Unite members joined striking CWU members on their central London picket line this morning as Romec engineers began a weekend walkout.
The dispute – over the facilities maintenance company’s misuse of employee tracking devices – began last month, when repeated breaches of national agreements by management sparked a 92 per cent vote for action by hundreds of workers.
After a four-day callout ban and overtime boycott over the bank holiday weekend, union negotiators agreed to talks with the company, but CWU attempts to settle the matter were dashed when Romec bosses refused to meet workers’ minimum conditions.
And reports are coming in from around the country that, far from seeking to resolve the dispute, managers are accused of continuing to inappropriately use data from the devices to “bully and intimidate” CWU members.
Speaking at today’s picket outside Westminster’s Portcullis House, CWU national official Ray Ellis described the company’s methods as “Big Brother tactics” which were “making the working atmosphere intolerable for our members.”
Ray reported that today’s action had been “rock solid across the country.
“There have been lively pickets in Cardiff, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Bristol, Newcastle and Manchester,” Ray continued, adding: “And the action has been solidly supported everywhere.”
CWU general secretary Billy Hayes and senior deputy general secretary Tony Kearns also attended today’s protest, where Billy praised members for “standing up for fairness and rights at work.
“Here, right beside the so-called ‘mother of Parliaments’, the CWU is standing united and demanding dignity and respect at work,” he added.
Among the pickets was Cyril Onyejekwe, the union’s London and south east regional rep for Romec workers, who insisted that the workforce was “absolutely determined” to win a fair resolution to the dispute, a sentiment endorsed by engineers Dave Godfrey, Jim Morrison and Bob Mulleady.
Their colleague Jeff James, who has to use one of the devices – known as a WPA – said that he had received a text from the company telling him to meet his manager to “discuss my work pattern.” Jeff explained that he expected this discussion – which has not yet taken place – to be based on data taken from the WPA.
“They’re using WPA against engineers and using it to get rid of people,” he pointed out, adding: “We don’t object to these devices themselves, but we do object to the way they’re being used.
“We didn’t start this dispute, but we want it sorted – my message to management is: ‘Be fair, listen to us and keep to agreements’.”
And CWU members were delighted when Portcullis House staff brought out their Unite branch banner and joined the protest.
Standing proudly beside her banner, secretary Louise Haigh said: “We need to show solidarity with our fellow workers in CWU and we wish them the very best in their efforts to win a fair settlement to this dispute.”