A round-up of a few recent developments in some ongoing workplace disputes:
At Picturehouse, staff have been intimidated into postponing most of their scheduled strike dates thanks to a shocking lockout threat from the company, which would have required workers to work for free on non-strike days. The proposed actions are now mostly on hold while they try to work out whether this stunt from management is legal or not, but in the meantime they’re inviting people to join them for a strike fundraiser at the Market House in Brixton on Friday 26th January.
“We are extremely sad to inform you that with the exception of this Saturday and Sunday. Many of our upcoming strikes have had to be called off. We can assure you they are only called off against our wishes, due to the legal threats of the company. We are making every effort to hand in notice of greater and more extensive strike actions.
This weekend we are still picketing at the following times.
20th: Hackney, Ritzy and Central 1730-2030
21st: Crouch End, East Dulwich, and Central 1730-2030
The long read.
We want to give the full story to you especially to those supporters who helped make the heroic efforts to ensure we could keep going during the lockout. Those funds are now going to be used to launch a massive wave of strikes soon. So if you want the full story please read below.
The company was clearly very scared by the prospect of these strikes during the busiest time of the year. First they announced a lock out at just the Ritzy.
You made heroic efforts at short notice to fund raise, to ensure despite this that we could afford the strikes.This was so successful that we met our targets and planned ahead. Not only did you get us the money but we found it very moving seeing all the messages of support come in.
Then yesterday they announced that at all the other sites, that staff would have to come into work but, they would not be paid at all if they walked out. In essence a message saying “come in and work for free when you are not striking or be fired”. Our first response was “this surely can’t be legal, it is certainly not right”.
We know the Picturehouse and Cineworld are not above making threats to bully and intimidate staff out of their right to strike.
Let us not forget it was only in october they threatened to fire every last one of us. Only last May that they fired most likely illegally several of our union leaders. As such we take all these moves very seriously.
Cineworld announced this latest maneuver only days before the strikes were meant to start. There is some legal grounds for their move from a recent ruling in another strike, which may allow the employer this power in some circumstances. Without time to find a work around or to be 100% sure that the company would not be able to force us to come into work for free, it was felt by BECTU that the best course of action was to call off the strikes.
It must be remembered that the UK has developed one of the most restrictive anti-strike laws in the EU. We fight in many cases with a hand tied behind our back.
We are devastated that these strikes have been called off. We wanted them to go ahead and pushed as hard as we could for them to go ahead. On the upside we now have a huge warchest of fundraised money ready to declare new strikes with. Further we are reminded of the companies true nature and resolved now to win as much as ever.”
At Lee Hecht Harrison, where cleaners are demanding a living wage, strike action will be going ahead from Friday 26th on, and they’re inviting supporters to join them in a solidarity demo outside the building in the heart of London’s financial district from 4-7pm on that date. Their union, the UVW, is also inviting people to a social on Saturday Feb 3rd.
At the LSE, where cleaners organised through the UVW have been fighting for direct employment and equal treatment with other employees, it’s now been confirmed that all 250 cleaners will be directly employed from March 5th onward. You can read more about the campaign that led to this victory here. In their words:
“This historic achievement ended 30 years of outsourcing and lifted around 250 cleaners who were previously invisible and voiceless around campus, on to some of the best contracts of employment in the country for any group of workers.
Thank you to everyone who supported the brave and inspiring cleaners of our union the United Voices of the World who, against all the odds and with no support from the recognised unions (bar an eleventh hour donation and motion of support from LSE UCU), won this historic fight by organising the largest cleaners strike in UK history at the time, plus the highest number of strike days of any group of outsourced workers in a UK University.
Please now support our brothers and sisters from the IWGB Union fighting the same fight at Senate House.”
And, on that note, strike action will be going ahead at Senate House on Thursday 25th, where security officers and receptionists are asking people to join them on the picket line from 2pm and for a demo at 6. It seems like these workers are also approaching a victory, having heard that:
“We heard back yesterday from the University of London, who are currently conducting a review of all of their outsourced services.
They announced that they have narrowed down the options they will present to the Board of Trustees from seven to two.
The 2 options are:
MIXED ECONOMY – bring some of the contracts in-house
FULLY IN-HOUSE – bring all of the contracts in house!
This is another massive step forward for the campaign – since it began in September last year the University of London has completely shifted its position, from being committed to maintaining the status quo of contracting out all its soft and hard services to being on the verge of bringing everyone back in house!
The University will be surveying all staff in Feb, and then a final decision on which of these options to pursue will be taken in March by the BoT.
The IWGB’s position remains the same – the campaign will not stop until ALL WORKERS ARE BACK IN HOUSE!”