Sunday, April 25, 2021

A subbotnik for the Soviet memorial

by New Worker correspondent

Russian expats returned to the gardens of the Imperial War Museum in London on Saturday to give the Soviet War Memorial a spring clean as part of an international subbotnik in honour of the 80th anniversary of the Great Patriotic War when Hitler’s hordes attacked the Soviet Union in 1941.
     Members of the Victory Volunteers movement and volunteers from the Russian House cultural centre spruced up the monument in south-east London that commemorates all those from the countries of the Former Soviet Union who died during the Second World War, also known as the Great Patriotic War in much of the former Soviet Union. Funded by public subscription in Britain and the Russian Federation, the memorial has become a focal point for people from all over the former USSR and the UK. Unveiled in 1999 the bronze abstract figure, designed by Sergei Sheherbakov, holds aloft a bell which will forever remain silent in memory of those who died.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Pickets out in force in London!

By New Worker correspondent

Pickets were out in force at RATP’s London United bus depot in Harlesden last week after peace talks broke down over proposed attacks on conditions and real terms pay cuts.
    The London United dispute is a result of RATP seeking to use the coronavirus pandemic as cover to slash the pay and conditions of drivers. Following four days of negotiations Management made an offer for the outstanding pay increases for 2019 and 2020 and also sought to introduce new contract clauses. The pay offer fell well below the expectations of members and the proposed changes to conditions had not been previously discussed, and as such Unite was unable to propose the offer to members at this stage.
     London United is owned by RATP which is RĂ©gie Autonome des Transports Parisiens, a French state owned company which has branched out from running most of the public transport in the Greater Paris area where it carried about 3.3 billion passengers per year before the pandemic.
     It presently operates in 13 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the United States, notably Texas, with 64,000 people, claiming to be the world’s fourth largest public transport company. Despite claiming that last year was one of successive crises the company’s turnover was £4,700 million. Christine Chardon, the chief executive of their London based operation, saw her pay dramatically increased from £196,000 to £363,000. Three cheers for equal pay!
     Originally both Stamford Brook and Hounslow Heath depots heavily voted for industrial action but turnout was too low to legally join the action already underway at London United’s five other depots at Fulwell, Hounslow, Park Royal, Shepherd’s Bush and Tolworth garages. These five depots were on strike on Wednesday and will be joined on the 16th by the two latest recruits. As a consequence they had to be re-balloted.
     Unite the union say negotiations broke down last week when the company’s proposed pay offers to resolve the 2019 and 2020 pay claims were well below expectations and at the same time Management also attempted to alter drivers’ contracts.
     Unite regional officer Michelle Braveboy welcomed the result saying: “This is a significant and welcome development, the strike action will now intensify.
     “The drivers who have been considered key workers throughout the dispute are rightly asking how on earth RATP believes it is acceptable to cut drivers' pay in real terms and undermine their conditions, when they have gone above and beyond the call of duty to keep London moving”.
     She concluding by lobbing the ball into RATP’s court by saying “If increasing disruption to bus services is to be avoided then RATP must make a significantly improved pay offer and end its attempts to undermine its workers’ conditions”.
     Other RATP subsidiaries such as London Sovereign have seen drivers reluctantly voting to accept a pay rise of 1.25 percent and a one-off payment of £500 which is only 0.5 per cent bigger than the first offer. Over at Quality Line drivers voted in favour of a pathetic one per cent pay rise. Why does Unite not coordinate its action across the whole of London or better still across the country?