Thursday, 30 December 2010

Tributes to a woman who rose like a lion

The funeral of strike leader Jayaban Desai takes place at 11am tomorrow (Friday December 31) at Golders Green crematorium in north-west London.
In August 1976 she rose like a lion and refused to put up with inhuman conditions at the Grunwick film processing plant in Willesden, north London.
At the height of the dispute that followed 12,000 - mainly white and male - trades unionists formed an early morning mass picket.
The battle to win union recognition for the largely immigrant workforce was ultimately lost.
But it was the dispue that did more than any other to bring together the increasingly diverse organised Labour in Britain - black and white, male and female.
Obituries have been glowing with praise - though in 1977 Mrs Desai and three other strikers were suspended from their union Apex (now part of the GMB) for campaigning for continued solidarity:
The Guardian: Jayaban Desai obituary by Jack Dromey MP, an Apex official during the Grunwick strike.
Socialist Worker: Jayban Desai- death of a great fighter
Morning Star: Grunwick film dispute leader Desai dies aged 77
Permanent Revolution: "We are those lions, Mr Manager." Jayaben Desai, Grunwick strike leader, dies

Serwotka says rise like lions and fight for every job

Mark Serwotka - leader of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) - uses an article in tomorrow's Guardian newspaper to call for action to defend every job under threat from government cuts.
He ends with the rallying call: "If we want a future with fair pay, decent jobs, security in retirement and a welfare state, now is the moment for trade union members and everyone to shake off their chains and rise like lions."
The article is already on the web.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Walking in an ASLEF wonderland

The Transport for London (TfL) website - which gives passengers information about services and journey times - includes a lengthy attack on a strike by tube drivers planned for Boxing Day.
The publicly funded site does not report the union's side of the story.
Members of the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF) will walk out for 24 hours after talks at the government conciliation service ACAS broke down.
The union is reported to have asked for three extra days' pay and a day off in lieu for its tube members scheduled to work on Boxing Day.
The report on the TfL site refers several times to a "strike called by the leadership of ASLEF".
It doesn't mention the fact that tube drivers voted for industrial action in a secret ballot by a margin of nine to one.
The TfL report says the union signed up to a pay deal which "involved working some public holidays including Boxing day".
ASLEF London district organiser Steve Grant told the Morning Star: "The 1996 agreement covered working some bank holidays - we were then working one in five bank holidays. We are now working all of them, all the time."
London Underground is working with West End retailers to support Very Important Pedestrian promotional events.
Tube drivers' Boxing Day strike has big impact - Socialist Worker

Walkers' workers do themselves a flavour

The GMB has won the right to negotiate pay and conditions at a crisp factory in the north east of England.
Union recognition was achieved after a ballot of employees at Walkers site on Stephenson Road, Peterlee.
Two hundred and seven out of the 353 employees voted for the GMB to represent them - with eight against.
The result satisfied the two tests laid down in the statutory recognition laws introduced by Labour in 2000.
A simple majority supported recognition - and it was more than 40 percent of the total bargaining unit.
The vote was organised by the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) - the quango that adjudicates recognition claims.
The workers to be represented are described as "all individuals who are employed as hourly paid and are located at the Walkers manufacturing site at Peterlee excluding all office staff, frontline management and agency/temporary workers and including engineer (including systems technician); technician (including hygiene technician/lubrication technician); site services operatives (including engineering store men and hygiene PPE), general operatives and quality assistants.
The ballot was required because the CAC was not satisfied more than half of the bargaining unit were union members.
The GMB was formerly the General, Municiple, and Boilermakers union.
There is a report of this case on the CAC website.
This decision follows hot on the heels of the GMB's recognition win at Severn Trent water which was reported on The Workers United.
Other unions should be learning from the GMB's work in the private sector.

Lose a ballot and do two terms as a union general secretary

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Union films are not just for Christmas

The website of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) includes a review of cinema featuring trades unions.
Films from Made in Dagenham to On the Waterfront are analysed.
Watch the video here
And feel free to take the discussion forward in the comments below.
What's the best union film?
Have the CWU missed any out?

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Trades unionists vow to keep Strummer's spirit alive

It's the eighth anniversary of the death of Clash front man Joe Strummer - and trade unionists influenced by his work have renewed the pledge to keep the punk rocker's spirit alive.
Two important legacy projects – Strummerville , a foundation for new music and Jail Guitar Doors, Billy Bragg’s initiative to supply prisoners with guitars – both continue to go from strength to strength.
Strummer died, aged 50, at his Somerset home on the 22nd December 2002.
Geoff Martin, who works for the Rail Maritime and Transport union (RMT) and political organiser of the Left Field stage at Glastonbury festival, said: "Eight years after Joe Strummer’s death people in all corners of the world will be marking the occasion and renewing the pledge to keep Joe’s spirit and memory burning bright.
"Those of us who marched to Victoria Park in April 1978 to see the Clash at the Rock Against Racism carnival got our first taste of politics from Joe Strummer and the Clash – 32 years on that fight for economic and social justice still guides many of us and Joe would have been over the moon to see a new generation of young people and students picking up the baton.”
Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), said: "The spirit of Joe Strummer is alive and kicking in the anti-cuts and anti-fees protests gathering pace the length and breadth of the country.
"Today we mark the eighth anniversary of Joe’s untimely death by recharging our batteries and gearing ourselves up for the fight ahead."
Listening to The Clash's first LP was a life-changing experience for many people of my generation.
We are everywhere - like sleepers waiting to be activated.
For me these were the key words: "All the power's in the hands of the people rich enough to buy it, while we walk the streets to chicken to even try it."

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Seventy percent of Unite members don't get it anymore

Unite the union has stopped producing a magazine and replaced it with a digital publication.
Notice of every new edition is sent to members who have given the union an email address.
That's less than 30 percent of the giant union's membership.
The on-line publication is accessible from the Unite website - after clicking "resources" and "publications" and entering the members only area.
It's called United Digimag and includes animations. videos, and links to campaigns.
The change was made to save money on producing a physical magazine and distributing it to members.
Unite is the union for printers, paper makers, and managers in the post office.

Are union journals important?
How should unions communicate with their members?
Please use the comments for your thoughts.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Len McCluskey to address Keep the Post Public meeting

Newly-elected Unite leader Len McCluskey is to speak in support of keeping the postal service public at a rally in central London today (Wednesday).
The event is organised by the Communication Workers Union (CWU) which represents the vast majority of workers at privatisation-threatened Royal Mail.
Unite covers management grades - and co-operation between the two groups is rare.
The rally is from 11am - 2pm at Central Hall, Storey's Gate, Westminster, London, SW1H 9NH.
There is a long list of speakers.
After the rally supporters of the Keep the Post Public campaign will lobby members of parliament.
Opponents of privatisation can find a model letter to write to their MPs.
DECLARATION: I'm doing freelance work for the CWU and will be reporting from the rally on the union website.
MINUTE BY MINUTE: Keep the Post Public rally coverage
AS IT HAPPENED: Keep the Post Public demo and rally

Woodley announces he's going early

Unite join general secretary Tony Woodley has told colleagues on the TUC general council that he is retiring early at the end of January 2011.
The leader of the UK's biggest union was expected to stay in post for another year.
He paves the way for his friend the newly elected Len McCluskey to have a clear run as the first general secretary of the whole merged union.
The other joint general secretary Derek Simpson is also retiring.

Strikers demand fair pay from mean Heinz

Workers at the Wigan plant of the food giant Heinz are to strike for 24 hours from 10pm tomorrow (Wednesday)
The main picket is from 7am to 9.30am on Thursday December 16 outside Heinz, Kitt Green, Wigan, WN5 0JL.
Unite members want to improve a pay offer of 3.3 percent this year and three percent next year.
The firm have recorded an 8.6 percent jump in profits in the last three months.
The 1,200 workers in Wigan produce one billion cans a year of soup, beans and pasta meals. They balloted 90% for industrial action and are imposing an overtime ban as well as striking.
Messages of support can be sent to Ian Wright, acting convenor, on wrightian5 at

Saturday, 11 December 2010

It's time for the left to do a Len Murray

The leaders of Britain's trade unions will meet on Tuesday, with popular unrest at a level not seen for twenty years.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) general council has the chance to make history - or to complete a hat trick of missed tricks.
At September's congress unions backed a demonstration against youth unemployment before the end of 2010.
This psychic foresight would have put the trade union movement on the streets with the revolting generation.
The general council kicked the idea into the long grass - deciding to hold an indoor rally in Manchester on January 29 2011.
In October the general council met just before the government's spending review signalled hundreds of thousands of job cuts.
The council decided not to organise a demonstration until next March - despite calls for swifter action from some members.
Next week is another test of the union leaders' resolve and tactical acumen.
In 1983 the NGA print union - now part of Unite - had its funds seized by the courts over a dispute in Warrington that contravened new anti-union laws.
The employment committee of the TUC general council voted to give the printers their full support.
The then TUC general secretary Len Murray left the meeting and told waiting journalists he would not be implementing the decision.
If - as seems certain - the general council sits on its hands next week the left union leaders need to show as much bottle as Murray.
They should stand on the steps of Congress House and pledge their full support for the students, the lecturers and the wider anti-cuts movement.
They shoud call a day of action - a lunchtime walkout, occupations of public buildings all over the country. Something that gives confidence to the workers who want to join the popular unrest and builds towards more generalised industrial action.
Will anyone be as brave as Len Murray?
If so what action should they call?
Are the general council right to be cautious?
Please use the comments box below.

Red Pepper magazine's funky new website

The Workers United is produced in conjunction with Red Pepper magazine - though no cash changes hands in either direction.
The magazine has relaunched its website.
And there's a new Red Pepper blog.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Ifs and buts and education cuts

I was ashamed and shocked.
First we sent our children out to fight our battles - and then we stood and watched as police horses were set on them.
On Thursday evening I visited Parliament Square and Top Shop on Oxford Street. The protestors were so young. And so brave.
It's all very well making statements in support of students - and against the increases to the cost of education.
But where were the trades unionists and trade union leaders when it really mattered.
We should be standing between the horses and the students - not watching it on telly.

Red Pepper magazine reports from a student occupation
Red Pepper magazine on student demonstrations

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Journalists on strike: Read all about it

Journalists on local papers based in Brighton and Southampton have been on strike this week over a pay freeze and job cuts.
As reported on The Workers United the action is part of a co-ordinated attack to improve pay and conditions at the American-owned Newsquest group.
Today, according to National Union of Journalists assistant organiser Lawrence Shaw on Twitter: "Newsquest NUJ chapels vote for strike action over pay and cuts - Bolton (74%), Blackburn (100%) and Bradford (90%) on solid turnouts."
Members in Darlington voted for action last week.
Ballots are also underway in York, Andover, and Oxford.
For pictures and reports see:
The Brighton strikers' blog
The Southampton strikers' blog

Severn Trent employees in Nottingham vote for the union

The GMB has won the right to negotiate pay and conditions for a group of water workers in Nottingham.
Union recognition was achieved after a ballot of employees at Severn Trent's site in Haydn Road.
Twenty-seven of the 53 employees voted for the GMB to represent them - with eight against.
The result satisfied the two tests laid down in the statutory recognition laws introduced by Labour in 2000.
A simple majority supported recognition - and it was more than 40 percent of the total bargaining unit.
The vote was organised by the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) - the quango that adjudicates recognition claims.
The workers to be represented are described as "all employees including managers, other than the general manager, at the Severn Trent Utility Services Limited, Haydn Road site".
The ballot was required because just under half of the bargaining unit where union members.
The GMB was formerly the General, Municiple, and Boilermakers union.
There is a report of this case on the CAC website.
Since July 19 this year eight recognition applications have been submitted to the CAC. Six of them have been from the GMB.
While the trade union movement generally has slowed the pace of new workplace organisation the GMB must be praised for committing resources to making life better for potential members with hostile employers.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Outsourced call-centre workers in Liverpool win recognition for CWU

A group of outsourced call-centre staff on Merseyside have won the right to negotiate their pay and conditions collectively.
Activists from the Communication Workers Union (CWU) recruited their fellow Adecco employees at a facility managed by IBM on behalf of Virgin Media.
They demonstrated to the government conciliation service ACAS that more than half the call-centre and helpdesk staff are in the union and the company agreed to negotiate.
Read the story on the CWU website.
COMMENT: This is an excellent example of patient member-lead organising in the hostile world of the outsourced hi-tech private sector
DECLARATION: I'm working for the CWU as a freelance.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

GUEST POST: Workers and Students – Unite and Fight!

“For years, people have called for an end to student apathy,” says one of the organisers of the 10-day occupation at Edinburgh University, “but now, look: it’s really happened. And we hope the student occupations will inspire trade unions to use their power and resources to support the anti-cuts movement.”
More than sixty students had been occupying the Appleton Tower in the centre of Edinburgh University’s campus. When they began the action, only they and the UCL students were in occupation, but the movement quickly snowballed until hundreds of students were involved, on scores of campuses around the UK.
“We never felt alone,” says the Edinburgh activist, “670 lecturers signed a petition supporting our action, we had messages of solidarity from all over the world and trade unionists from around Edinburgh gave us practical help and advice.”
The students ended their occupation on Friday night. It was a positive decision, taken because the university administration had agreed to meet them to discuss their demands (including no compulsory redundancies among staff and no victimisation of activists) and also because the Appleton Tower is scheduled to be used for a slew of end-of-term exams from next week.
But this is only the beginning.
Tens of thousands of students and university staff will be back on the streets next week for the Commons vote on tuition fees. It is time now for trade unions urgently to fix a detailed timetable of action to take the anti-cuts and anti-austerity campaign well into next year.
The student occupations have lit a fire under the whole movement – they have shown all of us the power of resistance.
The cuts are not inevitable - now is the time for all of us to get off our knees.
By Pete Murray, President, National Union of Journalists

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Oxford, Bolton, Bradford, Brighton - everyone talk about strike action

Journalists at the US-owned Newsquest group are stepping up their industrial action over a three-year pay freeze and never ending job cuts.
Members of the National Union Journalists at the company's Brighton and Southampton centres are to take co-ordinated strike action next week.
Workers in Darlington voted 78 percent for strike action in a ballot this week.
Ballots are underway in Blackburn, Bolton, Bradford, and York.
And this week journalists in Andover and Oxford agreed to be balloted for industrial action.
Newsquest - part of the giant American Gannett corporation - is Britain's second biggest newspaper publisher.
Staff have had a three year pay freeze - even though top bosses have paid themselves wacking rises and boasted about profits.
Next week's south coast strikes are on Tuesday 7 and Wednesday 8 December.
The Brighton and Southampton chapels have already held stoppages.
A chapel officer from the Daily Echo in Southampton said:"The messages of support and encouragement we had last time really helped to motivate people - and helped warm our hearts if not our cold hands and feet!"
The Daily Echo strikers have a blog, a Twitter page, a Facebook group, and pictures on flickr.
Well done to Newsquest journalists for launching a co-ordinated attack on a ruthless employer.
If this low paid private sector workers can do what's happened to the co-ordianted action promised by the movement's big battalions at the TUC.

Unions give money to the Daily Mail group

Unions in London have paid for an advert in the free Metro daily paper as part of their campaign against public sector cuts.
It appeared yesterday (December 1) and was headed by the logos of the south east and eastern Trade Union Congress (TUC), Unison Greater London, and Unite the union.
The ad said: "This week the coalition government will announce cuts of £1.5 billion to London council budgets.
"Londoners face major cuts in essential public services - services the young, elderly and vulnerable depend upon.
"Thousands of public sector workers will lose their jobs.
"These cuts are unnecessary - there is an economic alternative: collect unpaid taxes, invest in growth and tax the banks.
"Public services.
"Don't wait till they've gone to defend them."
The ad ended with web addresses for a Unison public services campaign, Unite, and the TUC.
It’s very good to see trade unions taking their message to the wider community.
Why give money to a paper in the Daily Mail group which is the most hostile to trade unions both as an employer and editorially?
Why not call on London’s Labour councils to refuse to implement the cuts?
The advert seems a bit wordy.
And I think it should urge people to do something specific to fight the cuts.
What do others think?

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Keep the Post Public - London and Witney events planned

Postal workers will take their campaign against Royal Mail privatisation to parliament in December.
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) is organising a public rally at lunchtime on Wednesday December 15 at Central Hall, Storey's Gate, Westminster, London, SW1H 9NH.
The main speakers are Green MP Caroline Lucas and shawdow business secretary John Denham.
Other campaign events include a demonstration on Sunday January 9 in Witney, Oxfordshire - the constituency of prime minister David Cameron.
The union is urging people to support their Keep the Post Public campaign.
And pledging to link to blogs that oppose the sell-off of Royal Mail.
DECLARATION: I'm working for the CWU on a freelance basis.

Monday, 29 November 2010

BA cabin crew to ballot for more industrial action

BA cabin crew are to hold another ballot for industrial action - as predicted on The Workers United.
The latest twist in the year long dispute over working conditions was announced by Unite today.
The ballot will be concluded in early January.

Red Pepper reports: from the picket line at BA and from the deserted airport.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Pilots win union recognition at low cost airline

The British pilots' union has won the right to negotiate pay and conditions at the low cost airline
As predicted on The Workers United the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) was awarded recognition without the need for a ballot.
The Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) - the quango that adjudicates recognition claims - had already established that more than 60 percent of the company's 247 "flight deck pilots" are members of the union.
At a recent CAC hearing the company argued that a ballot would clear the air given the "heat" there had been on both sides. also said a vote would provide a democratic mandate for union recognition.
The CAC panel agreed with BALPA that the law - introduced by Labour in 2000 - gave a union with that level of membership the right to conduct collective bargaining for the pilots without a ballot.
There is a full report of the decision on the CAC website.
Congratulations to BALPA. This sort of victory against a modern and relatively new private sector employer should act as inspiration to the whole trade union movement.
But a public meeting in Manchester heard that BALPA members organised themselves into strike-breaking squads during the ongoing cabin crew dispute between Unite and British Airways.
The airline industry is cut-throat and the workers need unity to defend and improve working conditions.

Friday, 26 November 2010

GUEST POST: Union leader reports from inside a student occupation

A book lies on one of the tables inside the occupation at London South Bank University (LSBU).
It's about the 1968 student revolts in Europe and there is a film running on one of the students’ laptops about the Situationists.
So the historical forebears of the current wave of student occupations across the UK is clear, yet these students are making entirely modern demands – no Con-Dem cuts, of course; no increases in tuition fees, of course; but in this language centre turned occupation centre at LSBU the students have specific demands for their ProVice Chancellor Phil Cardew.
They want no repeat of the recent ban on students’ meetings, restore second language teaching and convene a public meeting with students to discuss how they and teaching staff can agree alternatives to cuts.
The students’ organisation at LSBU is impressive.
They are disciplined and welcoming, with a mature understanding of the issues - and it is heart-poundingly exciting for me to get the chance to visit the occupation and meet them.
But there is no hiding the feeling of exhaustion and isolation among some of them.
Located in the unglamorous Elephant and Castle in south London, the LSBU students do not have the high profile - or the recent previous experience – of other London occupations such as at University College London (UCL) or the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).
However, that probably makes them even more determined. They urgently deserve support from trade unions and other campaign groups.
It is impossible not to recognise the inspiring role which all the occupations and the student organisers are playing in the fast-growing coalition of resistance against cuts and the austerity agenda.
More traditional trade unions have masses to learn from them.
We live in historic times.
By Pete Murray, President, National Union of Journalists
Defend LSBU! Defend our Education! student blog
EXTRA: Solidarity message to students from Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) general secretary Mark Serwotka.
It would be good to hear other examples of links between workers and students in the last few days. Unity is everything.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Lose a ballot and do two terms as a union general secretary

A man who lost the last postal ballot for the leadership of the GMB is about to start his second term as the union’s general secretary.
Paul Kenny was the only candidate when nominations closed on November 16.
As Wikepedia notes: “Kenny had been defeated heavily by Kevin Curran in the 2003 GMB general secretary election to replace John Edmonds. However, he was appointed acting general secretary on 24 March 2005 following Curran's resignation after alleged election rigging.
“In May 2006 he was elected un-opposed as GMB general secretary.”
The GMB, formerly the General Municipal Boilermakers and Allied Trades Union has 600,000 members.
Congratulations to Paul Kenny. But why do none of the GMB’s other 599,999 members fancy a crack at the top job?
I’d be interested to hear from GMBers in the comments box – anonymously if necessary.
I was a GMB member in 2003 and voted for Kevin Curran.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Unite 2010 general secretary election - McCluskey wins

Len McCluskey, 101,000 votes (42%)
Jerry Hicks, 53,000 votes (22%)
Les Bayliss, 47,000 votes (19%)
Gail Cartmail, 39,000 votes (16%)
Turnout 16 percent
A remarkable performance by Jerry Hicks - who has recorded this message.
A very poor vote for Les Bayliss considering the money spent.
Your comments welcome below.

Friday, 19 November 2010

GUEST POST: Bradford journalists join colleagues fighting the big publishing company Newsquest

Newsquest’s bosses in West Yorkshire are worried about falling sales of their papers.
Solution: sack most of your newsroom staff and get them to apply for their own jobs – but there will be fewer of them.
If it wasn’t so serious, you could die laughing. Here’s a company that has lost the plot.
Its journalists, including 29 National Union of Journalists (NUJ) members, have endured a pay freeze lasting more than 1,000 days and the closure of their pension scheme. Now they’re being thrown on the scrap heap.
Paul Davidson, chief executive of this profitable British arm of an American-owned company, sits in his Surrey ivory tower with his enhanced pension and £106,000 pay rise while his managers steer a course for oblivion.
Two editors, six reporting staff and six photographers, including the NUJ’s father of chapel, are at risk of losing their jobs, along with some editorial middle managers’ posts. When the dust settles, there will be two fewer jobs.
Keighley, a post-industrial ex-mill town with high unemployment and social problems, will have its editorial operation merged with Ilkley, a genteel, affluent former spa town.
To pretend this is going to help sales is to live in cloud cuckoo land.
Enough is enough. The Newsquest Bradford chapel today announced it was balloting for industrial action, joining our Newsquest colleagues throughout England.
There have been strikes at Southampton and Brighton. Chapels - workplace branches - in York, Darlington, Bolton, and Blackburn are also balloting.
We’re fighting not just for our journalist members but for our towns and communities, which will be left with pale imitations of newspapers.
By Bob Smith, Father of Chapel, Newsquest Bradford and Newsquest group chapel, NUJ
Strike in Brighton
Ballot in Brighton

Ballot in Blackburn
Ballot in Darlington
Strike in Southampton
LATEST: Newsquest cut jobs in Scotland today
EXTRA: NUJ vice president Donnacha Delong reports from the Brighton picket line

Campaign promised to defend historic link between UK trade unions and the Labour Party

Left-wing Labour MP John McDonnell has vowed to launch a "broad-based campaign" to defend his party's links with the UK trade unioon movement.
McDonnell's pledge follows a call from shadow chancellor Alan Johnson to bring in "one member one vote" elections in the Labour Party - which would deny a say to members of affiliated trades unions.
There is a detailed report in this morning's Morning Star newspaper.
McDonnell is the MP for Hayes and Harlington in west London and chair of the Labour Representation Committee.
The Morning Star quotes a spokeswoman for the Communications Workers Union (CWU) saying: "Trade unions created the Labour Party and it's important to maintain that link."

Thursday, 18 November 2010

BA union leader predicts fresh strikes in January

A leader of the British Airways cabin crew - who have been resisting changes to their working conditions for more than a year – is predicting they will be back on strike in January.
Duncan Holley, the secretary of the BA union branch, was speaking to The Workers United after addressing a meeting of the Manchester Industrial Relations Society.
He told an audience of more than 50 people – mainly students - the story of the dispute which has led to him and other union activists losing their jobs.
Cabin crew union reps recently rejected a deal that had been negotiated between BA and leaders of Unite.
Holley said after the meeting that if the airline’s bosses didn’t agree to four demands a fresh ballot for industrial action would start in about two weeks with strikes likely in January.
The demands are:
• Returning staff travel concessions to cabin crew who went on strike earlier this year with no loss of seniority.
• Reimbursing cabin crew who had wages deducted when they were sick on strike days.
• Taking the cases of union members who were disciplined because of the dispute to the government arbitration service ACAS.
• Withdrawing plans for an agreement which would allow BA management to impose new terms if negotiations lasted more than eight weeks.
During his address Holley had criticised some elements in Unite’s leadership for not supporting the cabin crew strongly enough - particularly those who were previously in the Amicus union.
He said later that he had voted for Len McCluskey in the election for Unite’s general secretary – which ends tomorrow (Friday) – and was confident that if McCluskey wins he would back the strikers and organise a ballot quickly.
Holley is the secretary of the British Airlines Stewards and Stewardesses Association (BASSA) – a branch of the bigger union. He worked as a steward for 35 years before he was sacked in May.
The meeting was at the Manchester Metropolitan Univsersity business school.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Commended by the Queen then suspended by the bosees

Female firefighters in London are to lobby their bosses on Thursday in support of a colleague who has been suspended.
Sian Griffiths received the Queen's Fire Service Medal for distinguished service last week, and two days later was escorted off the premises at the London Fire Brigade's Southwark Training Centre.
She is accused of bullying and harrassment during the current dispute over shift patterns which has seen members of the Fire Brigades Union stage a series of strikes in the capital.
Griffiths was one of the first women firefighters recruited in London and currently chairs the FBU's Women's Action Committee in the city.
Female colleagues will be staging a lobby of the London Fire Authority on Thursday in her support.
More details from the Press Association.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

December 18 is international migrants day

Trades unionists across Europe are being urged to organise events on Saturday December 18 to mark international migrants day.
A Brussels-based campaigning group called December 18 is calling on the member states of the European Union to ratify the “international convention on the protection of rights of all migrant workers and members of their families”.
So far 43 Members of the European Parliament have signed a petition in favour of ratification.
International trades unionists who have backed the petition include John Monks, general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation.
The full text of the international convention on the rights of migrant workers

Saturday, 13 November 2010

BA cabin crew reps describe proposed deal as "surrender" and "disarmament"

Representatives of British Airways cabin crew have revealed their reasons for rejecting a draft agreement drawn up between the company and Unite the Union.
A ballot of the air stewards and stewardesses has been suspended because the union says it can no longer recommend acceptance of the deal.
The agreement could have settled a year long dispute over job cuts and changes to working practices – which lead to strikes in the summer
The committee of the British Airlines Stewards and Stewardesses Association (BASSA) – a sub-section of the union – said they could not agree to appendix 2 of the offer from BA.
A document posted on the web on November 10 gives detailed reasons.
It says Unite would sign away the right to represent members in some disciplinary cases and concludes: “What is the point of being in a union then?”
The document says of the proposed deal: “This is not merely terms of surrender but disarmament too. The union is effectively acknowledging that it will never again be in a position to threaten strike action.”
Tony Woodley, Unite joint general secretary, said on November 11 that union officials and cabin crew reps had, at an earlier meeting, “reluctantly” agreed to recommend acceptance.
But as cabin crew reps have now decided they cannot recommend the proposed deal the union leadership will not either.
The union negotiators for the proposed BA agreement were led by Woodley and Len McCluskey – one of the candidates in the election to find a new general secretary for Unite.
Both men were quoted in a October 20 statement about the offer.
In an article in the Daily Mirror on October 27 McCluskey boasted of “dealing with tough bosses like BA’s Willie Walsh”.
The other candidates are:
Les Bayliss who said of the BA dispute in October: "It has been disastrous. It has lowered our standing and reputation. We need to make sure it never happens again".
Gail Cartmail who, on November 11, quoted a supporter who worked in civil air transport saying: “Members in my sector became very disillusioned with the handling of the BA dispute by the current general secretaries.”
Jerry Hicks, who said on November 8: “If I were the general secretary I would not recommend this latest offer and if I worked for BA I would not vote for it.”
Unite members must return their general secretary ballot papers to the scrutineers in London by November 19.

Friday, 12 November 2010

NUT leads the call for co-ordinated action over pensions

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) is trying to organise co-ordinated industrial action against attacks on teachers' pensions.
The union's executive decided this week to start campaigning for an industrial action ballot in the spring term.
And to talk to other unions about joing in.
Read the details on the blog of NUT national executive member Martin Powell-Davies.
The best way for unioins to win is to act together.
Everyone with pensions under attack - in the private and the public sector - should join the NUT's campaign.

Daily Star readers poll backs Millbank student rioters

Readers of the Daily Star have voted by 54 per cent to 46 in support of students who rioted at the end of a union-organised march on Wednesday.
The result of the readers poll is tucked at the foot of a story in today's paper about the unrest at the Conservative Party offices on Millbank, London.
The rioters were part of a 50,000 demonstration against education cuts and rising fees organised by the University and College Union (UCU) and the National Union of Students (NUS). Daily Mirror columnist Paul Routledge has also expressed his support for the rioting students saying: "I stand four square with them".
Routledge denounces the "career-seeking" leaders of the NUS for condemning the disturbance.
The president and secretary of the UCU branch at Goldsmiths college, New Cross, south east London, posted a statement on their website supporting the rioters.
It said:"We also wish to condemn and distance ourselves from the divisive and, in our view, counterproductive statements issued by the UCU and NUS leadership concerning the occupation of the Conservative Party HQ."
The branch has called a meeting at 1pm on Monday November 15 at Goldsmiths to discuss further anti-cuts activity.

Train drivers in Wales hold strike ballot over pay

Drivers who work for Cardiff-based Arriva Trains Wales are to ballot for industrial action over pay and conditions.
The Rail, Maritime, and Transport union (RMT) says they are amongst the lowest paid train drivers in the country.
The RMT's press release

Bite-sized strikes over Macclesfield pensions freeze

Workers at the Macclesfield factory of the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca are on strike today (Friday) over changes to their pension scheme.
The dispute involves the GMB union which represents 250 of the company’s several thousand UK workers.
Today is the eighth day of strike action and involves three two-hour walkouts. The next strike is on Tuesday November 16 and will follow the same format.
GMB members are stopping work from 5am to 7am, 10am to noon, and 4pm to 6pm.
They are also refusing to work overtime.
The workers voted 70 percent for strike action in a ballot earlier this year.
They will be picketing the factory at the Hurdsfield Industrial Estate, Queens Avenue. Macclesfield.
Unions agreed in 2000 to close the company’s final salary pension scheme to new recruits.
Now the multinational is attempting to push members of the final salary scheme to choose between continuing making contributions, but with their pensionable salary frozen at current levels, or transfering to worse scheme.
The Cheshire plant is AstraZeneca’s second largest facility worldwide. Workers there produce the anti-cancer drug Zoladex.
Unite is also a recognised union at AstraZeneca.
Report from Macclesfield Express

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Care home workers in Nottinghamshire sign up for union recognition

A group of care home workers in Nottinghamshire have cleared the first hurdle of a campaign to have their pay and conditions negotiated by the GMB union.
Under the union recognition laws introduced by Labour in 2000 the GMB had to prove it was likely to win the support of more than half the staff.
The Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) - the quango responsible - said the test had been passed in the union's bid to organise staff at the Loxley Lodge Care Home, School Street, Kirkby in Ashfield.
The union submitted evidence that it had eight members out of the 20 workers the employer said were in the proposed bargaining unit. And 12 people signed a petition in support of being represented by the GMB.
The workers who would be represented are hourly-paid care workers and domestics.
The employer - Leyton Healthcare - initially claimed to the CAC that some of the staff who had supported the union "did not realise what they had signed up for".
Now the application for recognition has been accepted by the CAC there will be an opportunity for the union and the employer to conclude a voluntary agreement.
If they cannot the CAC panel will convene again to adjudicate on any disagreements.
A detailed report is on the CAC website.
The GMB - formerly the General, Municiple, Boilermakers and Allied Trade Union - is to be applauded for its efforts to organise vulnerable and low paid workers.
As reported on The Workers United last month the GMB is also campaigning for recognition at a small plant hire firm in south Wales.
It is vital that - while the Labour movement is concentrating on defending jobs and services from cuts - unions keep putting resources into offensive work.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Union-organised march ends with riot in Conservative offices

More than 30 people were arrested after a big demonstration against education cuts and increased tuition fees ended in the occupation of the ruling Conservative Party's headquarters.
Windows were smashed, fire extinguishers were set off, and graffiti daubed on the walls of 30 Millbank in London.
Police were overwhelmed by the crowd outside the building.
The march had been organised by the National Union of Students (NUS) and the University and Colleges Union (UCU).
Sally Hunt, general secretary of UCU, told various papers: "The actions of a minority should not distract from today's message. The overwhelming majority of staff and students on the march came here to to send a clear and peaceful message to the politicians. The actions of a minority, out of 50,000 people, is regrettable."
On Tuesday evening in comments on The Workers United John Tymon called for the occupation of public buildings. Twelve hours later it was happening! Where next?
Maybe other Conservative offices around the UK could be occupied. Or the roads outside them blocked by protestors.

Massive vote for strike action in Sussex

Journalists in Brighton are set to join their Southampton colleagues on strike over pay.
Members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) at the Newsquest company in Sussex have voted 91 percent for strike action, and 95 percent for action short of a strike in a secret ballot with a 82 percent turnout.
The papers involved include the daily Brighton Argus.
Journalists at Newsquest Hampshire have been on strike for two days as reported on The Workers United.
Tom Davies, an NUJ national executive member for London, visted the Southampton strikers and said: "Newsquest workers have had to endure pay freezes or below-inflation pay settlements for far too long now, and they are absolutely right to take action.
"A company whose senior executives are grotesquely over-rewarded and whose journalists are callously undervalued does the cause of local journalism no good at all.
"The mood on the picket line and in the city-centre where members were leafleting the public was good-humoured, friendly and determined. They deserve our full backing."
The American owned Newsquest company makes good profits but imposed a pay freeze nearly three years ago.
The Sussex workers are also concerned about the transfer of jobs to another centre.

Red Pepper magazine

Lecturers facing job cuts in Northern Ireland

A lecturers' union fears thirty jobs are about to be axed at a college in Northern Ireland.
Management at the North West Regional College warned in September that public spending cuts would lead to redundancies.
David Limb of the University and College Union (UCU), told the Derry Journal: "There is going to be a lot of courses that are going to suffer."
One union representative said: "These cuts amount to a loss in teaching time of 20,000 hours."
The Journal says the cuts will be confirmed by the end of the month.
The college has campuses in Derry, Limavady, and Strabane.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

FBU and RMT walk away from calls for an early demonstration against the cuts

Two UK unions with militant reputations have abandoned plans to organise a national demonstration before Christmas to oppose government spending cuts.
As reported on The Workers United last week members of the eight-member Trade Union Co-ordinating Group (TUCG) were considering calling the protest against the wishes of the leaders of the wider labour movement.
But since then two key members of the group - the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and the Rail, Maritime, and Transport union (RMT) - have told colleagues that they are no longer in favour of holding an early demonstration. They are believed to fear a poor turnout because of the short notice.
When the Trades Union Congress (TUC) general council met in October it decided not to organise a national protest until next March.
In response the executive of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), meeting on October 26 decided to press on with plans for a national demo - expecting support from other unions in the TUCG.
The PCS has nearly three times as many members as the RMT and FBU put together.
And it would almost certainly have support from the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) - as general secretary Jeremy Dear is on record supporting the early demo.
But the chances of a national demo before Christmas now seem very remote.
The TUC is the umbrella organisation for almost all unions in Britain.
The TUCG is made up of eight TUC affilaites who have agreed to work on joint campaigns.
At public meetings all over the country people are asking "why can't we do a France" and organise massive civil disobediance against attacks on jobs and public services. The answer is a lack of confidence on behalf of union leaders and members. If the cuts are to be watered down - never mind defeated - the Labour movement must stop choking.

Low-paid journalists take on multi-national profits machine

Journalists employed in Hampshire by the US-owned Newsquest group are on strike over a thousand day pay freeze.
Senior journalists on the Southampton Echo and other titles earn less than £22,000 and have to live in an expensive area between London and the south coast of England.
Trainees earn much less.
Last year - while journalists' pay was frozen -Newsquest's highest paid director trousered a rise of more than twenty percent.
Members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) are on strike today and tomorrow and for two days next week.
Send messages of support to .
A ballot for action over pay by Newsquest journalists in Sussex concludes tomorrow.
Newsquest, Britain’s second biggest regional newspaper publisher, is an arm of the big American company Gannett.
Gracia Martore, Gannett’s chief financial officer, said on Friday October 15 2010: "Let me once and for all dispel the myth that Newsquest doesn't make money. Newsquest makes a lot of money.”
Full story and picture
Journalists at The Independent are also balloting for action as reported on The Workers United.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Essential reading for trades unionists fighting the cuts

Trades unionists are at the forefront of campaigns against the UK Conservative government's massive cuts.
Union leaders and activists are speaking at public meetings, reps are briefing members, and trades unionists are being urged to take the message to their friends, neighbours, and family.
Information is power - so here is The Workers United guide to the some of the best crib sheets on the web.
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has produced a short pamphlet called
"There is an alternative: The case against cuts in public spending."
It deals with subjects like economic growth, privatisation, and unpaid tax.
Find a web version and a downloadable PDF here.
Red Pepper magazine has an article dealing with the myths around the defecit - like the depth of the crisis and the allegedly-bloated public sector.
Read it here.
The Trade Union Congress (TUC) has a calculator that allows individuals to work out how they will be affected by the cuts. Find it here.

Feel free to recommend other sites - or alternative strategies - in the comments box below.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

FA cup heroes are supporting strikers off the pitch

FA Cup giant killers FC United are refusing to take part in the BBC's flagship Football Focus show today in solidarity with striking BBC journalists.
The non-league club was formed by disgruntled Manchester United fans in protest at the running of the Old Trafford outfit.
FC United won three-two at their much higher ranked neighbours Rochdale last night.
Club general manager Andy Walsh, speaking exclusively to The Workers United, said: "I told Football Focus producer David Garrido that we would not be taking part in solidarity with the strike.
"I've told everyone at the club not to take part.
"I'm a trades unionist and it is important that people take a stand.
"We spoke to some BBC reporters last night because of a misunderstanding."
The Workers United understands strike-breaking BBC staff told FC United officials that the dispute only involved newsroom journalists and didn't cover sport.
That is not true. The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has 4,100 members at the BBC - in all departments - who are striking over a pension scheme that covers all workers.
FC United boss Walsh is a former member of the national executive of the Banking, Insurance, and Finance Union - now part of Unite.
DECLARATION: I am a member of the NUJ and a former BBC sports journalist. I'm not in the pension scheme. I support Manchester City.

Report from BBC world service picket line

Red Pepper magazine

BBC journalists' strike - picture special

Picket lines in London by Jess Hurd
Picket line in Birmingham by Stalingrad O'Neill
Around the country from the National Union of Journalists (NUJ)

Report from world service picket line

Friday, 5 November 2010

Report from the BBC world service picket line

Striking BBC world service journalists were celebrating taking all the station's news programmes off air today.
While strike-breakers were able to compile short bulletins the longer Radio 4 style news shows were all scrapped and replaced with pre-recorded repeats.
Members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) have walked out for 48 hours over changes to their pension scheme which will see some people have their pay-out cut be a quarter.
At lunchtime around 70 journalists and their supporters rallied on the steps of the world service's Bush House headquarters in London.
They heard speeches from NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear, world service newsroom rep Mike Workman, and George Binette bringing solidarity from the Camden branch of the local government union UNISON.
Pickets were in good spirits and pleased with the public reaction to their dispute.
Although the BBC pension scheme covers all the workers only the journalists are on strike.
Members of the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph, and Theatre Union (BECTU), the BBC electricians' union Unite, the Musicians' Union, and the actors' union Equity voted to accept the new scheme after some changes were won by the threat of industrial action.
However - as reported exclusively on The Workers United - some BECTU activists have swapped to the NUJ to support the strike.
In Newcastle tweets from the picket line reported that a significant number of BECTU members have refused to cross. The same story was coming from Southampton and Cornwall.
Across the UK the NUJ was getting support from members of other unions - and comedians Alan Davies and Robin Ince tweeted that they wouldn't be crossing picket lines to appear on BBC programmes.
Belinda Affat, a Unite rep at The Guardian print centre, visited the world service picket line and said: "It was very uplifting to talk to the strikers. I would encourage other trades unionists to visit their local BBC centre and offer support."
Picket lines and messages of support
Pictures and updates from the NUJ

BBC strikers would welcome visits and messages of support

Members of the National Union of Journalists are on strike over massive cuts to their pensions.
Anyone who wants to support the BBC strike or talk to NUJ members for more information about the dispute can go to picket lines across the UK.
There will be pickets at:
London – Television Centre at White City, Bush House on Aldwych and Millbank, next to parliament.
BBC Scotland offices Glasgow, Edinburgh, Shetland, Orkney, Aberdeen and Inverness. BBC Cardiff, BBC Bristol, BBC Belfast. BBC Manchester, BBC Merseyside, BBC Lancashire in Blackburn, BBC Tunbridge Wells, BBC Southampton, BBC Nottingham, BBC Leeds, BBC Hull, BBC Newcastle, BBC Birmingham, BBC Coventry and Warwickshire, BBC Lincolnshire, BBC Hereford and Worcester, BBC Monitoring at Caversham, BBC Jersey, BBC Stoke, BBC Radio Cornwall, BBC Spotlight in Exeter, BBC Radio Devon, BBC Radio Suffolk, BBC Look East, BBC Radio Norfolk and BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
NUJ members striking outside the UK are expected to picket in Kabul, Washington, Paris, Rome, Los Angeles and Istanbul.
NUJ pictures and updates
There are rallies on pickets lines today in London and Glasgow.
TV Centre, Wood Lane, at noon.
BBC Scotland, Pacific Quay, Glasgow at 11.30am.
BBC World Service, Bush House, Aldwych, London at 1.30pm.
Send messages of support to

Feel free to add details of any other rallies and specific times and addresses of pickets in the comments box.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

National and local journalists driven to action over pay freezes and job cuts

Members of the National Union of Journalists are planning industrial action at newspapers across the South of England as anger boils over in the face of pay freezes and job cuts.
Journalists at The Independent and Independent on Sunday voted by 105 votes to one at a chapel (workplace branch) meeting in London yesterday to organise a ballot for indistrial action over a three year pay freeze and increased workloads.
NUJ members at Newsquest Southampton have called two 48-hour strikes on Tuesday and Wednesday November 9 and 10, and again on Tuesday and Wednesday November 16 and 17.
The dispute is over the continuing pay freeze at Newsquest.
On the first day the of action, the strikers will be protesting outside a Press Complaints Commission (PCC) open day event at Southampton Art Gallery where their editor is a guest speaker.
Journalists at Newsquest titles in Sussex - including the Brighton Argus - are also balloting for industrial action as reported on The Workers United.
Tomorrow more than 4,000 BBC journalists start a series of strikes over cuts to their pensions.
It is vital that amid all the talk of the public sector trade unions organise and fight at penny pinching private sector companies.
These newspaper journalists are on the front line and other trade unionists can find out how to support them at the union's website.

Support needed for jailed female Colombian trades unionists

The campaigning organisation Justice for Colombia is calling for urgent action to free two female trades unionists who have been in jail without trial for well over a year in the Latin American state.
There are hundreds of political prisoners in Columbia but five are being highlighted in a campaign of letter writing to the UK foreign secretary,
They include trades unionists Rosalba Gaviria and Liliany Obando.
More details and an e-card to send to William Hague

Red Pepper magazine on Latin America

Seafarers to protest outside Tesco on the Isle of Man

A shipping union has accused Tesco and Shoprite of undermining Isle of Man ferry services by switching their freight to a company using low-paid eastern European seafarers.
Nautilus International, a union for maritime professionmals in the UK and Netherlands, has written to the two big retailers urging them to reverse their decision.
The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company uses the freight business to provide a subsided passenger route to the Island .
They are now facing competition from Estonian-flagged vessels run by a firm called Mezeron.
Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson said:"It is wholly unjustifiable that competition is introduced on the basis of ‘social dumping’ and undermining an established company that has a demonstrable commitment to decent working conditions and the employment and training of Manx and British seafarers."
RMT, Nautilus and Unite members will be handing out leaflets outside Tesco at Douglas on the Isle of Man on Saturday November 6.
Read the full Nautilus press release.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Union apologises for saying photographer was involved in "terrorist activity"

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has been forced to apologise for mistakenly suggesting one its own members had been involved in "terrorist activity".
A document sent to the Home Office and published on the union's website said that photogrepher Marc Vallee was prevented from covering a protest at the Greek embassy in London in 2008 "for reasons of terrorist activity".
The error was in a submission about how the Terrorism Act 2000 has been misused against journalists.
A report of the original incident and the full apology to Vallee are on the NUJ's website.
Ironically - as Vallee points out on his blog - he is one of the founders of the I'm a Photographer Not a Terrorist campaign which defends the right to take pictures in public places.

Firefighter who was run over by strike-breakers to speak at London meeting

A picket who was run over by a strike-breaking fire engine earlier this week will speak at a public meeting in London on Thursday (November 4).
Ian Leahair, from the national executive of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), was hit on Monday evening - as reported on The Workers United.
He was already scheduled to speak on Thursday with Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), at an event called by the Southwark Save Our Services campaign.
And Leahair has told organisers he is “sore and tender” but will be there.
Becky Branford, an NUJ rep at the BBC who lives in Southwark, will also be speaking
The meeting is at the Salvation Army Hall, Princess Street, Elephant and Castle, SE1 6HH, at 7pm on Thursday November 4.
On Friday November 5 London firefighters will strike over changes to shift hours and BBC journalists will strike over pension cuts.

The Workers United exclusive: Activists swap unions to join BBC pension strike

Pilots union close to winning recognition at airline

The pilots union will today (November 3) try to persuade a hearing in London that it should be granted the right to represent workers at - without the need for a ballot.
The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) is following the UK’s statutory procedure for union recognition introduced by Labour in 2000.
The Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) – the quango responsible – has already established that 62 percent of the workers in the proposed bargaining unit are members of the association.
BALPA wants to negotiate pay and conditions for 247 “flight deck pilots” of whom 174 are union members. is a low cost airline with bases at Newcastle, Edinburgh, Belfast, Leeds/Bradford, Manchester, East Midlands, Blackpool and Exeter airports. It employs more than 1.000 people.
Today’s hearing will decide if BALPA can be granted recognition without a ballot.
Under the law a union needs a membership level of 50 percent plus one person to secure recognition – but employers are allowed to argue for a ballot.
Firms that are hostile to unions hope they can pressurise their employees into voting "no" during the balloting period.
But it would be unusual for the CAC to demand a ballot when a union has more than 60 percent membership.
Today’s hearing is at 10.30am in the Hilton London Euston Hotel, Upper Woburn Place, WC1H 0HT. It is open to the public.
The CAC website has a detailed report of the acceptance decision and the bargaining unit decision for BALPA’s application for recognition at

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Activists swap unions to join the BBC pensions strike

Four leading BECTU activists at the BBC have quit the general broadcasting union and applied to join the National Union of Journalists – so they can take part in this week’s strike over pensions.
The four – until today members of the BECTU audio and music branch committee – explained their decision to colleagues across the corporation in a 1,500 word email.
David Gallagher, who was joint branch secretary, Joti Brar, Tim Clarke, and Ben Toone have jumped ship because BECTU – the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematgraph, and Theatre, Union – are not taking part in the pensions strike after members voted to accept the deal.
Their email says: “The pensions issue is the most shocking and unreasonable assault ever made by BBC management on their staff.”
Because: “The current proposals mean a huge and unacceptable cut to the pensions of existing scheme members, and the imposition of inadequate stock market-dependent pensions for all future staff.”
The message to BECTU members says: “The BECTU leadership have effectively thrown in the towel and seem happy to let BBC management get away with their heist.”
It goes on: “Without explictly campaigning for members to vote 'yes', they did everything in their power to push members in that direction.”
The four say: “The Bridlington agreement (by which trade unions agree not to poach each others' members) means we can't encourage you to leave one union and join another. But we can at least explain the reasons why we're doing so.”
The former BECTU committee members have invited their colleagues to attend “drop-in advice sessions” this week at two London BBC buildings – Bush House and Henry Wood House.
They apologise to any BECTU members who feel let down by their decision but say: "The anti-trade union laws make it very hard for BECTU members to support striking NUJ members. The only way we can make a real difference is by joining the NUJ and taking full part in their industrial action. "
Both unions agreed to ballot members on the latest BBC pension proposals without a recommendation.
But - as first reported on The Workers United - leading NUJ members supported a rank-and-file campaign for a no vote.
The NUJ strike is on Friday and Saturday.

Unite 2010 general secretary election: red scare, organisation, insults, and anti-capitalism

The Unite general secretary ballot has been running for more than a week.
The advice on the union website says any members who have not received a voting paper by Monday November 8 should contact Electoral Reform Services – the independent company organising the poll.
Ballot papers must be returned by Friday November 19.
The giant union – with well over a million members - was formed by a merger of two organisations, Amicus and the Transport and General Workers Union (T and G).
Candidate Les Bayliss, who came from Amicus, is accusing his rival Len McCluskey of trying to turn Unite into a “mirror image” of the T and G.
Bayliss’s website quotes the United Left faction – which supports McCluskey – to back up his case.
In an item posted yesterday Bayliss says: “Their plans are to drastically reduce the number of industrial sectors in the union and thereby concentrate power in the hands of the big battalions.
“Furthermore, they will dismantle the political structure and hand it over to the ultra left.”
In a post dated October 29 Bayliss complains that Unite members have been “receiving unsolicited letters, e-mails, text messages and phone calls” from other candidates.
There is no question that the Bayliss campaign has been sending unsolicited emails. They have been forwarded to The Workers United and reported here and here.
Gail Cartmail’s blog carries a four minute interview with the candidate which was posted on October 31.
Cartmail says Unite should have better organisation in more workplaces to protect people from attacks on wages and conditions.
She says of government policy: “Tax the rich so that we can invest in our industry – public and private sectors.”
Cartmail’s blog is regularly updated with messages from supporters. Today they are Mark Wood, a member of the Unite executive committee who works in local government; and Norman Chislett, secretary of the Ringwood branch in Hampshire ,
Jerry Hicks is the only candidate who is not already an assistant general secretary of Unite.
His rank-and-file campaign is not so well resourced and his website has not been updated since October 24.
Hicks is scheduled to speak on Saturday November 6 at 11am at an event called Anti-Capitalism 2010 at University College London (UCL), Gower St, WC1E 6BT.
According to the organiser's website he will “ speak on the industrial offensive of the ConDem coalition on working class people".
The most recent “news” update on candidate McCluskey’s website is a transcript of a letter from Unite’s joint general secretary Tony Woodley to The Guardian newspaper about the union’s long running dispute with British Airways.
Woodley criticises comments by Bayliss on the dispute saying: “I make allowances for the fact that Les has never led industrial negotiations as a union official, and would certainly be unfamiliar with a dispute of this magnitude and complexity, but for him to argue that the dispute is 'lost’ and has ‘lowered our standing and reputation’ is, to put it mildly, an unhelpful intervention from an official of a union which is in the midst of trying to resolve a difficult industrial dispute.”

Who are you supporting? Feel free to use the comments box to discuss the election.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Manager arrested as three striking firefighters run over on picket lines

Three picketing London firefighters have needed hospital treatment today (Monday) after being run over by vehicles driven by strike breakers.
The most serious incident was in Croydon, south London, where a firefighter had to be taken to hospital by helicopter after being hit by a car driven by a station manager.
The driver was arrested and the picket - named by the Croyon Guardian as Tamer Ozdemir - is believed to have suffered a broken pelvis.
Later there was an incident in Southwark when Fire Brigades Union national executive member for London, Ian Leahair was hit by a strike-breaking fire engine returning to its base.
Earlier on there had been 150 striking firefighters and their supporters outside the yard where strike-breaking fire engines are based.
FBU leaders agreed with police that a small group of pickets - including Leahair - would talk to strike breakers while the crowd bayed from across the street.
Speaking on ITV London news tonight FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said he also knew of a third striker who had been injured and needed hospital treatment.
The firefighters are striking over changes to their shift patterns.
VIDEO: Ian Leahair is hit by a fire engine.

UK government considers making it easier for bosses to sack people

The coalition government's business minister confirmed on The Daily Politics in the last few minutes that they are considering making it harder for dismissed workers to go to employment tribunals.
The City Am newspaper has reported that the government wants to make people wait for two years before they can be unfairly dismissed.
Employment law could be relaxed
Business minister Mark Prisk MP confirmed it was being considered while speaking on BBC2.
The two year qualifying period was the law in the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher.
As a union organiser I represented many people who were sacked for absolutely no reason in the first year of their employment.
This could now be able happen for two years.
Employers will use this as an excuse to sack people and replace them with cheaper, less experienced workers.
It is a recipe for exploitation and fear in the workplace.
There should be no qualifying period.
People should have the right to be treated fairly from their first day in work.

New bakers' president wins support of just 2.9 percent of the members

Full time officer Ian Hodson has been elected president of the Bakers, Food, and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) - despite winning the support of less than three percent of the union's members.
Hodson beat ten other candidates in a first past the post election.
21,923 ballot papers were distributed and 3,392 votes cast.
Hodson received 645 votes, 14 more than his nearest rival Tony Richardson. The result was confirmed after a re-count.
The new president will take over from Ronnie Draper was elected general secretary in August.
In the general secretary ballot to replace Joe Marino - who had held the job for 31 years - Richardson finished second and Hodson third. In that poll both received more than 800 votes.
New president Hodson was elected a full time official in 2002 after 14 years working for Burtons Foods on the shop floor, and holding the union positions of shop steward, health and safety rep, branch chair and branch secretary.
Ian Hodson's election statement
The full results of both elections are on the BFAWU website.
The election campaign was reported on The Workers United.

Tony Woodley's anti cuts tour hits the north

Unite joint general secretary Tony Woodley is on a speaking tour to encourage the union's members to campaign against the UK government's cuts.
There are four dates left:
Tuesday November 2, at 7pm in the Hallmark Hotel, Midland Road, Derby, DE1 2SQ.
Wednesday November 3, at 7pm in Civic Hall, Millennium Square, Leeds, LS1 1UR.
Thursday November 4, at 7pm in the Civic Centre, Regent Street, Gateshead, NE8 1HH.
Woodley will also be visiting Scotland next week but the evenue has not been announced.
Here's the Unite press release announcing the tour.
The union had a successful meeting in central London to bring together activists to discuss the cuts - as reported on The Workers United.
An election to replace Woodley at the top of Unite is under way.

Red Pepper magazine on Countering The Cuts Myths

Sunday, 31 October 2010

GUEST POST: Fired up by Manchester anti-cuts meeting

More than 100 people were at the Friends’ Meeting House in Manchester for a public meeting organised by the Labour Representation Committee (LRC).
The line-up of speakers included a trio of general secretaries - Jeremy Dear from the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Matt Wrack from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), who both made reference to the action their members will be taking this week, and Steve Gillan, recently elected at the Prison Officers' Association (POA).
They spoke alongside ex-MP Alice Mahon, an array of activists and John McDonnell MP, who gave a brief economic analysis of the crisis, as well as describing in gory detail the scenes he had witnessed in parliament of ministers delighting in an opportunity to tear apart state structures.
Although I am usually in favour of keeping speeches short and sweet, it would have been good to hear more from John McDonnell - his detailed analysis was insightful and thought-provoking.
Two main points appealed to me – first, the need for unquestioning solidarity with those taking action against the cuts.
People will come to these campaigns from an array of backgrounds/factions/viewpoints, but fundamentally the fight is a class one. We should be signing each other’s petitions, attending each other’s protests, and contributing to each other’s hardship funds.
Secondly, the need for a narrative to be created from people’s experiences as a counterpoint to the one constructed by the Tories, a narrative which would unite this struggle with others of the past and bring together all those affected on the same side to expose injustice and ideological attacks on services.
I attended this meeting with several newcomers to the LRC: it was, for all of us, an afternoon to put fire in the belly.
By Sarah Warden, National Union of Teachers member

Other guest posts are welcome.

Preparations underway for national protest against cuts before Christmas

Plans are being made to hold a national demonstration against the UK cuts before Christmas - even though the leaders of the trade union movement rejected the idea earlier this month.
The general council of the Trades Union Congress decided to organise a protest in March next year.
Some members of the council wanted a quicker response - as reported on The Workers United.
And the executive of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) met on October 26 and agreed to push ahead with plans for a national demo.
A briefing from PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka and president Janice Godrich posted on the union's website says they will be asking the TUC public sector liaison group meeting on Monday November 8 to organise a protest within six weeks.
I understand the call will be for a national demonstration outside London.
It follows protests across the country last weekend - which were particularly successful in Edinburgh and Belfast.
If the TUC public services group does not endorse the plan I understand the demonstration will be organised by the Trade Union Co-ordinating Group (TUCG).
The TUCG is an alliance of eight unions who work together, primarily on parliamentary lobbying through the office of left-wing Labour MP John McDonnell.
The members of the co-ordinating group are the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), the National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO), the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), PCS, the Prison Officers Association (POA), the Rail Martime and Transport union (RMT) and the United Road Transport Union (URTU).
The Trade Union Co-ordinating Group doesn't have a website - but here's a blog post about its launch.

The Sun apologises to Bob Crow

The Sun - Britain's most popular newspaper - has issued a fulsome apology to Bob Crow, the leader of the Rail, Maritime, and Transport union (RMT).
The Sun said:"An article on 15 September reported RMT General Secretary Bob Crow had a union-subsidised home and luxury car.
"In fact, Mr Crow's home has never been subsidised by the union and he does not own a car, union or otherwise, and champions public transport.
"We are happy to set the record straight and apologise to Mr Crow."
You can see it on The Sun website.
As already reported on The Workers United there was a higher than usual number of trade union stories in The Sun last week.

Red Pepper magazine

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Strike union leaders speak in south London on eve of walkouts

A public meeting in south London on the eve of two strikes will be addressed by leading members of the unions involved.
Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), and Ian Leahair, from the national executive of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), will speak in the Salvation Army Hall, Princess Street, Elephant and Castle, SE1 6HH, at 7pm on Thursday November 4.
The meeting has been organised by local campaign group Southwark Save Our Services.
On Friday November 5 London firefighters will strike over changes to shift hours and BBC journalists will strike over pension cuts - as reported on The Workers United.

GMB takes on hostile employer in south Wales

The GMB union has cleared the first hurdle on the way to winning the right to represent workers at a plant hire firm in south Wales.
Under the union recognition laws introuduced by Labour in 2000 the GMB had to prove it was likely to win the support of half the staff.
The Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) - the quango that deals with union recognition - ruled that this test had been satisfied in the GMB's bid to organise workers at Pontyclun-based Hire One.
The union submitted evidence that it had eight members out of 17 workers in the proposed bargaining unit and that 13 people signed a petition in support of being represented by the GMB.
The workers who would be represented are fitters, drivers, hire shop managers, and a hire desk operative. They are based in Ponyclun and at hire shops in Aberdare, Llandow, Newport, and Swansea
The employer has resisted dealing with the GMB.
Hire One bosses claimed some workers had been duped by the union into signing the petition.
Some workers were phoned at home by the managing director and quizzed about their support for the GMB.
And the company said it was considering job cuts which might hit some union supporters.
A detailed report is on the CAC website.
The next stage of the process is to agree the bargaining unit.
Well done to the GMB - formerly the General. Municiple, Boilermakers and Allied Trade Union.
Organising small hostile employers is vital for the future of the trade union movement.
And it helps bring public and private sector workers together to fight the cuts.

Trade unionists protest at Brixton, south London

Trades unionists in Brixton, south west London, are demonstrating against the government cuts today (October 30) - at 12.30pm in Windrush Square.
The protest has been called by the Lambeth branches of the GMB union, the National Union of Teachers (NUT), Unison, and the University and College Union (UCU) and Lambeth Save Our Services; with support from the Right to Work, Defend Council Housing, Green Left, and Youth Fight for Jobs campaigns.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Industrial action forces unions right back into the national conscience

The Sun newspaper - where independent unions were banished in 1986 - has given a surprising amount of space to trade union affairs this week.
Here are just some examples.
On Monday the main story on page two of the paper was about the start of the Unite general secretary election.
Readers were told that "a left-winger is poised to seize control of the giant Unite union."
Candidate Len McCluskey, we discovered: "Supported the ultra-left group Militant in the 1980s and is surrounded by left-wing cronies."
"Moderate" candidiate Les Bayliss told the paper: "Some ultra-leftists would prefer a Tory government to throw brickbats at rather than a successful Labour Party."
Female candidate Gail Cartmail and rank-and-filer Jerry Hicks were not even mentioned.
The Sun on Unite
Yesterday the paper said London firefighters had the "flamin' cheek" to ask for £10,000 per year pay rises.
The Sun on the Fire Brigade's Union
Two days earlier there had been a much more reasonable story with a nice picture of strikers in Islington.
The Sun's website gets millions of hits - and comments are open.

This morning there was a very straight report on the National Union of Journalists' plans for a strike over pensions at the BBC - but I can't find it on the web.

Firefighters, tube workers, and broadcasters all on strike next week

London is the venue for a week of discontent with tube workers, fire fighters and BBC journalists all set to strike in the next seven days.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) and the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) are taking action on Tuesday evening and Wednesday over hundreds of job cuts on London underground.
Fire Brigades Union (FBU) members in London will be striking for eight hours on Monday, and again on Friday and Saturday in a row over shift changes.
And across the world - but including Television Centre, Broadcasting House, and Bush House in London - National Union of Journalists members at the BBC will be walking out on Friday and Saturday over cuts to their pensions.
Latest releases:
RMT: Today is solidarity day
TSSA: Boris is like Pinnochio
FBU: Hardship fund
NUJ: Ballot result
As discussed on The Workers United two weeks ago there is a growing chance for co-ordinated action against cuts.
In London it would be a big step in that direction if the unions in dispute organised a joint event - maybe a big rally.
The NUJ, RMT, and FBU are all part of the Trade Union Co-ordinating Group (TUCG). Let's see some co-ordination.
Activists should be encouraged to visit each others' picket lines.
And union branches should be inviting speakers from all the disputes and holding collections for hardship funds.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Railway workers win pay rises and no redundancy deal with threat of action

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) has announced that maintenance workers at Network Rail overwhelmingly endorsed a reorganisation of their work after management agreed it would include a seven per cent pay rise by the end of 2011.
The package, which will also deliver a £2,000 lump sum before Christmas and rules out compulsory redundancies, was accepted by a margin of around four to one after being recommended to members by the union.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: "Our negotiators were backed by a solid strike mandate, and at a time when working people have been told to shut up and take pay freezes our members have shown that if you stand together you can win.”
The 12,000 maintenance workers voted 77 percent in favour of strike action in a ballot earlier this year.
Industrial action - or the threat of it - is the only langauage bosses understand.
Union reps and members in negotiations all over the country can use this example to boost workers' confidence.

Politicians criticse National Express over trade union rights

Nearly forty members of the UK parliament have so far put their names to an Early Day Motion criticising the National Express travel group for refusing to recognise trade unions in the United States.
The EDM – a type of parliamentary petition – was tabled less than a week ago by Bolton North East Labour MP David Crausby.
The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) was reporting on the battle by unions to organise British companies running school buses in the USA as far back as 2004.
Since then – according to Crausby’s motion – First Group has adopted a “freedom of association” policy but National Express refuses to act.
The EDM concludes by calling on the UK government to refuse public contracts or subsidies to companies that refuse to recognise trade unions abroad.
Thirty-one Labour, three Liberal Democrat, and one Conservative MP have signed the EDM.
Read the full text of the motion and see which MPs have signed it.
It is excellent that so many Labour MPs are supporting trade union rights – but why didn’t they implement these changes when they were running the country.
If you live in the UK send a short note to your MP asking them to sign Early Day Motion 873. You can do it quickly and for free from .
British unions should organise solidarity protests – not just because its right, but because it builds up a bank of solidarity with American unions which will undoubtedly be useful the other way in the future.

Jon Gaunt supports striking fire fighters

Jon Gaunt - the usually right wing shock jock and newspaper columnist - has been posting on Facebook this morning in support of striking London fire fighters.
His solidarity with the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) comes soon after The Workers United highlighted his column in a Spanish newspaper supporting the trade union response to the cuts.
Gaunt says - in a comment on his Facebook page: "This dispute is all about that fat pudding Brian Colman trying to act tough, the union wants to negotiate Coleman wants war. Not only that but as we head into this age of austerity first it will be the FBU banned and then other workers banned from striking. Please remember it wasn't the workers who got us into this mess it was the bankers and the winkers in Westminster."
Colman is the Conservative councillor who chairs the London fire authority.
Gaunt - who has worked for The Sun and TalkSport - tells his Facebook friends he is on the BBC's Daily Politics today to talk about the dispute and other issues.

Laura Ashley workers on strike in Dublin

Twenty-two members of the Irish retail workers’ union Mandate have been protesting outside a Laura Ashley store in central Dublin.
They are on strike over the closure of the shop – and the minimal redundancy terms which the profitable British company wants to pay.
Laura Ashley is refusing to meet the union at the Labour Relations Commission – the conciliation service in the Republic of Ireland.
Video from the picket line on Grafton Street.
Last year Thomas Cook workers occupied their shop – also on Grafton Street – after closure was threatened.
Solidarity leafleting outside shops in the UK would shake up the company.