Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/347/5767
Defending Our Union
WOMEN UNISON members at Avenue primary school in Newham, east London, were an inspiration on the morning of their second strike day.
Newham UNISON is battling a vicious union-busting council which has effectively derecognised the branch leadership.
About twenty women workers picketed Avenue primary, helped by teachers. One striker explained why they were on strike:
"We want our union to stay. We need someone to listen and be on our side. Workers need someone to make sure we're not exploited. I'm a learning support assistant. We're already underpaid and taking on more responsibilities. If the union loses its power we'll be even more exploited."
Some of the strikers wanted what they had done to be an example to other Newham workplaces.
"There is a lack of information in some workplaces where the workers don't really understand what is at stake. Here it's good, we've had meetings with Louise (NUT rep and Socialist Party member), we've done our own leaflet.
"We need leaflets that make it really clear to everybody - 'No union - no support'. We have to ask everyone - can we survive without the union?"
Pushpa Makwana, a health and safety rep, said she had learned a lot from the Scottish nursery nurses who had spoken at a strike rally two weeks ago.
"When the parents sign it makes you stronger. We have to make sure they know why we're striking, especially the parents that don't speak English.
"We have to keep on striking until the council comes to the table and comes to a resolution with UNISON. This is just the start."
Around 80 attended a strike rally to hear speakers and discuss a strategy. Many members questioned the money paid to Labour and demanded that it should be used to finance the dispute instead.
Socialist Party member Nancy Taaffe brought greetings from UNISON in Waltham Forest and said that the union should stop funding Labour and instead build up a network of trade unionists and campaigners to stand against them.
A resolution was passed agreeing to escalate the action, including all-out action if necessary. A further two strike days on 26 and 27 May and a big public protest were agreed.
Only decisive action by the whole workforce can stop this attack on trade union rights.
The union should immediately organise a concerted campaign of meetings in every workplace, so that all council workers understand what is at stake.
A serious approach needs to be made to the other council unions. The council relies on large numbers of agency staff. We need to explain the situation to them and attempt to recruit them into the union.
All-out action by the whole membership, with other unions and agency staff respecting UNISON picket lines, will shatter management's confidence and can stop this attack.
In The Socialist 15 May 2004:
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