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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

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.

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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.

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In The Socialist 11 March 2020:


Coronavirus

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


News

Domestic Violence bill: We still need to fight to save our services

News in brief


Workplace news

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


US election

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


International news

Greece-Turkey border refugee crisis


Women's and trans rights

Women's rights, trans rights and the labour movement


Readers' opinion

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

The Socialist Inbox


 

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Related links:

Usdaw:

triangleUsdaw - the Activist issue 84

triangleUsdaw Activist meeting: The retail sector and the coronavirus crisis

triangleRetail and the coronavirus outbreak - organise to defend workers interests

triangleUsdaw - the Activist

triangleAction needed to protect shop workers and access to essential goods

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triangleClass collaboration and worker militancy in World War Two Britain

triangleWorkers take action while union leaders call truce with government and bosses

triangleVictory for Medway bin workers

triangleThings will never be the same again

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triangleLabour must resist 'Covid coalition'

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Help us continue to fight for workers and socialism

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