Sunday, November 29, 2020

Safety Battle Won

 by New Worker correspondent

London’s bus drivers have won what has almost been a year-long battle to secure an improved air conditioning system on the buses. Unite, which represents over 20,000 London bus workers, say the changes will greatly reduce the risk of drivers being exposed to the COVID-19 coronavirus whilst driving because the new air conditioning systems ensure air entering the driver’s sealed cab comes directly from the outside and does not pass through the passenger area of the bus.
    The first concerns were aired (so to speak) in February to Transport for London (TfL) and the private operators, even before the first lockdown. They were backed up by a University College London (UCL) report on the exposure of bus drivers to COVID-19.
    Initially the installation of the new air conditioning system was due to be finished on all buses in January, but it has already been completed.
    John Murphy, the union’s lead officer for London buses, said: “This is a major victory in Unite’s continuing campaign to improve the safety of London buses during the pandemic.
    “Unite highlighted its concerns about the air conditioning system when the first cases of COVID-19 began to emerge and it was instrumental in ensuring the air conditioning was turned off and a replacement system introduced.”
    But he warned that: “While this was a positive development, Unite will not rest on its laurels and is continuously ensuring that drivers’ safety is maintained and improved throughout the second wave of the pandemic.”
    London bus drivers have been greatly affected by COVID-19, with 30 drivers having tragically died of the disease during the pandemic.

In the departure lounge

 By New Worker correspondent

At London City Airport in Docklands workers are up in arms about how they are being treated in the present crisis that has seen air travel drop to almost nil.
    The grievances include the lack of a fair and transparent system for implementing the airport’s current redundancy programme, concerns that long-term employees and union members were being unfairly selected for redundancy, incorrectly paying notice pay when workers are made redundant. In addition, bosses failed to halt the redundancy programme and furlough workers after the job redundancy scheme was extended until the end of March and using the Job Retention Scheme (JRS) to prevent potential employment tribunal claims.
    Their cause has been taken up by the Labour mayor of Newham Rokshana Fiaz, who has condemned Robert Sinclair, chief executive of the airport, for refusing to have a transparent redundancy process and for refusing to discuss matters with Unite the Union.
    Unite regional officer Mercedes Sanchez said: “It is to be hoped that senior management take heed of the growing disquiet about their actions and actively engage with Unite to ensure that workers are treated fairly during the redundancy process and their basic rights are not diminished,” warning: “If City Airport does not take account of this letter and does not alter its procedures then Unite will be forced to consider all legal and industrial options to defend its members.”
    The airport announced in September that it was making more than a third of its staff redundant and consultations began over up to 239 job losses in what it called a restructuring plan to safeguard its future.
    It now only has 17 routes and on Monday Logan Air announced it was transferring the vital Isle of Man to London route from the City Airport to Heathrow. It does not expect to get back to normal until 2024. In September Robert Sinclair claimed: “We have held off looking at job losses for as long as possible, but sadly we are not immune from the devastating impact of this virus.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Battle of the Thames

By New Worker correspondent


 An ongoing battle is being fought by IWGB street union at the University of Greenwich on behalf of outsourced security officers employed by French management services company Sodexo. They are demanding hazard pay, which has already been granted to White British porters, but not the majority Black security officers have been denied it.

 Pointing out that the Thames-side university boasts of having an inclusive reputation that it purports to have IWGB complain that security officers, mostly BAME, have taken on additional responsibilities during the pandemic, but have not received any hazard pay or a bonus. At the same time porters, also employed by Sodexo and, mostly white British, have received a £300.00 per month bonus for working during the pandemic.

 Sodexo is taking disciplinary action against a security officer, Kingsley Osadolor, after a student complained about him being prevented from entering a university building without a mask. The officer argues was following the procedures that were set out unclearly to him in an extremely difficult environment, but he is now facing the threat of dismissal and made to bear the blame for unclear procedures handed down by Sodexo and University management.     

 After security officers spoke out on social media about the disciplinary action against Kingsley, Sodexo insisted all security officers sign a conduct and social media policy, which includes restrictions on their abilities to speak publicly about issues at work, in direct contravention of their statutory rights.

 In June the new Vice-Chancellor of the University of Greenwich said: “We have a duty to do better. Equality, diversity and inclusion are founding principles of our institution and core beliefs of our students and staff”. The university has also launched a campaign on campus describing outsourced staff as “our heroes” in thanks for their work during the pandemic. But actions speak louder than words, the University has so far declined to intervene.

            Maritza Castillo-Calle, who chairs the IWGB University of London branch, said: “The University of Greenwich has failed to put adequate health and safety policies in place and has relied on outsourced staff to pick up the slack during the pandemic. To refuse to give majority Black security officers bonuses for this extra work in line with those paid out to other White British staff is pure discrimination”.

 Umar Monday Usifoh, a security officer at University of Greenwich said: “We have happily taken on extra work for the University of Greenwich during the pandemic because we know we play a vital role in keeping the university safe and secure. However, the threatened action against Kingsley has made all of us feel intimidated and less able to do our jobs. We are all Kingsley”.