Bill Mullins, Lewisham and Southwark Socialist Party
Striking workers at the Ivy House pub in Nunhead, south London, have won all their demands after three days of stoppage. Lewisham and Southwark Socialist Party heard from one of the strikers at our branch meeting.
The strike achieved reinstatement of four sacked workers, recognition of their trade union BFAWU, and fixed minimum hours to replace zero-hour contracts. It also forced bosses to introduce a proper appeals procedure for future disciplinaries, and an elected staff representative on the management board.
At one stage, bosses called the police to try to take keys off the undermanager who was supporting strikers on the picket line. But when strikers pointed out the property had to have a designated keyholder, and that was the undermanager, the police backed off and said it was “a civil matter.”
The pub – as its signboard outside proudly says – is “community owned.” But that did not stop bosses sacking four workers – with no notice, because they were on zero hours.
This was a deliberate attempt to prevent trade union recognition. Workers had been trying for a number of years to get official status for their union, but had been rebuffed continually.
The picket line on 30 September was widely supported, including by the Socialist Party. Many had spent the previous night making their own banners which they draped over the front of the pub.
All the time the pub was unable to function, despite attempts to bring in strike-breaking labour. Supporters told pickets they had been offered jobs but refused when they found out about the strike.
The ‘offers’ by management throughout the three days were continually rejected by workers. Management was forced to negotiate with a delegation of the strikers and supporters throughout 30 September, the last day of the strike, and on into 2 October.
This strike has many lessons. But it was the presence of politicised workers, including a Socialist Party member, who had worked away behind the scenes for a long time, which helped other workers gain the confidence to stand up and fight.