Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/596/8209
An autumn of discontent in South Yorkshire
Lecturers in the UCU union have already held one day strikes this term at Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster colleges, for the implementation of the 2004 pay awards and against cuts and job losses.
Unison members in Doncaster will march this Saturday in support of their branch secretary Jim Board who was victimised by the English Democrat mayor - a strong union response got his suspension lifted but members remain vigilant against further attacks on trade union facility time and representation.
Last week, The Socialist reported that the £1,500 bribe that South Yorkshire Fire Authority was offering 744 firefighters to buy out a change in their shift patterns was to be funded by 39 job losses. It turns out that these jobs have already been lost!
The reason why the management say that they can afford the £1.3 million compensation cost is that they have underspent on this year's budget by not replacing 39 firefighters who have already left the South Yorkshire service. In other words, the service has already been cut even before these shift changes were proposed.
Backed by a 83% vote for strike action against the Chief Fire Officer's threat to dismiss and re-engage firefighters on the new contracts, South Yorkshire FBU will decide on industrial action on 7 October, followed by a national meeting of brigade officials on 8 October called to organise solidarity support.
Merseyside FBU could also be taking more industrial action after winning a 65% vote for 'discontinuous' strike action to win the reinstatement of Brigade official Kevin Hughes.
South Yorkshire First bus drivers, members of Unite, held a one day strike back in July against the company's pay freeze. Further action was suspended on union legal advice after, in the words of one branch officer: "the Tory right-wing, working-class hating Law Lords made this pathetic ruling against us".
However, even more drivers have voted for strike action in the re-ballot, in fact in three ballots for industrial action. 82% voted to strike over pay and by the same margin over management's decision to pay all leaving employees' holiday pay at 2003 rates (an average loss of some £600).
91% of drivers at the Sheffield Rgarage voted to strike: "against the perverse and out of control disciplinary culture that exists at the Olive Grove depot".
Strike dates have been set for three successive Mondays across South Yorkshire and for an additional three-day strike by Sheffield drivers against bullying management.
Strike action is being co-ordinated with First drivers in Bury, Bolton and Wigan. With Essex drivers voting 95% for action, and ballots in London and West Yorkshire at an advanced stage, around 8,000 First workers could soon be taking simultaneous strike action against the company pay freeze.
And the Sheffield bus drivers could be joined by the Stagecoach Supertram workers who have voted 9-1 against a pay-freeze and for industrial action.
Both these private transport operators, First and Stagecoach, each made over £100 million profit last year, but are now trying to use the recession to impose pay freezes and so boost their profits further. It just makes the case for the return to public ownership and for democratic control of all public transport even more pressing.
Sheffield's privatised refuse collectors, GMB union members employed by Veolia, have voted 89% in an indicative ballot in favour of industrial action against the company paying new recruits less than the council TUPE rates.
And mass meetings of Sheffield city council Unison members have voted to hold an indicative ballot for better pay protection for the nearly 2,500 workers who stand to lose out under the Single Status Agreement. GMB members meet this week to follow suit.
In The Socialist 7 October 2009:
War and occupation
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
International socialist news and analysis