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: opens in new window)

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.