Farm workers in South Africa are currently on strike to demand higher wages and the right to organise in the face of a programme of suppression and intimidation by the predominantly white farm owners and in defiance of the political and Trade Union establishment.
A SolFed member who has worked as an electrician since the late 1970s shares his experience of the electric supply industry, privatisation and trade unions.
I started an apprenticeship at 16 from school in the local electric company. It was then a nationalised industry and everyone was in one of the recognised (by the company) trade unions (a closed shop). There were many different departments and staff could move between them as workload dictated. As an apprentice I spent time in each department to give me experience of each and to hopefully decide in which one I would ultimately stay.
Today, members of Liverpool Solidarity Federation held a picket outside two branches of Pizza Hut in Liverpool City Centre. This was in solidarity with members of the Pizza Hut Workers’ Union (part of the IWW) in Sheffield who had called for a nationwide day of action against the company as part of their ongoing dispute with Pizza Hut management over pay, conditions and union recognition.
The demands are stated by the union membership as follows:
“In drivers conditions we are demanding regular updates of all moped drivers safety gear. We are also demanding an increase to deliver drivers per-delivery commission, which now stands at 60p, which clearly does not cover costs.
Yesterday, Liverpool Solidarity Federation members joined picket lines in Liverpool and Bootle to offer support to strikers and attended a 20,000-strong march through the City Centre. Below are several personal reports from members' blogs.
A choice: race to the bottom or fight and win - blog by a Solfed member in the private sector who supported the strike.
Earlier this year the ‘Big 8’ major construction employers announced plans to tear up an industry agreement on pay, grading and seniority which would result in pay cuts of up to 35%. Workers, not trusting the Unite union to act in their interests, organised themselves into ‘Sparks’, an independent rank-and-file electricians’ group run by a committee elected from their ranks. Their scepticism towards the trade union structures appeared to be vindicated when Unite official Bernard McAulay described Sparks as “cancerous” in a leaked email.
The trade unions have worked hard over the last twenty years to shed their cloth cap image. Notions of class struggle, with the unions as the means of organising that struggle, have been dropped as unbefitting the modern era. The focal point of today’s movement is no longer the workplace but the union head or regional offices. Housed in modern buildings and staffed by professionals, able to offer the best possible service to managers and workers alike, these offices stand as the physical embodiment of all that is ‘best’ about 21st century trade unions.
In January 1986 the Wapping dispute was unleashed with the overnight move of Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers to a new non-union printworks and the sacking of 5,500 workers.
Murdoch’s vast resources and the support of the Tory government and its anti-union laws enabled the company to build and staff the Docklands works and dismiss the original workforce.
A year-long strike failed to win justice for them, as the plant was staffed by strike-breaking labour recruited by the electricians’ union, the EETPU, in one of the greatest acts of treachery in labour movement history.
On Thursday 14 July, a meeting held in Unite's regional office saw the establishment of Liverpool Against The Cuts. 85 people, including members of Liverpool Solidarity Federation, were in attendance.
On Tuesday 7th and Wednesday 8th June, PCS members in HM Revenue & Customs staged a series of walkouts. This was in opposition to a harsh new sickness policy being imposed upon staff. Members of Liverpool Solidarity Federation were amongst those who turned up on the picket lines to show support.
The action took the form of an hour's walkout at 4pm on Tuesday, a 10am "walk-in" on Wednesday, and a two-hour lunchtime walkout on the same day. The strikes took place across the country, with a high degree of support and disruption reported in most places. On Merseyside, the action was concentrated in the City Centre and in Bootle - both of which are home to a high number of government offices.
Following his recent comments, the following message has been emailed to the business secretary, Vince Cable, by the Liverpool local of the Solidarity Federation.
Dear Dr Cable,
We noted with interest and contempt your warning to trade unionists that a rise in industrial militancy in the UK will result in a hostile response from the State.
Our message to you is simple:
BRING IT ON!
The day the working-class is intimidated by mediocre ruling-class lickspittles like you is the day 'Hell' freezes over.
Liverpool Solidarity Federation