Bin Strikes in Scotland spread

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Bin strikes in Scotland have spread as workers walked out in more areas.

GMB Scotland members in 16 council areas started four days of action from Friday until Monday, coinciding with existing action in Edinburgh.

Unison members in waste and recycling also joined the strike action, walking out in eight council areas for four days from August 26.

It comes after Unite members working in waste services at 13 councils walked out on Wednesday, joining workers in Edinburgh who began strike action on August 18.

Kirsten Muat, GMB Scotland organiser, said:

“Our members are not prepared for services to be delivered on the backs of the working poor.

“Our key workers deserved to be valued properly and ahead of a grim winter with forecasts of double-digit inflation and eye-watering energy bills, they urgently need pay that confronts this cost of living crisis.”

GMB Scotland senior organiser for public services, Keir Greenaway, said: “GMB members are clear that they are not prepared to accept working poverty as an inevitability and their strike actions are a direct response to the failure of political leaders to realise this.”

Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity union, commented: “I attended Stand-up for the bin workers – the show to support the bin workers strike fund. The mood was passionately in favour of the strike. As an Edinburgh resident the bin strike affects me. I’m 100 percent behind the strikers as are the vast majority of people here. It’s because we realise that the strikes are Just and necessary.”

British workers reject pay cuts

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British workers are striking in vast numbers as decades-high inflation erodes the value of wages. Workers understand that a pay rise below the rate of inflation is a real-term pay cut.

Official data released on Wednesday showed UK inflation at a 40-year-high – above 10 percent, as soaring food and energy prices hurt millions of Britons.

UK unions are fighting to defend their member’s wages and working conditions.

“We will continue to do whatever is necessary to defend jobs, pay and conditions during this cost-of-living crisis,” Sharon Graham, head of major British union, Unite, said this week.

The Bank of England has forecast inflation to top 13 percent this year, tipping the British economy into a deep and long-lasting recession.

“This record fall in real wages demonstrates the vital need for unions like Unite to defend the value of workers’ pay,” Graham said, while hitting out at suggestions, including from BoE governor Andrew Bailey, that pay rises were fuelling inflation.

“Wages are not driving inflation,” she insisted ahead of the latest UK inflation data that showed rocketing food prices were the main factor behind July’s spike.

Inflation has soared worldwide this year largely because of surging energy prices, fuelled by the invasion of Ukraine by major oil and gas producer Russia.

More than 115,000 British postal workers employed by former state-run Royal Mail plan a four-day strike from the end of August.

Telecoms giant BT will face its first stoppage in 35 years and walkouts have recently taken place or are soon to occur by Amazon warehouse staff, criminal lawyers and refuse collectors.

In a new development a campaign group, Enough is Enough, has been launched.

Trade unions, community organisations and MPs have joined forces in the hopes of “winning back dignity for working-class people” as Britain braces for the biggest economic crisis in a decade.

Rail, Maritime and Transport Union Secretary General Mick Lynch is among those heading up the Enough Is Enough campaign that is calling for pay rises, energy bills to be slashed, an end to food poverty, affordable housing, and a tax on the richest in society.

Speaking in a campaign video shared on social media, Mr. Lynch said: “People are fed up with the way they’re treated at work. We need to turn that mood into real organisation on behalf of the working class.”

Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity union, has joined calls from other union leaders and activists for strikes to be coordinated and for protests to take place alongside them. He said:

“I welcome the formation of the campaign group Enough is Enough as a positive step to organise protests. Unions cannot rely on the Labour Party to fight back politically (though there are many good people in that Party). Unions must campaign on both an economic and political level directly and encourage other community groups and campaigners to join them. The demands of Enough is Enough are ones that will resonate with ordinary people. At heart they are about fairness and respect. Don’t British workers deserve that? I urge all right-thinking people whatever their views on other issues might be to support Enough is Enough.

Unions must also plan for aggression from the Tory government. Tory transport minister Grant Shapps wrote in the Daily Mail, ‘Margaret Thatcher knew Luddite trade unions were a barrier. She delivered prosperity by taking them on – and so will we.’

It’s a threat to every union and to every worker who wants to defend their pay, job and conditions.

Unions will be attacked by the Tories politically with new bans and anti-union laws. They will seek to prevent unions from organising strikes to protect their member’s wages and conditions. They will seek to gag and restrict unions. That political attack must be defended using all weapons available, political, legal, and economic. Unions cannot accept real-term wage cuts to their member’s wages or see their conditions worsen. Though our union is small we must play our part in supporting all actions to protect the interests of workers and the rights of trade unions.”

Get involved with Enough is Enough:
https://wesayenough.co.uk/about-us/

Edinburgh: Stand up for the bin workers

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Cleansing staff at Edinburgh City Council went out on strike on Thursday August 18, as part of the protest over pay.

The walkout, the first in a series of protests planned by trade unions, is due to go on until August 30, with bins around the city already overflowing with rubbish as a result of not being emptied.

The action comes while Edinburgh is the venue for an international Festival of arts and culture. It is a huge embarassment for the City Council and SNP government.

Local authorities this weekend increased their below-inflation pay offer from 3.5 per cent to 5 per cent.

Alison Maclean of Unite noted: “While the 5% offer is an improvement, it is important to emphasise that it comes at a time when the broader retail price index has now hit a 40-year high at 12.3%.

Unite’s local government committee will urgently consider this latest offer. At this juncture the strikes for next week continue as planned.”

Comedian Mark Thomas has joined forces with the city’s Stand venue to organise a benefit in solidarity with the strikers on Wednesday. The money raised will go straight to the GMB’s official strike fund.

Comedians and members of the public are supporting the strikers

Thomas says: “These are the workers who got us through Covid and now they are being told to take a real cut in their wages. It’s unacceptable and they deserve our support in fighting back.

GMB support worker Kirsten Muat added: “Too many local government workers across Scotland are already suffering in work poverty. The bin men in Edinburgh are striking to try and put an end to that.

“GMB are incredibly grateful to everyone supporting the striking workers, including all the comedians and members of the public coming along to the benefit gig.

The benefit will take place at The Stand’s New Town Theatre at 9pm on Wednesday. Tickets are £20, or £5 for strikers.

Also on the bill are Jason Byrne, Jo Caulfield, Kiri Pritchard-McLean, Mark Nelson, Shazia Mirza, Suse McCabe, Rachel Fairburn, Vladimir McTavish and Danny Bhoy.

You can buy tickets here: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/stand-up-for-the-bin-workers

Picture credit for overflowing bins: (C) Pat Harrington. All rights reserved.

CALL FOR CO-ORDINATED ACTION AND PROTESTS

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The CWU ASLEF and other unions are staging strikes over lower-than-inflation pay rises in the UK. Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity, is one of many union leaders and activists to call for greater coordination of strikes by unions combined with street protests.

He said:
“The pay rises offered by the government and bosses are below the current rate of inflation, which is putting a real squeeze on the living standards of workers.This is not good enough, and the unions must coordinate their strikes in order to put maximum pressure on the government and bosses to offer a better pay rise. The government and bosses must learn that they cannot get away with offering workers such a poor deal and that they will face significant and escalating industrial action if they do not improve pay offers.Union leaders must work together to coordinate their strikes and show the government that they are united and will not back down until they get a fair pay rise. This is the only way to ensure that workers in the UK are treated fairly and that their living standards are protected.Unions should work together to organise joint protests and demonstrations and invite other groups and the wider public to join us. Unions must take the lead directly as the Labour Party is not effectively opposing the economic and social attack on workers. This would send a clear message to the government and bosses that the unions are united and are not going to take any more abuse.”

 Image by Flore W Pixabay

TRAIN DRIVERS AT NINE COMPANIES GO ON STRIKE

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Train drivers at nine operating companies went on strike last week. Members of the train drivers’ union Aslef walked out for 24 hours in a pay dispute at Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry, Greater Anglia, Great Western Railway, Hull Trains, LNER, Southeastern, West Midlands Trains, and London Overground. Mick Whelan, General Secretary of ASLEF, said that train companies claim to be barred from awarding a pay rise in line with inflation by “dodgy deals” imposed by the government when their franchises were turned into management contracts, but the government says the dispute is nothing to do with it and must be dealt with by the companies.

The bosses say the decision now is down to the government and the government says it’s down to the operating companies.

“So we are caught in a Catch-22 situation where each side blames the other,” Mick explained.

“The drivers at these companies have not had an increase for three years. With inflation running at 9, 10, or even 11 percent, we are being told to take a real-terms pay cut. Strike action is now the only option available, but we are always open for talks if the companies, or government, want to come to the table.”

The strike has the potential to escalate with strike ballots closing at Chiltern Railways, Northern Trains, and TransPennine Express on 25 August. Workers in sector after sector are taking strike action to defend their living standards. Union leaders must build the individual sets of strikes but also to come together and to lay the basis for greater action.

 Picture credit: Image by Tim Bigger from Pixabay

Thousands of health workers in Scotland vote in favour of industrial action over pay

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Health workers in Scotland have voted to take industrial action in protest against what they describe as a “real terms pay cut.”

NHS staff from four unions have announced plans to strike after rejecting a 5 percent pay offer from the Scottish government.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN), Unison, Unite Scotland, and GMB have condemned the offer.

RCN members, who voted to reject the pay offer by 90 percent, say it is “the clearest sign yet that industrial action could take place across the UK later this year.”

Midwives and maternity support workers have also threatened to strike over the pay offer, the Royal College of Midwives has said.

Unite Scotland and the GMB have announced that NHS staff are “prepared to strike” with GMB members rejecting the pay offer by 97 percent.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said the union’s NHS Scotland members had rejected the pay offer as it represented a “substantial real terms pay cut” amid an inflation increase of 11.8 percent.

Picture credit: Image by James Henderson from Pixabay

Support the Postie strikes

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Post Office workers are to stage fresh strikes in escalating action over pay, their union has announced.

Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) will walk out on August 26, 27, and 30, with some of the action coinciding with strikes by BT, Openreach, and Royal Mail employees.

It will be the fourth round of action by Post Office workers, including in larger high street “Crown” offices, administration, and across the supply chain.

Around 2,000 workers will walk out on August 26, the same day as 115,000 postmen and women from all parts of Britain go on strike in a separate row over pay.

Crown office employees will strike again on August 27, while supply chain and admin members of the union will walk out on August 30.

CWU assistant secretary Andy Furey said: “We’re as determined as we have ever been to keep fighting and win a settlement that will protect our members’ standard of living through these exceptionally difficult economic times.”

Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity, commented:

“Postal workers are right to strike in the face of an unreasonable, below inflation, pay offer. We must give them whatever support we can. The strikers are fighting against the lie that workers must pay for the economic mismanagement of government and that they should take real-term pay cuts while firms pay dividends out.

Cost of Living Crisis: Unions say the poorest should not be hit hardest

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Bank of England boss Andrew Bailey said workers, many of whom have suffered years of stagnating pay and soaring prices, should not get real-terms wages rises, claiming there is a risk of runaway inflation becoming “embedded.

Mr Bailey, who earns £575,000 a year including pensions, made the comments a day after he introduced the single biggest rise in interest rates – from 1.25 per cent to 1.75 – since 1995, despite his prediction that the economy is facing the beginning of its longest recession since the 2008 financial crash this autumn.

He also warned that the consumer prices index inflation rate would hit a staggering 42-year high of 13.3 per cent in October, well above the bank’s target of just 2 per cent.

The governor, who refused to be drawn on what an appropriate wage rise would be, is under increasing pressure amid Britain’s “summer of discontent” as rail workers, aviation staff, criminal barristers, Post Office employees and more strike against more than a decade of Tory austerity.

Mr Bailey acknowledged that the poorest are being affected most by the cost-of-living crisis but claimed: “If everybody tries to beat inflation it doesn’t come down, it gets worse.

“My key point is, if inflation becomes embedded and persistent, it gets worse and the effects get worse,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

The head of economics at one of the union federations, the TUC, Kate Bell slammed his remarks, saying: “After the longest and harshest wage squeeze in 200 years, working people in every part of the country are suffering a huge fall in living standards as prices soar.

“With incomes set to fall even further and the economy teetering on the brink of recession, it’s now more important than ever that workers need a pay rise.

“Without wage increases, working people will simply stop spending on anything non-essential – and that will hurt our high streets, damage business and make a recession very likely, putting jobs at risk up and down the country.

“Making sure people can put food on the table for their family is not going to push up inflation.

“’If the governor is worried that some workers might miss out on negotiated pay rises, he should encourage all workers to join a union.”

Labour MP Richard Burgon urged working-class people not to be intimidated, tweeting: “They don’t call it class war when they cut wages.

“They don’t call it class war when they slash benefits; they don’t call it class war when they hike prices – they only call it class war when people fight back.”

Economic think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies echoed these concerns, and stressed that the winner of the Tory leadership contest between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss needs to “find billions” to save vital public services including the NHS.

Director Paul Johnson said: “We are looking at potentially big real-terms cuts to some of the public services that are really struggling at the moment.”

Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity union, said: “The argument that higher wages automatically lead to inflation (higher prices) is false. It doesn’t take into account the relationship between wages and profits or costs and how far a company can raise its price without a backlash. To explain, very simply, a rise in wages obtained by workers, enabling them to meet the rising cost of living or better still to improve their standard of living, comes at the cost of less profit per unit of output for companies. This means they have less to spend on their own private consumption and/or to reinvest and expand production beyond what they have already produced. Clearly a lack of investment in research and development would have long term consequences but our current period of inflation is created by supply chain pressures mainly and can be solved fairly quickly given government action.

In most circumstances, the competitive pressures between rival capitalists in all sectors force a general alignment between the price of products and inputs of living labour and raw materials, energy, machine depreciation etc – companies can’t simply raise prices. Additionally, consumers can switch their buying preferences to leave companies that try to raise prices (few have monopolies).

A hit on the profits of companies is socially preferable to real-term wage cuts.

Do we need a general strike?

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The threat of a ‘general strike’ over pay and working conditions is growing more likely, as unions representing teaching and outsourced cleaning and security staff prepare to ballot members amid the rising cost of living.

The warning comes as rail companies had the biggest walkout in 30 years last week.

The rail network ground to a standstill in this last week.

Network Rail has reportedly offered a 3% rise for one year, but Mick Lynch, general secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), told The Times newspaper he wanted a pay rise of more than 7%.

Lynch said the RMT’s campaign would continue until rail bosses met members’ demands.

He said he would support a general strike – the first since 1926 – if workers from other industries wanted to take action.

He told Sky News: “I think there are going to be many unions that are balloting across the country because people can’t take it anymore. We’ve got people doing full-time jobs who are having to take state benefits and use food banks. That is a national disgrace.

Strikes over pay

Real wages, adjusted for inflation, have fallen 2.2% in a year.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union chief, Mick Lynch, called for a general strike in retaliation to ministers’ threats to curb industrial action, warning of “the biggest resistance mounted by the entire trade union movement”.

Truss and her rival Tory leadership candidate, Rishi Sunak, have said they will ban strikes on essential public services like the railways, and Truss has said she would legislate for minimum service levels on critical national infrastructure in the first 30 days of government.

“It is completely wrong that the travelling public are being held ransom by militant unions,” Truss said last Tuesday. “I will take a tough line on trade union action that is not helping people get on in life.

Responding to the comments, Lynch said: “The proposals by Liz Truss amount to the biggest attack on trade union and civil rights since labour unions were legalised in 1871. Truss is proposing to make effective trade unionism illegal in Britain and to rob working people of a key democratic right.

If these proposals become law, there will be the biggest resistance mounted by the entire trade union movement, rivalling the general strike of 1926, the suffragettes and Chartism.

Asked if it would call a general strike, the TUC stressed “every strike is a democratic process”, but said: “It’s clear this Conservative government is not on the side of working people.

Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity union said:

2022 is shaping up to be a year of major upheaval. Around the world, people are fed up with their governments and are demanding change.

In response, many governments have turned to more draconian measures.

The UK government is considering proposals that would ban strikes by essential public sector workers, such as police officers, teachers, and healthcare workers.

The rationale for the proposed ban is that strikes by these workers can cause significant disruption to vital services. However, trade unions have criticized the proposal, arguing that it would deprive workers of their right to take industrial action. it’s sure to be a bumpy ride with unions rightly standing up for the rights of their members. Tory proposals may well lead to calls for a General Strike gaining support. The Tories are relying on a lack of response from union leaders. They may be mistaken.

The Strikers are fighting for us all says Pat Harrington

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In the UK, workers are striking for a number of reasons. They’re fighting for better pay and working conditions, They are seeking higher wages in order to keep up with the rising cost of living. The average UK worker has seen their real wages fall by 10% since 2008, while the cost of living has risen by more than 20%. This means that workers are struggling to make ends meet and many are increasingly reliant on food banks and other forms of charity. The strikers are also calling for an end to zero-hours contracts, which leave workers unable to predict their income from one month to the next. These contracts can make it very difficult to budget and save for unexpected expenses. The strike action is unprecedented in recent years and is a sign of the growing frustration of workers who feel that they are being made to pay the cost of inept political leadership and economic management.

The prices of essentials like food and housing have been rising faster than wages for years, and people are struggling to make ends meet. The strikers believe that the only way to address the cost of living crisis is to fight for higher wages and better working conditions. By doing so, they hope to make life better for all those affected by the crisis.

Battle lines are being drawn

Unions are prepared to fight against real-term wage cuts for their members. There are some big battles on the way and everyone will have to decide which side they are on. For us it’s simple – we are on the side of the workers and against those who’ve caused the cost of living crisis and now expect ordinary people to pay for their mistakes. Here is a breakdown of some of the battles to come.

Rail workers

Around 50,000 rail workers in the RMT, Aslef, and TSSA unions are fighting over below-inflation pay offers, job cuts, and working conditions. RMT members are planning three 24-hour strikes on Wednesday 27 July, Wednesday 18 August, and Saturday 20 August. The union is also in dispute with Network Rail over plans to cut 1,500 jobs and close ticket offices. Aslef members are planning a 24-hour strike on Saturday 30 July. The union is in dispute with eight train operating companies over pay, rostering arrangements, and the introduction of driver-only operated trains. TSSA members are balloting for industrial action. The union is in dispute with Network Rail over pay and working conditions. All three unions are also in dispute with London Underground over the closure of ticket offices and the introduction of all-night Tube services. Industrial action is likely to cause widespread disruption to rail services across the country.

Posties and communication workers

Nearly all Royal Mail workers who voted supported going on strike in a huge 97.6 percent landslide, making it clear they are ready to battle their bosses. The Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) members backed strikes by an overwhelming margin on a turnout of 77 percent in their fight against the imposition of a 2 percent pay increase by management. No strike days have been announced yet by the CWU. This follows other recent high-profile industrial disputes such as British Airways. Given the government’s attacks on workers’ rights, union membership has been growing recently as people look to emulate the success of French workers in fighting back against austerity. With such a massive show of support from CWU members, management at Royal Mail will be under pressure to start negotiating seriously or face the possibility of widespread disruption to mail services across the country.

Public service workers

PCS union members are demanding a 10 percent pay increase and a minimum wage of at least £15 an hour. The ballot is set to begin on 26 September and run for six weeks until 7 November. If the workers vote in favour of strike action, it could mean serious disruption for government departments across the UK. The union has already taken industrial action this year, with walkouts happening in May and June. Talks between the PCS and the government have so far failed to reach an agreement, with the union accusing the government of offering “derisory” pay rises. The workers are also angry about job losses and cuts to workplace benefits, such as pensions. With no end to the dispute in sight, it looks like we could see more industrial action from the PCS in the near future.

Teachers

Teachers across schools in England will be consulted on strikes in the autumn. The Tory government wants to impose a 5 percent increase on teachers after recommendations from the School Teachers’ Review Body. When? NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said the union would consult members on strikes in the autumn with “the largest ballot of teachers for a generation”. Meanwhile, the NASUWT said its executive would meet on September 14 to consider ballots for action. What’s the problem? Teachers say they have faced a real-terms pay cut since 2010 and that their pay has fallen behind other graduate professions. They also argue that increased workload and mounting pressure are making the profession unsustainable. The government says it has increased funding for schools and that teachers’ pay is a matter for individual headteachers. However, headteachers say they are being forced to make cuts because of reductions in funding. Low morale among teachers is having an impact on pupils, with around two-thirds of teachers saying they are considering leaving the profession, according to a recent survey.

NHS workers

The Tories are at it again! This time, they’re trying to push through a real-terms pay cut for NHS workers in England. With over one million NHS staff affected, including nurses, paramedics, and midwives, this is sure to be a controversial move.

Under the Tories’ plans, NHS workers would receive a pay increase of £1,400 a year. However, when inflation is taken into account, this actually amounts to a real-term pay cut of £200 a year for porters, £1,100 for nurses, and £1,500 for paramedics. The main health unions are understandably up in arms about this proposal.

It’s yet another example of the Tories’ complete disregard for the vital role that NHS staff play in our society. We all rely on the NHS when we’re sick or injured, and these dedicated workers deserve to be fairly compensated for their hard work. Imposing a pay cut on them is nothing short of disgraceful.

Fire and Rescue

The FBU union’s executive council has unanimously rejected a 2 percent pay offer from fire and rescue employers. The council says the offer is “insulting” and that plans are being prepared to develop a campaign for decent pay, including the possibility of strike action. With firefighters already among the lowest-paid workers in the public sector, the union is adamant that its members deserve a fair deal. It remains to be seen whether the employers will budge on their offer, but one thing is clear – the FBU is ready to fight for a better deal for its members.

Solidarity union backs our brothers and sisters 100 percent. We must back the strikes however we can. We must encourage other workers outside traditional union structures to organise and take action and co-ordinate our efforts. The strikers are fighting for us all by making it clear that ordinary people will not suffer impoverishment and cuts to their wages to pay for the mistakes of those who misgovern us. Political leaders haven’t fought for the people. The unions must.

By Patrick Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity union