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(en) Freedom 6319 5th Oct. 2002 - Industrial News

From FreedomCopy@aol.com
Date Thu, 24 Oct 2002 08:30:01 -0400 (EDT)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

The unions are sabre-rattling over the government's
Private Finance Initiative (PFI). The Labour Party
conference this week was expected to see an
unprecedented show of unity among four of Britain's
largest unions. The TGWU, Unison, Amicus and the
GMB were all due to back a motion calling for a halt to
PFI projects until their efficiency is assessed.
The GMB and T&G were also planning to threaten
industrial action if the companies who run
contracted-out council services don't match recent pay
increases won by council staff through strike action.
It's clearly unfair that a refuse worker employed by the
council gets a pound an hour more than one employed
by a contractor doing exactly the same work.

While anarchists welcome the increased militancy of
unions, we need to be cautious. Union bosses' main
concern is to keep their members and to see Labour
re-elected next time round. Their opposition to PFI
will melt away if they can get a deal that means
companies taking on privatised services would have to
continue negotiating with them.

This has already happened in the NHS, where Unison
has tried to stitch up a deal with the Department of
Health to ensure that staff in contracted-out services
keep their NHS terms and conditions. In return,
Unison have made little fuss about the privatisation of
health services. The same will happen elsewhere.
Don't be fooled.  Union militancy is strictly limited.

Activists in the fire brigade said last week that the
government was treating people's lives with
'contempt', after it emerged that 3,000 troops had been
stood down from emergency fire duties to prepare for
war in the Middle East. Members of the Fire Brigades
Union (FBU) said the change, announced on 27th
September, would leave just 9,000 soldiers on duty to
cover 52,000 civilian firefighters if, as expected, a
national strike over pay begins later this month.
Officials from the Ministry of 'Defence' insisted the
troops would be replaced, but firefighters said the
replacements would be raw recruits without even the
basic training possessed by the soldiers they'd replace.
The ballot for strike action closes on 18th October,
and the first action could take place as early as 5th

The revelation that the government is withdrawing
soldiers from firefighting duties came just days after
2,000 firefighters received massive public support as
they marched through Birmingham. Shoppers clapped
as marchers entered the city's Victoria Square on 23rd
September. Opinion polls have shown consistently
high public support for the 40% pay rise demanded by
the FBU.

¥ Chief fire officers are being awarded monster pay
rises of over £20,000, the FBU complained on 20th
September, even as they try to hold down firefighters'
pay. In one case, the boss of the Strathclyde brigade
was awarded a rise of £22,400, more than an ordinary
firefighter's basic wage.

Amid much acrimony, bosses at rail operators First
North Western (FNW) have announced that talks with
drivers' union ASLEF have broken down. The union
has announced that drivers with FNW will continue
their series of 48-hour strikes. While previous
stoppages had centred on fortnightly actions on
Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the new series of weekly
strikes are set to run on Saturdays and Sundays,
starting on 28th September and due to end on 24th

The actions will be coupled with a rest-day ban. This
will result, by the bosses' estimates, in at least 180
train services not running on any given day. All of this
is in addition to the stoppage of all train services twice
a week.

The original strike action by FNW drivers was
intended to affect the Commonwealth Games in
Manchester earlier this year, but after government
intervention in the form of Two-Jags Prescott, the
action was suspended.

Bosses at FNW have since been insisting that a deal
was brokered and should be adhered to. Drivers and
their union reps have pointed out that no deal was
agreed, only the suspension of strike action as an act
of good will. As with any good will shown to the
bosses and their state cohorts, it's been used against
the workers involved. Managers have tried to slip in
extra conditions, to do with menial duties and periods
of notice.

But in this particular class battle, workers are having
the last laugh. The strike action this week looked set to
seriously disrupt Labour Party members travelling to
their conference in Blackpool. So, some egg on the
face for the bosses and a well-aimed left hook for Two
Jones the Steam

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