trade unions

Liverpool People's Assembly Against the Cuts

This Saturday, Liverpool Trades Council have called for a People’s Assembly Against the Cuts. This all-day event is being organised as a forum for discussion and planning, with the possible aim of setting up an all-Liverpool anti-cuts campaign.

Liverpool Solidarity Federation believes that it is important working class people and communities organise themselves against attacks by the ruling class. That is why we welcome the idea of an all-Liverpool anti-cuts campaign, uniting communities, workplaces, the employed and unemployed, students and pensioners to challenge the most savage attacks our class has ever faced.

Coordinated strike action should be built from below

It is now a near certainty that we will see coordinated public sector strike action within the next couple of months. Solidarity Federation - which has members in the public sector unions which will be striking - stands in support of all workers acting to defend their jobs and the services those jobs provide to working class people.

UCU have already balloted. PCS is putting an emergency motion to its conference in May. The NUT sought permission to ballot at its recent conference. Even the moderate ATL already has a mandate to ask members for strike action. The only question now is how events unfold once the ball gets rolling.

T&P 1: Workmates: direct action workplace organising on the London Underground

In the late 1990s, plans to outsource track maintenance on the London Underground were being pushed through by the government. Workers at one depot responded by forming a new workplace group, both inside and outside the existing union, the RMT. This pamphlet charts the highs and lows of the Workmates collective, highlighting their successes and failures, their radically democratic organising method and their creative forms of direct action. We hope it can provide an inspiration to other workers frustrated with the limits of the existing workplace organisations.

A copy of the pamphlet costs £2 including postage and packaging (to UK, please get in touch for international or bulk orders).

Wisconsin occupies for union rights

Workers, students and activists have been pursuing an intensive campaign of direct action in response to attempts by recently elected Republican Governor Scott Walker’s to shatter public sector unions by withdrawing collective bargaining rights. In a clear attempt to break the influence of the unions within the public sector entirely, Walker has forced through a bill which would not just remove collective bargaining, but legally cap pay increases, abolish union dues check-off and require annual union recognition elections – all this after unions accepted all of Walker’s other demands, including a significant paycut.

The bill targets every Wisconsin state worker, with the exception of the police and fire service. However, despite their exemption from the bill, there has been much solidarity evident from firefighters and even in some cases, the police too.

Union bosses: Fat Cats in sheep's clothing

No luck on the lottery? Consider getting a job with the MSF (Manufacturing, Science and Finance union). Then all you have to do is blow the whistle on some shady goings on and get unfairly dismissed before walking off with a six figure payment.

When Marcia Solomon, a secretarial assistant, saw £35,000 worth of cheques made out to Roger Lyons (general secretary) and Nelson Mendes (head of finance) from a supposedly defunct bank account containing £160,000, she was sacked for gross misconduct. She settled out of court for £140,000. Her original allegations were investigated by assistant general secretary, John Chowcat but he was dismissed, also for gross misconduct, after uncovering a string of false expense claims made by Lyons. Chowcat was paid off with another £250,000 of MSF members' money.

It's time to stop paying for pain

The “historic” decision by the RMT to allow Branches to financially support other parties has certainly upset the Labour party, which is dependent on union money for its survival. Given that it looks certain that Scottish RMT branches will vote to support the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) at the next election there is now every chance that the RMT - one of the founders of the Labour Party - will finally cut its links with Labour.

The decision has been welcomed by people across the union movement and will only fuel the groundswell of feeling amongst many unions to follow the RMT example. Here at Catalyst, we view unions paying funds to Labour as the equivalent to paying someone to beat you up. However, while we welcome moves to cut the link with Labour, we are concerned about where the union money will otherwise end up.

Scab union rip-off

Lawyers are getting their hands on a large slice of the £2b of state funds set aside to compensate miners suffering from industrially related disease.

The payout to individual miners is already pitifully low but is seems that lawyers who already receive millions in “handling” payments from the government are still charging miners up to 20% of their settlement for administering the claims.

Not only is it lawyers who are robbing chronically ill workers. Leaders of the scab union, the UDM, have become the best-paid trade union bosses in Britain also by cheating miners out of their full compensation. The UDM have set up a front company called Vendside to handle the miners' claims. As a result many miners do not even realise that their compensation claims have been processed by the despised UDM.

Ostrich Unions: Meaningless mergers TGWU+Amicus+GMB=???

Plans have been announced to create an ‘historic' merger between the TGWU, Amicus and the GMB unions. If it comes off, this will create Britain's biggest-ever trade union, with 2.5 million members, £200 million assets and 300 sponsored MPs. Apparently, this new super union will be much stronger and better able to defend its membership.

The argument goes that we must have a bigger union to have clout with the government and with multinational employers. How so? For all the blustering done by the big unions, very little happens. Why? Because there is no longer the workplace organisation to carry any threats through. The bosses and the government know that if they stall and prevaricate, then the unions will back down and accept a compromise. And what is the point of having hundreds of sponsored MPs if all they do is follow the party line to keep the Labour Party in power?

Class Struggle Not Social Partnership!

The collective nature of the British trade union movement is gradually disappearing. Where as in the past unions saw strength through unity as the means to confront the boss class, increasingly unions are now turning to the idea of union rights enshrined in law as the way to protect workers. These changes date back to the 1980's when union leaders, faced with rapid economic change, collapsing membership and a hostile Thatcher government, decided to abandon "outdated" notions such as class struggle and replacing capitalism with some form of socialism, in favour of social partnership.