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27 November 2019

Workplace news in brief

Bradford libraries and museums workers out to win

As the strike by Unite union members in Bradford Council's libraries, museums and galleries service reached its ninth day, the strike hit a new milestone by successfully picketing out Cartwright Hall museum.

While the strike has closed most of the city's libraries when all-out action has taken place, this was the first time the strike had closed a museum, with other workers refusing to cross the picket line.

Public support for the strike was reflected in the teas and coffees brought to strikers by supporters, while volunteers from a library which the council had previously closed also joined the picket line.

These volunteers are under no illusion that they could provide the same service that fully trained librarians could, seeing their volunteering as the only alternative to the library remaining closed. But they also relied on expertise from the remaining council library staff and were fearful of the impacts further cuts across the council would have on them.

Given the savage cuts to library services across the district over the past decade, it's no wonder that there is such support, which has also been reflected in stalls run by Socialist Party members in the city centre.

The next round of action, due to start on 2 December, will see a full week of strikes, bringing the total number of strike days up to 14.

Please continue to send messages of support and donations FAO Mark Martin to Winwaed House, 64-66 Crossgates Road, Leeds, LS15 7NN, cheques payable to Unite the Union.

Bradford Socialist Party members

Hackney SEND strikes after Labour council reneges on deal

On 25 November, drivers and passenger escorts employed by Hackney 'SEND' Travel Assistance Service started their first day of their latest five-day strike. These Unite union members were joined by other trade unionists and supporters at their lively protest outside their depot.

The dispute was reignited after council bosses reneged on a previously agreed settlement.

The workers originally called off their strike in the long-running dispute over payments for working split shifts on 9 October. But the council is now insisting that the staff use contractual leave days for the training days agreed as part of the settlement.

The workers are extremely determined to win this dispute. It is clear that this dispute is worrying Labour-controlled Hackney council, as every day there is a strike the head of education is down at the depot!

Chris Newby, Hackney Socialist Party

Support Westex strikers

"They made 5 million last year and the managers got big bonuses and large company cars, so where's the reward for us?" a striking Unite member at Westex Carpets told me on the picket line on 22 November.

Workers at Westex Carpets in Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire, are taking indefinite strike action after rejecting a 2.2% pay rise offer, which was then withdrawn by management.

For a long time the company was a family-run firm, but went through a management buyout around a decade ago and has recently been purchased by Victoria Carpets Group.

While the company has made over 5 million in pre-tax profits in both the last two years, some of the workers would be paid less than the minimum wage without earning production bonuses, and these have been eroded year-on-year as the minimum wage has increased.

Picketing is being organised by Unite union members across all three shifts at the plant, including a well-supported night shift picket.

Send messages of support to kelvin.mawer@unitetheunion.org.


Health strikes push back privatisation

Porters, cleaners and security staff employed by Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust were celebrating a victory after the trust backed down from its privatisation plans.

The Unison union members had taken three weeks' strike action in the summer against plans to move them into a 'wholly owned subsidiary' company. The trust was left in no doubt that, had they decided to go ahead, they would have been faced with more strike action by workers who were determined to fight for their status as direct NHS employees.

The strike proved beyond all doubt the NHS workers are prepared to fight for their jobs, terms and conditions and that striking gets results!

The announcement came during the general election campaign in which the choices are clear - a vote for the Tory and Brexit Party privateers, or Corbyn's Labour Party which is committed to ending the privatisation of NHS jobs and services.

NHS workers, such as us in Mid Yorkshire and at Bradford who have won the battle to remain in the NHS, are looking to Labour to end the threat of privatisation and bring all outsourced staff back into the NHS.

Adrian O'Malley, Unison health service group executive Yorkshire and Humberside (personal capacity)

Northern Rail workers demand a living wage

RMT union members have been campaigning at stations across the north of England, culminating in a protest outside the headquarters of Northern Rail in Leeds.

They are fighting for the Living Wage Foundation's rate of 9 an hour (now 9.30 an hour) for gateline (ticket barrier) staff employed by Carlisle Security Services on the Arriva Rail North contract.

Carlisle has made 2-3 million in profit every year since its contract with Arriva started, while Arriva Rail North made 12.7 million in pre-tax profit in 2018. Meanwhile, 58% of Carlisle gateline staff say they are struggling to make ends meet in an RMT survey.

When Arriva won the contract to run the Northern franchise it pledged to 'use all reasonable endeavours' to ensure any contracting companies it used paid the Living Wage Foundation rates. RMT members branded the company 'hypocrites' as they leafletted the public.

The RMT is calling for people to sign the online petition at bit.ly/csslivingwage

Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party



http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/29944