Shelly Asquith’s TU-esday round-up: Why you should boycott the gym… and other ways to support strikes

Shelly Asquith

Pause the pilates – the weights can wait. Unite members are asking you to boycott the gym. If it’s run by Greenwich Leisure Limited, that is. The provider (which also trades as ‘Better’) runs council leisure centres and libraries across the country, including Bromley Library, where workers are on indefinite strike. They have now been out for over a month in a dispute over staffing levels and pay, and as part of the campaign they are calling for supporters to boycott GLL. This isn’t the first time the so-called ‘social enterprise’ has been in hot water, as last year they were discovered to be underpaying young workers. You can see if your leisure centre is run by GLL here, and can sign the petition in support of the strike here.

Bromley Library is now the sole indefinite strike taking place, as far as I can see. Previously workers at plastics firm Colloids were out over the sacking of a Unite rep. That strike has now ended after seven weeks, as reps reached a reasonable agreement. 

PCS is the next union to call indefinite action. This time, it is cleaners and catering staff at government department BEIS who are demanding the living wage and an end to outsourcing. The strike begins on Monday, and you can donate to their strike fund here and join them on the picket line from 12pm. Hackney North and Stoke Newington CLPs have already raised over £1,000 towards the fund.

Clean up your act

Cleaners are really leading the way. Today is the start of a two-day strike by RMT members on Great Western Railway, where workers are fighting an imposed contract that will force them to take on extra shifts. And cleaners at luxury brand Chanel have also called a strike at the Bond Street store over the sacking of a United Voices of the World (UVW) union rep and the failure to pay the living wage, with no date yet set.

They may not be cleaners, but they do make the products: workers in Unite at the Reckitt Benckiser factory in Derby, home of Dettol and Mr Sheen, begin a work to rule this Thursday. The action short of strike is over plans to change their shifts and force them to work bank holidays. 

All aboard

Members of the RMT on East Midlands Trains will strike for three days starting at the end of the month. The senior conductors are in a battle over pay discrimination and compulsory Sunday working.

The RMT is also preparing to ballot for a national railway strike, which, if it goes ahead, will be the first of its kind in more than 20 years. The strike looms as train companies and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling have failed to reassure workers that the terms of their pensions will not be worsened.  

While Unite’s airport strikes are off at Glasgow and Aberdeen, passenger services workers at Stansted voted by 100% to walk out over pay and union recognition with no date yet set.

School’s out

As we reach the final countdown to the end of term, there is good news for schoolchildren and parents alike, as NEU members voted by 97% in an indicative ballot in support of taking action over SATs. The next step will be a ballot on the boycott itself – and the union will need a larger proportion of members voting this time, to make it valid under new legislation.

Another college is facing a fight over union victimisation. In a disgraceful showing, Ruskin College Oxford has suspended one UCU rep and has two more under disciplinary. The move comes as the union branch passed a motion of no confidence in the principal. This, from a college that markets itself as the home of trade union education, has UCU threatening strike action. 

Power to the workers

A planned 12 strike days will commence this Saturday at Drax power station in Yorkshire, where 400 workers are rejecting a pay offer. Action by these Unite and GMB members could cause considerable disruption, as the plant produces 7% of the country’s electricity supply. 

The FBU has won its hugely important case against the government over changes to the firefighters’ pension scheme. The Supreme Court has ruled out an appeal, meaning the government is now forced to back down on the plan the union successful challenged as discriminatory. We first reported on it in November as the case went to court, and this result has now prompted the BMA to pursue a similar claim over doctors’ pensions.

The seven-day strike by Unison members at Bradford Hospital over privatisation kicked off yesterday. If you’re in the area, you can show support on the picket lines from 6am. Elsewhere in the NHS, Unite health workers in Lincolnshire will begin a six-day strike on Monday over a number of factors including pay and staffing levels.

Sainsbury’s staff at Waltham Point staged their first 24-hour strike in what USDAW has said is the first in a series over absence policy at the warehouse. In other USDAW news, the Labour group at Burnley Council have now thrown their weight behind the union’s campaign for recognition at online retailer Boohoo, as union members plan to protest outside the council’s meeting tomorrow. 

It’s an issue Labour canvassers can sympathise with, as CWU this week takes part in Dog Awareness Week. The union is raising awareness of the attacks by dogs on postal workers.

The Big Meeting

It is a big week for trade unions, as the Durham Miners’ Gala – Europe’s largest gathering of trade unionists – takes place this Saturday. The sun is set to shine, and addressing the hundreds of thousands-strong crowds will be the likes of Laura Pidcock, Becky Long-Bailey and several trade union general secretaries. Jeremy Corbyn has also confirmed his attendance. Have you?

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