Royal Mail Putting Profit before Health: Posties Fight Back

There is growing anger among postal workers regarding the lack of safety and infection control provisions within Royal Mail. In some places, postal workers have already staged walkouts, showing the bosses that they won’t be sacrificed for profit.

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EIS-FELA Lecturers Win Pay Deal

A deal has been reached in the Scottish further education lecturers’ campaign for pay rises, after months of negotiations and several days of strike action. The EIS Further Education Lecturers’ Association (EIS-FELA) recommended for its members to accept the latest offer from Colleges Scotland, the organisation representing Scottish colleges in the dispute. Results from the ballot show that 88% of members accepted the offer.

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DPD driver’s death demonstrates brutality of precarious work

By Alex Johnson, IMT Edinburgh

Recent figures show unemployment to be at 4.5%, the lowest seen since the 1970s. When we take a moment to examine this figure more closely, however, we find that it isn’t the cause for celebration the Tories would have us believe.

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Strike Threats Pressure Holyrood Budget

By Marios Kalomenopoulos, IMT Edinburgh

The political situation in Scotland has been rather quiet, recently, however this superficial stability hides important changes that are developing below the surface. The unions response to the proposed budget from the SNP government is one such expression.

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Battle for Bifab: The Return Bout

By Tam Burke, IMT Edinburgh, Prospect, Personal Capacity

Compared with Catalonia, South Africa or the USA, political life in Scotland for most of last year hardly set the heather on fire. Then in November came the Battle for BiFab when the workers made headlines with their successful fight for the wages they were due. A dispute last November between their employer, Burntisland Fabrication (BiFab), and its customer, Seaway Heavy Lifting (SHL), over what payment was still due, threatened the closure of the three yards, Burtisland and Methyl in Fife and Arnish, Isle of Lewis. BiFab said they’d no money coming in to pay wages, so 1400 workers would be laid off. There was no likelihood of the yards reopening. “A hammer blow to BiFab workers and communities in Fife and the Isle of Lewis” declared Gary Smith, GMB Union organiser. SHL said it’d paid BiFab on time in line with the contract. BiFab sought a Notice of Administration, giving just ten short days to find a solution before the yards fell silent. Shocked politicians at every level and of all parties condemned, denounced, exclaimed, wailed, complained and proclaimed that somehow it must not happen, but without any mitigation of the catastrophe.

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Bifab Workers March on Parliament

by Tam Burke

Several hundred workers, some with their families, from the BiFab (Burntisland Fabrication) energy engineering company marched down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile on Thursday, 16th November to the Scottish Parliament demanding action to save 1,400 jobs under threat and payment of their wages. They are still working even though the company says it can’t pay any more wages. This is due to Dutch owned Seaway Heavy Lifting(SHL) refusing to pay for their order of jackets for marine wind  turbines. SHL cite “production problems and cost overruns” by BiFab. This news came out of the blue to workers, union leaders and Government ministers. There is anger at the callous disregard for the livelihoods under threat. The wider community beyond that depends on the spending of BiFab workers will also be badly hit.

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Scottish Government’s Cuts to Produce Industrial Action in Schools

By Tam Burke, Edinburgh

A big FAIL mark was given by teachers in Scotland to the Scottish Government just after the Tories’ general election humiliation. The AGM of the EIS (Educational Institute of Scotland, the teachers union) unanimously agreed to prepare a campaign to restore salaries which have been severely cut by the continual 1% pay cap. If negotiations fail to achieve this for next year’s pay settlement, a ballot will be held for industrial action, including strikes, beginning at the start of the 2018-19 academic year.
Teachers have had enough of 1% pay increases which, as for all other workers, mean a pay cut when rises in prices and contributions paid by workers for national insurance and pensions are accounted for. The union’s fair pay settlement is set at 20% for the 2017 pay rise. This is a result of the long running cap public sector pay which has seen their pay fall by a similar figure over several years. The teachers’ mood is hardening.
This year has seen two periods of EIS Further Education College members taking action with rallies, strikes, picket lines and support from students causing disruption. The action was suspended after a deal brokered by the Scottish Government. It may resume if it is not implemented following the announcement on 12th June that several Councils cannot afford to pay staff the amount agreed. Workers in education are under pressure due to unrelenting cuts in spending. Staff must stand united in fighting back against the SNP Government and remind Nicola Sturgeon of her stated principle that “education is at the heart of our plans and I am committed to doing all I can to improve the life chances of every child and young person.”
The reality is the Scottish Government is bending the knee to the Tory Government by passing on the cuts to councils to do their dirty work, destroying services and hope. Then Jeremy Corbyn came along to inspire belief in the fightback against the Tories and that austerity can be brought to an end.
The GTCS (General Teaching Council for Scotland) reported that in 2016 86% of its members reported increased workloads, 19 % had a decrease in workload satisfaction and 54% would not recommend teaching as a job. Implementation of a new curriculum, without sufficient preparation, has resulted in even more stress as teachers struggle to cope to do their best for their pupils. The SSTA (Scottish Secondary Teachers Association), the other teachers’ union, held their 2017 conference under the theme “Put pupils first – give teachers time to teach”. The question is how best to achieve that decent aim? In October 2016 SSTA members , on a 40% turnout, voted 91% for industrial action short of strikes, over issues such as extra hours workload, the failure to provide supply teachers to cover shortages and for more training time. The SSTA welcomed the Scottish Government’s pledge last year to provide modern school buildings, but stated “fundamentally the teacher in the classroom is the most important educational resource.”
The GTC found a lack of job share provision by employers for staff with families, that teachers on a three day week felt it equalled five days with the extra time need to cover vacancies that would not be filled due to cuts. A lack of permanent jobs means staff look elsewhere for work, not necessarily in Scotland or in teaching. The SSTA has highlighted the 1819 teaching posts lost between 2010 and 2016 due to the Tory Government’s cuts in money to councils for services, including education. This loss increases the workload of those left behind. This is the same reported for workers in the NHS. We support all public sector unions fighting together to defend public services and improve pay and conditions across the board.
Ultimately the Tory Government and capitalism are to blame. However, with only verbal opposition by the SNP Government rather than practical defiance in refusing to carry out cuts, it’s no wonder EIS members are preparing for strike action if negotiations fail. Larry Flanagan, EIS General Secretary, stated to the AGM delegates that they were the key to victory, to encouraging members to support a ballot and to work for its acceptance. He reminded the AGM that under the Tory trade union legislation, every abstention counted as a no vote. The role of local reps and the active rank and file members are key to building members’ confidence to succeed. This struggle with the Tories involves the conditions of all workers in education, so requires widening the struggle to include joint action as “divided we beg, united we win”.
The teaching unions are non-party political, but undoubtedly many members are encouraged by the move to the left by a Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn. The fightback will more and more lead teachers to draw increasingly political conclusions. Only by taking the means of running of society out of the hands of the tiny minority whose self interest curtails educational spending and achievement and putting it in the hands of the workers under public ownership can we ensure a properly funded and well rounded education system