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?