Saturday, 29 January 2011

Support for the cabin crew dispute is crucial for the anti-cuts campaign

As predicted two months ago on The Workers United British Airways cabin crew were in position to carry on their strike action by the end of January.
Eight days ago their union Unite announced a 78 percent vote for action from a 75 percent turnout in the secret ballot required by UK law.
The cabin crews have been fighting the latest changes to their working conditions since 2009.
In March 2010 there were strikes.
I visited the picket lines and wrote two articles for Red Pepper magazine's website - although I used a pseudonym as I was trying to get work in the mainstream media at the time.
I found fantastic spirit on the first day of the strike and discovered a few days later that the dispute was causing more problems than BA admitted.
Despite the latest big strike vote no action has been declared.
There is no evidence of a campaign to raise money from the Labour movement to support these largely-female workers who have achieved cult status among trade union activists for standing up to their bullying boss.
There is no evidence of spreading the action to Unite members in other parts of BA - where local disputes within the terms of UK strike law could no doubt be found.
New Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has been talking about supporting strikes.
But he was part the negotiating team that came up with a deal cabin crew rejected.
What happens next in the cabin crew dispute will be crucial for the reputation of the new Unite regime.
A blog by Duncan Holley - the secretary of the British Airlines Stewards and Stewardesses Association (BASSA) branch of Unite - says "nothing is ruled in or out".
Support for action and solidarity would be a big boost to the confidence of Unite and other trade union activists trying to organise the fight to stop cuts and improve working conditions.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Wapping commemorations as NUJ discusses widening its remit

Twenty-five years ago today was the start of Wapping dispute - when Rupert Muroch sacked 5,000 workers from News International overnight.
Before this setback - and the Conservative anti-union laws that helped it happen - the print unons were incredibly strong
They had pre-entry closed shops and recruitment was often done via the union branch rather than via the employer.
Organisation in the sector is now much weaker and all of the old print unions are now a sector of Unite.
Two events have been organised to commemorate the anniversay.
A number of leading trade union speakers will address the a meeting tomorrow (Tuesday January 25) from 7pm to 9pm) at St Bride’s Institute, Bride Lane, Fleet Street, London EC4Y 8EQ.
Later this year a multimedia exhibition will offer dramatic images and accounts of the dispute. It will open on Mayday at the Marx Memorial Library, Clerkenwell Green, London EC1R 0DU.
More information about the dispute and the events can be found at the websites of the organisers - the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Unite.
In response to the weakness of union organisation in some media companies this year's NUJ delegate conference will discuss a resolution which would widen its rules to allow the recruitment of printers and other newspaper workers traditionally in Unite.
Motion 127 on the preliminary agenda says "This Delegate Meeting believes that, in the context of the mass redundancies in the industry and the consequent decline in membership, that the union’s membership restrictions limit potential recruitment and our industrial strength.
"DM notes that the rules can create unnecessary divisions in the workplace whereby, for example, support or technical staff must join another union or remain unrepresented. This DM believes that the NUJ should become the union for mediaworkers and open membership up to all working in the media who wish to join.
"DM therefore instructs the NEC to amend the rules to give effect to the principle that anyone working for a media company or in the media departments of other companies should qualify for membership, regardless of their role.
"DM instructs the NEC to seek meetings with relevant other unions in the media sector to seek to ensure that this does not bring us into dispute with them."
The motion is proposed by the NUJ's national executive council.
It is not certain to be passed by the delegate conference.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Shop stewards network splits over anti-cuts tactics

The National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) voted by a big majority at today's conference in London to set up its own national anti-cuts campaign.
The vote was 325 to 89 - with those in the majority organised around the Socialist Party.
Those in favour argued that other organisations were not committed to fighting all cuts.
Supporters of the Coalition of Resistance and the Right to Work group insisted they were opposed to all cuts and that no further campaigns were needed.
An 11 person committee was elected to run the new anti-cuts campaign - including Alex Gordon, president of the Rail Maritime and Transport union (RMT).
The conference was held at a school in Camden, London.
Afterwards many of the delegates who voted against the new anti-cuts campaign met in a nearby pub.
Members of the NSSN steering committee who were present agreed to stand down.
There was a proposal to start another network of activists based around a website.
I attended the conference as a delegate for the branch of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) representing public relations workers in London. I was mandated to vote against the new anti-cuts campaign.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

The armed wing of the trades union congress

Here's the text of a leaflet I picked up in London yesterday.

Saturday March 26 2011
(195os style picture of two children at their father's knee)
'What did YOU do on that day. Daddy?'

The TUC are calling a huge march for SATURDAY MARCH 26.
They're calling it "March for the Alternative".

But what is the alternative? Hundreds of thousands of us want to be HEARD not herded to Hyde Park for bureaucratic speechifying before everyone goes home. We're constructing an interactive map of direct action targets - media, education, local and national government buildings, bank branches, courts, police station, libraries - to be recycled and put to use as People's Assemblies on the day.

Contact us:

Printed and published by The Armed Wing of The Trades Union Congress

That's the end of the leaflet - these are my links:
Transport - trains and coaches - to the demo in London on March 26
TUC webpage on the demo
There is an alternative

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Union campaign saves 50 telecom jobs in Cumbria

A community-based campaign by the Communication Workers Union (CWU) has persuaded British Telecom to keep 50 call centre jobs in Barrow.
The company is transfering fresh work to the site - rather than pushing ahead with planned redundancies.
The campaign was backed by the local Labour MP and the town's development agency.
CWU statement on the victory
I worked for the CWU in December and did this story on the campaign.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Unite organises to fight cuts and support sacked shop stewards at Greenwich council

Members of Unite who work for a south London council will meet next week to discuss their campaign to win reinstatement for two sacked shop stewards.
On December 15 around 70 people - including the union's general secretary-elect Len McCluskey - demonstrated outside Greenwich council to support the dismissed workers.
There was talk of organising an industrial action ballot for Unite members across the borough.
Now a meeting has been called for Tuesday January 11 at 6.15pm in the Town Hall, Wellington Street, Woolwich, SE18 6PW, to discuss the next move.
It is billed as for Unite members and people interested in joining.
The Greenwich Save Our Services campaign says the council has agreed £27 million of cuts - involving 240 job losses.
Campaigners say the youth service will be outsourced, mother and toddler groups will disappear, waiting times for services to the disabled will grow and charges for services to the elderly will rise.
Council workers think the freezing of incremental pay, and cuts to car mileage and parking allowances are the start of attacks on pay and conditions.
In October last year 8,000 Greenwich council workers were sent notice of possible dismisal - as reported in the News Shopper local paper.
Earlier in 2010 the borough's branch of Unison - the biggest local government union - was taken under the supervision of regional officials.
Branch secretary Onay Kasab was suspended from holding office in Unison for two years. He and three activists from other branches of the Union were accused of producing an offensive leaflet featuring the three wise monkeys.
Kasab, his colleagues, and supporters say they were witch-hunted because they support the Socialist Party.
Kasab has said on Facebook that he will be attending Tuesday's Unite branch meeting.