Unite steel workers marching through Port Talbot (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Hundreds of steel workers and their supporters marched in Port Talbot and Newport in south Wales last Saturday as unions prepare for strike ballots against Tata company bosses.

Community union leaders say their reps have backed a strike vote and Unite says a ballot will begin on 1 March.

Protester Martin reports from Port Talbot, “Labour’s Stephen Kinnock and Vaughan Gething promised a better deal under Labour.

“The most enthusiastic reception was for Unite leader Sharon Graham who said, ‘Now is the time to fight and that the union has a substantial strike fund to back action.’

“Steel workers then marched through the streets chanting Union power.”

Tata wants to destroy 2,423 steel jobs across Britain, with 1,929 of those at Port Talbot.

Bosses plan to begin closure of the site’s blast furnaces soon. It will take real action to win.

Bosses have presided over a catastrophic fall in steel jobs, and union leaders have failed to challenge them effectively.

Workers have to push for a complete break from that approach.

It’s positive that the feeling from below is so strong that unions are talking about strikes.

Workers should organise to win the strike votes and to press for hard-hitting action as soon as possible.

The unions must fight for every job, for steel to be renationalised under democratic control and for environmentally-sustainable production.

It must not become just a token campaign that relies on Labour to deliver at some vague point in the future.

Train drivers’ action has to escalate

Train drivers in the Aslef union are set for strikes on 1 March and an overtime ban at two train companies— LNER and Northern—over their refusal to implement existing agreements.

These disputes are separate from the national pay dispute with 16 train operating companies— although LNER and Northern are two of those firms.

The last time there was a strike on LNER—which is run by the government— Rishi Sunak said he was disappointed bosses had not used new anti-strike laws against it.

This will now be another possible first use of the pro-boss legislation.

The battle over LNER bosses breaking agreements has been going on for nearly two years.

It started with members complaining about being constantly badgered for favours and noncompliance with rostering arrangements.

The company has been trying to run services without the right number of drivers to provide the service it has promised passengers and the government it will run.

LNER has used managers, paid £500 a shift, to drive trains on strike days, and after the expiry of the last non-contractual overtime agreement, on most days of the week now.

Drive There is no agreement in place for management to drive services on main line infrastructure.

The dispute at Northern centres around management failing to adhere to procedures and agreements on a variety of subjects including bullying, intimidation and gaslighting of union reps.

Train drivers have not had a pay rise for five years, and last week workers at five companies—Chiltern, c2c, East Midlands, Northern and TransPennine—voted overwhelmingly to renew their strike mandate.

The average vote for strikes was over 90 percent and the turnout over 70 percent.

Under anti-strike laws, unions have to re-ballot members every six months to see if they want to carry on with industrial action.

The votes demonstrate the workers’ mood to keep fighting. But the present level of strikes is too weak to shift the bosses and the Tories who stand fully behind the companies.

Aslef has called 14 one-day strikes during this 20-month dispute.

If the union had launched an all-out strike at the start, it’s guaranteed there would have been a deal before 14 days were up.

Asda fight is spreading

A strike wave is beginning at Asda stores across Britain. Workers in the GMB union at three Asda stores are currently voting on whether to strike.

The ballots opened on Friday last week at stores in Wisbech in Cambridgeshire, Brighton Hollingbury, and Brighton Marina.

This comes after workers took to picket lines at the store in Gosport earlier this month.

There were strong picket lines in Gosport, with around 100 workers walking out for a one-day strike.

Asda workers are demanding changes, including cuts in hours, better health and safety and changes to training.

They also want the GMB union to be recognised, have the right to negotiate pay and conditions, and for the company to resolve equal pay issues.

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