Shelly Asquith’s TU-esday round-up: Unite victory in Bromley, TfL strikes and more

Shelly Asquith

Union talk among Labour members has centred on who’s backing who in the leadership contests, with the party’s affiliates pulling behind various candidates. As workers continue to walk out or prepare to strike against their bosses though, these are the fights where we can all unite behind the same side.

The battle for pensions, pay, conditions and equality is on in higher education as thousands of UCU members will strike for 14 days over four weeks. The action will affect a huge 74 institutions, and the escalation will build as follows:

  • Week one – February, 20th and 21st.
  • Week two – February 24, 25th and 26th.
  • Week three – March 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th.
  • Week four – March 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th.

Yesterday saw the start of a month-long strike by cleaners, porters and maintenance staff at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall. The PCS picket was joined by John McDonnell, who supported the call by Interserve workers to be granted union recognition by their employer. Strikers are calling for supporters to bring banners for solidarity days on February 11th and 12th. Picketing is taking place Monday to Friday from 7.30am to 12pm until February 28th.

Heathrow baggage handlers also began a strike on Sunday, demanding the living wage from employer Global Baggage Solutions Ltd. The action will continue into Wednesday February 5th, and they will be back out again between the 22nd and 25th.

It’s the 11th week of continuous strike action at Westex carpet company in West Yorkshire. At two sites, low-paid workers are demanding a decent wage. They began their strike at the end of November and have weathered the cold each day since.

Workers on London’s transport network, including those who provide specialist support to elderly and disabled passengers, will continue a series of 24-hour strikes that began on Friday as they fight a real-terms pay cut. Transport for London has offered a measly 1% pay rise whilst is managing director Gareth Powell pocketed a 10% rise, bringing his salary up to £305,649. The strike will continue on February 28th, March 27th and April 24th and Unite – which represents the workers – is now also balloting more sites.

They will be joined by Woolwich ferry workers on strike on February 28th, as they continue demanding improved pay and working conditions. These Unite members, employed by Briggs Marine Contractors Ltd, are fighting for the living wage and will be out again on March 13th.

In my last column, I mentioned the security workers fighting to be brought into NHS employment at St. George’s hospital. They have a second wave of strikes planned (running from February 10th through to the 13th, and again from the 24th to the 28th) that follow police repression of picketers and the arrest of a barrister and head of legal for the UVW union co-ordinating the strikes.

Parking could be free in Hackney next week as wardens in the London borough plan to strike from February 10th to 16th over pay and personal safety. The outsourced workers, employed by Apcoa Parking, are also calling for terms and conditions to be harmonised with Hackney council staff, and for services to be brought back in-house.

Victory at Greenwich Leisure Limited

Tomorrow sees the end to the longest library strike in history, as Bromley workers return to work with an impressive victory. The strike, which lasted eight months, was led by inspiring Unite members who walked out whilst calling for a boycott of the company. They have now won a series of demands for more staff, no redundancies and pay progression with arrears payment.

Watch this space…

More than a dozen Labour-run councils will have their homelessness services disrupted if St Mungo’s workers go on strike. Members at the charity, who many local authorities contract services to, returned a ballot yesterday that was overwhelmingly in favour of taking action as they fight a number of issues including terms and conditions.

In what is a gross example of wealth inequality, security workers at luxury department store Harrods are fighting a dispute over unpaid work. They have just returned a decisive ballot in favour of strike action, with Unite yet to name the date.

More action by the RMT on South West Trains is on the cards. After two years of fighting to #KeepTheGuardOnTheTrain, and 27 days of strike action throughout December, railway workers have again voted to walk out. Dates are yet to be confirmed.

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