It was a busy day for protest in London yesterday with different sets of workers trying to defend themselves against hostile management and shady work practices. A London wide bus strike, a 5 day strike at the National Gallery and a case at the Royal Courts of Justice
Firstly I’m at the Camberwell bus garages, not one garage but at least two, because of course London’s bus services have been privatised. That means that Transport for London (TfL) put the routes out to tender and bus operators bid for them. So now London has 18 different bus operators, 18 sets of management and 18 sets of shareholders.
Get on any bus in London and you pay the same fare, well it’s only right isn’t it. But London’s bus drivers, even with the same years of service, do not get the same rates of pay. HOW CAN THAT BE FAIR!
Transport for London is just one company and they manage buses in London. They say on their website “We manage one of the largest bus networks in the world, with around 8,500 vehicles in the fleet. Our subsidiary company, London Bus Services Ltd, plans routes, specifies service levels and monitors service quality. It is also responsible for 50 bus stations and 19,500 bus stops.”
Seems like the only thing TfL and London Bus Services Ltd don’t ‘manage’ is the rates of pay for drivers. Well there’s a surprise!
Then I popped by the Royal Courts of Justice where the disturbing practices of the Construction Industry in the UK are being highlighted. Here in Court 75 is David Smith. Mr Smith was working for Carillion, although he wasn’t because the construction industry doesn’t work like that, it uses sub- contractors, umbrella companies, contracting out etc anything to avoid directly employing someone. But why would they do that? Because the more distance you can put between you and an employer the less rights of employment that individual has and that is the sad result of privatisation in it’s many guises.
So back to Mr. Smith, Carillion (JM) Ltd admitted that they supplied information to the ‘Consulting Association blacklist’ about Mr Smith because he was a Safety Representative for the construction union, UCATT. This ‘blacklist was an illegal database shared by the major construction companies. Once on the list workers found it very difficult if not impossible to find work in the industry.
Mr Smith lost his original Employment Tribunal in 2012 because he was employed via an employment agency, (rather than working directly for the company) and only direct employees are protected by the employment law in question. There we go again, poke that empolyee as far away from your company as you can, the longer the stick the better.
The original Employment Tribunal judgment on the case concluded that Smith “…suffered a genuine injustice and we greatly regret that the law provides him with no remedy.”
So Mr Smith is fighting on. On 4 February 2015, in the Court of Appeal, John Hendy QC and David Renton argued that blacklisting is a breach of Articles 8 (Right to respect for private and family life) and 11 (Right to freedom of assembly and association) of the ECHR. Therefore if Smith is not protected by UK employment law, then UK law itself cannot be compatible with the Convention rights. They asked the Court of Appeal to agree a ‘declaration of incompatibility’.
Then a short cycle down the Strand and I’m in Trafalgar Square and you wonder why the staff at the National Gallery are fighting so hard to avoid there jobs being privatised. On the day before their current 5 day strike started they were at ACAS trying to resolve their issues, only to have union rep Candy Udwin, suspended on the eve of the action.
They have been campaigning to get the minimum wage (the gallery is the only major museum/gallery in the capital that doesn’t pay it) and we all no one way to avoid paying the minimum wage. Yes it’s our old friend ‘contract out’ , which is exactly what management at the gallery intend to do at the country’s second most visited major attraction.
The striking workers tried to deliver there 45,000 signature petition to the board of Trustee’s yesterday but they were too busy. Probably discussing how to remove chairs from the gallery rooms so that staff have to stand all day, please tell me that isn’t true!