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From The Socialist newspaper, 1 February 2017

Workplace news in brief

Ferry fight

Unite and GMB members working on the Woolwich Ferry in east London took strike action on 27 January - the first day of a rolling strike that will take place every Friday until the campaign is won. The final straw for the workers was when they heard that a woman working in the office said she was being sexually harassed by a manager on a daily basis. This worker made a formal complaint, yet the employer, Briggs Marine, has not taken action.

This is not the first time that the Socialist Party-led Greenwich Unite branch has taken action against such allegations. The branch previously organised a successful strike campaign among social workers which defended a worker being bullied and harassed.

The ferry workers' anger grew when the employers ignored serious health and safety concerns, including poor maintenance of firefighting equipment and storm valves. The day after the strike a worker collapsed after being instructed to work in an area where fumes were escaping.

The union is appealing for funds - cheques can be made payable to Greenwich Unite and posted to Unite, 33-37 Moreland St, London EC1V 8BB.

Greenwich Unite members

Tube strike

RMT official picket armband on locked tube station gate, photo Naomi Byron

RMT official picket armband on locked tube station gate, photo Naomi Byron   (Click to enlarge)

The tube network is in torment. London Underground cuts have left the transport system woefully understaffed. Instead of hiring more, Central Line drivers based in north east London are being sent to the rest of the line. Some face a tortuous four-hour commute. Over 90% of those who voted, voted to strike. Far more drivers voted than when the Central Line was last individually balloted. Only one person had crossed the picket line at Hainault depot. The striking workers were confident and upbeat. It's an all-out war by Transport for London. The Socialist Party was there to show support. The pickets we met thought all the different grades could go on strike, "even the managers".

Further strike dates by station staff on the whole of London Underground have been announced for 6pm on 5 February until 9.59am on 6 February and after 10am on 7 February until 12.59am on 8 February.

Ian Pattison

KCL poverty pay

Members of Socialist Students and the Socialist Party attended a freezing cold picket line of King's College London (KCL) cleaners on 27 January.

KCL sadly isn't the first 'elite' institution to be pulled up for paying poverty wages to its cleaners. London School of Economics (which is just round the corner from KCL) has recently been hit by cleaners protesting against trade union victimisation and University College London Unison members have been battling for a number of years around issues of low wages and the treatment of staff.

All of these strikes are significant. Cleaners are traditionally some of the worst treated, often hired through agencies and on zero-hour contracts. It can be difficult to organise in these conditions. Also many of the cleaners are migrant workers, super-exploited by big business.

Edward Barnes, vice chancellor of KCL, was paid 458,000 in 2016. The huge disparity between his pay and the measly 1% pay rise of lecturers and poverty pay of cleaners, reeks of snobbery. Unison cleaners at King's are striking to demand the cleaning contractor Servest be removed and cleaners brought back in house.

Helen Pattison

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In The Socialist 1 February 2017:


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