strikes

Friends of the Earth... but not of their workers?

In October, workers at Bristol's domestic recycling collection service owned by Avon Friends of the Earth started a campaign of industrial action. They are demanding an end to compulsory overtime, a standard 40-hour week and strong measures to deal with the hostile, duplicitous and uncooperative management at Resourcesaver. Talks between UNISON and Resourcesaver ground to a halt because of unacceptable preconditions demanded by Resourcesaver, namely dropping one of the key members of the UNISON negotiating team, who is an elected representative! As a response to this, Unison members voted unanimously to hold a further 2-day strike that began on the 6th November.

Pay sell-out

While the fire-fighters seem to be leading a second “Winter of Discontent”, echoing 1978-79, July's media fad of a “Summer of Discontent” didn't happen. Although the Government's policy of not paying Local Government workers decent wages initially appeared to have finally provoked a coordinated response, Labour can still rely on some unions to control their members for the good of the Party.

Council workers' strike

Workers ranging from refuse collectors and school dinner ladies to architects were due to walkout for 24 hours in protest at controversial Government plans to raise their pension age from 60 to 65. But just as the Council workers were set to strike, the unions called off the action, after the Government backed down on its plans to make changes to the local government pension schemes.

It shows how the threat of direct action can achieve desired results. The only problem on this occasion is it only forced the Government back to the negotiating table.Time will tell if this is simply a ploy to delay matters until after an election.

Council workers need to be ready to take further action if it is needed. And putting the unions in a position of strength means not letting the bureaucrats throw it all away.

Day of action for sacked Peruvian garment workers

Members of Liverpool Solidarity Federation have held an informational picket outside Zara, in Liverpool One, and handed out leaflets to customers, staff, and passers-by.

Despite some attention from security guards, who informed us we couldn’t operate on private property, we were able to hand out all our leaflets and our action was generally well received. One woman even came over as we were packing away to inquire what we were up to, and offered her support when we explained what we had been doing and why.

This was part of international solidarity actions supported by the International Workers Association (IWA) for workers in Peru, 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.

General strike 2010 – Barcelona

Two members of Liverpool SolFed recently visited Barcelona to show solidarity during the Spanish general strike of September 29th. They report:

During our stay in Barcelona we visited the Banesto building on Plaça de Catalunya which had been occupied for several days by anti-capitalists. They used the derelict space to celebrate resistance, as well as freely exchange information and radical ideas. However the building was later brutally repossessed by riot police.

On the day of the general strike, we joined a lively demonstration of several thousand organized by our sister organisation, the CNT, who put forward a much more militant message of resistance compared to that of the reformist trade unions.

Looking back at the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike

In March 1984, twenty five years ago, the National Coal Board announced it intended to close 20 pits with the loss of 20,000 jobs. Cortonwood in South Yorkshire was earmarked as the first to close, “imminently”, in the words of the NCB chairman, Ian MacGregor. The miners at Cortonwood immediately came out on strike and by March 12th the National Union of Mineworkers had made the strike national. This was to become the bitterest industrial dispute in most of our lifetimes and marked a major defeat for the working class.

Tube staff go off the rails

From 7pm on the evening of Tuesday June 9th until 7pm on Thursday June 11th 2009, London Underground workers in the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union took strike action. The main issue was job security as tube bosses flatly refused to rule out compulsory redundancies, putting 4,000 jobs at risk. London Underground originally also tried to force through a five-year pay agreement which could see significant pay cuts linked to deflation. This, alongside severe management bullying, led the workers to strike.

As the strike began, the London papers really pushed the boat out using distortions and outright lies to attack the striking workers. Claims of workers demanding 5% pay increases ignored the fact that management asked the RMT to submit a pay claim in November (when inflation was higher) while Transport for London have yet to offer anything. These sleight-of-hand tricks with the facts were coupled with barefaced lies like talks stalling over two sacked drivers on the Victoria line. This entirely separate issue, though symptomatic of wider abuses of procedure on the tube, were at no point a part of the main negotiations.

Of course, the papers also failed to mention the 123 tube managers on £100,000+ salaries, plus bonuses. Or that forty minutes before the strike, an agreement had been reached which, while the documents were being typed up, was cancelled by City Hall. These facts disappeared from media view entirely.

The theme of the media coverage was one of trying to stoke resentment against the strikers. Newspaper letters pages were filled with angry comments about ‘people losing their jobs while tube staff want more money’. We’re in recession now so we all have to tighten our belts, apparently. However, this just means that workers will be asked to tighten our belts, while our bosses continue living on six-figure salaries. Tightening our belts now doesn’t mean bosses will reward this good will in the future, rather they will see it as an opportunity for further attacks.

Rather than resent the tube workers’ struggle for jobs, conditions and pay, we should see it as a source for inspiration. As the recession continues, many of us will face similar attacks as bosses try to save money while saving their own salaries. Taking action together, like workers did on the Underground, will be the only way to protect ourselves from these attacks.