Industrial news in brief

BAA pensions dispute

BAA have been forced to climb down over their attack on pensions. They have reopened the final salary scheme to new entrants. This was won after the threat of strike action by PCS and Unite members at seven key airports over the Christmas holidays.

There will now be a period of consultation and negotiation over the future of the scheme, so there may still be a need for action in the future.

Virgin Atlantic – strike called off

Unite have called off the strike threatened by Virgin Atlantic cabin crew. Boss Richard Branson had written to the staff telling them to resign if they thought they weren’t being paid enough. But he now calls the deal struck with the union “a triumph of common sense.” No more money was conceded on the original two-year pay offer but some concessions were made on how other allowances were calculated.

Bus drivers’ strike

Wilts and Dorset bus drivers are in the middle of a series of four one-day strikes as part of a long-running dispute over excessive driving time and imposed rosters. The next strikes are due on 16 and 21 January and cover depots at Blandford, Bournemouth, Lymington, Poole, Ringwood and Swanage.

Their union RMT has reported a lot of support from the public for the drivers’ stand against unsafe working hours.

Revenue and customs staff in strike ballot

Over 70,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) were balloted on 7 January for a one-day strike over cuts and closures. A strike is being planned for 31 January, the deadline for self-assessment tax returns.

The government plans to close 250 offices and cut a further 12,500 jobs by 2011, which is putting the staff under extreme pressure – having to work overtime just to keep the service running.

The ballot closes on 23 January.

Unpaid overtime

The TUC have calculated that the average worker puts in seven hours and six minutes of unpaid overtime every week. This is based on official figures which show this time to be worth an extra £4,955 to each worker. Put another way, if this time was worked at the beginning of the year, nobody would get paid until 22 February.

Perhaps we should be asking Gordon Brown for our stolen money back as a response to his call for “wage restraint”.

Top employment lawyer David Bradley has brushed this daylight robbery off as part of the “human element” of an employment contract. These hours “are often freely given out of a sense of doing a job well” he patronisingly adds.

We know of course that many workers, particularly public-sector workers, work unpaid overtime just to keep the service they are running going at all. And many others are just forced into it by bullying management.