Wednesday, 5 August 2015

JR Porters' Strike Update

It is now a month since the porters of the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford elected to go on strike due to unacceptable changes in pay and shift patterns, see here for essential background: So far no action has taken place. There have been strike dates announced but the actions have been called off. This has happened three times now; the latest being one that was due to start at 10 PM last night for forty-eight hours. My "insider" (qv) says there have been some worrying developments. According to him the strike action has been blocked by the regional office of UNISON. They say that this is not a "trade dispute", whatever the hell that means. I dropped out of trade unionism for ideological reasons, but still take an interest in it, at least as it relates to the National Health Service, and believe it can do some good. I don't see how UNISON can command strikers to stand down when their own members voted for strike action in a ballot UNISON organized itself; not only voted for it, but did so completely unanimously within a membership pool of almost a hundred. The JRH porters are risking everything over this action and their decision should be respected and taken very seriously. Bear in mind that this is information that I've only heard from a single source, but this kind of thing could be interpreted as a betrayal. People leave trade unions over matters like this, in fact shortly after I started in portering there was a split within the department itself. The main trade union of the NHS ancillary staff in those days was NUPE, the National Union of Public Employees, but the theatre porters defected to COHSE, the Confederation Of Health Service Employees. In 1993 both of those unions merged, along with the admin union NALGO, the National Association of Local Government Officers, to form UNISON. What porters have joined together porters can put asunder. If UNISON really do pull the rug out from under this strike will some of the porters move over to another union? Or will they form their own organization dedicated to this specific dispute? At the moment there is another in an ongoing series of "consultations" with management. There's also talk of referring the case to arbitration. I can guess exactly how the porters are feeling. This delay and indecision can be frightening and demoralizing. It might tempt them to accept a damaging compromise from Carillion that they would otherwise never consider. I hope not. We'll see; I'll post further updates as and when they occur. 

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