It’s been a little while since I wrote an update on the industrial news from Labour’s affiliate unions. Politics is, of course, consumed by Brexit, but the battles in our workplaces roll on. Some disputes, particularly in manufacturing, expose the level of anxiety felt by workers as their livelihoods hang in the balance from uncertainty over our future relationship with Europe. So as Labour prepares for the polls this week, thousands of workers prepare for the picket. Solidarity to every one of them!
The fight against outsourcing is heating up in hospitals. A huge vote in favour of a strike has been returned by more than 200 cleaners at Princess Alexandria, while Unison members at Bradford hospital began balloting yesterday over plans to privatise some of the local NHS services. At Liverpool Royal and Broad Green, staff already employed by outsourced employer ISS will begin a strike starting next Thursday. This all comes after a recent victory by outsourced catering workers at Doncaster and Bassetlaw hospitals. The GMB members’ walk out secured them a backdated pay rise in line with directly employed staff.
Care workers in Birmingham can also claim victory, as the dispute-ridden Labour council looks set to shelve plans which would have cut hours back. After an impressive 82 days of strike action, Unison is celebrating.
Industrial action over shift patterns by workers at two airports could create significant disruption. From tomorrow, lorry drivers who transport food, drink and duty free to planes at Heathrow begin their strike. Meanwhile at Luton airport, a strike looms as security guards in Unite voted to walk out for 12 consecutive days, starting next Thursday.
Elsewhere in transport, bus strikes are spreading. In January I reported on the 650 bus drivers in the North East who started the year with a week of strikes over pay and won. Now drivers in Lancashire are making a similar demand, for an extra 50p an hour, and their strike begins again on Saturday.
Firefighters have voted to prepare for withdrawal of all non-contractual services as the FBU re-enters pay negotiations. It is a huge threat: members rescued more than ten times as many people from non-fire related incidents than from fires last year. The union has also been drawing attention to a Spanish firefighter facing imprisonment for a refugee rescue mission. Back in February, I reported that hero FBU member Brendan Woodhouse from Nottingham was being ‘held hostage’ by the Italian government in his rescue boat. Now, Miguel Roldan could be jailed for 20 years for similar work.
Manufacturing workers are fighting on a number of fronts. There could be a shortage of beer bottles, as 400 workers at Enric glass have voted for four weeks of strike action over pay kicking off next month. Workers making engine seals in Somerset will also walk out from next week in their dispute over pay. In a solidarity action, continuous strikes began at plastic manufacturer Colloids in Liverpool yesterday. It comes after the bosses sacked the Unite union rep in what is seen by colleagues as unfair dismissal.
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