Shelly Asquith’s TU-esday round-up: St Mungo’s, Veolia, Royal Mail and much more

Shelly Asquith
© Twitter/@ShellyAsquith

All out for education

Around 100,000 education workers are on strike today. Not just in universities this time, but in further education, too. Today, members of the National Education Union in 34 sixth form colleges walk out in a battle for investment in pay and conditions. In the last ten years, the college sector has sustained huge cuts that have led to job losses, larger class sizes and the narrowing of the curriculum offer.

Now in their fourth and final week of a 14-day strike action across 74 institutions, education workers in the UCU are fighting hard on their 4 demands of pay, pensions, precarity and equality. Both UCU and NEU members are joining together for a rally on Tuesday, March 9th, in Leeds.

Unexpected item in bagging area

Heathrow Airport is facing serious disruption to services as the ongoing strike by baggage and freight handlers checks in for another week. The walk-out by workers employed by Global Baggage Solutions Limited, which began at the start of February, is scheduled over 16 more days from Saturday, March 14th. They will now also be joined by colleagues working for the Vanderlande firm, who will strike for six days between March 14th and April 9th. Members of Unite are demanding a pay increase, including the London Living Wage, and fighting union busting tactics by employers.

You won’t be panic buying Greene King beers if the strike at the breweries’ HQ goes ahead. Unite members are planning to start their walk-out over pay on March 12th and 13th. Rolling dates of strike action are due to extend until July, unless it all comes to a head before then (sorry!).

Getting the house in order

Manufacturing workers at Stately-Albion, who make park homes and holiday lodges, are striking over pay. Beginning with an overtime ban from Friday 13th March, the Unite members will then stage a series of one-day strikes throughout April and May.

Workers at homelessness charity St Mungo’s will take strike action in an ongoing, bitter dispute with management, seeing a three-day walkout between 16th and 18th March. Unite members are rejecting the downgrading of jobs and a cruel sickness absence policy among other issues. Services contracted to St Mungo’s by local authorities across the country will be affected.

On the wrong track

In the continuing fight to maintain guards on South Western Railway, RMT members voted for a sixth time to take strike action. The walk-out was set to run for 24 hours from 10am on March 9th, and again on March 12th – but it has now been called off.

The failure by Rail Gourmet to address a number of issues relating to working conditions has left a bad taste in the mouth of RMT members. The union branch will be back on strike at Paddington from Wednesday, March 11th through to Friday, 13th.

Another one fights the dust

Cleaners in the PCS union will strike for the living wage in several locations. Workers employed by contractor ISS in Bootle and Liverpool will walk out for two weeks starting Monday, March 16th, following previous action at the end of last year. In Birmingham, a two-day strike will begin on the same day.

You might be able to catch it, but you won’t be able to bin it in two London local authorities. Unite members in refuse collection are currently on strike in Tower Hamlets, where outsourcing giant Veolia owes workers thousands of pounds in holiday payments. The 200 workers began a seven-day strike on Monday, March 9th. On the other side of the city in Bexley, bin collections will be on hold in the week commencing 16th March as workers demand an increase on their £8.90 an hour.

Strikes work

Members of both the Bakers’ Union (BFAWU) and Unite at Allied Bakeries in Belfast have succeeded in their demand for a pay rise, after taking strike action last month. The unions had planned a prolonged walk-out, but after one day of disruption on February 16th, which saw company vehicles unable to enter the site, they were offered a 3% rise.

Electricians at Sandwell Council have also won a higher grade and a wage boost of up to £1,000 after Unite, UNISON and GMB threatened strike action.

Coming up…

All eyes will soon be on the CWU as their Royal Mail ballot closes a week today, on March 17th. In the face of a legal and industrial battle with the employer, the union has again organised impressive gate meetings and even pioneered member engagement through Facebook live. Members of the CWU at a BT branch will also be balloting after the issuing of a compulsory redundancy notice. The South East branch is fighting the threat of job losses.

In the civil service, PCS members are balloting until 20th March at HMRC offices in Bootle; and at Natural England, the result of a ballot over stressful working conditions is due this week. In the week of the budget, PCS is also organising a protest on the day of March 11th, and an event in the evening to co-ordinate action against the government.

While the GMB union has racked up some impressive promises from employers where coronavirus could cause concerns, members at high-street giant Wilkinson’s are threatening strike action over plans to scrap its sick pay scheme.

The RMT will be balloting some 10,000 members on the London Underground tube network until the end of March. Transport for London has failed to make an adequate pay offer after a year of negotiations with the union.

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