UK workplace news roundup, August 2010

tube workers on strike last year

Recent industrial news from the UK, including transport strikes in Liverpool, walkouts at West Lothian Council and Southampton libraries, and strike ballots for London firefighters, ambulance drivers, and tube staff.

Submitted by Django on August 29, 2010

Bin workers strike at West Lothian council

Refuse workers at West Lothian Council have taken strike action over a pay cut being imposed as part of the downgrading of their jobs.

All refuse workers face a job downgrade which will amount to a cut of at least £2,800 a year. The first 24-hour strike took place on Friday the 27th of August, and was sanctioned by the GMB union.

The action, which involved 93 workers, follows the council implementing what it says are its legal obligations to equalise pay for similar skill levels in order to close the pay gap between men and women in the public sector – traditionally 'female' jobs have historically been less well paid than 'male' jobs of a similar skill level. Strikes have followed similar moves at other councils around the UK, as councils attempt to 'solve' the problem of low pay for female workers being cutting the pay for traditionally 'male' jobs, rather than raising those of 'female' jobs.

Bus strikes in Liverpool

Bus workers have begun a four-day strike in Liverpool over pay.

Workers at Stagecoach Liverpool have been offered a 2% pay offer by management, which represents a real-terms pay cut when inflation is running at 4.5%. The action, backed by the Unite union, involves hundreds of staff and stands to hit one in five buses in the Liverpool area. The strike began on Friday, and is running until Tuesday.

London Underground Strikes Announced

200 Alstom-Metro maintenance workers on the London underground have voted for strike action over a management pay offer.

According to the RMT union, which organised the strike ballot, the offer on the table is significantly lower than comparable pay offers for other parts of the London Underground workforce. The first strike will take place on the 5th of September, with further 24-hour strikes to follow in October and November.

The announcement follows an overwhelming strike vote from RMT and TSSA union members over plans to close ticket offices around the capital with the loss of around 800 jobs. 10,000 workers including drivers and station staff stand to take part in the strike action. The first of four one-day strikes is due to start on September the 6th. An indefinite overtime ban will also apply as part of the action.

Southampton Librarians Strike

Library workers in Southampton struck for two days on the 12th and 16th of August in protest against the council's scrapping of two libraries and the replacement of staff with unpaid volunteers.

The strikes follow earlier action in June, after the council announced the closure of Millbrook and Thornhill libraries last year. Millbrook library remains one of the last remaining public services in that area of the city.

The attacks on public services and public sector workers under Southampton's Tory council are a foretaste of what is looming on a national scale, with the “big society” of volunteers being the pretext for job cuts and rolling back vital services.

London hospital drivers and firefighters balloted

The Fire Brigades Union has launched a ballot of its members in London after management scuppered negotiations and moved to cancel existing contracts and impose new ones on staff, which would involve different shift times and working hours. Ballot papers are due to be issued at the end of the month, with action possible from September onwards.

Meanwhile, members of the GMB union employed by the London Ambulance Service are being balloted at the time of writing over the privatisation of key services. The staff are employed to transport patients across the capital to sites and take them to and from hospital. The South London Healthcare NHS Trust has put the service out to tender.

The contract covers London Ambulance employees in Greenwich, Barnhurst and Bromley, who transport patients to Kings College, Lewisham, Royal Marsden and Guys & St Thomas hospitals, and has been awarded to Savoy Ventures Ltd. At a meeting where Savoy representatives were invited to discuss the takeover with GMB members, they made clear their intention to ignore Transfer of undertakings (TUPE) legislation, flouting employment law, cutting the outer-london weighting allowance and threatening “downward harmonisation” from current pay levels to those of Savoy's lowest-paid workers. Such flouting of the law would be in keeping with the transfer of the contract, as public procurement laws stating that contracts should not be awarded to companies whose directors preciously oversaw insolvent companies were ignored. Robert Lawrence Adams, who runs Savoy, was previously involved in companies still owing money to HM Revenue and Customs.

BAA: Strike threat forces management's hand

Contrary to the claims of millionaire prime minister David Cameron, who attacked BAA workers resisting a real-terms pay cut by claiming strikes “never work”, the threat alone of a walkout at many of Britain's airports has forced management to increase their offer by a third.

The strike by security staff, firefighters, and over vital airport workers would have led to the closure of some of Britain's busiest airports.

The new offer, which the Unite union is recommending to its members, sees the 1.5% offer increased to 2% and the offer of a bonus of at least £500 should certain targets be met. However, whether workers will accept this is another issue – 2% is still a pay cut with inflation running at 4.5%, and it seems the union may be taking the criticism of right-wing papers to heart following its high-profile involvement in the BA cabin crew walkouts. That dispute remains ongoing, with no new strike dates announced despite cabin crew rejecting BA's latest offer. It is a possibility that the union is worried about gaining a “militant” reputation, and has similarly been playing down the chances ofs trike action against the government's austerity measures.



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Submitted by antoniamautempo on August 30, 2010

dear all,

i think it would be good to have this kind of monthly round-up. the labourstart-site is rather distracting, given all the general union announcements. i wonder how we could systematize or collectivize the round up, e.g. by giving it a more pronounced space. below another news item on a current waste dispute:

Talks fail to stop Sandwell binmen’s industrial action Wednesday 25th August 2010, 11:30AM BST.

Talks fail to stop Sandwell binmen’s industrial action Industrial action by binmen was under way in Sandwell today after talks to stave off action over a pay dispute broke down. The council was notified of a five week programme of walkouts and work to rule after Sandwell Council rejected a second appeal put forward by unions on Monday with the outcome announced to workers today. New plans for action include proposals for a series of four walkouts planned over the next five weeks. The first strike is on Tuesday with subsequent strikes on September 8, September 16 and September 24. It is believed action will continue until at least the end of the month. Today binmen were working to rule. Sandwell residents today said they were horrified at the prospect that bin bags could start to build up in the street as they did throughout July, during the last work to rule. Dinner lady Iris Griffiths, aged 48, of Robert Road, Tipton, said: “The whole thing is a right mess. “It’s inevitable they won’t finish the collections on time if they are working to rule and that means rubbish will go uncollected. “I dread to think what kind of impact it will have. I dare say it will encourage rats.” Brenda Butler, 70, of Brickhouse Road, Rowley Regis, has her bins collected on a Tuesday. She said: “I’m surprised it has come to this. I always thought they would come up with some sort of agreement. “It is very worrying – we don’t want rubbish in the streets.” However, the council has assured residents they will do everything in their power to ensure collections take place Councillor Derek Rowley, Sandwell’s neighbourhoods chief issued an official statement today in which he reassured the public that the council will collect rubbish, with an army of 100 agency staff poised to collect rubbish missed by crews. He said: “We took another very detailed look the binmen’s Single Status appeal and this further appeal has been rejected. “Our focus now is on continuing to collect household rubbish from the homes of people in Sandwell. “Our advice to residents is therefore to continue to put out their rubbish as usual on their normal collection day. “We have hired temporary workers and believe we can continue to collect waste from all 125,000 or so households in Sandwell.” Despite his assurances the council has increased the opening hours at its dump for people who want to take away their own rubbish. The household recycling centre in Shidas Lane, Oldbury, will open an open an hour earlier from 7am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 7am to 4pm Saturday to Sunday. Unions GMB and Unite cancelled industrial action at the eleventh hour last Wednesday to reopen talks with the council. Leaders said they were hopeful the council would relent and allow them a further appeal on single status wage bands, which will see most members lose £2,900. An initial appeal earlier this year failed.


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Submitted by Steven. on August 31, 2010

yeah, thanks for providing that breakdown


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Submitted by antoniamautempo on September 4, 2010


report first day of binmen strike in sandwell. the comments to the article are mainly crap, but if comment 19 is right, than sandwell council is planning to transfer the waste collection to serco in november:


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Submitted by miles on September 13, 2010

I guess this is the correct place to post this..

Latest on the BA dispute - "British Airways, Unite and GMB sign agreement which will see 500 posts go at Heathrow airport"

BA have suddenly discovered a love for the unions:

"BA's chief executive, Willie Walsh, said the deal proved that the airline was committed to strong relationships with trade unions. "This is another important step towards securing permanent structural change and the long-term future of the company. It also underlines our commitment to working with all of our trade unions, including Unite." Under the terms of the agreement, 500 posts will go by March next year at Heathrow terminals 3 and 5. BA added that it had secured similar compromises with the pilots' union, Balpa, and company engineers represented by Unite. Unite represents around three-quarters of BA's 40,000 staff."

In addition, with reference to the previous cuts in the numbers of cabin crew manning airlines

Unite is no longer insisting on the repeal of those cuts, but is demanding the full reinstatement of travel perks that were stripped from the estimated 6,700 flight attendants who joined 22 days of strike action this year.

Presumably, if those travel 'perks' are re-instated UNITE can claim a stunning 'victory'...