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Workfare: Adding to Barclays' woes

When we discovered a day before our planned Week against Workfare that Holland and Barrett had pulled out of the government's "replace paid jobs with JSA conscripts" scheme we almost found ourselves at a loose end.

We've spent months doing scary-dangerous things like handing out leaflets, waving placards and sending emails of complaint, so in the absence of H&B we had to ask ourselves, who deserves a swift kick to the ethics most this week?

Fortunately we're up on our current affairs and the answer came quickly - a Libor fixing, unrepentant banking giant led by sociopaths which is so greedy it still uses Workfare to get its menial tasks finished. Yes, we went after Barclays. Never let it be said we think small.

Letter from an Asturias miner

We have translated this letter from a retired Asturias miner, responding to comments about the struggle and talking about his experiences. He explains a lot of the background to the dispute.

Miners in northern Spain block motorways and occupy pitheads against job losses and pit closures.

An indefinite strike started in the mines last week after the government announced a 60% cut in subsidies. This will mean effectively the end of the mining industry. The mining counties have already been hard hit by the crisis. Youth unemployment has tripled in Asturias since the start of the crisis and young people are leaving the county in search of work elsewhere. 
Since the start of the strike the miners have been blocking motorways all over the province of Asturias, using burning tyres and trees. They have blockaded the port in Gijon and blocked the train tracks from Madrid to Gijon. Two mines have been occupied for the past ten days. There have been demonstrations in Olviedo and Mieres in Asturias, and in Madrid.
There will be a general strike in the “comarcas mineras”, the mining counties of Asturias, Castilla Leon and Aragon on the 18th of June.

cleaners demonstrate for sick pay and holiday pay at SOAS

About seventy people demonstrated at SOAS on the 6th June, in the continuing battle for better conditions for cleaners in the London universities.
The cleaners at some universities have won the London Living Wage, but they have not given up and are demanding equal conditions of employment for all staff - fair sick pay, holiday pay and pension contributions. Some universities, like UCL, are refusing to make any increase in cleaners’ wages. Others, like at Senate House, have conceded the LLW but are now trying to impose speedup on the cleaners with an increase in workload.

Shop steward reinstated at Ratcliffe power station after walkout

Hundreds of people stopped work at Ratcliffe power station in Nottinghamshire last Tuesday after a shop steward was suspended. Rank and file activists from round the country went to the site at 6am and spoke to workers going in, who held onsite meetings and voted to take action in support of their health and safety rep. 600 people eventually walked out unofficially. It is inspiring that various trades took part, not just electricians, including welders, scaffolders and pipefitters. Rank and file activists say that the rep, Jason Poulter, who was suspended six weeks ago, is being victimised for being active in the Besna protests.  He has now been reinstated and is back at Ratcliffe. 

Save Our College - 250 people march against redundancies in Hackney

250 people marched through Hackney on Saturday against the threat of 55 redundancies at Hackney College. Although there have been redundancies every year bar one for ten years, this year the proposed cuts are much more serious.
In a borough with 11, 243 people claiming JSA chasing just 669 jobs in the jobcentre, courses that may be closed include basic literacy, basic maths and health and social care. All the courses in the Access department are at risk even though Access to Nursing, for example, is already full with more than a hundred people on the waiting list. 

Downhills School on strike

Downhills School in Tottenham were on strike today (22nd May) against plans to turn it into an academy, despite a 91% vote against it by parents. After a picket line of about 40 people in the morning, teachers, kids, parents and community supporters had a picnic. At lunchtime the support workers, who are balloting for strike action at the moment, came to the park to support the strike.
As Downhills kids ran and tumbled around in the glorious sunshine, I talked to teaching assistants and asked them how long they had been at the school. “You could say forty years, because I went to Downhills myself!” one told me. Others told me how their children attended Downhills and said that the school is not failing the kids.

Workfare: You're putting your customers off, Mr Manager

Picketing shops can reap some rich rewards when the cause is as uncontroversial as "this lot force people to work for free." The general crowd response is along the lines of "really, they do that? What a bunch of gits." 

That sort of response to a campaign makes a grey day shine for us and makes shop managers very, very angry.

So angry in fact that the Holland and Barrett manager on Mare Street in Hackney, where North London SolFed did its latest picket in the battle to stop Workfare today, insisted on standing in his own doorway to berate us and ended up putting off nearly as many customers as we did.

There were quite a few, Mr Manager. Disapproving faces, Mr Manager. Your bottom line, Mr Manager, walking away because your firm doesn't pay its staff, Mr Manager.

London Mayday 2012- Report back

The first of May is international workers day. A day where we commemorate those six anarchists of Chicago who were convicted and executed after the Haymarket riot, a protest in 1886 over the 8 hour day.

This year mayday started early for some of us; with a morning demo at the Shard in London, called by the sparks rank and file group. This was in response to employers trying to block rank and file activists from even attending the on-going negotiations over the JIB agreement. We stuck it out for an hour or two in the bleak weather, then retreated back to the café for a break and a caffeine fix.

Highlights of a general strike report from CNT Madrid

00:00h The start of the strike. CNT militants head to the workplaces and the neighbourhoods.

00:15 Vallecas. The presence of a massive number of police, including plainclothes, taking people’s details, makes it difficult for people to picket the postal service and other places.

00:30 Police charge in Plaza de Santa Ana. A CNT comrade is injured by the police and has to go to hospital, needs stitches. Several arrests.

01:15 Mercamadrid. A large number of CNT pickets try to stop lorries leaving. They succeed at first, but a combination of police numbers and the passivity of the pickets from the reformist unions means lorries leave.

05:00h Entrevias depot. A picket of 100 people, a third of them members of the CNT. An enormous police presence, including horses, makes it difficult to picket. The few buses which leave have an escort of police motorbikes.

Communication Workers Union HQ picketed in protest against workfare at Royal Mail

On Monday April 2nd members of London SF, Solent SF and the IWW joined Boycott Workfare activists to picket the headquarters of the Communication Workers Union over their support for workfare.

CWU officials have signed an agreement with the Royal Mail to allow DWP "Work Experience". People on the scheme face the threat of sanctions for refusal and if they do not take part they are likely to be sent on a number of other compulsory schemes.

The CWU leadership insists that their agreement with Royal Mail is for "voluntary" work experience only. Unless there is a guarantee that people leaving the scheme will not face sanctions the scheme is not voluntary. No such guarantee is in place.

Kilburn Anti-Workfare picket a success

Last Saturday, the North London Solidarity Federation was joined by members of the Industrial Workers of the World and Boycott Workfare for a mid-day picket of the Holland and Barrett in Kilburn, North West London.

Picketers numbered over twenty in total and came prepared with flags, hi-vis jackets, and various banners decrying the exploitative nature of the government's various workfare schemes. Nearly 1000 leaflets were handed out over the course of the action and throughout the picket prospective customers were persuaded to do their shopping elsewhere.

Public response was overwhelmingly positive. One member of the public even stopped by for half and hour to help us do some leafleting. Others took the opportunity to go into the store and express their dissatisfaction directly to the Holland and Barrett manager on duty at the time.

Massive turnout in general strike in Spain

Thursday’s general strike in Spain was more solid and more militant than the last general strike a year and a half ago. As economic conditions get worse, people see their rights taken away and unemployment, eviction rates and prices all rising while wages go down, and they are reacting accordingly. This labour reform is the most aggressive attack on workers’ rights since the transition to democracy.

The general strike started before midnight with pickets of the wholesale fruit and veg markets which receive deliveries all night. There were pickets of up to a thousand people and in many cases all delivery trucks were successfully turned away. There were also midnight pickets at night shifts in factories and at post offices and depots. In many cities groups of pickets went round closing down bars which were open after midnight.

Save Leyton Marsh - Update

The Occupy movement have joined Hackney and Waltham Forest residents in their struggle against the Olympic land grab.

Since planning permission was granted in January by Waltham Forest council for a large indoor basketball arena for Olympic and paralympic athletes to practice on, local residents and marsh users have been organising and campaigning to save Leyton Marsh.

Pensions Strike Report back - March 28th

Wednesday 28th March saw the NUT and UCU out on strike over pensions.  The strike was only for the Greater London area rather than nationally.

Some of us began the day visiting the sparks demo at the Shard, which while it had reduced numbers was still fairly lively. Those of us not striking or having to work that day visited friends to stand in solidarity with them on strike in Hackney, where there was a good militant picket line. A mixture of sun, coffee and lollipops kept everyone going throughout the morning till we could all head off to the café.

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contact info

London has two Solidarity Federation locals, North London and South London.
North London
email: northlondonsf@solfed.org.uk
mobile: 07811017091

Address: London Sol Fed, 84b Whitechapel High Street, London, E1 7QX

If you are an education worker in NL, please contact the LEWN from the contact form.

You can get in touch with us via the contact form on this site.

Our leaflets

Stuff Your Boss - North London
A re-written version of SolFed's national Stuff Your Boss leaflet.  Include North London's contact details. (pdf)
Education Struggle are Our Struggles
Generic leaflet that can be given out to education workers, students, parents, or members of the public. (pdf)
J30 Propaganda
(pdf), (pdf), (pdf), (pdf), (pdf), (pdf), (pdf)
SF posters
Three SolFed posters: Just saying Barcode At Work (pdf), (pdf), (pdf)
Workplace Organiser Training Leaflet
Leaflet and generic invitation for the Solidarity Federation workplace organiser training (pdf)
Don't Cross Picket Lines!
Short, generic double-sided A5 leaflet meant to be given out on picket lines or in the run-up to a strike. (pdf)
Office Angels Leaflet
"Office Devils" leaflet handed out at picket lines in support of a cheated agency worker. (pdf)
North London leaflet for March 26th
Obviously, this is a bit late, but the content of the leaflet still holds true.  Please feel free to plagiarise if you think it will be useful.  (pdf)


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