Argos Workers Strike Against Increased Weekend Working

Unite pickets outside Argos distribution centre

Unite pickets outside Argos distribution centre













On Friday 4th July, Argos workers at the depot near Whitwood took part in the 24-hour strike involving over 1,000 workers across five sites altogether.

Ben Mayor, Leeds Socialist Party

The dispute was over terms and conditions which will mean an increase in weekend working for workers on a 24/7 shift pattern.

At the depot there was a vibrant and enthusiastic picket of around 30 Argos workers. Workers are not prepared to accept the new terms and conditions being thrust upon them by the company, and are opposing a one-off payment to staff of £2,400 which is wholly inadequate in the face of such disruption to family life.

The union rep for the site commented on the huge amount of support that their struggle has received from the community and other workers. “No one is unaffected by what is going on, the bus drivers have a dispute over pay at the minute and this action will affect other depots as well”, she remarked.

She also commented: “If we had known the results of the public sector ballot earlier we would have come out together on the 10th of July”, when over one million public sector workers will be striking over pay and the onslaught of local authority cuts. This highlighted a clear desire amongst union members to organise coordinated action against the cuts, austerity and this government.

This fight is not over, and workers are prepared to continue action if this strike does not bring the employer back to the negotiating table.

Protesters Demand the Truth about Orgreave

Protesters gather opposite Wakefield IPCC office

Protesters gather opposite Wakefield IPCC office

On Friday 29th March around 100 protestors gathered outside the Northern Office of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) in Wakefield to voice their anger at the continuing cover-up of the truth of the police operation to break the National Union of Miners outside the Orgreave coaking plant just under 20 years ago.
The protest was organised by the Orgreave Truth and Justice campaign, and as their spokesperson, Barbara Jackson introduce the speakers, she commented on the IPCC had moved at a “snail’s pace” to review the events around Orgreave after South Yorkshire Police referred themselves to the IPCC under pressure in the wake of the Hillsborough inquiry. She also pointed out the limitations of IPCC, larfgely staffed by former police officers and unable to compel police officers to testify – she called for putting as much pressure on the IPCC as possible but also for a public inquiry.
There were a whole array of speakers, including many trade union activists from South Yorkshire, but most memorable was an NUR member at the time who explained the solidarity that rank and file railway gave to the miners in refusing to move coal as well as Kevin, a Doncaster Care UK striker who had also been one of the miners arrested at Orgreave.
Protesters holding Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign posters

Protesters holding Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign posters

One of the NUM banners on the protest

One of the NUM banners on the protest

Care UK striker Kevin addresses the crowd

Care UK striker Kevin addresses the crowd

Yorks ambulance workers strike again

Unite pickets outside Wakefield Ambulance station

Unite pickets outside Wakefield Ambulance station

On 1 February, Unite members in the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust took part in a further 24-hour strike as part of their long-running dispute.

Iain Dalton

Unite members outside the Wakefield depot remained determined in their fight to force the Trust to re-recognise the union and stop the savage cuts which are currently taking place.

Meanwhile, more Unison members, frustrated at the union’s continued inaction in opposing the cuts, the latest being attacks on lunch breaks, are going over to Unite.

Terry Cunliffe, Unite regional officer, spoke to the Socialist:

“My understanding of Unison’s position is that for the last 12 months they have regionally supported Unite’s campaign for re-recognition.

“I have to say the local branch are not following that mandate and in fact have spoken openly, hostilely about the re-recognition of Unite.

“They don’t support us in the way that they promised at the TUC, the local branch activists are actively against our re-recognition.

“Unison have gone round the stations supporting the management plan, they have balloted their members and I have heard them, speaking about their ballot result. 70% of their members don’t agree with their branch position, rejecting the management proposal.

“As far as I am concerned, this completely vindicates the decision that we made to campaign and fight against these cuts.

“They are dangerous to patients and dangerous to our members, and Unison members feel the same. I’m hoping the Unison branch takes that mandate and joins the fight against these cuts.”

A further four-hour strike is taking place on 3 February to mark a year since the union was de-recognised by the former Trust chief executive.

Yorkshire Ambulance: The battle against union derecognition

Protesters outside the Yorkshie Ambulance Service HQ

Protesters outside the Yorkshie Ambulance Service HQ

Around 40 Unite members and supporters protested outside Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) headquarters near Wakefield on 3 September.

The protest, outside an extraordinary board meeting of the trust, demanded the re-recognition of Unite as well as full training of Emergency Care Assistants (ECA) to the level of technicians with the correct rate of pay for that job.

Debbie Wilkinson, YAS Unite branch secretary explained that: “The Trust say they derecognised us because we weren’t constructive during the initial stages of the review”.

In other words Unite didn’t roll over and accept the imposition of staff who have only been through a few weeks’ training to crew ambulances instead of technicians or paramedics with much longer training periods.

ECAs earn less than technicians and paramedics. This attack on patient safety as well as the jobs of ambulance service staff is part of a £46 million package of cuts.

Debbie also pointed to the irony of the Trust derecognising Unite for raising concerns over patient safety at around the same time as the Francis report into Mid Staffs NHS Trust advocated that NHS staff should do just that!

The battle continues in YAS NHS Trust with a further protest organised for 24 September at 8.30am outside Cutler’s Hall, Church Street, Sheffield, S1 1HG. The branch can also be followed on twitter @UniteYASmembers.

Mid Yorkshire Unison Strike Fund Gig

Mid Yorks Unison Strike Fund Gig Flyer

Standing firm in Mid Yorks hospitals pay cuts battle

The following article featured on the Socialist Party’s main website is written by Alistair Tice one of our regional organisers.

Admin and clerical Unison and Unite members at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust have been fighting back against ‘downbanding’ ie pay cuts. But since their three-day strike action ended on 22 November management have still not actually downbanded any staff.

The Trust proposals mean pay cuts of between £1,700 and £2,800 a year on over 350 medical secretaries, receptionists and other admin staff employed at Dewsbury, Pontefract and Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield. Over 40 posts have also been axed through voluntary redundancy and a ‘Mutually Agreed Resignation Scheme’.

The Trust tried to bully workers into signing up to the pay cuts with the threat of dismissal and redundancy over Christmas and New Year but they failed miserably. Two reps have been subjected to disciplinary action in separate incidents on spurious grounds. But the union refused to hold any negotiations with management whilst these two reps face disciplinaries. The first was dropped without any action being taken before Christmas and now the second has also been dropped without going to a disciplinary hearing. The union has been told that no further action will be taken against strike activists. Unison has told the Trust that if any ‘dismiss and reengagement’ letters are sent giving notice of downbandings they will immediately call further escalated strike

Last week a manager sent out letters to some medical secretaries. The full time union official emailed management telling them of the intention to call a week-long strike. Management withdrew the letters saying they were sent out without their knowledge! Unison is beginning a consultative ballot of the rest of the Unison branch members in other departments who are threatened with downbanding. Then they could move to a formal ballot when the timing is right. The correctness of this approach to management’s threats is shown by the Mid Yorks Unison branch recruiting 200-300 new members since the beginning of the dispute.

Mid Yorkshire Health admin staff ballot for strike

Over 500 admin and clerical staff working for Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust are being balloted for strike action.

The strike is against the Trust’s plans to make up to 40 staff redundant and “down band” ie cut the pay of over 200 others. The Trust is trying to save £16 million in a desperate attempt to break even and achieve Foundation Trust status by 2014. Predictably the Trust board has opted to reduce staff numbers and cut the pay of some of its lowest paid and mainly female workers.

The workers being balloted include medical secretaries, waiting list coordinators, cancer admin and reception staff working at Dewsbury, Pinderfields and Pontefract hospitals and clinics across the district.

If implemented, the pay cuts would be between £1,700 and £2,500 a year. The 25 redundancies in the Medical Secretarial department would have a direct impact on the service to the patients and have been opposed by consultants in some departments. Despite many requests from the trade unions the Trust has still to release the Clinical Impact Assessment it has carried out during the so-called consultation process.

Overwhelming support for action

If the Trust thought that it would have an easy time attacking the terms and conditions of these low paid women they have been shown to be mistaken. Over 150 attended a lobby of the Trust HQ prior to a negotiating meeting in August and in a Unison consultative ballot they voted by 95% for strike action and by 98% for action ‘short of strike’ action!

The anger of the workers has been strengthened by the revelation that while it was demanding job and pay cuts the Trust has spent over £3 million on private management consultants including £2.5 million to Ernst and Young since December last year.

Ernst and Young has been part of the Admin and Clerical review which recommended the job losses and pay cuts – no doubt in order to justify their inflated fees. Unison has called for the removal of Ernst and Young from the Trust and is demanding no compulsory redundancies and the withdrawal of the down-bandings. We are also calling for the nationalisation of the Mid Yorkshire PFI scheme which costs the Trust £40 million a year.

The ballot ends on 19 October and if the vote is yes the strike action will take place in early November.

Adrian O’Malley, Secretary, and Dave Byrom, Chair, of Unison, Mid Yorkshire Health (personal capacity)

This post as been cross posted from with photo’s taken by Iain Dalton, Socialist Party Regional Organiser.