Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/586/7492

From The Socialist newspaper, 30 June 2009

What we think

Victories show the way forward for struggles

The third conference of the National Shop Stewards' Network (NSSN) could not have been better timed, coming just one day after the victory of the Lindsey Oil Refinery (LOR) construction workers.

The NSSN conference was able to hear first-hand from Keith Gibson and others from the strike committee how the Lindsey victory came about. They spoke from the main platform and in the special workshop on the lessons of the strike. Conference also heard from Rob Williams, re-instated convenor of Swansea Linamar, and John Maguire, convenor of Belfast Visteon.

The recession has brought a relentless onslaught on workers' jobs, pay and conditions. These three struggles show that it is possible to successfully fight back against the onslaught. Although the NSSN is still only in its early days, this conference was an important step towards building the kind of mass shop stewards' organisation that will be a vital weapon in the struggles of the coming years.

To many, particularly younger people, this was the first whiff of what it was like to be involved in the huge trade union battles of the 1970s and 1980s in the private sector. Indeed, for everybody who was there, this was the most important gathering of trade union activists for some time.

The conference was an overwhelming success, attracting as it did shop stewards and workers' representatives from around Britain, but, like workers' struggles in general, there was a complete media blackout when it came to reporting this important event.

The victory of the LOR construction workers over Total, the international oil giant, was reported by the BBC website with accompanying library footage, featuring workers with union jacks and a homemade piece of cardboard saying British jobs for British workers. They could not bring themselves to show the reality of a magnificent demo by two thousand workers last week at Lindsey waving dozens of trade union flags and placards and calling for basic class demands. But what the media cannot hide was that the Lindsey workers scored a victory, in the words of Keith Gibson: "for workers everywhere".

The huge attacks on workers' jobs and wages since the onset of recession has been accompanied with relentless propaganda from the capitalist media, echoed unfortunately by too many trade union leaders, that workers are powerless to do anything to defend themselves. Saturday's conference showed clearly that this is not true.

Green shoots of struggle

Even three swallows, perhaps, a summer do not make, but what tremendous 'green shoots' of struggle they show. As the recession continues, half the workforce in Britain faces pay cuts or cuts in hours, with the resulting loss of pay, or a combination of both. Each struggle will be different, depending on its leadership, the economic conditions, and other factors which have to be taken into account.

Linamar, for example, faced the certain shut down of the Ford assembly plant in Kansas if the Swansea factory had gone into all-out strike action. In both Linamar and Lindsey, one of the lessons to be drawn is the effect that the threat of, or in Lindsey's case the carrying out of, all-out strike action had in forcing management to retreat.

In the recent period one or two day strikes have dominated. It will still vary from strike to strike, but all-out action will increasingly be posed.

Lindsey, of course, became a lock-out for the LOR construction workers themselves when they were sacked, and a national strike from below for the other 30 sites that took solidarity action in support of the Lindsey workers. This type of solidarity action is the music of the future.

Economically the engineering construction workers were, and are, in a powerful position as regards their bosses. The bosses have plans, costing hundreds of millions of pounds, to develop new capacity both in existing plants like Lindsey and in completely new ones, for example, in the nuclear power stations now being put on order. Not every group of workers will have the same muscle, but it will still require the development of action from below and bold leadership as each struggle develops over the next period.

All three battles were of a defensive character. In the case of Visteon this was even more so because on the surface they did not seem to have much economic power, but the decisive action of the Visteon workers, in occupying the workplaces deprived the owners of getting crucial machinery and components out of the factories, and cut across any possibility of reopening the factories under a different name, thus preventing the owners from taking the workers' money and running.

The existence of the NSSN enabled these three struggles to be brought together. But the role of the national unions cannot be ignored. As Keith Gibson said at the conference: "if the national union leaders had backed us last January and February, when Lindsey was left without leadership for a few days, then some of the more backward demands that appeared briefly [on placards] would have been kept even further in the background."

In the most recent strike the union leaders were drawn into supporting the struggle primarily because the workers had already acted from below. What the NSSN can do, as it was able to do in the case of these three struggles, is not only to act as clearing house for information about what is going on but also take a lead.

When the Unite union held its demo in Birmingham earlier this year, the NSSN had the authority to organise a fringe meeting of 200 around the issue of Linamar. The actions of the Linamar workers also brought about the promise at the same demo by Tony Woodley that he would accept the sacking of Rob Williams over his "dead body".

Construction workers throughout the country will soon be balloted for strike action over the issue of wages and conditions. Already the employers, fresh from being defeated by the massive demonstration of solidarity over Lindsey, are drawing up new battle lines. They will draw into their camp all the weapons they have at their disposal, including the law.

The employers' leader Mike Hockley (Financial Times 29 June) said that the ballot is illegal because it calls for jobs to be given to existing workers on contracts that are coming to an end. He claims that it breaches the Race Relations Act! This is not a case of the employers wanting to be fair in their employment hiring practices, but a case of them wanting to break the power of the trade unions on the sites.

The union leadership must not accept that the law can stop the struggle to defend these basic conditions, but if they do, then the construction workers themselves will have to take control of the situation and, as they have already proved they can, brush these anti-union laws to one side.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 30 June 2009:

Militant action pays!


Youth fight for jobs

Decent jobs not poverty schemes!


Socialist Party editorial

Victories show the way forward for struggles

Total's fat fingers in every pie

"We came out with Lindsey and we'll go back with Lindsey"


Socialist Party campaigns

New Labour's house building plans amount to just a drop in the ocean

Pride not profit - London Pride Saturday 4 July

Crisis looms in FE colleges

Tower Hamlets demo

Councils try to gag us

Campaign to save Lewisham Bridge school continuing

Fast news

BNP: Looking beneath the suits


National Shop Stewards Network

National Shop Stewards Network Conference Confident and enthusiastic


Socialist Party Marxist analysis

25 years ago: Liverpool - a city that dared to fight


Workplace news and events

Glasgow council: Social work dept staff start all-out strike

Justice for the Shrewsbury pickets march and rally

Construction industry in major crisis


 

Home   |   The Socialist 30 June 2009   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Lindsey:

triangleLiverpool Socialist Party: Lessons of the 2009 Lindsey Refinery strike

triangleSpied on by the state and bosses

triangleWorkers' Memorial Day: strike for safety

triangleOil Refinery workers protest

triangleConstruction workers strike to defend agreements

Strike:

triangleWorkplace news in brief

triangleCWU fights court attempt to stop national strike

trianglePoverty, repression and fightback on the docks

triangleUniversity of Leeds workers walk out

NSSN:

triangleBirmingham: NSSN Solidarity Forum

triangleFood processing workers vote for action against miserly bosses

triangleTUC supports Birmingham bin workers

Construction:

triangleRemove cladding without delay says head of Housing Fed

Construction workers:

triangleFerrybridge workers protest against 'race to bottom'

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis

13/10/17

Labour

The end of the Tories?

11/10/17

Tories

Nasty party imploding...drive out the Tories

11/10/17

Black history

The fight against racial discrimination is tied to fighting against capitalist austerity

11/10/17

Housing

Housing crisis: Corbyn's positive measures blanked by Labour's right

11/10/17

Universal Credit

Major attacks 'Universal Credit', half a million more face poverty

11/10/17

Them & Us

Them & Us

11/10/17

NHS

NHS meltdown - fight the Tory cuts

11/10/17

IMF

IMF helps cause inequality it slams

4/10/17

NHS

Tories wreck our NHS

4/10/17

Workers

Monarch abdicates responsibility to workers

4/10/17

Capitalism

Capitalism and human progress

4/10/17

Trump

Bending the knee v Trump

4/10/17

Tories

The Tories must be driven out

29/9/17

Labour

Labour Party conference: Action against establishment sabotage still needed

27/9/17

Anti-austerity

Anti-austerity opposition needed to seize on Tories' weakness

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party imploding...drive out the Tories

triangle11 Oct CWU fights court attempt to stop national strike

triangle11 Oct The fight against racial discrimination is tied to fighting against...

triangle11 Oct Catalonia: Workers can finish what Puigdemont won't

triangle6 Oct Boeing bust-up threatens thousands of skilled jobs

triangle4 Oct The nasty party turns on itself... but the Tories must be driven out

More ...

triangle16 Oct Teesside Socialist Party: After the party conferences

triangle17 Oct London: TUC lobby & rally; and London march

triangle18 Oct Warrington & St Helens Socialist Party: 1917-2017; the October Russian Revolution

triangle18 Oct Hackney Socialist Party: 100 years ago - the Bolshevik-led revolution

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2