Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1027/28591
Liverpool Travelodge digger wrecking: union organising is the answer
Roger Bannister, Liverpool Socialist Party
Footage of a disgruntled construction worker, owed £600 by his employer, smashing the reception of a newly built Liverpool Travelodge with his digger has gone around the world. It has attracted humorous comments, condemnation and some sympathy.
Within a few hours, crowdfunding had raised hundreds of pounds - initially to cover the £600, but then to help pay for legal representation in the inevitable court case.
The many workers who have been underpaid by their bosses will no doubt sympathise, and may even wish they had access to a mechanical digger!
Despite the myths peddled by the capitalist media, British law is overwhelmingly biased towards the employer. It is extremely difficult to prevent an employer from cheating you on pay or other rights in advance, and there are only limited means to seek redress after the event.
According to the government's own statistics, over 9,000 minimum-wage workers were underpaid by bosses in 2018, to the sum of £1.1 million. And in recent years, local councils have had to pay millions for historic equal pay legislation breaches to thousands of low-paid women. Just recently, the heroic 8,000 Glasgow strikers forced their employer's hand on this too.
But reports suggest the worker in question here is not a member of a trade union. This case illustrates an important fact of life under capitalism: workers' rights count for little if workers have no effective method of enforcing them. It is of crucial importance that all workers belong to a trade union.
Unions can provide legal assistance to pursue non-payment of wages. But more importantly, a well-organised workplace is more likely to prevent these problems occurring in the first place - by stopping the job with industrial action if workers don't consider employers' treatment of them proper.
Union leaderships vary. Some are good, some are bad. Even the best-led unions may vary in effectiveness from place to place, section to section.
It is therefore also vital that rank-and-file workers take control, by electing fighting shop stewards in their workplaces, and combative representatives to their unions' governing bodies. Militant shop stewards can link up with like-minded reps via the National Shop Stewards Network, to learn from each other's experiences, and plan coordinated action where appropriate.
- Find out more about the NSSN at shopstewards.net
In The Socialist 30 January 2019:
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