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Problems at work - No. 9: Who needs Unions?

Of course, a trade union is usually better than nothing - but if you have the chance, why not dissafilliate from the Labour Party or, better still, take the union under direct workers' control? Here.s two recent events to prove it.

Union Grows after Cutting Labour Ties

Since being thrown out of the Labour Party, the RMT, the biggest rail workers. union, has increased its membership by more than 3,000, and is one of the few trade unions in the country which is growing.

Even given this evidence, the union is still planning to take legal action to challenge the decision that it had effectively disaffiliated itself in February because it was giving financial support to other political parties. The RMT is still sending affiliation cheques to the party, but they are being returned.

What does it take for the RMT leadership to realise that not being affiliated to the Labour Party is a positive advantage? Instead of trying to get back in, they should be releasing the political fund for campaigns to support rail workers in their continuing fight to defend their workplace wages and conditions.

Syndicalism Out West

Voluntary sector workers in Bristol are moving away from the passive local UNISON branch and forming their own solidarity networks. In one workplace, a mass meeting voted to disaffiliate from the Socialist Workers' Party-controlled union branch, and form their own syndicate. Administrative posts are rotated amongst the workers, and delegates are instructed by mass meetings. There are no officials, and subs are to be kept and controlled in common by the workers. Self education, mutual aid and solidarity are the watchwords of the independent syndicate.

Beyond individual workplaces, workers in the city are organising to resist the bullying, summary dismissals and harassment that are endemic in the voluntary sector. Many voluntary sector organisations are little more than personal fiefdoms for power-crazed middle-class poverty pimps, and working conditions are generally awful. The realisation that it is the workers themselves who must take the fight to the bosses is spreading, and confidence is growing.

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