Union-made column

Standing up room only

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Thousands of bus workers across London have been part of a defiant fight against the privatised bus companies.

The roots of the militancy can be traced back to November 2006 when Metroline drivers took on the employers and won after two days of strike action. It proved that drivers didn't need to be afraid of standing up to their employers. It was like a burst of fresh air that was long overdue.

Finding our voice

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On occasion I get mail (some of it signed) telling me to stick to union issues and stay out of politics.

But what a hospital cleaner, tanker driver or civil servant gets paid compared to, say, a commodities trader or chief executive of a bank is political. And the government's policy of holding down public sector wages in a time of rampant inflation has made it doubly so.

The TUC Congress this year was characterised by a sense of crisis, with many thinking Labour would lose the next election. This raised questions about how to respond and whether alternatives to Labour were possible.

Tube cleaners: a strike for freedom

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I was an activist from a young age. As a student in Nigeria I was secretary of the national students' organisation in my university. I had a political background - I lived with a political uncle and he was my inspiration.

When I came to England, and into the cleaning industry at London Underground (LU), the first thing I found was that the cleaners were predominantly black. That was a motivation, seeing what they were being subjected to. It reminded me of my background.

I got involved and felt I could be part of the struggle. I saw it as a set of people under slavery. It was not just about the money but their oppressive situation, and I felt there was a need for liberation.

United we stay

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The PCS civil service workers' union conference last month may turn out to have been the most significant in the union's ten year history.

It was characterised by unity and consideration of the extremely difficult industrial and political circumstances we, and the rest of the public sector, face. Our activists have been engaged in an extended period of struggle over the past few years. We have upheld our principles of solidarity, unity and, crucially, independence from the political establishment. And we have shown that they work.

Calling for recognition

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Every night, all around the country, in the 21st century factories known as call centres, some 750,000 workers will breathe a collective sigh of relief as they get the signal that their shift has finally come to an end.

The signal to stop work in the call centre I work in is a manager flicking the main switch off and on - "flashing the lights".

It's a moment of glee as workers are released from the monotony of repeating themselves for hours and the stress of attempting to convince someone to part with a slice of their wages or pension. At that moment, we can all relax. Or perhaps not.

UCU strike ballot: Time to pay up

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Some 45,000 Further and Adult Education lecturers in the University College Union (UCU) are being balloted for strike action over pay alongside teachers on 24 April.

Some may say that there is nothing unusual about that when lecturers in this sector have probably taken more one-day strikes over the past 15 years than most workers. However, this time it is different.

We are used to getting insulting pay deals, but like other public sector workers this year we face a pay cut. Lecturers have seen principals' pay rise 50 percent faster than theirs since 2002. Last year we were offered 2.5 percent. On average, principals awarded themselves 4.5 percent on an average salary of £100,000.

Let the people decide: Merseyside FBU considers standing in elections

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Once again public services are under attack. The current round of government grant settlements, essential money for local authorities from central government, has been decided.

As a result fire and rescue services around the country, but particularly in the north west, will receive funding which represents as little as 1 percent of the overall budget for this year, and 0.5 percent for the next two years running. It is significantly lower than the current rate of inflation and clearly a cut in the budget in real terms.

Schools out!

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The National Union of Teachers (NUT) is preparing to ballot over 200,000 members in England and Wales for strike action against below inflation pay rises.

The ballot starts on 28 February and NUT activists are confident that it will lead to the first national strike by teachers in more than 20 years, on Thursday 24 April.

The decision to ballot was taken after the government announced a recommendation from the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB) that teachers should get an increase of 2.45 percent in their pay in September 2008. This would be the first year of a three-year pay deal, which would see below inflation pay rises until 2010.

A striking tale

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I've been a fully paid up member of Unison for 19 years. And until we took action for eight weeks against the single status process at the end of last year, I had never even been on strike.

Initially I became a steward because no one else would do it. In the process of the strike I have really become a steward because I want to be one and I believe in the power of unions to protect workers.

Because Christmas was approaching and the workforce in day services is predominately women, it was assumed that we would cave in and go back to work after a week or two. But, as one of the male strikers said, "they didn't reckon on the strength of a group of women together". It was that strength that sustained us through the strike.

Unity in action

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On 5 November I was sacked after 25 years from the job I loved as a community psychiatric nurse. Three days later 150 community mental health workers went on strike indefinitely for my reinstatement.

I might have felt a bit of shame and embarrassment if any of the trumped up charges were true, but I was even sent a letter on the day of my suspension promoting me to senior practitioner. My crime was speaking out about government plans to transfer NHS care to the voluntary sector and publicly protesting my innocence.

As a result my colleagues are taking 14 days of strike action. Their amazing commitment of time and energy is not just about freedom of speech and myself; it is driven by the frustration of working in services being cut to ribbons.

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