive.’

‘Wincanton is not just content with getting its agency staff to sign all of its workers up to the Swedish Derogation – the loophole that thwarts pay parity progress – they are forcing colleagues to work alongside each other on inferior terms, while they reap the rewards in profits.’

Chester streetcleaners overtime ban

Streetcleaning workers in Chester have begun an overtime ban in response to council plans to impose a 7-day working week, cut overtime and antisocial hours bonuses, and dictate annual leave days.

The GMB union, which organised the ballot, is moving towards strike action in the New Year if the issue is not settled following the ban, which began on Christmas Eve.

Comments

AIW

12 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by AIW on January 2, 2012

In the construction industry, electricians have been organising against a 35% pay cut.
* On August the 13th, at the Conway Hall, London, 500 sparks elected a national committee.
* Rank and File committees were elected in London, Newcastle, Wales, Scotland, Liverpool and Manchester
* Organising protests every Wednesday.
* A ballot delivered a massive ‘YES vote’ for strike action, but it was defeated using anti-union legislation by employers orgnaisation BBES.
* Unite are re-balloting.
* In London 50 protesters occupied the offices of network rail for an hour while in Scotland sparks occupied the BBC against a media blackout.
* On the 5th December ACAS, an organisation devoted to preventing and resolving employment disputes, organised negotiations. The Electricians Against the World blog commented:

One of our top rank and file members was present with Unite officials. At the meeting there was no backsliding by Unite, but to our horror Brian Boyd who up until recently was a Unite official and who left the union with £100,000, was representing the employers...
We were amazed to be contacted by the Australian Electrical Trade Union. One of their officials spoke at the London Rank and File meeting on the 3rd of December. They have now agreed to donate a large sum to our fighting fund and they have also invited 2 rank and File members to go to Australia in New Year to speak at site meetings.
(edited)

An important Statement by the Rank and File..................
At the ACAS meeting on 15th December the employers’ team included 2 individuals representing HVCA that we believe is completely unacceptable [and a deliberate pi** take].
One was Brian Boyd now employed by HVCA and pushing through BESNA. He is a former Unite/Amicus senior full time officer with responsibilities in the construction sector and for British Airways, his pockets are full of our money and he has a knowledge of thousand of Unite members. We should definitely not be sitting down with him.
The other is Stephen Quant, he used to work for Skanska, who were the biggest subscriber to Ian Kerr’s Blacklisting organisation. He may have been Ian Kerr’s right hand man at some point.
Never mind talking about BESNA, why are Unite sitting in the same building as Boyd and Quant, its a disgrace. We demand that Unite has no further talks with HVCA if these 2 wretches are present.

AIW

12 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by AIW on January 2, 2012

AIW

In the construction industry, electricians have been organising against a 35% pay cut.
* On August the 13th, at the Conway Hall, London, 500 sparks elected a national committee.
* Rank and File committees were elected in London, Newcastle, Wales, Scotland, Liverpool and Manchester
* Organising protests every Wednesday.
* A ballot delivered a massive ‘YES vote’ for strike action, but it was defeated using anti-union legislation by employers orgnaisation BBES.
* Unite are re-balloting.
* In London 50 protesters occupied the offices of network rail for an hour while in Scotland sparks occupied the BBC against a media blackout.
* On the 5th December ACAS, an organisation devoted to preventing and resolving employment disputes, organised negotiations. The Electricians Against the World blog commented:

One of our top rank and file members was present with Unite officials. At the meeting there was no backsliding by Unite, but to our horror Brian Boyd who up until recently was a Unite official and who left the union with £100,000, was representing the employers...
We were amazed to be contacted by the Australian Electrical Trade Union. One of their officials spoke at the London Rank and File meeting on the 3rd of December. They have now agreed to donate a large sum to our fighting fund and they have also invited 2 rank and File members to go to Australia in New Year to speak at site meetings.
(edited)

An important Statement by the Rank and File..................
At the ACAS meeting on 15th December the employers’ team included 2 individuals representing HVCA that we believe is completely unacceptable [and a deliberate pi** take].
One was Brian Boyd now employed by HVCA and pushing through BESNA. He is a former Unite/Amicus senior full time officer with responsibilities in the construction sector and for British Airways, his pockets are full of our money and he has a knowledge of thousand of Unite members. We should definitely not be sitting down with him.
The other is Stephen Quant, he used to work for Skanska, who were the biggest subscriber to Ian Kerr’s Blacklisting organisation. He may have been Ian Kerr’s right hand man at some point.
Never mind talking about BESNA, why are Unite sitting in the same building as Boyd and Quant, its a disgrace. We demand that Unite has no further talks with HVCA if these 2 wretches are present.

A CWI front commented:

The past 19 weeks have seen electricians and now blue book trades, all in the construction industry involved in walkouts, protests & stoppages to protect their JIB & NAECI national agreements and stop pay cuts and pay freezes culminating in over 5,000 workers in an unofficial strike on first December 7th and then a week later on the 14th. More action is to follow in the New Year