A protest march through Port Talbot defending steel jobs in February (Picture: Guy Smallman)

A strike ballot of 1,500 steel workers in the Unite union closed this week and the result was expected on Thursday.

The vote follows Tata corporation bosses’ decision to close its blast furnaces at the Port Talbot plant with the loss of 2,800 jobs.

Most of these are at Port Talbot but also at its Llanwern operation. Strikes are needed as soon as possible because the jobs massacre has already begun.

Recently Tata announced the immediate closure of its coke ovens. These ovens create the fuel that ultimately powers the blast furnaces.

As well as the people whose jobs are directly going, tens of thousands more in the areas around the plants will be hit.

Incredibly, the Tories are handing out half a billion pounds to Tata bosses to finance the move. There’s a lie that the cuts flow from “woke” green policies.

That’s because Tata is ending the current method of steel production, which involves making new steel in blast furnaces.

It will change to a new type of “electric arc” furnace which uses renewable electricity rather than fossil fuels to power the melting of scrap steel.

But that doesn’t have to mean devastation for working class people. It’s right to produce steel using methods that harm the environment least.

It’s right to move away from the polluting processes that presently dominate the industry.

But that ought to be done with workers at the centre of decision-making and not with profits dominating.

The unions have to fight for every job and for steel to be nationalised under democratic control.

Train walkouts are solid but Tories aren’t moving

Train drivers in the Aslef union struck for a day at 16 train companies from Friday of last week to Monday this week at different firms.

It was the latest phase of a pay battle that has dragged on for more than 20 months. Paddington, west London, picket Steve told Socialist Worker, “It might feel as if this is going on for ever, but the strikes show we aren’t giving in.

“The companies and the government need to get real and make the sort of offer we could ask Aslef members to look at.”

Other workers continue to offer solidarity. On the picket at Huddersfield station, Nick Ruff from Kirklees Unison handed over a branch cheque for £500.

Speaking at a picket line at London Euston station last Friday, Mick Whelan, Aslef’s general secretary, said he remained “an eternal optimist” about striking a deal, but that a new proposal without major changes to employment terms and conditions was needed.

“I’ve been in this for a long haul. So we aren’t going away,” said Whelan, adding that he was hopeful Labour would be “more receptive” to resolving the dispute if it won the coming general election.

But nobody should think Labour is going to shower workers with the cash they deserve. Aslef has called 14 one-day strikes since the first strike ballots went out in June 2022.

Had union leaders called an unlimited strike there would have been a settlement well before 14 days had passed.

Instead the fragmented and on-off strikes don’t move the Tories at all. The strikes have to escalate. 

LNER strike is scheduled as bosses renege on deals

Train drivers in Aslef plan to strike on 20 April at LNER in a dispute about the company’s persistent failure to comply with existing agreements.

This is separate from the pay fight at LNER and other companies.

Nigel Roebuck, Aslef’s full-time organiser in the north east of England, and lead officer for LNER, said, “Rail minister Huw Merriman has been leaning on the company to persuade every driver manager and driver instructor to work on strike days, effectively to provide a the minimum service level under the new anti-union laws without invoking the legislation.

“For passengers this has pitfalls as the route knowledge of the managers is limited. “And, if you happen to live on a branch line, or live north of Edinburgh, your service is sacrificed for main line routes as they scramble to hold a very basic service together.”

RMT UNION members at Carlisle Support Services are renewing their strikes over bosses’ alleged bullying and intimidating behaviour towards union members. Strikes were set for Monday and Saturday this week.

Action threat gain in Donny

The Unite union is claiming a big pay rise for more than 50 workers at Lucchini Unipart Rail’s Doncaster factory.

The workers were angry about a 4.5 percent pay offer for 2024 that came with strings attached around pay banding and multi-skilling arrangements.

After the threat of strikes and other action, the company increased the offer to an increase of 8 percent. Lucchini Unipart Rail is partnership between Unipart Group and Lucchini RS.

Unipart’s latest financial report shows its profits increased 27.1 percent in 2022 to £12.2 million. Lucchini RS’ latest financial report shows it made a net profit of 24.8 million in 2021.

Unite regional officer Debbie Wilkinson said, “Lucchini Unipart Rail’s clients, including Siemens & Hitachi Rail, would clearly not have been happy at the disruption these strikes would have caused.

The threat of action was very real, and the strikes were not called off lightly, until we were sure an offer was tabled that our members would accept.”

If a threat of action won 8 percent, going ahead with the strikes could have won more. 

Tube managers up for conditions battle

London Underground Customer Service Managers in the TSSA union were set to strike this week over unagreed changes to conditions.

The first strike was scheduled for Wednesday this week and was expected to continue for some shifts on Thursday.

Workers are anxious that the company’s Stations Changes plans will worsen their terms and conditions, job roles and locations.

The Aslef union called off a planned Tube strike this week. Union leaders said the key issues in a dispute had been resolved after talks with Transport for London.

Fight for equal pay across Eurostar

RMT union members working for Rail Gourmet on the Eurostar contract have scheduled strikes from 19 to 23 April over pay.

They voted 95 percent for action in a ballot. Outsourced workers are drastically underpaid compared to their fellow workers employed directly by Eurostar.

Strikes off however bus workers vote

The Unite union suspended strikes by bus workers at Arriva Northumbria after bosses made a new offer last week.

Drivers and engineers, angry at being the lowest-paid bus employees in the region, were due to strike on 7 April for a week and were asked to vote on the offer.

Unite said that “regardless of the outcome” of the ballot, strikes the following week had been called off.

Several days after the ballot concluded, there was still no news from Unite about the result.

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