Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/557/6634
Dover port workers strike
On 15 December, 500 workers marched to defend jobs at Dover Harbour Board (DHB), ahead of a 48-hour strike starting on 18 November.
Members of Unite voted 83% for strike action, with a turnout of 95%. They are demanding that contracts remain in-house, not outsourced to private companies. Workers at DHB are rightly worried about terms and conditions, as well as job security and pensions.
Despite the best attempts of the chief executive at DHB, the upcoming strike action has been well supported in the local community, and beyond.
The lively demonstration on Saturday attracted support from RMT members, who sail the ships, members of the local community, trade unionists from across the county and workers from other ports in the south east.
As the demo moved through the town, it received applause from passers by. The port provides 10% of all jobs locally, so this dispute is close to many people.
The demo was also met by workers from across the channel, members of the CGT in France, who marched in solidarity with the DHB workers.
In preparation for the strike, the senior management tried to train a group of former gurkhas to try and break the strike.
However, the plan backfired as the gurkhas walked out of training. This has raised the profile of the strike and attracted more support, given the great respect that many in the local area have for gurkhas.
The overwhelming majority of workers affected at DHB are optimistic that the 48-hour walkout can win, or at least force the management into talks.
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Delegates to the Unite NHS national industrial committee agreed on 14 November to use their mandate for industrial action cautiously by calling a work-to-rule on 3 December, to be followed by escalating action, including strike action, in January.
The ballot of members, announced the previous day, gave a 76% vote for action short of a strike, and 53% for strike action. The turnout was 24%.
The 'yes' vote is a stunning answer to all those doubters, especially the Unison leaders, who scoffed at the Unite ballot - it was all 'posturing' according to them.
The committee is made up equally of ex-Amicus and ex-TGWU reps. The TGWU has a heavy representation from the ambulance service. Amicus draws its members from maintenance engineers and many other groups and professions. A work-to-rule would be different for each, while a strike allows the same action by all groups.
A number of factors have come into play since April when the three-year deal was imposed - not least the worldwide credit crunch. Delegates also thought that members would prefer to strike in January rather than in the run up to Christmas. By January we should know whether the biggest health union, Unison, is willing to seriously pursue its demand to re-open the deal.
The most left delegates argued to strike in December - the members have said yes, a majority is a majority, and to step back now risks demoralising the active reps and organised workplaces.
In The Socialist 19 November 2008:
No Job Cuts
Post office closures
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis