Political view

Jason Ford

News Editor

The Monday Briefing would like to extend a very warm welcome to those of you who work in London and normally rely on London Underground to deliver you to work.

The RMT and TSSA unions began 24 hour strike action last night and it appears to be causing moderate travel disruption, judging by the number of colleagues who’ve so far made it into The Engineer’s offices for their 9-30 start. Some have reported a trickle of activity on some underground lines whilst others are sending text messages to The Engineer HQ to say they have fought their way onto buses, which are now crawling through heavy traffic.

The strike – described by RMT general secretary Bob Crow as action to defend ticket offices and safety-critical station jobs – coincides with a report published today by the CBI that calls for changes in the law to curtail industrial action.

The CBI report, entitled ‘Keeping the wheels turning: modernising the legal framework of industrial relations’ sets out measures that it believes will ‘modernise employment relations legislation and keep the recovery on track.’

With the 2010 Spending Review due on October 20, the CBI believes industrial action across the public sector could increase as the government takes steps to reduce the deficit.

To mitigate this, it suggests that strike action should only go ahead if 40 per cent of balloted members vote in favour of action, as well as a majority of those voting.

Other proposals among many in the report include increasing the notice period for strike actions from seven to 14 days after the ballot takes place and giving employers the right to use agency staff to cover for striking workers.

The Conservative Party’s annual conference began in Birmingham yesterday, and fringe events that caught Briefing’s attention include ’New Nuclear: From debate to delivery’, with energy minister Charles Hendry and ’The Challenges Ahead For Defence’, with defence secretary Liam Fox, which take place today and tomorrow respectively.

Defence remains firmly on the agenda on Thursday, when the National Security Council is expected to convene to consider options for the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) to meet Treasury demands for a 10 per cent cut in the £37bn defence budget.

Prominent topics for discussion are likely to include retaining the Trident nuclear deterrent, and the fate of two Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers currently under construction.

In Spain, Elsevier is hosting ‘Fuel Cells Science & Technology 2010’, a conference that will address scientific, engineering and technology challenges underpinning fuel cells.  

Robert Selman, a research professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, will be presented The Grove Medal at the conference in recognition of his contributions towards the development and success of fuel cell technology.

Still with awards and news that the winner of the James Dyson Award will be announced tomorrow. The international design award has 15 finalists whose innovations include a resuscitation vest and a portable water bottle for filtration and UV sterilisation of water.