Shelly Asquith’s TU-esday round-up: From parliament to the picket lines

Shelly Asquith
Unite’s lobby against no deal

A new Prime Minister, 39°C heat and the end of Love Island: it’s all been kicking off since my last column. Neither the advent of Boris Johnson in Number 10 nor the hottest July on record have been welcomed by the major trade unions, with the latter prompting calls all round for maximum temperature at work legislation, something Labour has committed to.

Following the change of PM, Unison has urged a fresh general election. Unite meanwhile, with its large manufacturing membership, focussed on the threat of a no deal Brexit, staging a lobby of parliament last week.

Outsourced staff on strike at BEIS

From parliament to the picket lines

Outsourced staff at the government department for business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) remain on indefinite strike. With Andrea Leadsom now replacing Greg Clark as the minister, they’re asking for support online and at the picket, where the PCS members are even offering jerk chicken!

Another indefinite strike kicks off this week after bus drivers in Edinburgh rejected a 2.7% pay offer. The strike is likely to cause considerable disruption as it coincides with the first day of the Fringe Festival and involves a 1,700-strong Unite membership on Lothian Buses.

Cleaners in the Royal Parks, serving the likes of Kensington Gardens, will strike in the coming weeks in a battle for living wage. The workers, organised by UVW, are employed by outsourced firm VINCI, which was a major player in the trade union blacklisting scandal.

On Thursday, a second day of strike action by workers in USDAW at a Sainsbury’s distribution centre in Waltham Point took place. The ongoing dispute is over a new attendance policy, and more strike dates are expected if a decent offer is not made. 

USDAW workers on strike at Sainsbury’s

NHS frontline

Workers employed by outsourcing firms at four hospitals in the North West will strike tomorrow in a fight to be paid NHS rates. St Helens and Knowsley teaching hospitals, Blackpool teaching hospitals and Liverpool heart and chest hospitals will all be met with Unison pickets as catering, cleaning, security, portering and reception staff walk out.

Lincolnshire health visitors have just completed their strike and now wait to hear if the Council will renegotiate on staffing and pay issues. The strike by Unite members lasted six days and received huge public support.

On track to win

After a strong showing on Saturday, conductors on East Midlands Trains will walk out again this weekend. The RMT is arguing a case of pay discrimination with the disgraced provider.

The ongoing battle over #KeepTheGuardOnTheTrain has been given a fresh approval by RMT members on South Western Railways. New strike dates are expected as a ballot showed strong support for a new mandate for action.

Education strikes back

Following a one-day strike last month, UCU members at Nottingham College have announced a 15-day strike for the autumn term. The dispute is over new contracts that will see cuts to pay, annual and sickness leave. 

Support staff at five Plymouth schools have been on strike over pay, organised by both GMB and Unison; while Unison members at Birmingham University staged a graduation day strike in a fight over pay.

Upcoming ballots

You might not be raising a glass in solidarity with Diaego workers. The world’s largest provider of spirits – including Gordon’s and Smirnoff – is facing a strike threat as 500 Scottish workers begin to ballot through Unite. This follows the rejection of a 2.5% pay offer – proposed despite the company seeing billions in profits last year.

Around 400 workers at homeless charity St Mungo’s look likely to ballot for strike action after a second round of talks between the charity and Unite came to no agreement. Staff are angry at a new pay structure that will see wages lowered, among other issues. CEO Howard Sinclair has issued a plea urging workers to vote ‘no’ to a strike. St Mungo’s workers went on strike five years ago over plans to lower pay, when at the same time Sinclair was handed a £30,000 pay rise.

Unite is also balloting hundreds of rail engineers in Doncaster after they voted to reject a 2% pay offer. 

Benefit support workers in PCS, based in Universal Credit centres in the West Midlands, will ballot for strike action until next week over workload. 

It’s not a strike (yet!), but the CWU is seeking support in its ‘Our Hours’ campaign, supporting Openreach workers who are being denied payment for travel time. You can sign the petition here.

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