Workplace news in brief

Human rights and the anti-union laws

Rail union RMT has launched a challenge to the anti-trade union laws in the European Court of Human Rights. The union is arguing that its ability to organise industrial action is restricted by UK law, in contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights.

It is using two cases where the bosses have used the courts to prevent strike action.

In October 2009 energy company EDF went to court to stop strike action on the grounds that the union had not given enough details of the job descriptions of the workers it had balloted.

And in August 2007 Jarvis, the rail maintenance company, transferred some work to Hydrex Equipment. In September 2009, the company tried to cut the ex-Jarvis workers’ terms and conditions. In spite of still working closely with their former colleagues in Jarvis, the Hydrex workers could not get the Jarvis workers to strike with them, on the grounds that ‘secondary action’ is outlawed, thus making any action far less effective.

Fighting college job cuts

Members of the lecturers’ union UCU in colleges around Birmingham and Wolverhampton are balloting for strike action against job cuts. Birmingham Metropolitan College has announced 100 jobs are to be cut and City College Wolverhampton says 160 posts are at risk.

The ballots close on 10 June.

Meanwhile UCU members at Glasgow University have voted to ballot for action against the 80 job cuts planned in the Archaeology, Biomedical and Life Sciences and Education departments.

Call centres – pay cuts for the low-paid

Power company E.ON wants to slash the pay of its call centre workers by £2,000 a year. In a remarkable bit of management speak, it describes this as a “pay realignment”.

The lowest-paid workers are being forced to accept a pay cap of £17,850, when they are currently paid about £20,000 a year.

The workers in call centres all over Britain, including Lancashire, Nottingham and Bedford are particularly angry, given that the chief executive, Johannes Teyssen has just had his pay increased to £100,000 a year. Electricity bills have also not been cut significantly, in spite of wholesale prices going down by 50% over the last 18 months.

Glasgow strikes

GMB, Unite, Unison and Bectu members will be striking again on 28 and 31 May in a battle over cuts to pay and conditions being forced through by Culture and Sport Glasgow (CSG). CSG is an arms length organisation set up by Glasgow city council to run leisure facilities like swimming pools, libraries and museums. The last strikes were in April and May, after CSG tried to cut working hours with a 6% pay cut, and also tried to remove premium rates for working public holidays.