The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 23rd December 2016

Winter of discontent

by Daphne Liddle

THE WORKING class is fighting back; at last thousands of workers throughout the country have been taking strike action — or are planning it — against shrinking wage packets, job cuts, safety cuts and generally awful conditions.

The Southern Rail dispute has been going on for months — the fight to defend the role of properly trained guards on trains after Government transport official said he wanted a “punch up with the unions”, that train drivers were muppets and that he would starve them back to work.

The RMT have been staging strikes for months in this dispute and have no intention of backing down.

They know that the Government is behind the dispute trying to get the train operating companies to do away with guards on trains.

Now that dispute has escalated as the train drivers’ union Aslef has joined the fray and the two unions together have brought Southern Rail services to a complete halt for many days at a time.

Meanwhile Post Office workers have been striking for five days this week in the run-up to Christmas in a dispute over threats to cut even more Crown Post Offices.

The Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) delivered an unmistakable message to the Government on Monday, the first of five days on strike, mounting a high-profile protest outside the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS — formerly known as BIS) in central London.

And this dispute is the reason why our subscribers will probably be reading this paper later than usual.

Just yards from Westminster Abbey and Parliament Green, the CWU delivered, amid great fanfare, over 75,000 postcards signed by members of the public protesting at the latest wave of Crown Office closures that the union believes place the future of the entire post office network — including sub-post offices — at stake.

CWU general secretary Dave Ward said: “Last week we offered to suspend this strike action and all we wanted in in exchange was an agreed agenda for talks and a suspension of closure announcements — because, mark my words, they are going to announce further high street closures in early January.”

Over 1,500 airport staff employed by Swissport who are members of the union Unite took two days strike action this week at airports across the country.The check-in staff, baggage handlers and cargo crew, walked out for 48 hours on Friday in a long-running pay dispute, and plans to seriously erode terms and conditions. Unite called on the management to take part in constructive negotiations under the auspices of the conciliation service, Acas in a bid to avoid Christmas travel disruption at Britain’s airports.

Unite members voted by 62.5 per cent to reject a 4.65 per cent three year pay deal for 2015-2017, which the union argues, is barely keeping pace with inflation. The staff are also angry that detrimental changes to terms and conditions have been linked to the pay deal.

Argos delivery drivers are on strike after voting by 83 per cent for strike action in a dispute over the company’s failure to pay them holiday pay that has been owed now for two years.

Workers at the Hackney Picture House in east London are striking for the London living wage, maternity, paternity and sick pay, which the company “Cineworld” has flatly refused to negotiate.

The workers on the Woolwich Ferry are balloting for a strike over unacceptable bullying by management.

Workers do not take strike action lightly or frivolously but workers in this country have lost so much in wages, job security and conditions over the last three decades that these actions are more than overdue.

We wish them all success in their fight for justice, safety at work and fair pay.