Contract cleaners fight poverty pay

Workers in contract cleaning face low wages, a lack of basic employment rights, bullying management and victimisation for union activities. However, especially among Latin Americans, self-organisation has sustained struggles against their unscrupulous multi-national employers, and the fight against the immigration controls which are used to sack unwanted workers and victimise union activists.

Rise of school occupations

To the dismay of head-teachers everywhere, this year has seen a marked rise in parent militancy in response to closures and handovers to private companies.

The agenda of handing community schools to private interests means less accountability, selection procedures, job insecurity, and a focus on grades to the detriment of education and care. Facing closures, academies and foundation schools, people up and down the UK have resisted with grass-roots campaigns and, in several cases, occupation.

Prescription heroin 'cuts crime'

When it comes to drugs, the state’s policy has traditionally been hard-line; blanket prohibition and the criminalisation of users. However a recent government-backed study has cast doubt on the wisdom of this approach, by showing that prescribing heroin to addicts both drastically cut the use of street drugs and markedly reduced crime.

Why did we risk it all? Because we won't go down without a fight

While the recent media spin is suggesting that we’re ‘on our way out of recession’, the reality on the ground is that workers are still facing attacks across sectors in the forms of job cuts and community provisions. Education has been one of the sectors worst hit in this period, with £65m slashed from higher-education (HE) budgets, schools closing left, right and centre, and jobs to go at approximately 100 of the 150 HE institutions in the UK . The situation is as bleak as ever.

Take the public sector and squeeze

May 2010 will see a general election where the main parties will compete with each other in promising cuts in public expenditure and attacks on public sector workers pay and conditions.

This offensive is egged on by the media and parts of it are fast becoming accepted wisdom - even if the supposed facts underpinning this version of events are wrong.

Know Your Rights: The stuff your boss doesn't want you to know

Regardless of work status (temporary or permanent, agency, full or part-time) or our contracts of employment, most of us have certain basic rights. These include:

1. The right to be told in writing how much and when we are to be paid.
The Minimum Wage for those over 22 years of age is set at £5.80,.  For 18-21 year olds it is £4.83 and for 16-17 year olds it is £3.57. For agency workers, wages must be paid on the agreed day, even if the hiring company has not paid the agency.

2. The right to at least 28 days paid leave per year.

Who are the Solidarity Federation?

Solidarity Federation (SF) believes in taking control of our lives where we live or work, rather than leaving things to the dictates of politicians, managers and so called ‘experts’. Through solidarity and acting together, we can deal both with our local problems and at the same time work to change the bigger picture, and change the system that means power and profit for the few.

Anarcho-syndicalism at work

There are political and economic assumptions in the way the existing, social democratic unions organise. They think workers and management have common interests, and that it is in their best interests to form partnerships. For example, to win the support of bosses in catering for the National Minimum Wage, in 1997 Labour allowed them to include workers’ tips in calculating it, in spite of the NMW being a key election manifesto point.

When equality means cuts

In 1997, councils across Britain came to an agreement with unions to undertake ‘Single Status’ job evaluations to end the discrepancies between manual and white collar jobs. Parallel to this, claims made about the historic pay discrepancies between traditionally male and traditionally female jobs were won at various Employment Tribunals. Historically, workers in female dominated jobs (such as those working around childcare) have been paid significantly less than those in jobs usually seen as ‘men’s work’, such as refuse collection.

Since the Equal Pay Act in 1970 these pay discrepancies had been open to legal challenge, but Single Status was supposed to be an across the board solution that would see every job within the councils evaluated and regarded equally based on the content of the job. In theory, this was of course a good thing.

Mail strike's roots in unfinished business

Workers at Royal Mail have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action over management plans for job cuts. 76% of workers who responded to the ballot voted in favour of industrial action. The roots of the dispute go back to the settlement that ended the 2007 national postal strike.

At the time it was announced as a victory, but in fact the CWU union agreed to management plans to cut jobs. The ‘victory’ was that the CWU and Royal Mail management would negotiate the details of the cuts at a local level. Now postal workers are unhappy with the results of those negotiations. One trigger is the Royal Mail’s refusal to “Pay for Change.” In unilaterally imposing such changes by so-called ‘executive action’, Royal Mail have reopened the dispute.