Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/336/5655
Fighting The Bosses And The BNP
FOR NEARLY 40 weeks, electricians (members of EPIU-TGWU) in Manchester, illegally sacked by cowboy construction company DAF Electrical, have been on strike demanding reinstatement. The picket began at Piccadilly No 1 site and moved to the new county court site after the Piccadilly job finished.
Hugh Caffrey, Manchester
Over 35,000 people have signed the sparks' petition and Manchester Socialist Party has consistently supported the strikers.
After fellow building workers on a TGWU picket in Liverpool were threatened by BNP supporters, I was invited to address the EPIU branch, on anti-fascism and building a new alternative.
The Liverpool dispute by joiners was bitterly opposed by the employer, which used brickies from Oldham who belonged to the BNP, to intimidate the pickets. The workers won, though the BNP supporters were kept on after the contract finished - while the joiners were laid off.
What a clear illustration of how the bosses use neo-Nazi thugs against the working class! And what an indictment of the so-called "post-fascist" BNP! Awareness needs raising among union members to expose the real character of the BNP. We have raised the demand for the unions to organise an educational event in Manchester.
The root of BNP growth is the betrayals of Labour and the lack of a mass alternative. There is a burning need for workers' election candidates, as a step towards a new workers' party.
At every stage, the DAF sparks have faced obstacles and incompetence from the union bureaucracy. Such officials must be replaced with those willing and able to do the job. Meanwhile the employers are importing workers on poverty pay and whipping up racist divisions.
As the workers say, a unionisation campaign amongst migrant workers is needed to demand the same pay and conditions as other workers on a fighting programme.
When I spoke at the union meeting, I sold seven copies of the socialist and we were warmly invited to the next branch meeting.
Jarvis Gets A Trade Union Lesson
CLEANING STAFF in 20 Kirklees schools in west Yorkshire were transferred to private contractor Jarvis when their schools went into a Private Finance Initiative scheme.
Mike Forster, Jean Goodison, Kirklees UNISON chief stewards
Jarvis in turn sub-contracted the work to Trident. They have been an appalling employer and failed to deliver a decent service to the schools. Cleaners left the company in droves, due to the worse holidays, sick leave and pay that was on offer. In the end, Jarvis was forced to take on the contract themselves, after constant failures and criticism.
The unions, GMB and UNISON, opened up negotiations with Jarvis to improve these conditions. They offered to improve holidays and sick leave but insisted that cleaners transferring from Trident should stay on 48-week contracts. This means they are not paid for four weeks a year. The workers can't sign on, so were being driven even further into poverty.
We objected to Jarvis' high handedness with some of the lowest-paid workers in our schools. After all, Jarvis made profits last year of over £70 million and it would cost them only £38,000 to put everyone on 52-week contracts.
Jarvis called special meetings for the cleaners to introduce themselves as their new employer. Both the unions attended these meetings and proposed industrial action if Jarvis failed to improve on their offer. The cleaners were very angry. Each one had tales to tell of managerial incompetence and being left understaffed on both morning and evening shifts. The vote for action was overwhelming.
Jarvis called further talks but refused to budge on 52-week contracts. We started visiting the schools with ballot papers and blitzing the press with stories of Jarvis' scrooge mentality.
The press interviews and stories and the threat of industrial action sent Jarvis into a panic. On the day school visits were due to start, we were asked to an urgent meeting with the head of human resources from London. He kicked the local manager out of the meeting. But no matter what pressure he tried to apply, we stood firm - 52-week contracts or face a strike.
He claimed they did not have the time to work it all out. We left the meeting without resolution but a few hours later they phoned to say they could meet our demands after all! They asked if we could put out a joint press release to undo all the bad publicity they had been getting. That didn't happen either.
We visited the schools anyway to thank the cleaners for their support and signed up a few more to the union.
Jarvis might be a giant multinational raking in massive profits but they can still be humbled by determined and united trade union action.
Leicester Lecturers In Fourth Strike Week
LECTURERS AT Leicester college started their fourth week of strike action with a mass picket and rally to mark the end of the half-term holiday. The strikers are protesting at the imposition of new contracts which will dramatically worsen their conditions of service.
So far the management are refusing to negotiate until the strike is called off but this has hardened the resolve of the striking NATFHE members. Lecturers from Leicester University joined the picket - AUT members who will be on strike themselves this week. NATFHE members from other local colleges, like De Montfort University also came to show their support. There were union banners from Amicus, amongst others, and Leicester University Socialist Students.
The college management are claiming that 90% of lessons are covered, but as Siobhan Logan from the strike committee told me: "They'll be claiming 120% by next week."
Apparently lessons are being covered but not necessarily by people who are qualified to teach that subject.
I was told about an aromatherapist sent in to teach 'A' level biology and a hairdressing manager sent to an 'A' level psychology class.
The person sent to teach English to a class of predominantly Iraqi Kurds was amazingly revealed as not knowing where Iraq was or who the Kurdish people were.
Please send donations and messages of support to: NATFHE Leicester College Strike Fund, NATFHE Birmingham Office, 2nd Floor, Alpha Tower, Suffolk Street, Queensway, Birmingham, B1 1TT email@example.com. Also see the strike website at: www.natfhebranches.org.uk/leicester_coll/
STOP PRESS Management have been forced to negotiate, whilst the strike remains firm.
In The Socialist 28 February 2004:
Socialist Party workplace news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis