Strikes at a five-year high: who’s walking out and how can we show support?

Shelly Asquith
Image: Unite

The struggle is real – and it’s growing. More workers are on strike now than at any point in the last five years, as a report by Tom Wall in The Guardian this week details. The TUC has reportedly logged more than 300 disputes this year alone. Fights on fire and rehire have marked the last 12 months, and as a crisis in living standards wages war on the working class, we can expect more battles to stave off real-terms pay cuts as inflation spirals and the government fails to offer any relief whatsoever.

Where are the strikes taking place right now, what are they about, and how can we show support? I’ve searched far and wide for the latest in ballots and picket announcements in the latest instalment for LabourList readers.

Manufactured outrage

The longest-running strike in the history of Unite rages on: now in their 19th week of a walk-out, workers who produce pallets at Chep UK Trafford Park are heroically holding out for a decent pay deal. Activists in the region are encouraged to show support at the 24-hour picket lines, and anyone else is invited to donate to their strike fund, as the workers resist being ‘starved back to work’.

There could be more fuel disruption on the way, as Southampton’s Exxon oil refinery is facing a strike. The Unite members will down tools on April 8th and 25th and May 6th over a poor pay offer and a lack of company sick pay.

Workers at GE Aviation in Gloucester, making jet engines, are walking out each Friday in a bid to secure a better pay deal. Management is accused of intimidation tactics.

Pay strikes are disrupting car manufacturing supply chains as Unite members at NSK Bearings and AKS Precision Ball factories in Durham are on strike every Wednesday and Saturday, rejecting a derisory 1.6% pay offer.

Bin it!

My last LabourList update announced Unite’s ballot of Coventry’s bin workers. A lot has happened in that dispute since then. An all-out strike over pay has been in place since the end of January, as the Labour-run council uses strike-breaking labour to run services. The council has also outrageously sacked the Unite shop steward, prompting a strong show of support outside the disciplinary hearing this week.

The GMB is leading several strikes by bin workers across the country. Members employed by North Somerset Environment Company begin six days of strike action from April 12th, while bin workers at Adur and Worthing Council are already in their fourth week of strike. In Barrow, a fresh round of walk-outs by those working for FCC Environment is taking place between April 6th and 8th. Both GMB and Unite will shortly close ballots at Biffa in Manchester, in what will be a massive strike over pay if it goes ahead. Unite has also just returned a vote for strike by waste workers in Cardiff.

No lecturing

Ballots soon close in the latest vote on strike action by UCU members at almost 150 universities, as they continue the fight an assault on their pensions. This comes as a new report revealed the USS pension scheme finances show there is in fact no deficit – and no need for cuts. The UCU is demanding universities call on the employer body to immediately revoke plans to rob staff of a dignified retirement.

Meanwhile, UCU members at Staffordshire University are on strike over a local dispute that plans to see new staff employed by a separate company, creating a two-tier workforce.

Members of Unison, on strike at Dundee University over pensions, are asking for donations toward their hardship fund. Eight other universities have just seen strikes by Unison branches over pay and pensions, with Edinburgh Napier continuing their walk-out until 8th.

That’ll teach ‘em

Members of NASUWT at Pocklington School in East Yorkshire are on strike on April 27th and 28th, and May 4th and 5th, as they resist a move by employers to take them out of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme. Last month, a strike by teachers in the NEU at the Girls Day School Trust ended with them defending their TPS pensions.

In further education, UCU is balloting members in six colleges, demanding a pay rise to account for more than a decade worth of real-terms pay cuts.

Elsewhere in the British Isles: college lecturers in Scottish education union EIS have voted to strike over pay, with a hope that employers will come to the table with a better offer over the Easter holidays; and on the Isle of Man, NASUWT members voted to strike over pay. Not dates are yet set.

A Catholic School in South London is facing a dispute after the Archdiocese cancelled a talk by a gay children’s writer and removed members of the governing body. The NEU is balloting members.

JustStrike

The strike by JustEat couriers, employed by subcontractor Stuart, passed its 100th day this week. The IWGB members are fighting a massive cut to their rate of pay, with many of the strikers based in Sheffield but action taking place in other towns and cities.

Threats to fire and rehire on worse conditions have left a bad taste in the mouth of workers at Valeo Confectionary. After a series of two-hour strikes, the GMB members, who make Fox’s glacier mints at the York factory, will take a full day of strike action on the Thursday 14th April.

Keep an eye out for a big GMB strike ballot at ASDA: 8,000 workers in distribution are responding to a shocking plan to cut their sick pay.

All aboard!

More flights could be grounded as baggage handlers agree to strike. At Luton, 100 Unite members will walk out on April 14th and 19th as employers at Luton airport fail to deliver promised improvements in sick pay.

There will be strikes at Teesport, as tugboat crews employed by Svitzer Marine take fresh strike action via Unite in a dispute over pay: pickets will be in place between April 13th and 17th.

The RMT has this week announced a mega-ballot. The union is conducting a strike vote among members at 17 different train operators as they battle an ongoing pay freeze and defend job security. The number of members being balloted is reportedly in the tens of thousands.

On the Trans Pennine Express, conductors are striking for a pay justice – RMT members will be out on Sunday 10th April and again on Easter Saturday and Sunday, April 16th and 17th. Cleaners, employed by Atalian Servest, will be walking out again this weekend, April 9th and 10th, fighting for a wage that takes them merely above the poverty line.

Further protests in defence of the 800 sacked P&O ferries workers are expected to take place. RMT has called a demonstration in Cairnryan in Scotland, for Friday 8th April.

Going public

Hundreds of workers at Hackney Council will strike to demand a better pay offer than just 1.25%. The north London borough will see walk outs by Unite members between April 25th and 27th and May 3rd and 5th. Elsewhere in local government, GMB is balloting members at Wiltshire Council, where parking wardens are facing a 10% pay cut.

Following walk-outs at the end of March, PCS members at the British Council are now taking discontinuous action short of strike in a dispute over redundancies, restructuring and outsourcing.

Crisis in communications

Journalists at BBC North West have just voted for industrial action. NUJ members will begin a work to rule in defence of jobs and workload, as the broadcaster plans huge cuts.

The CWU’s massive 97.3% mandate for strike action in the Post Office is live, with the union yesterday announcing a rejection of the measly 2% pay offer. They will be “striking soon” if a decent offer is presented, said union leaders. Meanwhile, Unite is balloting 1,000 managers at Royal Mail in response to job cuts.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Sienna Rodgers for her work as editor of LabourList: for her reporting, and for the support for trade unions, recognising the important role they play in our movement. Best of luck in your new role!

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