Download RESISTANCE bulletin issue June 2010 [PDF]: http://www.afed.org.uk/res/resist123.pdf
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- BA Cabin Crew strike again!
- On the Front Line: Strike at Culture and Sport Glasgow, Strike for the living wage at the National Gallery, Action Hits Glasgow Newspapers, Polish Bus Workers Strike Against Privatisation, Strikers in Bangladesh win promise of pay increase
- Education Round-up: Strikes, Occupations and Boycotts
- Arizona Immigration Law Resisted
- Migrant solidarity march in Brighton
- Shock Election Result: Government Wins!
- Justice for Jennyfer Spencer!
- Anti-fascist demo at Hereford election count
- A Year of Solidarity in Calais
BA Cabin Crew strike again!
British airways cabin crew have taken further industrial action in a dramatic battle with management that has become 2010’s most significant dispute so far. The conflict will have effects beyond the company and airline industry, touching on questions like the ‘right to strike’ and what the age of austerity will look like for workers in the UK.
12,000 British Airways cabin crew have taken part in their first round of strike action, running for five days beginning on Monday 24th May. Another two rounds are planned for the following weeks. The dispute is primarily over the revoking of travel rights from workers involved in previous strike action by BA management. The strikes follow a high court injunction which banned the action (and retrospectively outlawed two previous strikes conducted on the same ballot) and an appeal which overturned the decision, allowing strike action to go ahead. At the time of going to press, BA are threatening further legal action, with speculation that they plan to take the dispute to the Supreme Court.
Injunctions and Appeals
The High Court’s initial decision to ban the strike had enormous ramifications, and had it been held up it would have meant that the ‘right to strike’ had basically ceased to exist
in Britain. The fact that members hadn’t been informed in individual letters of 11 spoilt ballots out of 12,000 (as opposed to in emails, texts and so on) in a ballot with a turnout of over 70% with a mandate of 81%, showed that hugely disproportionate sanctions faced minor and – as the appeal proved – arguable ‘breaches’ of some of the most complex employment legislation in existence. It also raised the prospect of workers being fired, entirely legally, for taking strike action ruled unlawful after the event. Practically, this would put the ‘right to strike’ in Britain on the same terms that existed before the Taff Vale judgement of
1901 and the Trades Disputes Act 1906, which granted unions immunity from litigation for officially conducted ballots. It also means that strike ballots have to be more rigorous than the general elections which create governments, and if the same standards were applied
practically every MP would lose their seats.
In the wake of the appeal, we can speculate on the rationale for overturning the ban in a legal climate in which any excuse to injunct against strikes with huge democratic mandates had been granted – of over 30 injunctions sought against strike action recently, all but two have
been upheld, including this one. With the hearing taking place at such a high level, it appears that the High Court wanted to demonstrate that rulings should take into account the legal principle of ‘de minimis’ – that is that breaches of the law shouldn’t be met with disproportionate consequences. But this begs the question – why is this only an issue now, after a number of high court injunctions have banned strikes?
Perhaps part of the issue is simply judicial self-interest. In delivering the ruling, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, stated that disputes can’t be resolved through the courts. Given the inevitability of strike action in the face of savage budget cuts and broad attacks of the quality of living in the UK, the high court may simply wish to avoid having its schedule filled
with these kinds of cases in coming years.
Another, more plausible possibility may be a reflection of the concerns voiced in the employers’ press about the strict enforcement of the complex legislation covering work and business. Concerns have been raised about the consequences if the same approach was applied to the rules governing shareholders meetings for instance – though this is of course highly unlikely, as the spate of these rulings and the structure of the law itself make it clear
that the law is there to make strike action by workers as ineffective and difficult as possible, not that there is any real concern for the watertight application of legislation per se.
The most important reason, however, has to do with the functioning of unions. Unions and lawful strike action are allowed to exist within capitalism for a reason: they function as a pressure valve for the inevitable conflicts between workers and employers. This understanding was repeated in the mainstream media, though the argument was from the perspective that outlawing strikes and neutering unions further would lead to the prospect of ‘unrest’ beyond anyone’s control. These judges are of the generation that will remember the strikes of the 1970s and the fact that unions are often useful to stop wildcat action and call off strikes. More recently, the Royal Mail strikes last year saw a number of local disputes, including illegal and unofficial strike action, being rolled up into a limited national strike which
culminated in a union ‘deal’ which represented a pay cut and a worsening of terms and conditions.
With the court battles taking up the limelight, details have surfaced of BA’s long-running attempts to get rid of militant members of the cabin crew union affiliated to Unite, BASSA, which has regularly been attacked by BA boss Willie Walsh as “dysfunctional” for its willingness to push for effective action.
Following the last significant dispute between BASSA and BA management over pay in January 2007, BA set its sights on finding excuses to fire leading BASSA shop stewards. Managers contacted the crew scheduling team requesting details of the rosters of 18 workers – all prominent BASSA members – and looked for evidence of conspiracy with crew schedulers to give them preferential rosters. The allegations were groundless, and internal investigations came up with no evidence of anything of the sort.
The pressure has been hugely intensified as a result of the present dispute. Publicly, BA has claimed that the relationship between BASSA and Unite is “dysfunctional” – which may well be a reflection of tensions between Unite and BASSA officials, who are much closer to the workplace: given that they are all workers themselves they are directly affected by BA’s plans, unlike Unite bureaucrats whose position, pay and perks are much closer to those of Willie Walsh than any BA cabin crew. The plan for 20 days of strike action in 5-day tranches originated with BASSA, and the branch has strongly rejected management’s offers – a combative attitude clearly reflected in the overwhelming mandates for strike action repeatedly returned by workers.
BA’s bullying has only compounded this willingness to fight – the current strikes are over these attacks on workers, specifically the fact that BA revoked travel ‘perks’ from workers taking strike action. It has been reported that around a quarter of cabin crew live abroad, making these ‘perks’ basically essential to do the job. BASSA’s officials are all BA workers, and the majority of them are currently facing disciplinary charges on spurious grounds. BA sacked Duncan Holley, a BASSA branch secretary on the 7th of May. He was the fifth official to be sacked during the dispute. Over 50 workers currently face disciplinaries relating to the strikes, the vindictiveness of which was reported following the previous walkouts. Disciplinary charges followed activities such as:
• Receiving and forwarding e-mails from their private accounts
• Discussions on union member only forums
• Holding private conversations
• Making a joke
• Expressing dismay regarding a graffiti board set up by BA management where staff were encouraged to scribble words of support for the company, on which was written “cabin crew scum.”
During the last dispute a BASSA rep was served with a 45-page legal document demanding the identities of 32 crew members posting under pseudonyms on the union’s internal messageboard. It is unsurprising that in these circumstances workers have dug in and pushed for further strike action.
The dispute doesn’t show any immediate signs of ending. However, despite BA management’s bullish claims that the strikes have “failed” and will continue to fail, they are clearly hurting the airline. After all, if they were useless, why would the company spend so much money on lawyers to find technicalities to take to the High Court? According to some studies, the ongoing dispute could cost the airline up to £1.4 Billion. After BA posted record losses of £531 Million, the worst since the company was privatised in 1987, the ongoing battle poses a serious risk to the position of Chief Executive Willy Walsh. Despite BA’s merger with Iberian airlines, the dispute is casting a shadow over the airlines’ future. Whether this is a real risk is another question, as given the company’s status as national flagcarrier, it may not be allowed to fail. However, management has been forced to retreat on a number of issues since the start of the dispute, and victory is a possibility. The workers deserve our full support and solidarity in this dispute.
On the Frontline
Strike at Culture and Sport Glasgow
Workers at leisure centres, art galleries, community centres and other cultural sites in Glasgow have taken part in two days of strike action over pay and working conditions.
Culture & Sport Glasgow (CSG), which runs the sites, has imposed a pay freeze on all staff, a pay cut of 10% on several hundred workers, and has cut overtime and public holiday rates. Weekly working hours are being reduced from 37 to 35 with a 6% cut in pay. In response, two walkouts have taken place, on the 30th of April and 6th of May, with further action threatened.
Members of the GMB, Unite, Unison and BECTU unions have been involved in the industrial action, which led to the closure of a number of sites across Glasgow, and the disruption of private functions, sporting events, concerts and theatre performances. Around 1,400 staff are believed to have taken part in the action.
Strike for the living wage at the National Gallery
Staff at the National Gallery in London have struck for the second time this year to demand the London living wage. 200 staff were involved in the two-hour walkout which began at 1.00pm on the 13th of May, and which closed a large number of rooms in the gallery.
The workers are demanding that their pay is raised to the level of the London living wage – currently £7.60 an hour. Both the Tory mayor of London Boris Johnson and new Prime Minister David Cameron have claimed to be supporters of the higher minimum wage, which is supposed to reflect the higher cost of living in London. The PCS union, which represents the strikers, have described the walkout of an “early test” of this commitment. Meanwhile the gallery has cited budget constraints and a climate of public sector fiscal austerity as the rationale for continuing low pay.
100 workers walked out in February over the same issue.
Strikes Hit Glasgow Newspapers
Workers at the Glasgow Daily Herald and Evening News staged a 24 hour strike on May 6th after being denied a pay rise for the second year running.
Unite regional officer, Norman King said: “Our members are angry that they are being forced to accept a pay freeze for the second year running despite Glasgow Herald and the Evening Times posting profits. Our members do not want to be striking, but feel they have been left with no choice by a management that refuse to properly negotiate.”
Negotiations between Unite and Newsquest have been going on for several months but the company has failed to move from a position of an enforced pay freeze.
Polish Bus Workers Strike Against Privatisation
Workers at the state owned bus company PKS in Gostynin, Poland went on strike on May 5th and remain out at the time of writing. They are demanding not only that the company not be privatized, but that it be communalized, that is that it should be managed not by the state or a private company, but by the workers and the people that use the service. They are also demanding pay rises.
The workers are under great pressure, with the company hiring strike breakers and forcing drivers from other cities to work extra shifts. Strikers have been told that if the strike does not end the company will file for bankruptcy and there are fears of permanent jobs losses. Undeterred, workers occupied management offices on May 12th and continue their action.
Privatisation of this company would almost certainly hit the most vulnerable workers and customers. Already management are focusing their scabs on the more profitable routes. The striking workers fear that this is a sign of things to come with less profitable routes serving poor communities to be abandoned by management.
Strikers in Bangladesh win promise of pay increase
A strike by river transport workers in Bangladesh successfully paralysed much of the country’s economy, forcing the government into talks with union leaders. From the 7th to the 16th of May, workers across Bangladesh stopped work demanding the government and boat-owners meet their demands. The workers have not had a pay rise in six years, despite rising inflation and a string of broken promises from bosses and politicians. The success of the strike in forcing the government to the negotiating table is all the more remarkable given the brutality inflicted on the strikers during the eight day stoppage: marching workers were attacked by police, threatened by scabs and party activists, and even, on one occasion, held hostage. Only time will tell if this time the bosses make good on their promises.
Education Round-up: Strikes, Occupations and Boycotts
Workers and students in education are facing massive attacks on their conditions across the world. In recent months we have reported on strikes in California and occupations in Sussex. We’ve talked about the impact of cuts in Britain and the fightback across Europe. The last month in Britain has seen yet more signs of people in the education sector standing up for themselves and fighting back against cuts and attacks.
Lecturer’s Strike Crosses Divides
On May 5th eleven further education colleges in London and three universities, two in London and one in Brighton, staged a one day strike. The action was taken inside individual institutions but was coordinated across London for maximum impact. People from all the striking institutions came together for a single march on the day, bridging traditional divisions between different education sectors.
Indeed, this was the first time that staff in further and higher education had struck together. This is far more significant than the strike itself, a real sign that education workers are starting to come together to meet the coordinated and brutal cuts they are facing. More strikes are expected and we can only hope that these coordinated official actions lead to links between workers all over London and the country.
See http://www.uculeft.devisland.net/ucu-strike-report-050510.html for a detailed strike report.
Middlesex Students Occupy
In protest at the threatened closure of a successful and valued Philosophy department, students at Middlesex University occupied administrative buildings, leaving only in response to a high court injunction on the 14th May. They join students across the country who have occupied in the last few months over the programme of cuts and closures sweeping higher education.
The closure of the Philosophy department is a particularly crass example of university profiteering. By any reasonable standard it is a successful department. Its research is world class, its student recruitment good for the number of staff and its reputation is amongst the best in the UK. However, as a department committed to a subject not easily turned into a money making machine it faces the chop, like Middlesex’s History department two years ago and a similar Philosophy department at Liverpool University last year. Anything that isn’t immediately making money by providing direct services to the private sector is vulnerable.
Despite the end of the occupation, the campaign goes on.
For more info see http://savemdxphil.com/
Primary Schools Boycott SATS
On May 10th hundreds of primary schools refused to administer national tests in English and Maths. The action, taken by head teachers rather than all staff, was aimed squarely at the exam obsessed culture which has degraded the quality of education for children and the working conditions of teachers. Instead of learning as widely as they can, and perhaps even enjoying their lives, children are narrowly drilled to pass exams that quickly lose all meaning. No one wins – except government bean counters who can point to meaningless figures as a measure of their ‘success’.
The action was not as widespread as it could have been, with some areas, like Greater Manchester, solid and others barely affected, but this is not a sign of any great agreement with SATS and the exam culture they represent by teachers. Instead, it was a result of the narrow base of the boycott – only head teachers were balloted – and how late in the day it was decided on. Many children had already spent months revising and a last minute boycott made little sense for them.
Despite these problems, the action is an important step in challenging not just the cuts facing education, but the ‘reforms’ that come with them, reforms that make the lives of anyone in education a misery. Education workers need to stand up not just for their own jobs, but for the quality of the education they deliver. Education should not be a narrow matter of skills for the bosses to exploit, but of expanding our minds as thinking human beings. Opposition to pointless exams is an important starting point.
Arizona Immigration Law Resisted
On April 23rd, the Governor of the State of Arizona signed into law SB1070, a bill that makes it a crime for non-citizens not to carry immigration documents at all times, and allows police to arrest anyone without papers. This law, a blatant encouragement of racial profiling, allows police to stop anyone on the street that they suspect of being in the country illegally and demand to see their papers. The United States is experiencing the same wave of fear of and hate towards immigrants that we are seeing right now in the UK, focused in the States on sans-papiers (immigrants without legal documents) from Mexico, who often complete a dangerous and harrowing journey through the desert to come to the States for the possibility of better work and a better life for their families.
It didn’t take long after the 23rd for US citizens to take to the streets in protest. In fact, the week before the governor signed the bill, 2,000 high school students from across Phoenix walked out of classes in protest and marched to the capitol building. Many of them were Hispanic and thus targets themselves of the bill, but many others joined them in solidarity. After the bill was signed, demonstrations were held in Phoenix for days, which a local resident describes as “strange, because people here rarely come out in big numbers for anything, except a Suns game, or anti-abortion rally.” May Day marches saw 100,000 turn out in Los Angeles, 20,000 in Dallas, and more than 10,000 in Chicago and Milwaukee. Thousands more marched in Washington, DC, with 35 people arrested during a sit-in outside the White House. Protests were international as well, with 4,000 people marching in Cuenca, Ecuador, in solidarity with Ecuadorian emigrants in Arizona.
Various groups are organising protests and boycotts against Arizona companies and even sports teams, including the major-league baseball team the Diamondbacks, whose owner supported SB1070 and uses the publicly funded Diamondbacks stadium to campaign for anti-immigration candidates. Even city councils in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin and St. Paul are ceasing to solicit any new business with Arizona companies.
Eighteen students at UC Berkeley in California went on hunger strike for 10 days in protest against the law, demanding that the UC Berkeley chancellor renounce the law, make Berkeley a sanctuary campus, and importantly, stop cuts to low-wage employees. They connected this strike with the student protests against education cuts that began last year by also demanding that charges be dropped against students who had occupied a campus building in November.
Americans are connecting the struggles of immigrants with the struggles of the domestic working class, and realising that borders and immigration restrictions are just another tool that the government and the ruling classes use to oppress the poor. Immigration restrictions in the US and the UK disproportionately affect the working class and ethnic minorities; it is no surprise that racist government officials in Arizona support impenetrable borders and a surveillance state. The widespread and varied resistance to this oppression is the real story.
Migrant solidarity march in Brighton:
On Saturday 19th June, Brighton Calais Migrant Solidarity will be holding a protest against the UK Border Agency. A spokesperson for the group accused the Border Agency of “complete responsibility for every woman, man and child imprisoned without charge, denied the right to work, criminalised and forced to return to lives of danger and destitution, or death”, and stressed the way in which migrants in Calais who had not even reached the UK were still negatively affected by the Border Agency’s actions. Brighton Calais Migrant Solidarity call for anyone opposed to the repression and abuse that migrants face to join them in a march to the Border Agency’s Brighton office, assembling at noon in Churchill Square.
Shock Election Result: Government Wins!
The hung parliament and our new coalition government seem to have given no one what they wanted. The alliance between the Tories and the Lib Dems, something both parties were dead set against just a few days before they got into bed with each other, has supporters of both sides running around trying to justify themselves – or walking away in disgust. The Labour party has retreated up its own backside to argue over which bland Miliband they want to tell lies on their behalf till they get bored of him. Only the political journalists seem cheerful as the column inches and overtime pile up into a nice little holiday fund for the summer.
More importantly, people outside the political bubble of Westminster back scratching and gravy trains feel like something has gone wrong. Tactical voting produced exactly what it was supposed to avoid – a Tory government. People rejected Labour, but couldn’t find anything else to endorse and efforts to hobble the lot of them came to nothing. The deals done at Westminster are steeped in contempt for ordinary people and the voters know it. The wave of ‘purple’ protests, staged by Take Back Parliament, a wide coalition of groups and individuals pushing for proportional representation and constitutional reform, is a visible sign of this. Much more common, though, is for people to simply stay at home and turn their back on the whole mess of parliamentary politics.
As always, the government won this election and the rest of us will spend the next five years paying for that fact. No amount of electoral reform will change this fact, no new voting system or set of checks and balances will change who’s really in charge. As a leading investment banker said following the election, “[i]n reality we all know who will be running the UK for the next couple of years: the bond market.” The economic and political system – capitalism – is the problem and we can’t look to parliament for any solution. The wave of cuts and attacks on our living standards coming over the next few years can only be fought by us as working class people. We can’t trust politicians of any stripe, we can only trust each other.
Justice for Jennyfer!
Friends of Jennyfer Spencer, a severely disabled woman who was found dead in her flat earlier this year, held a rally outside Camden Town Hall in early May to call for a public enquiry into her death. Ms Spencer, a former teacher who was left partially paralysed after a stroke in 2003, was found dead on March 1, and had left behind a letter addressed to the local Camden New Journal urging them to publicise her case.
In the letter, Ms Spencer, who was confined to a wheelchair after a stroke, asked for her words to be published as a “last will and testament” and that her “situation in life” be made public. She had waged a seven-year battle with the Town Hall over her requests to be moved from her fifth-floor home into a flat on the ground floor and also detailed how her social care payments were cancelled. The letter said that by the time New Journal reporters read the note she would be “officially dead”.
Prone to regular blackouts and partly paralysed by her stroke in 2003, friends and neighbours have told how Ms Spencer felt “neglected”. Camden Council have strongly refuted the claims, insisting housing officials made repeated efforts to re-house Ms Spencer and that her care payments were cancelled because she was not spending them correctly. But Ms Spencer’s neighbours say the Town Hall should be facing up to the fact that a vulnerable and seriously disabled woman spent years without carers and struggled to live independently for seven years in a home provided for her by the council.
A spokeswoman for Camden Council said Ms Spencer was not considered “high risk”. Despite accepting that they made direct social care payments for her to employ carers over many years, the council claims Ms Spencer was able to take care of herself.
Holding placards with slogans such as “Disability discrimination & racism killed Jennyfer Spencer” and handing out leaflets, the protesters used megaphones to call for ”justice” for Ms Spencer. An inquest into her death will take place in June.
Diana McCleary, an acquaintance of Ms Spencer, said: “The situation she found herself in shouldn’t happen. While this protest can’t bring her back, sometimes things happen in life which open our eyes. We hope this will help people in the same boat as her.”
The protesters were supported by the Campaign against Care Charges and WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities), as well as the Black Women’s Rape Action Project and the Afro-Caribbean CarAf Centre.
Anti-fascist demo at Hereford election count
Around 40 people turned out to greet the local BNP candidate at the Hereford election count.
It was generally open season against all politicians all night: lots of Tory, Labour, Lib Dem and UKIP bashing. But it was the BNP that got the most abuse. Local leader Chris Gower and his mate got kicked, egged and glitter-bombed on the way in. Then Hereford BNP candidate, John Oliver, turned up and got a proper egging. He was only saved from punches by police who steamed in to protect him. A couple of anarchists then got into the count via the back entry shouting out for the fascists but were escorted outside before they could find them.
1 YEAR OF SOLIDARITY IN CALAIS
Background: Since the 1990s, Calais has shown itself to be a startling case study in the way that Western countries create the conditions that cause people to flee countries outside the EU, while pouring billions into building a border regime designed to punish those who try to move into it.
The present situation in Calais started in 2002, when the Red Cross Sangatte humanitarian centre was demolished on the pretext of trying to stem the flow of undocumented migrants to Calais. Funnily enough, they didn’t stop coming to Calais, as it turns out people do not leave their families, become tens of thousands of dollars in debt to people smuggling mafia rackets, travel by clinging on underneath trucks, risk drowning in small crowded dinghies at night, risk being shot at by various Mediterranean navies, get thrown in over-crowded prisons, risk hypothermia and starvation by walking huge distances across mountain passes to avoid border police, simply because they have heard that they can get some hot Heinz tomato soup in Sangatte.
So, since 2002, anywhere between 200 to 1000 (at any given time) Afghan, Iraqi, Kurdish, Iranian, Darfuri, Somalian, Eritrean, Ethiopian and Palestinian migrants, among many others, arriving in Calais have had to fend for themselves. The scrub land around Calais has since been dotted with different home-built camps (known popularly as ‘jungles’), which are made from discarded wood, metal and plastic, as well as squatted houses and warehouses.
The incredibly harsh winters and degrading living conditions are made even worse by a deliberate policy of police repression. The elite public order police, the CRS, have a permanent base within Calais and it is their job to drive migrants out of Calais by making their lives impossibly miserable. So they raid camps and squats on a daily basis, constantly arrest migrants in the middle of the night, refuse to let them sleep, assault them, verbally abuse them, destroy their camps, sometimes with fire, steal or slash their possessions including sleeping bags, tents, clothes and food, and can liberally use CS gas.
Solidarity: While charities have been giving food and clothing to migrants since the closure of Sangatte, organised political resistance built on the principles of freedom of movement and mutual aid started in June 2009 with the week-long, cross-channel No Borders Camp in Calais, which then became a permanent solidarity project calling itself, Calais Migrant Solidarity.
Working long and intense hours, we have spent our time resisting violent demolitions of migrant squats and camps, trying to squat new buildings for migrants, providing tents and then protection from the police slashing them with knifes, organising protests, continuing to patrol and stay in new squats and camps that migrants keep defiantly creating, resisting raids, providing support to migrants thrown in prison, in addition to collecting and distributing basic things such as tarpaulin, clothing, water, wood and tea (of course!). We have also supported a group of Iranian migrants going on hunger strike and continue to use video and other equipment to document and distribute footage of police repression in Calais, some of which has been used by various media networks.
Additionally, in late August 2009 we received funding for an office space in the centre of Calais, which migrants used as a safe space throughout the bitterly cold winter. In February, with the police stepping up their brutality, it was decided to step up our resistance. In defiance of the ban on providing accommodation to the migrants, we decided to rent an empty warehouse in Calais and turn it into a safe space for migrants to stay and organise. The opening evening saw about 100 migrants and activists pushing past road blocks of tooled-up police to use the warehouse, despite their all night siege with the CRS surrounding the building. The following day saw the CRS smash through the doors and arrest all the activists and then shut the warehouse. We boldly opened it up again, only to meet a similarly violent closure, this time for good.
The story of the warehouse was massive news in France and went around Europe, with fresh waves of activists from the Netherlands, Hungry, Spain, Germany and Belgium, among others, coming to Calais since then, and a day of solidarity actions also took place on May 15th amongst a new network of No Borders activists in Paris.
We hope the increasing flow of activists to Calais sustains itself throughout the summer. Our year in Calais continues to be a massive learning experience for us all; organising across cultures with people who speak numerous languages and with people who have the most unimaginable stories, as well as with different organisations in Calais that don’t share our approach. Nowhere so close to home can one see so clearly the full force of the state and its ability to strip people of their most basic rights every single day of the week.
Calais is a multi-faceted struggle; if you are fighting against border controls and fascism, for human rights, or even for climate justice and workers rights, then Calais really does offer a site to learn and unite.
Tom, Calais Migrant Solidarity
Glasgow Workers Defy Management Bullying
At the end of April, employees of Glasgow’s City Building staged a protest outside the company’s main headquarters demanding answers from management. This action was taken by the workers after months of bullying and harassment by the company. City Building, which was set up by Glasgow city council and employs around 2000 tradesmen, have attempted to change the terms and conditions of workers’ contracts on a comply-or-die basis. Notably union conveyers have been targeted in what looks like an attempt to dismantle the trade union structure within the workplace. The company warned workers that anyone turning up to this protest will be ‘dealt with’. But threats such as these did not deter the workforce. A worker who was at the protest states that ‘workers at floor level, union reps and shop stewards are being harassed and bullied by bosses and big-wigs alike and it’s time we did something about it’.
The company, which was set up by former Labour council leader Steven Purcell, is no stranger to controversy. It emerged recently that the police were considering an investigation into City Building and donations that they made to the Labour party. City Building’s managing director is Willie Docherty, whose wife Sadie Docherty is a Labour councillor in the Southside of Glasgow. As well as forcing new contracts on their workers, City Building have also been sub-contracting work out to other companies, this despite that fact that tradesmen are being regularly laid off by City Building in a cost cutting exercise.
The bullying and harassment of workers is a tactic commonly used by the bosses in order to squeeze as much profit out of them as possible. But it seems as though the managing directors of City Building have underestimated the resolve of their workforce who have decided to fight back. Ballot papers have now been sent out to all union members and it looks likely that a strike will be called in the coming days.