There’s a wave of strike action sweeping the UK this week. From public transport workers to hospital staff via couriers, people are taking action against bad employers. But what are these strikes all about? And are there victories workers can look to for inspiration in their fight for their rights?
Teaching strike with a victory thrown in
their employer, United Learning, not paying teachers at the correct pay band, giving them additional leadership and management responsibilities but not paying them for this with ‘Teaching & Learning Responsibility Payments’ (TLRs), workload issues, high levels of bullying and unequal treatment of staff.
Examples of the appalling treatment allegedly include United Learning denying one permanent teacher maternity pay. There’s hope for the staff, though; the NEU recently won changes for its staff at another academy trust after it and its members threatened to strike.
University strike… and a victory, too
University staff across the UK are also striking. They’ve walked out over pay, pensions, and working conditions. Since 2009, the University and College Union (UCU) says bosses have cut staff pay by 25% in real terms due to “below inflation pay offers”.
On Tuesday 22 February, bosses confirmed that staff would also typically see a 35% cut to their pensions. The UCU strike has seen over 50,000 staff at 68 unis walk out in recent weeks. Starting on 28 March, staff at 27 unis were on strike.
UCU and its members have also recently won a victory. They threatened strike action, and got Sheffield International College to improve their pay and holiday allowance.
A victory for workers at an infamous hospital
Great Ormond Street is a world-famous children’s hospital, but bosses are giving outsourced security staff an unhealthy deal. The United Voices of the World (UVW) union has been supporting them. It says the staff:
are denied the same annual leave, sick leave, and career progression as other NHS workers.
UVW calls this a “two-tier system“. But bosses are battering the striking workers. They got a court to place an injunction on the strike. This means staff could be fined or jailed for taking action outside the hospital:
But there is hope for the security staff; UVW Union and its members already won a victory at GOSH. Outsourced cleaners threatened industrial action, and managed to force GOSH to change them all onto NHS contracts.
Striking couriers, bus staff and more
Meanwhile, delivery couriers have been on strike too. It’s the longest-running UK gig economy one. The Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB) union has been supporting them. It involves people who work for Stuart Delivery, a subsidiary of DPD, which provides couriers for JustEat. In December 2021, it cut workers’ pay, slashing their delivery rates by 24%. This means couriers get a minimum of £3.40 per delivery, down from £4.50. Over at Fox’s Glacier Mint, workers are striking over fire and rehire tactics.
In the south, the GMB Union’s southern branch is fighting on several fronts. Bin workers at Adur and Worthing council are striking over pay and conditions. Outsourced security staff at Croydon University Hospital are also threatening action over pay and conditions. Also, Unite the Union members walked out on 28 and 29 March at bus depots across South London – once more over pay and conditions. The workers brought 30 bus routes operated by Arriva to a halt. In Manchester, Unite workers are striking at CHEP UK, a pallet-making company.
Again, local strikes have seen victories. Bin workers in Wiltshire just won a pay rise. An ongoing dispute in Glasgow over the city council’s pay discrimination against women appeared to see the impasse begin to be broken. And workers have called off a bin strike in Solihull after council bosses met their demands.
Wins are possible
What many of these actions show is that workers can win against public bodies and private corporations. Of course, the key to victory is solidarity and unity – and these strikes have loads of that.
The Canary stands with these workers – and we’d ask our readers to do the same.
Featured image via Gary Palmer
We know everyone is suffering under the Tories - but the Canary is a vital weapon in our fight back, and we need your support
The Canary Workers’ Co-op knows life is hard. The Tories are waging a class war against us we’re all having to fight. But like trade unions and community organising, truly independent working-class media is a vital weapon in our armoury.
The Canary doesn’t have the budget of the corporate media. In fact, our income is over 1,000 times less than the Guardian’s. What we do have is a radical agenda that disrupts power and amplifies marginalised communities. But we can only do this with our readers’ support.
So please, help us continue to spread messages of resistance and hope. Even the smallest donation would mean the world to us.