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From The Socialist newspaper, 17 March 2010

Workplace news in brief

Notting Hill Housing Group strike

Over 80 striking Notting Hill Housing Group (NHHG) workers picketed their head office in Hammersmith, west London on Monday 15 March. The one day strike of Unison members was to force management to negotiate over proposals for major cuts to workers' terms and conditions.

The cuts mean an end to flexitime working, the withdrawal of paid carer's leave and cuts to salary protection and relocation expenses. A large section of the workforce is made up of women, many of whom have family care responsibilities that sometimes mean they need to take time off work. Management have consistently refused to negotiate these proposals with the union. As a result, a ballot was organised and 93% of members voted for strike action.

In 2008, paid carer's leave cost Notting Hill just 30,000. In comparison, the chief executive, Kate Davies, was paid 165,868 and received a car allowance of 11,000. In 2008/09 NHHG made over 19 million in profits and had reserves of 118 million.

Striking workers, mainly black women, cheered passing motorists hooting in support. One striker did some impromptu rapping with musical support from the CD player the strikers had to keep the picketing rhythm going. Strikers said: "This is the first time in fifteen years that we've been on strike and it's because management don't want to listen. No-one likes taking strike action but we had no choice."

Unite shop stewards from Shelter sent a solidarity message of support that was read out to warm applause and loud cheering by the workers.

Kevin Simpson

Rail maintenance workers strike

The rail union RMT executive is meeting on 19 March to consider action after Network Rail maintenance workers voted by 77% to strike. This is because the company want to axe 1,500 safety critical jobs and rip up national agreements on working practices.

Even the Office of Rail Regulation has conceded that these cuts could be a safety threat.

Tube Lines

Privatised tube maintenance company Tube Lines is in trouble (see page 5). But Tory mayor Boris Johnson and Transport for London are trying to use this crisis to smuggle through staff cuts. They want to cut 800 jobs in ticket offices and on platforms.

The RMT are considering a ballot for industrial action to defend these jobs and the important services they provide.

British Gas

In a consultative ballot, 95% of GMB members in British and Scottish Gas voted for industrial action in opposition to the macho management style. A strike ballot is now being organised amongst 8,000 workers, closing on 23 March.

The company has already threatened to cut up to 5,000 jobs, in an internal memo. GMB members have complained about a bullying culture and being put under tremendous pressure to cut costs.

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In The Socialist 17 March 2010:

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