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Workplace news in brief
Defend NHS pay
Nurses could strike if the Tories' talk of a "seven-day NHS" results in attacks on unsocial hour and weekend working payments, according to the leader of the Royal College of Nurses (RCN), Dr Peter Carter.
The RCN has never taken strike action before, so this warning indicates the anger that exists among nurses. NHS employers have already made proposals to cut out-of-hours payments before the election.
Other NHS unions, including Unite and Unison, took strike action over pay between October 2014 and January 2015, until action was called off, though little was won.
NHS workers will hope that all health unions put up a serious fight to defend unsocial hour rates that many need to get by on; especially following years of pay freezes or below-inflation wage increases.
National Gallery workers in the PCS union are continuing their campaign against privatisation with a ten-day strike starting on 26 May following the gallery's sacking of a union rep.
Campaigners occupied the gallery on 15 May after Candy Udwin was sacked after being accused of "breaching commercial confidentiality" - in reality for her role in opposing the planned gallery sell-off.
Workers at the gallery are also calling for it to pay at least the London living wage of £9.15 an hour to all employees.
The PCS is holding a national rally outside the London gallery at Trafalgar Square on 30 May from 1pm, with speakers including PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka and director Ken Loach.
Kone lift engineer service workers from Gateshead, Chertsey, Keighley and Warrington have agreed to escalate their strike.
Strikers are angered by Kone's intention to cross reference workers' time sheets and use unreliable tracking devices as disciplinary tools.
At Gateshead's picket line we were told that the strikers' union, Unite, had forwarded an eight-point proposal to Kone management on 4 May with the intention of resolving the dispute. By the 18 May strike, Kone management had still not responded to Unite's proposals.
A Unite rep said: "After consulting our stewards and members the national negotiating committee agreed to escalate the industrial action to an all-out stoppage from 26 May until 9 June."
Support is still strong for the Barking and Dagenham council drivers striking for another 22 days. Refuse, caretakers, grounds maintenance, graffiti removal drivers and other GMB unionised drivers are all out.
The London council claims it is simply reducing overtime by £1,000 per year, but on the picket line the drivers told the Socialist: "It's not overtime, it is a contractual payment. What right has the council to take it off us?
"We've had no pay rise for several years, suffered a pay freeze, and now they just want to walk in and take £1,000 out of wages! How low can they go?"
Keith Williams, GMB senior organiser, said: "It's like Groundhog Day. We are just waiting for the council to bring in Acas and get back round the table." The council unsuccessfully attempted to use agency workers to break the strike, union members said, which is illegal.
In The Socialist 20 May 2015:
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