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N30 in Glasgow

Thu, 29/12/2011 - 19:01

The first picket I went to was at the Western Infirmary, as I knew a couple of people on the picket there. The picket was big enough, but largely symbolic as the RCN nurses were going in. I was told lots of the nurses are planning to join Unison. Later I was told one of the consultants donated £40 to the picket.

Met up with T, also Glasgow AFed and Sol Fed. We cycled to a school, because we thought someone we know would be doing a picket on their own, because their union rep wasn't interested in doing a picket. Management had invited anyone who wanted to scab in the area around the school to this school. Was pleased to see 3 or 4 other EIS members had turned up for the picket. Had a long conversation with a NASUWT member about not crossing the picket line, but he had a letter with him from the union, which he claimed said that he was not protected if he didn't go into work. We explained to him why this wasn't true. He said he was going to join the EIS, but he still crossed the picket line. A car showed up with the driver beeping the horn and the people inside giving us the thumbs up. They said they were going to join the EIS. They were told they could go home and join the EIS online, but they still crossed the picket line. I think some of these people will strike next time, so didn't want to completely alienate them by calling them scabs. (Although it now looks like the union leaders are doing their best to make sure there isn't a next time). The issue of calling people scabs or not was doing my head in and I ended up discussing it with a union equalities officer. Her advice on how to deal with the three different types of people who cross picket lines is part of this blog post:

http://mhairi.wordpress.com/2011/12/02/union-power-kyriarchy-and-the-scab/

'The last blogpost generated quite a bit of discussion in various places about the use of the term “Scab”, the power it holds and when its use is appropriate.

Only two schools in Glasgow were open on N30, both heavily picketed with lively and cheerful, if a bit damp, strikers.  A number of non-unionised workers crossed the picket lines and as might be expected they were challenged about whether they really wanted to work when other people were losing a day’s pay for the terms and conditions that they too enjoy.  People crossing picket lines and entering  unionised workplaces during an industrial dispute can generally be divided into three categories.

Firstly there are those who are supportive, but genuinely don’t think that they are protected by the union for disciplinary action if they participate in the strike.  Oftentimes this is the guidance that they have been given by management. If there is a recognised union at their workplace which has undertaken a ballot ALL staff, regardless of which union or none are protected for industrial action. This is a case of education and information.  It is quite understandable that people fear for their jobs, and don’t want to risk them without the backing of union membership, which would support them in the event of a disciplinary being called.  Most unions have a lie-in period, where they will not support a member through a disciplinary hearing until length of time has elapsed, which is why this group should join whatever union is prominent in their workplace now, so that if management do attempt to discipline someone for protected industrial action, they will have the backing and solidarity of the union.

Secondly there are people who are neutral or even fairly supportive but don’t want to lose a day’s pay/don’t see what it has to do with them/aren’t going to be affected. These are the ones to be convinced – at this stage of the struggle it is probably best a softly softly approach is taken, but it is worth pointing out that they are scabbing on their colleagues…and that its really not a nice thing to do. N30 was a one-day stoppage,  the loss of a day’s pay can be absorbed by most people, but in the run up to Christmas the effects will be felt, particularly for those on low pay or those who are already struggling.  People don’t go on strike just for the hell of it, they strike because their employers are taking the piss and abusing the power that they have over them.

And then there is the final group of workers who are hostile/don’t give a fuck about anyone else because they aren’t going to be affected. You’re not going to win them round because they have an “I’m alright Jack” attitude.  Seeing an opportunity for overtime, to do the job that they love, brownie points with the employer or career advancement they swan past the picket lines.  The problem is when this group is sufficient to undermine the action to the extent that the people in the second group start joining them because they think “What the fuck, its not going to do any good anyway.” – these are the real scabs.'

Most people going in were nudging past the picket in cars, so I thought I'd give standing in front of a car and not moving a try. The union rep said that I had to let them in. Wasn't wanting to step on too many toes as I am not a teacher or EIS member, so moved out of the way. A milkman and postman were also let in by the union rep. However the postman dropped large hints that if he was 'threatened' to not cross the picket line he wouldn't cross and one of us was happy to oblige. Of 30,000 schools in Scotland, the BBC reported that only 27 were supposedly open and I suspect not a single one of them, like the school we were at, had any children at them, so maybe a dozen or so people going in wasn't that important.

After 9ish we went round the corner to the Glasgow University picket. This involved mostly standing around in the cold with some ex-Glasgow Uni Occupation people and UCU members. The University Unite Convenor started talking to us, because I think he saw the front of our Sol Fed hi-vis picket vests and thought we were UCU reps. He waffled a monologue of excuses about why Unite hadn't come out at the university and gave us some Unite leaflets to hand out! From where I was standing it didn't look like the library was open and no students were going in.

Jumped down to a nearby flat to pick up the Glasgow Anarchist banner for the marches. Joined the student feeder march, that didn't have police permission, but lots of police attention, going into town. Was glad to see the Unison members from the Western Infirmary had come up to join this march, so the the chants of 'Students, workers, unite and fight' wasn't just empty rhetoric. One of us went off to join other striking teachers from their school who where taking part in the official march, but didn't want to take part in a picket as they thought it was up to people's individual choice as to whether they wanted to strike or not. Thought it a bit odd that the manager and staff of Holland and Barrett in particular came out to show their support as we went through the city centre. Met up with strikers from Stow College, Northgate Passport office, other PCS members and many others who had been on a separate feeder march that didn't have police permission on Buchanan Street. You could hear these marchers before you could see them! Decided to join up with the IWW contingent for another non police approved march through the parts of the city centre the official STUC march didn't have permission for. Marching with an American Wob and Scottish Socialist Party member, he pointed out that the noisy Coalition of Resistance contingent was giving the most radical appearance on the street, while their leaders are trying to do dodgy deals with those in power behind closed doors, in this case the SNP Scottish Government. I agreed.

Reached the assembly point for the official march, but the street set aside wasn't big enough to hold everyone. Union placards were the most prominent. The anarchist banner was lost in the throng, as were many left-wing banners. It didn't matter. It felt like the political activists were disappearing into the class. A feeling I haven't had since the poll tax. Only it has to be for longer than one day. A banner with 'Save the Accord Centre' (a centre for adults with learning difficulties that has been closed to make way for a car park for the Commonwealth Games in a working class area of the east end) could be seen by everyone, hanging from a multi-storey car park. Estimates were either 10,000 or 25,000. Multiply the numbers by 10 to give the equivalent turn out in London. There were similar turn-outs in other cities in Scotland.

Later as we winded our way through the eastern end of the city centre we became separated from the COR contingent. I'm sure their carefully choreographed sit down and rush forward manoeuvre has become as ritualistic elsewhere as the Mexican Wave is at football matches. Away from the the grandstanding I felt more comfortable about singing with other anarchists. We sang 'Solidarity Forever', 'The Internationale' and 'What Side Are You On Boys'. This was the most enjoyable part of the day. The march was applauded by shoppers as we passed one of the main shopping streets, Argyle Street, in the city centre. We reached the end of the march at the Barrowlands, where they had to open up a second indoor rally venue. We had no interest in listening to union bureaucrats, so sang another song. This mostly caught the attention of bemused police officers, so it was time to go.

More N30 Glasgow Reports here:

http://glasgowanarchists.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/n30-report-from-glasgow-anarchists/



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