Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1077/30402
From The Socialist newspaper, 11 March 2020
Fighting to transform the union in my warehouse and improve our workplace
Warehouse, photo Trougnouf/CC, photo Troughouf/CC (Click to enlarge)
Connor O'Farrell, warehouse worker and Usdaw union member
Conditions in my workplace have been decaying over the last decade. The cost of surviving, let alone living, has gotten harder. During this period, the workers have twice been on the brink of industrial action, rejecting multiple pay deals and begrudgingly accepting a third. Unpaid overtime and tracking of workers are the norm, yet fully working equipment is almost a rarity.
But we started organising the union, Usdaw, in the workplace. Armed with support and guidance from the Socialist Party, and confidence in the workers around me, I began to put together a mailing list.
Building the union
Hiding behind stock and in camera blind spots, we built the union and planned to retake our branch. Off-site informal workers' meetings were planned and delivered with the help of the Socialist Party, and although fairly small they served as a vital lever.
By using and navigating the democratic channels available, we realised that fighting and democratic reps were needed to bridge the gap between workers and the union.
On our first run, despite a substantial number of workers being barred from entry at the doorway by both management and the current union branch leadership, we came within an inch of securing a branch position. A split vote led to the chair serving his own individual interest, as was expected.
We have put together a ten-point programme to improve our workplace as part of our campaign to win the upcoming union rep elections.
The hurdles put in place by management and its supporters in the union are a backhanded compliment to our patience and programme.
We want regular branch meetings to bring direct democracy into our workplaces and improve our pay and conditions. The groundwork made so far makes me proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with those fighting to do so.
Donate to the Socialist Party
The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.
The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.
The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.
- The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
- When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our Fighting Fund.
In The Socialist 11 March 2020:
Coronavirus: Full NHS funding now
Coronavirus infects the world economy
Flybe collapse: nationalise to save jobs threatened by Covid-19 and downturn
Coronavirus: international cooperation needed, not capitalist competition
Supermarkets are ruled by profit - unions should control supply limits
For full pay during isolation: for public health as well as workers' wallets
Self-isolation patients speak: NHS facilities and advice not up to it
Italy on lockdown: lack of resources and democracy causes panic
South Korea shows capitalism has money to respond to coronavirus
Coronavirus news in brief
Domestic Violence bill: We still need to fight to save our services
News in brief
Postal workers mobilise to win strike reballot
Homerton Hospital workers fight for sick pay
Fighting to transform the union in my warehouse
Argos workers in Sainsbury's stores threatened with losing collective bargaining
Homeless charity workers to strike against intransigent management
Southampton trade unionists say "defend the right to strike!"
Strong support for PCS Broad Left Network
East London uni and bin worker strikes
How can Trump be ousted from the White House?
Campaigns and party news
Salford 'no-cuts' budget includes cuts and tax rises
Stoke council unions beat pay cuts - now let's stop all cuts
Is there an anti-cuts rebellion in Scotland?
Socialist Party joins International Women's Day protests
Housing workers explain reality to idiot Boris Johnson
Swansea: Ask anyone about state of services, you will hear the real story
Camarthenshire: Councillors' 'walk of shame'
Student occupation in support of striking workers
Selling the Socialist
Socialist Party executive committee positions
Greece-Turkey border refugee crisis
Women's and trans rights
Women's rights, trans rights and the labour movement
Film: Greed directed by Michael Winterbottom
Childcare - costly, inadequate and hard work
Book: Why you should be a trade unionist by Unite general secretary Len McCluskey
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