UCU members have been out at the University of Bradford on Wednesday & Thursday as part of the national dispute over pay and casualisation. Despite the weather, a dozen pickets were present on the second day when Socialist Party members locally visited the picket line.
Iain Dalton, Socialist Party West Yorkshire Organiser
Many of the pickets talked about ongoing job reviews at the University which they believed were designed to cut staff pay, by making job descriptions more vague. Other pickets talked about how with the union they had challenged this procedure, in some cases forcing the university to recognise additional duties they were undertkaing and increase pay!
Tish, one of the UCU reps at the University, spoke to us about her concerns over education in general, including her local school which has been turned into an academy. The common theme in all the Tories plans for education, is increasing marketisation of the sector.
Despite on-off hailstorms, the mood remained buoyant during the second day of the strike by First West Yorkshire drivers and engineers at the Bowling depot in Bradford.
Iain Dalton, West Yorkshire Socialist Party organiser
Bradford bus station has been eerily quiet as First run the largest number of services from the station, yet only a handful, operating out of other depots, are running. Whilst I was present, a delivery driver (an ex-bus driver himself) refused to cross the picket line meeting huge cheers and applause from the strikers.
Hundreds of drivers manned the picket lines showing the tremendous support for the strike, officially against the transfer of the 576 service to Halifax depot with a loss of eight jobs, but in reality over deeper grievances with the company.
One shop steward explained to us how there used to be twenty spare buses for every hundred in use to maintain services with repairs, maintenance and breakdowns. Now there are as few as three, meaning that frequently buses services are cancelled altogether, leaving passengers waiting without knowing when a bus will turn up as well as increased passenger numbers on the services that still do run.
Shift lengths have increased, with new starters now doing twelve hour shifts on a lower pay rates. There have been 90 jobs gone and not replaced in the last four years to the extent that the services only function on overtime. A ban on this due to the strike, on Sunday meant a whole number of services didn’t run.
Given the close timing to the general election a number of local politicians came down to the picket line, including Respect MP George Galloway and local council leader David Green. Green said Labour would be re-regulating bus services, yet Metro had been discussing introducing ‘Quality Contracts’ for years and not moving forward with even this partial reform due to opposition of profit hungry bus operating companies.
The Socialist Party on the otherhand, whilst welcoming measures to check the profiteering of the bus companies, calls for the renationalisation of bus services, alongside all public transport. Operated under the democratic control of bus workers and services users, we could channel the money currently overflowing shareholders back pockets into investment in improving bus services, pay and conditions and letting fare prices.
Socialist Party members from Leeds and Bradford, including local TUSC candidate for Bowling & Barkerend Ian Slattery, visited the picket lines and sold several copies of the Socialist
Over 300 bus drivers, engineers and support staff in Bradford said ‘enough is enough’ and came out on a 48-hour strike on Monday 27 April that will have a massive impact on their privatised company.
Peter Robson, Bradford Socialist Party
On the picket line there were stories of brutal management tactics and bullying. Whatever the right-wing press say, this action is not just about a pay rise. One driver on the picket line said: ‘I was assaulted at work and the company would not even call the police, they were more interested in whether I could continue the journey to meet standards’!
He continued: ‘We have to stick together’ and commented further that some years ago there were 500 employees, now this has been reduced to less that 400 with the same amount of work.
Also the bus stock is very old with some of the buses now reaching the 15 year cut off and beyond, again, raising serious health and safety issues for drivers and the public alike. First West Yorkshire stand accused of allowing services to ‘wither on the vine’. As far as the workers are concerned, the depot is being allowed to run down with the intention of closing it in a city that already has way above the national average unemployment and poverty.
Rosters have been changed without any meaningful consultation, causing anger amongst workers that barely see their families as it is. So it is not difficult to see why this action has been taken. As well as giving our support to the struggle of these workers, Socialist Party members received a fantastic response to the TUSC leaflets we gave out. One worker finished his comments with: We will not go away, this is our future and our children’s!
We joined the pickets at Odsal fire station as the local church clock struck 6pm on all hallows eve, with blue watch descending from the station and spirits running high!
Some amazing stories were being told, one female member of staff said that in South Yorkshire a new computer system from the French government was bought that not only still assigns crews in French but has, I kid you not, attempted to dispatch a ‘pump’ from central Sheffield to a fire at Disneyland, Paris. Now call me old fashioned, but this, along with the current dispute over pensions and the general anti-austerity campaign that the FBU are having to run cannot lead to good morale in a service full of brave people that run into buildings on fire while we actually run away!
The station that we were outside has been reduced from three pumps to now one. Indeed, the crews were saying that it is possibly under threat of closure in the near future under a restructuring programme. Well, we know what that means, more voluntary firefighters and less service, putting the public at extreme risk.
In light of this, we set off for the second picket of the night where we met 15-20 pickets at the Fairweather Green station; not fairweather pickets though! Again, the same stories of management intimidation, people being suspended and the possibility of job losses and certainly a reduction in living wages.
That aside, it was good to join these workers that we should have the utmost respect for and must continue to support in their struggle against the attacks that have been inflicted upon them.
Peter Robson, Bradford Socialist Party
As students are most likely aware, the University and College Union (UCU) have planned a marking boycott that will commence on the 6th November. This will take place at all pre-92 universities, which includes Bradford University.
Bradford University Socialist Students fully support this boycott. Although the boycott may affect our education it is as a result of attacks by the university employers association on the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), the pension scheme of our lecturers and academic support staff.
UCU members don’t choose to take any form of industrial action lightly, whether striking or other forms of action such as marking boycotts. Failure to stop these attacks would see staff lose thousands of pounds in retirement, which are in effect deferred wages. The employers argue the USS is in deficit, although their figures exclude all future contributions into the scheme. In reality the scheme is surplus (to the tune of £42bn) and therefore such attacks are unnecessary.
Since the economic crisis and bank bailouts the gap between rich and poor has been growing ever wider. Although lecturers are perhaps not the worst paid in society, even these jobs are being replaced by short-term and zero hour contracts just like other sectors of society. Wages have also stagnated pushing the cost of living up for everyone. If these attacks are not resisted it would only increase USS members struggle in retirement and encourage further attacks on pension rights of all workers.
We support the right to strike and the right for unions to pressure their employers into providing decent jobs, working conditions and pensions, even if it does cause an inconvenience to our life or our education that we pay for.
After all, we pay for our education so we want the best lecturers, high morale amongst staff is essential for us to have the best learning experience. That’s why Socialist Students calls on you to support the boycott, and any upcoming strikes, and show solidarity with our lecturers and other university staff!
Jason Smith – Bradford Uni Socialist Students
Hmrc workers in Shipley had a well staffed picket line on Tuesday 24th of June as part of rolling strike action across the department against the latest attacks by their management.
This includes a vicious performance management system and a plan to ‘flexibly resource’ workers into contact centres to cover understaffing sure to their own cuts.
Whilst I was on the picket line one worker turned back and ARC members who weren’t on strike today stopped to offer their support. Pickets were enthusiastic about the prospect of coordinated strike action on July 10th and promised to be back with a bigger picket line then.
Socialist Party members also visited the picket lines at the two offices in Bradford which reported that the strike was particularly well supported