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