Archive for March, 2012

Swissport baggage handlers at Stansted vote for Easter strike

March 29, 2012 Leave a comment

From Union News.

Baggage handlers at Stansted Airport have voted overwhelmingly for strike action over Easter.

The GMB members working for Swissport will lose an estimated £1,000 each due to shift changes and say they will strike unless the company reconsiders the proposed changes.

The outcome of the ballot has been notified to Swissport. GMB has asked the company to reconsider the proposed pay cuts. If the company refuses and there is no progress in the dispute strike action will take place over the Easter bank holiday weekend. Notice of strike action will need to be served soon.

Swissport imposed a change to shifts patterns which GMB estimates will cost each of the GMB members up to £1,000 a year. The changes will also require that the baggage handlers travel to work an additional 13 times a years with all the additional transport and childcare costs.

GMB organiser Gary Pearce said: “GMB members have voted overwhelmingly for strike action and for action short of a strike. Up to now the company has been intent on imposing these changes without agreement and this is completely unacceptable as this vote shows.

“GMB has offered several alternative shift patterns and working arrangements but the company refuses to listen so far. I have notified Swissport of the ballot result and I have asked them for more talks to try to avert action over these pay cuts.

“Swissport claim they have lost work on the Ryanair contact at the airport. GMB baggage handlers have seen no evidence of this. Swissport also claim that they are losing money on the contract. GMB has asked to see the evidence to confirm this but Swissport have refused to comply leading members to question if what they are being told is true.

“GMB members consider that Swissport is attempting to make savings at their expense and they are not willing to agree to this. Unless there is urgent talks and a settlement this vote for action this will result in disruption over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend. The travelling public need to be aware that it has been this aggressive move by Swissport to cut our members pay at a time of high inflation that has led to this strike vote. If the strike goes ahead Swissport is entirely to blame for the disruption.”

Ryanair’s Stephen McNamara said: “Ryanair doesn’t expect any disruption to its flights to/from London Stansted over the Easter weekend because in the unlikely event of strike action by airport baggage handlers Ryanair will operate its flights with carry-on baggage only, thereby ensuring that Ryanair passengers are not held to ransom by greedy unions.”

Successful Fare Strike This Morning – Tens of Thousands Ride NYC Subways for Free

March 28, 2012 Leave a comment

From Occupy WallStreet.

I have paid very little attention to the Occupy movement, but I just read about this and it sounds like a great development. Also read about the Oakland ‘General Strike’ from Hieronymous.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 — 10:30 AM
For Immediate Release: Forward far and wide.
Rank and File Initiative
Twitter: #farestrike

This morning before rush hour, teams of activists, many from Occupy Wall Street, in conjunction with rank and file workers from the Transport Workers Union Local 100 and the Amalgamated Transit Union, opened up more than 20 stations across the city for free entry. As of 10:30 AM, the majority remain open. No property was damaged. Teams have chained open service gates and taped up turnstiles in a coordinated response to escalating service cuts, fare hikes, racist policing, assaults on transit workers’ working conditions and livelihoods — and the profiteering of the super-rich by way of a system they’ve rigged in their favor.

For the last several years, riders of public transit have been under attack. The cost of our Metrocards has been increasing, while train and bus service has been steadily reduced. Budget cuts have precipitated station closings and staff/safety reductions. Police routinely single out young black and Latino men for searches at the turnstile. Layoffs and attrition means cutting staff levels to the bare minimum, reducing services for seniors and disabled riders. At the same time, MTA workers have been laid off and have had their benefits drastically reduced. Contract negotiations are completely stalled.

Working people of all occupations, colors and backgrounds are expected to sacrifice to cover the budget cut by paying more for less service. But here’s the real cause of the problem: the rich are massively profiting from our transit system. Despite the fact that buses and subways are supposed to be a public service, the government and the MTA have turned the system backwards—into a virtual ATM for the super-rich. Instead of using our tax money to properly fund transit, Albany and City Hall have intentionally starved transit of public funds for over twenty years; the MTA must resort to bonds (loans from Wall Street) to pay for projects and costs. The MTA is legally required to funnel tax dollars and fares away from transportation costs and towards interest on these bonds, called “debt service.” This means Wall Street bondholders receive a huge share of what we put into the system through the Metrocards we buy and the taxes we pay: more than $2 billion a year goes to debt service, and this number is expected to rise every year. If trends continue, by 2018 more than one out of every five dollars of MTA revenue will head to a banker’s pockets.

This much is clear: the MTA’s priorities are all out of whack. This fare strike is a means for workers and riders to fight for shared interests together — but this is just a first step. All of us — the 99% — have an interest in full-service public transportation system that treats its ridership and employees with dignity.

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Swindon Great Western Hospital cleaners’ strike on TV

March 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Cleaners who have taken strike action for 18 days in response to racist bullying at Swindon’s Great Western Hospital were featured on regional TV at the weekend. (Skip to 42 minutes)

Click picture for link.

The cleaners, who are mostly immigrants from Goa, have a achieved an early victory as one manager has already stepped down. Locals are reporting of scabs being hired in Bristol and being bussed into Swindon.

Jerry Hicks (Sparks’ rank and file committee is on immediately after).

This video may only be available for seven days.

Sparks featured on Russia Today!

March 22, 2012 4 comments

For more info see Adam Ford’s article below…

Victorious Sparks Celebrate, But Another Struggle Lies Ahead

Electricians are still celebrating following their stunning victory over their employers’ proposed pay cut contracts. The moment put the seal on a dramatic six month battle, which saw new tactics adopted by workers mistrustful of the union bureaucracy. And there can be no doubt about it, the Sparks rank-and-file group won precisely because they took a militant stance beyond the confines of the reformist trade union straitjacket. Yet they did not make a complete break with the Unite union, and another fight is on the horizon.

The grassroots-run Sparks organisation was set up in August, in opposition to the construction bosses’ plans to force the signing of what they called the Building Engineering Services National Agreement (BESNA). Under BENSA, separate pay grades would have been introduced for metalworkers (£10.50 per hour), wiring (£12), and terminating (£14), replacing the £16.25 which all electricians earned under the Joint Industry Board scheme. But the Sparks movement was set up with the intention of pressurising rather than circumventing the Unite leadership, who were correctly seen as a break on militancy following a catalogue of sellouts.

The Sparks’ suspicions were confirmed early on, when Unite chief negotiator Bernard McAulay labelled the Sparks “cancerous” in a leaked email to assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail. But despite this, there remained a consensus within Sparks that sufficient pressure could force the hands of the bureaucracy. So electricians took various forms of direct action – briefly occupying building sites, blocking traffic, and taking what were effectively wildcat strikes.

The tops were certainly spurred into action, because they were keen to keep Sparks within their dues base, but this action was deliberately delayed and generally ineffective, because the bureaucracy are committed to the corporate bosses’ profitability. McAulay, Cartmail and general secretary Len McCluskey polished off their best radical phrasemongering, and promised to fight for the living standards of their membership. Eventually, they even called two one day strike actions against Balfour Beatty – the biggest of the construction employers. But the first was called off as soon as Balfour Beatty threatened court action, and the second was scheduled to have taken place around the time a reported 90% of electricians had put pen to paper on their ‘sign or be sacked’ BESNA contracts. In other words, the two infamous email correspondents made every effort to be seen as doing something, without actually doing anything useful to the rank and filers.

At the time I wrote a rather pessimistic article on Sparks just over a month ago, the union fat cats must have thought their strategy to protect their own living standards was working. After all, electricians were shuffling in to sign up for wage cuts, so they would keep their jobs, and in fact many had joined Unite specifically in response to the Sparks’ campaign. But then came an extraordinary week, which would leave BESNA in ruins.

The Sparks independently made links with students and others in 2011
On Wednesday 15th, Sparks descended on a posh Park Lane dinner, where the suited and booted Balfour Beatty executives were slapping each other on the back for all their wealth. Taking the bigwigs and the cops by surprise, hundreds of Sparks descended on the Grosvenor Hotel, blocking central London traffic for hours. Electricians physically chased the fat cats for some time, and at one point several surrounded Balfour Beatty chief exec Ian Tyler, shouting “scum”, and chanting for the police to “arrest Balfour Beatty”.

The Thursday saw Balfour Beatty take Unite to the High Court, in an effort to get the latest strike ballot overhauled on the grounds of voting irregularities. The judge threw out the case, perhaps mindful that Sparks struck anyway back in December, after Unite’s leadership had caved in to the company. Almost immediately, Balfour Beatty withdrew from BESNA. With the biggest company gone, the six others decided the game was up. Within days, BESNA was dead.

At the moment, it is unclear exactly why Balfour Beatty precipitated the demise of BESNA. It seems impossible to believe that one day of official strike action would have held much terror for a multi-billion pound corporation. More likely, the fright the executives suffered on Park Lane played at least some role. But still, if 90% of electricians had signed up to vastly increased rates of exploitation, surely it was only a matter of time before most of the rest followed suit? And even if they didn’t, surely something else could have been arranged? The abandoning of BESNA is a huge deal, so why give away such ground so quickly?

It’s early days, but perhaps part of the answer came in a statement from Blane Judd, chief executive of the bosses’ Heating and Ventilating Contractors Association (HVCA). He told electricians that:

“Despite the best efforts of the Association and the significant progress that has been made in recent months, all seven companies who instigated the development of the BESNA have now withdrawn from the initiative. However, I can assure the membership at large that, over the next few months, the HVCA will be continuing to work towards the modernisation of the sector’s terms and conditions of employment in such a way as to incorporate a number of the principles contained in the BESNA…”

In return for the cancellation of BESNA, Unite agreed to call off any further demonstrations while ‘consultations’ take place over BESNA II. Essentially, Unite has assented to dampening down the anger of its own membership, and potentially even policing it.

Sparks clearly won the battle of BESNA, but they must continue to resist the Unite leadership’s attempts to strangle their movement. If Sparks are to finally defeat the construction companies’ attacks, they must continue to strengthen their solidarity, and draw in other groups of workers. The time will come when this requires a conscious split from Unite.

Cleaners being verbally abused by Rentokil Initial management

March 15, 2012 1 comment

From LondonLibSoc and The Multicultural Politic.

Extract in video, full transcript from Industrial Workers of the World Cleaners’ Branch below.

All cleaning staff
Cleaners: C
Manager: M
Deputy Manager: DM

M: Right. The reason I’ve called this meeting today is because I wanna talk about pay rises. Or rather I should say I’ve already told this you back in November when we met that there would not be a pay rise this year. I told you, all of you, that I put a budget in to the client in November with a pay rise in for all of the staff. The client said it was too expensive – take it out.
Now I told all of you this, when we met, in one of our meetings. I now find that there is a letter, circulating. I don’t care who has signed this letter. I was told the letter was going to be given to the client, about demanding a pay rise. Are you people, stupid? And I don’t mean that to be rude, but I sit here and I think to myself – when somebody is told the client has said there will be no pay rise. Then I discover there is a letter going round that you are going to give to the client that says we want a pay rise. What planet are you on? Do you not understand that this could lose the contract?

Do you think if another company came in here they would come in with pay rises and more staff. No. They would come in here with less money, less staff. You would find not only would your wages be cut but you would probably lose some people because you are well staffed in this contract, well staffed. Now, to say that I was a little upset is to put it mildly. I was furious. And really I still am. In a minute you are going to sign a form. Every single one of you. That form says that if you ever, go the client over my head, ever, you will be bringing the company into disrepute, and you will be committing gross misconduct. Do you all understand what gross misconduct is? You can be sacked for gross misconduct. Dismissed.

If anybody goes to the client ever and goes over my head, I will instantly suspend them from work. You will walk out the door within 5 minutes of going to the client. I hope I have made myself understood. You all understand me – yes? You don’t understand me. You don’t understand X. If you take letter to the client.

DM: Or you talk to the client moaning.

M: I will suspend from work and you will go on disciplinary. Whether you keep your job or not we will think that it is gross misconduct. That is a sackable offence. I have done with you people. I am done playing Mrs Nice Guy I am done. From now on we will run this contract to the rules and the regulations. There’ll be no more us trying to help you, dealing with your problems. If you’ve got a problem come to Sue, she will help you. I have always helped somebody who has come to me with a problem. Now I don’t want to know your problem. I want you to come to work, do your work, go home. End of. I, at every opportunity, fight for better conditions, and better pay for my staff. At every opportunity I get. None of you, not one of you, respect that. None of you. So here’s my terms. You sign this form. You go near the client, you’re gonna be disobeying my orders, you’re gonna get suspended from work. That’s it.

DM: I personally take this as an insult as well because only last week we had a meeting. Only last week I told you, unfortunately this is what we tried to do to help you in terms of the wages. This is the scenario. You all smiled and nodded your head. I came out of that meeting saying to Sue, when she came back, “That was a really constructive meeting I think that everyone is on board, I’m really happy that everyone is OK with what we are trying to do, that they understand.” So I think this is a personal insult, personally to me and to Sue, the other day. I try my utmost to help you in terms of your personal problems, your this and your that, in terms of work and at home. I might as well not have bothered. Obviously we all want extra money. I want extra money as
much as you do.

M: I would like a pay rise.

DM: Ah. Yeah.

M: It’s not happening. You don’t hear me moaning. You don’t hear me running to the client saying, ‘I want a pay rise’. The client says tough. There is a recession on.

DM: Exactly.

M: Out there, out there, there is a recession. Every company is trying to save money. Every company. Trying to save money. Nobody is getting a pay rise. Nobody. Now, to me, I would say to you people, if you want to earn more the £7 .50 an hour, which isn’t a bad pay.

DM: Exactly.

M: Lots of sites in the city are on minimum wage £6.30.

DM: And then they have pay to get into Central London. Extra money again.

M: You wanna earn more money.

Cleaner: OK

M: Go find another job.
Cleaner: Ok, very nice. Let’s show you something for you and show something for you. To everybody. Because, I see now, that this discussion is going very well from Sue. We don’t want to…..

M: You idiot. Very interested to see who’s um

C: Please, now I need to show you, one moment.

M: You’re never going to get the London living wage. You’re living in a bloody dream world.

C: Who knows, nobody knows. You told us never, never, and nothing happened.

DM: You obviously didn’t hear what we just said.

C: I need

M: No, excuse me …., you’re never even in the meetings.

C: One moment

DM: Can I just ask are you the union rep. Are you the union rep?

C: What’s rep?

DM: The representative from the union.

C: No

M: Why have you got names of people on here that aren’t even working here anymore? You’ve got names of people on her that don’t even work here anymore?

C: These are all your people. Your people. Here is not somebody strange.

M: I now get a miserly £7.50 an hour. Do you think that’s a poor wage £7.50 an hour?

C: This is miserly pay in modern day. This is a miserly pay.

M: So why don’t you go and find somewhere else?

C: I don’t care but there are other people who

DM: Please tell me

C: Listen

DM: No, I’d just love to know

C: We have our own business, own problem here with this collective.

M: No, no, no there’s no problem. Ahh ahhh aaahhhhh. You work for me. You earn £7.50 an hour. There is no more money.

C: I work for Lancaster or Initial, not for you personally.

M: We can certainly do something about that.

C: I am working for the company.

C: Everyone has received a letter like this. This is from head office I understand. Yes? OK. Before we did not know. I do not want to repeat again what has been said just now. But I would just point your attention to the two words – there will be no change to your pay and benefits or to somebody else. So, what does it mean first by pay? It’s our salary right?

M: Your rate of pay.

C: OK it doesn’t matter it’s our salary which in modern day is not enough already. So there’s going to be movement. Not from this union …. This is from parliament.

M: Are you all really really sure that you want to sign this?

C: No, I finish my idea because

M: Because I am telling you now there will be consequences to this.

C: Listen

M: If you think I am putting up with this you are out of your mind.

C: I need to tell you just first. Nobody will go over your head without your –

M: Where do you, where do you wanna go with this? Where do you think you’re gonna go with this?

DM: Given that we have caught you. When were you gonna present this to us?

C: Listen I have an idea which I need to say to you and to people

M: Say it then. Come on.

C: OK. So all of these contracts which were before signed was OK with everyone but this last contract was signed without notation of fact and nobody knows.

M: No, no, no. They don’t need to know

C: I need to know because I need my contract.

M: No, they don’t need to know. Let me explain to you. Let me explain to you. You think you know things and you don’t know them. Let me explain. I understand it.

C: I have the right to get the new contract. A new contract.

M: That is your contract.

C: This is the contract? Where is it signed? Your signed
M: You already have got original contracts. When things change you send a letter.

C: This contract was signed only three years ago. After that we get two times change of circumstances and last time we did not get this contract. I need to get this contract.

M: Go to head office.

C: This is not a contract.

M: Go to head office then.

C: This is not a contract.

M: No. You go to HR at Head Office because I have spoken to them today.

C: So you are not saying the truth? It’s not truth?

DM: That is an amendment.

C: It is not a contract.

M: It’s an amendment.

C: It is not a contract only a letter. It is not a contract. No. So this means it is not true.

DM: Exactly, it’s an amendment. An a-mend-ment.

M: You are so ignorant you don’t know anything.

C: I need to say because I need to get answer on this question. It says no pay and no benefits. Who got benefits? Amanda, tell me please.

M: Then let me answer.

C: Brilliant. I am listening.

M: Big mouth. Let me answer.

C: I am like you. You are talking and me too. You have a question and me too.

M: But you’re very disrespectful V.

C: Why?

M/DM: Oh Jesus Christ it’s an amendment. You are so ignorant you don’t know anything.

M: No. Let me answer. Let me answer the question.

C: OK please

DM: Oh my god.

M: The pay and benefits relate to your rate of pay and benefits are things you’ve been given in your contract such as bank holidays, holiday allowances. Quite easy, if you’d asked me this 2 months ago when you started planning the big plot I could have answered that for you.

C: This is not a plot it is our right.

M: I’ve just told you what the benefits are. Holiday pay, bank holidays.

C: The holiday pay is absolutely different.

M: Excuse me are you a Personnel expert?

C: No no no one moment again this is not true before you told us benefits is going to our pay…

DM: ok read this and sign this read it and sign

M: I’m not talking anymore I’m not talking anymore… Because you are not listening to me?

C: Included in our pay?

DM: quoting from letter

M: You will sign an agreement

C: Of course I will sign

DM: cont. reading Damage the reputation of the company. Any breaches.. of both count as gross misconduct..

M: Excuse me I am talking now. I would be quite happy to bring HR and the Director from the company in here to discuss this with you. Quite happy. They still will not get you a pay rise, but if you want to put them to that trouble, make yourselves look like troublemakers I am quite happy to do that. Would you like me to do that? You are one person. How many people would like me to do that?

C1: I am not understand

C2: explains they should not go to the client

M: Common sense at last.

C2: ??

M: Yes of course this is what will happen you silly man.

C2: Loss of contract

DM: This is the candle that burns the contract this kind of thing

M: And another company will come in which is cheaper.

C: So you two get the Lancaster pay?

M: You are just making yourself sound stupid now. How do you think Lancaster gets the funds to pay your salary? They get it from the client.

C: I see this discussion is going too far.

M: I will be taking it a lot further.

DM: If you go to the client there will be consequences.

C: I will go to head office.

M: I am sick and tired that people in this contract cannot just come in do their job and go home. I am not the only one. Shut up a minute because you are just getting on my nerves. You have got a big mouth you are coming saying ya ya ya. You are telling them a load of rubbish. 1 its not true 2 you were going to come to us.
You were scuppered because someone told me what you were going to do.
We are decent people in this contract. We don’t want this rubbish that you are spouting.

C: This is not rubbish. It is our life.

M: What about our life? How do you know. You don’t know what we earn.
You thought. You, nobody else.

DM: Who wrote the letter.

M: Who wrote the letter?

DM: Who wrote it?


M: Did you bring this letter here?

C: I bring. This is my writing

M: This is not your writing.

C: This letter is coming from Parliament.

M: I don’t give a monkeys, I don’t care where it’s coming from. Get in the real world.

M: You would like a pay rise. But the client says no.

M: V I will invite someone in especially to meet you.

C: Me too I will bring my solicitor

M: What can your solicitor do? Nothing. You are a very silly man you don’t know what you are talking about.

DM: You are refusing to sign this? Can you sign this sign this

C: No I am not signing it

M: You’re an idiot you shouldn’t sign that you don’t know what it is the problem is that he doesn’t know what he is talking about just creating problems

M: ….darling have you got anything on your phone?

C3: My phone?

M: Yeah? I dunno do you have a recording? Your fiddling with your phone oh are you recording?

C: Yes

M: Wonderful take it to the Union rep or whatever I’ve tried to tell you, We are tired.. we are tired I am not talking out here.

Justice For Cleaners at Thompson Reuters

March 12, 2012 1 comment

From Cleaners Branch.


IWW Cleaners Branch and London Regional Committee


Cleaners employed by Rentokil Initial the contractor of Thompsons Reuters in Canary Wharf demand the London Living Wage and an end to bullying by management.

In November 2011, Thompsons Reuters rejected any increase to the wages of their cleaners. In contrast, in February 2012 after the journalists voted to strike Thomson Reuters agreed a minimum pay raise of 2.5% and an additional 5% for merit raises. However, when cleaners who are part of the union Industrial Workers of the World circulated a petition for the Living Wage their Rentokil Initial managers subjected them to intimidation and abuse. Cleaners were called to a meeting at Canary Wharf office and told if they approached Thompson Reuters to ask for the pay rise, then Thompson Reuters :

· Would change their cleaning contractor

· The cleaners wages would be cut

· Cleaners jobs would be cut

Cleaners were forced to sign a ‘form’ that if they approach Thompson Reuters for a wage increase they will be committing ‘gross conduct’, and they would ‘suspend them’ and they will be ‘dismissed’.

Amidst a tirade of verbal abuse and threats cleaners were told by their ‘furious’ managers they were all ‘stupid’, that if ‘You wanna earn more money’ then ‘Go find another job’.

As part of their ‘Corporate Responsibility’ Thompson Reuters state that it is committed to: ‘Creating a company culture and workplace that promotes diversity and safeguards the health, safety and dignity of all employees.’ The IWW says put your money where your mouth is:

· Remove the managers responsible for bullying from Thompson Reuters offices!

· Pay the London Living Wag of £8.30 per-hour.

Mass protest at Thompson Reuters


33 Aldgate High Street London EC3N 1DL, next to Aldgate tube station

Speakers include


STEVE HEDLEY RMT London Regional Organiser,

JOHN MALONEY – PCS DfT Group Secretary

Further protests at Thompson Reuters in Canary Wharf on Friday 20th March