Welcome to Union News for the 30th of August 2023. Union News is your weekly guide to what’s happening in the trade union and labour movement in the UK. We’re back from our holidays with an edition including, Education Workers Unite for Strikes Over Pay Cuts and Redundancies in Scottish Colleges, Railway Supply Company Hit by Four-Day Strike Over Pay Dispute, Browns Food Group Workers Begin Strike for Fair Pay, Glasgow Museum Workers Balloted for Strike Over Job Cuts and Strike Vote Initiated at 89 English Colleges over Pay and More. Writing is by Pat Harrington and music is by Tim Bragg.
Education Workers Unite for Strikes Over Pay Cuts and Redundancies in Scottish Colleges
Thousands of education workers and three trade unions are set to strike next week, demanding an end to pay cuts and redundancies within Scotland’s struggling college sector. Over 2,000 members of Unison and 100 members of Unite, including a diverse range of roles from librarians to IT specialists, administrative staff to cleaners, will join picket lines. The strike will coincide with a national day of action by teaching union EIS-Fela and is expected to significantly disrupt college operations. The unions are protesting against a pay proposal that includes a flat cash offer over two years, with potential compulsory redundancies attached. The workers are seeking assurances similar to those provided to other public sector employees that there will be no compulsory layoffs. Additionally, the following week, 1,000 Unite members at various universities will initiate a five-day strike over pay, citing below-inflation raises and challenging working conditions.
Railway Supply Company Hit by Four-Day Strike Over Pay Dispute
Engineers, clerical staff, and production workers at Unipart Rail, based in Crewe, have commenced a four-day strike due to an ongoing disagreement over pay. The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) revealed that the company’s 4.75% pay offer has been rejected by its members, sparking frustration and prompting the strike action. RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch expressed dissatisfaction with Unipart’s management approach, citing the cancellation of a critical meeting as evidence of their disregard for resolving the issue. Unipart Rail, however, emphasized its commitment to dialogue and minimizing customer disruption, attributing the pay offer to affordability pressures in the rail sector.
Browns Food Group Workers Begin Strike for Fair Pay
Around 180 employees at Browns Food Group in Sanquhar, Scotland, have initiated a three-day strike demanding improved wages. Despite the company’s post-tax profit of £5.2 million in 2021 and substantial payments to its top director and owners, maintenance and distribution workers were offered a wage of £10.90 an hour in pay negotiations—a rate deemed the bare minimum for living by the Living Wage Foundation. The Unite union, representing the workers, resoundingly rejected this proposal, resulting in the current strike action. Unite’s industrial officer Paul Bennett emphasized that the strike is driven by the necessity for better wages to meet living expenses. Browns Food Group offered to match the living wage, resulting in an 11.8% increase, but this was voted down by the majority of members. The company acknowledged the disruption caused by the strike and its potential consequences on business, employees, and customers.
Glasgow Museum Workers Balloted for Strike Over Job Cuts
Museum workers in Glasgow are considering strike action as they resist substantial job cuts proposed by Glasgow Life, the entity responsible for museums in the city. The controversial cuts, amounting to a 30% reduction in jobs within the museums and collections sector, have prompted visible protests, including demonstrations outside renowned institutions like the Burrell Collection and the Gallery of Modern Art (Goma). These actions have garnered extensive support from both fellow trade union members and the general public, with even street artist Banksy expressing solidarity during his Goma exhibition. The workers, joined by Unison Glasgow, are fighting to protect both the quality of collections and community outreach programs that enrich the city’s cultural landscape. Protests are set to continue at the Riverside Museum on Saturday and September 16.
and finally, Strike Vote Initiated at 89 English Colleges over Pay and More
Workers at 89 further education (FE) colleges across England are gearing up for a strike vote as the UCU union members prepare to cast their ballots, starting next Tuesday and running until October 10. The union’s demands include a significant 15.4% pay increase for workers, addressing excessive workloads, initiating binding national negotiations, and establishing a fair transition commission for FE. Despite education secretary Gillian Keegan’s promise of £470 million funding, equivalent to a 6.5% pay rise, the union asserts that this falls short, especially considering the 35% drop in pay for most college workers over the past 12 years. Activists are rallying for a robust strike vote that surmounts the anti-trade union legal threshold, and the disaggregated ballot will send a strong message of determination.