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24 September 2008

North Staffs NSSN launched

North Staffs branch of the National Shop Stewards' Network got off to a flying launch on 17 September. It drew participants from UCU, Unison, CWU, PCS, Unite and North Staffs TUC.

Phil Burton-Cartledge, Stoke Socialist Party

Sheila Cohen, from the national NSSN steering committee spoke on building the NSSN as a clearing house for workers in struggle, as a means for disseminating information about disputes and strikes and bringing solidarity to bear.

One of the Burslem 12 postal workers - sacked for standing up to management bullying - spoke.

He talked about how the self-inflicted difficulties that have been plaguing Royal Mail these last few years have been accompanied by increasing the workload.

Changes to work patterns, more work for no extra money, "macho" managers - are all part of the same package.

Pete McNally of the NSSN steering committee and Aslef, speaking in a personal capacity, said workers are facing attacks on every front - prices are rising while wages are stagnating, in real terms.

And yet the bosses tell us they have to keep a lid on wages to stop inflation rising - as if spiralling food prices have anything to do with the tens of pence an hour most workers can expect by way of a wage increase.

There is a good chance the unions could be shaken up soon, as more and more workers are forced to struggle.

From the chair, Steve Funnell said it was magnificent to see so many unions rally around Keele University UCU branch in its struggle against management's attempts to close the industrial relations department.

"We need to move from the mindset that sees things as 'PCS struggles' and 'CWU disputes', and see them as workers' struggles we all have a stake in", he concluded.

Andy Bentley argued we are forever being told that strike action is doomed to defeat, but that simply isn't the case.

Socialist Party members have led struggles which prove this. In Swansea at Visteon a successful struggle saw workers maintain their pay and conditions after the company was sold off, including winning a five per cent pay increase.

In Greenwich, Unison was able to wage a successful fight against the local authority's attempt to reduce some workers' wages to pay for rises in others, in the name of single status, by winning equal pay without any losses for anyone.

It shows that where a lead is given, victory is possible.

This was an excellent beginning. The meeting appointed a local steering committee and solidarity actions with local struggles are planned.

The aim now is to reach out to more trade unionists and make our local movement into something that will give Potteries' bosses sleepless nights.

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