Workplace rights drive visits Brighton retailers

With workers facing across-the-board cutbacks, members of Brighton SolFed today hit the streets to talk to retail staff about their rights. After the UKUncut protests have shifted attention to the multi-million pound tax dodging of several high street names, we went to talk to retail workers, encouraging them to get organised to prevent bosses cutting costs by cutting their conditions. We’ll be back again in a couple of weeks to keep the issue topical, and keep local bosses on notice that attacks on workers’ conditions won’t go unnoticed!

You can download a copy of SolFed’s basic workplace rights leaflet, 'the Stuff Your Boss doesn’t want you to know' here.

An open letter to parents and school staff from a local teacher

We're publishing here a letter to parents and school staff that we received from a local teacher.

Protests by college and school students on November 24th and 30th were an exuberant festival of disorder. Young people threw down a challenge to adults facing threats to our livelihoods from the all-party cuts currently starting to kick in. Students as young as twelve got out on the streets, stepping out of their allotted roles and creating a vibrant, positive response to the vicious attacks that their generation are facing. At one Brighton school over 550 pupils walked out - a third of the total school population - as well as hundreds from other Brighton schools and Lewes Priory.

Notes on the violent minority

The Millbank riot and some of the subsequent student protests have been widely condemned in the media as the actions of a 'violent minority'. NUS president Aaron Porter infamously described the riot as ‘despicable’. Property destruction, we were told, undermined the message of the NUS’ peaceful protest. This was the behaviour of ‘anarchists’, outsiders hijacking what would otherwise be respectable political protest in a liberal democracy. But liberals would do well to reflect on their own glass house before casting such rhetorical stones.

Liberalism: doctrine of the violent minority

Liberalism in fact is nothing but the ideology of minority violence par excellence. Margaret Thatcher’s favourite thinker, Adam Smith, was refreshingly frank about this back in the 18th century:

Breaking glass, building solidarity?

A campaign of demonisation has started against the students who trashed Tory HQ on Wednesday, who are being portrayed as unthinking thugs. We re-publish here an article about what happened at Millbank by one of the participants.

Breaking glass, building solidarity?

 

Yesterday was glorious. It was inspiring, fun and yes, ‘anarchic.’ I spent most of it laughing and hollering into the brisk air on those sunlit streets. Scary, huh? The news reports seemed to think it was very serious. That may have been because of the seriousness of the cause for which the demonstration was organised, and indeed the violence of the attack on education by the politicians, directors of institutions and the rest, is far greater than anything demonstrators could have dreamed of doing, even the absolute plank who chucked a fire extinguisher from the roof.

Housing benefits slashed – we talk to a claimant

The media keep running stories about benefit fraudsters living it up no doubt in preparation for drastic changes to the benefits system. Brighton SolFed spoke to one of the supposed benefit scroungers to find out what it’s really like to live on benefits.

Since finishing a postgraduate course, Teresa has been looking for a job in Brighton. “I have been applying for at least 4 to 5 jobs a week for the past 4 months but did not get any job. Often I have been told I am overqualified for the positions and even though I tried to impress on them that I would like to work – I was told that they can get someone less qualified to do the work on minimum wages.”

Cuts are inevitable? Make the country ungovernable!

October 20th saw the unveiling of the long-awaited Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), the coalition government’s detailed blueprint on precisely how they plan to screw the working class. Little within the CSR was a source of surprise, with cuts roughly at the level that had been predicted in the run up. While the scale was predictably significantly below the 40% that had been mooted, this was clearly an attempt to ‘soften us up’ and feel lucky the cuts were “only” 20%, as if it had been taken straight out of the pages of ‘Negotiation for Dummies’.

Radical Workers Bloc joins anti-cuts march in London

On Saturday (23rd October) members of Brighton Solidarity Federation joined the Radical Workers Bloc on a march to demand an end to the cuts being imposed on the working class in the ‘austerity budget’ – the greatest attack on the working class in decades.

We join the fight against the cuts now because they will bring immediate and real hardship and suffering to working people. But the answer does not really lie in a readjustment of the government’s budget.

The real answer lies in a fundamental change in the way we organise our society and economy. The fight over cuts is symptomatic of the fight between the wealthy, the capitalists, and the workers. It concerns how the wealth generated in society is distributed: but a slight shift one way or the other is not enough.

Restaurant workers still being robbed one year on

The beginning of October saw the first anniversary of a change in the law designed to give waiters 100% of their tips.  It was brought in because many café and restaurant owners were routinely taking advantage of a loophole in the law which allowed them to use their workers’ tips towards the wage bill.  Despite being rewarded by customers with extra money for their hard graft, waiters were being paid only the minimum wage by unscrupulous managers.

The then Labour government, prompted by campaigns by Unite the Union, passed the law on 1st October 2009.  But one year on, there are still problems front of house.  According to Dave Turnbull of Unite, “There are still too many employers who regard tips as a subsidy for low pay and who see the tips and service charge money left by customers as a pot of cash to which they are free to help themselves.

International day of action for sacked Peruvian garment workers

Today members of Brighton SolFed delivered letters of protest to two Brighton stores. This was part of an international day of action called by workers in Peru and supported by the International Workers Asscociation (IWA), in response to the sacking of 35 trade unionists. The union members were working in a factory for ‘Topy Top’, one of the major suppliers to high street store Zara, and also a supplier for Gap. Both Zara and Gap stores were visited and letters of protest delivered to local management.

Stopping the cuts at Sussex: lessons from the anti-war movement

As the scale of the budget cut-backs begins to sink in, there are signs of a nascent movement against the cuts, with hundreds attending public meetings across the country, including a packed-out meeting in Brighton for the local launch of the Stop the Cuts Coalition. The last time this many people were mobilised, over a million marched through London with the Stop the War Coalition against the Iraq war. But Blair called our bluff and the war went ahead. What can we learn from these experiences for the fight against cuts?

After the massive demonstrations in London, many in Brighton felt that sheer numbers alone weren’t enough. Instead, the anti-war movement in Brighton took a different path, based on mass direct action.

Report back from IWA conference in León, Spain

Three delegates from the Solidarity Federation attended the conference mainly dealing with 'precarity', self-management and co-operatives. The conference was hosted at the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo's IX anarchist camp near León in northern Spain.

There were about 100 people at the camp and 60 participants in the conference. Ten sections were represented: CNT-F (France), FAU (Germany), Priama Akcia (Slovakia), ZSP (Poland), SolFed (Britain), SP (Portugal), USI (Italy), KRAS (Russia), NSF (Norway) and of course the CNT-E (Spain). There were also two guest organisations: MASA from Croatia and two delegates from the Peruvian newspaper La Humanidad, who however arrived several hours after closure of the conference due to immigration/visa problems.

Newsletter: emergency budget special

A special edition of ‘Brighton & Hove Solidarity’ – the bulletin of Brighton Solidarity Federation is now available to download, to coincide with the announcement of the emergency austerity budget today. You can download a pdf here. Contents includes: Class war budget, strikes off and redundancies on at Sussex Uni, a local teacher’s view on academy schools, local council cuts and an article on the hidden side of the World Cup – workers’ exploitation and resistance.

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We are an anarcho-syndicalist union based in Brighton. We have ongoing campaigns in Hospitality and in Health & social care, but we aim to organise with workers of all industries and none. We also have a very active housing union.

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