Unite health strikers at Barts trust in December (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Strikers at the Barts NHS trust in east London plan to step up their action in the new year with more walkouts. Pathology and soft facility workers—laundry, maintenance and other staff—will be out from 29 January.

Pathology workers have decided to strike for a week in order to keep up pressure on management while talks take place. Other groups of workers previously involved in the strike may also join the action.

The hospital staff are known for their militancy, and the local Unite union has a string of important victories under its belt. Workers in laundry services have combined with porters, cooks and cleaners to demand they all be paid the government’s “Covid Bonus”.

They struck in the run up to Christmas and on Christmas Day and Boxing Day too. But recently new groups of workers have joined the long-running, multi-issue dispute. Pathology workers struck for two days before Christmas.

“We are the least likely pickets you’ll ever meet,” say laboratory workers Sarah and Dennis, who between them have more than four decades of work under their belts.

Sarah talks with pride about the service she helps provide. She talks about the patients whose lives she’s helped save.

Sarah says she’s in the job because she cares about the health service and patients. But there’s a deep frown on her face when she talks about the future, and the prospect of re- applying for her own job.

“I think it’s insulting,” she says. “I feel devalued and demoralised, but management say I should think of it as a ‘positive experience’.”

And being interviewed for the jobs they already do is only one part of the problem. Management also wants to rip up working patterns.

“At the moment there are separate day and night teams. People build their lives around that, their caring or childcare commitments. Now it’s all thrown up in the air. People are really worried about the future,” says Dennis.

Both Sarah and Dennis say that being on strike has opened their eyes. “The strike has brought us all together and empowered us,” says Dennis. “Yes, it shows we are not just going to roll over,” says Sarah. “Management is certainly not happy about us having a union now.”

Unite shop steward Zarina says that management have started to negotiate with the union, but that its slow work and the new action is crucial.

Across Britain there are scores of union branches that could learn from Barts. Every health worker should do a collection for the Barts strike and raise awareness of their battle.

· Some names have been changed. Please rush donations for the Barts strike fund to tinyurl.com/BartsFund

Bus drivers and engineers in pay fight at London Unite

Strikes by 350 bus drivers and engineers in west London went ahead on 21 December, as well as on 22 and 23 December.

The action started a day earlier than originally planned after workers rejected a 6.8 percent pay offer. One striker said, “They pay the shareholders but where’s our share? We are the bread and butter of the company.”

RATP-owned London Transit also attempted to reduce terms and conditions. This included removing a £500 a year meal relief payment and attacking arrangements for days off.

The latest offer only included extremely minor changes that did not include an increase in hourly pay. It takes workers seven years to reach the full rate of pay, even though at most other bus companies it only takes three years of service.

The workers are based at the Westbourne Park Garage and strikes impacted the 13, 23, 28, 218, 295, 414, 452 and N28 routes.

EIS strikes pay off

At the start of 2023 the Scottish government and college employers set out to break EIS-Fela, the FE lecturers’ union in Scotland.

The government provocatively removed £26 million that had been already committed to already slashed college budgets and gave the employers a green light to flout their no compulsory redundancy commitment which operates across Scotland’s public sector.

There has been no pay rise since 2021 and the derisory offer that was dangled was openly tied to compulsory job losses. Then the principals of the two biggest colleges in Scotland, City of Glasgow and Edinburgh, announced a programme of job cuts.

There could only be one response—all out indefinite action. It was not easy and took all year but months of striking has brought hard-won victories on three fronts.

At Edinburgh management had refused to redeploy lecturers to other lecturer jobs but is now doing that. The new round of compulsory redundancies that had been threatened has now been dropped. 

In Glasgow, 86 percent of EIS-Fela members have just backed a settlement to their strike. The string of compulsory redundancies imposed have been rescinded and replaced with either voluntary severance or re-employment.

Nationally the employers have taken back their plan to link any pay rise to job cuts and agreed there should be no compulsory redundancies due to a pay rise. 

A lot of work lies ahead. The pay offer is still inadequate and EIS-Fela is balloting for action this year. Unison union support staff have already had an impressive ballot result over that issue.

A year ago a dark shadow of compulsory redundancies was cast right across Scottish FE. It has dissipated because determined industrial action was taken. Savage funding cuts are still in prospect and so the fight must go on in the New Year.

Donny Gluckstein

More strikes planned by Pensions Regulator workers

PCS union members at The Pensions Regulator (TPR) in Brighton will take 12 more days of strikes in January and February.

They are continuing to fight over pay. They have already taken 36 days of strikes since 5 September, finishing their most recent two weeks of action on 14 December.

TPR bosses have imposed a 3 percent pay uplift, far below the rate of inflation.

Action is set for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of next week, and then 16, 17, 18, 24, 25, 26, 30 and 31 January and 1 February.

An eight-day strike planned for Merseyside’s fire control room has been called off following last-minute negotiations between the FBU union and bosses.

FBU members had voted 100 percent to strike on a turnout of 92 percent last year and were set to walk out from 27 December.

Under pressure, fire service management agreed a new duty shift system with a pay uplift of £6,880 per year. Staff will also be compensated if they agree to change shifts at short notice.

Library workers in south east London are planning strikes after bosses at Greenwich Leisure Limited failed to offer an acceptable 2023 pay increase

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