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Problems at Work

Problems at work - No. 8: Minimum Wage, Maximum Hours

The announcement that the minimum wage is set to rise to £4.85 next predictably had union leaders, desperate for a reason to stick with Labour, claiming that in the fight against poverty the Govemment really is making a difference. They are deluding themselves; the minimum wage is not about ending poverty, it is set so low it merely legaises poverty wages. Labour see a  low wage economy, in which the working class remain powerless, as the essential ingredient of a 'successful' 'free market' economy. Labour's inspiration is not justice or equality, but the USA, where the minimum wage has been in force for years and has done nothing to prevent the growth in poverty and obscene inequalities.

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.

Problems at work - No. 10: Unpaid overtime

As unpaid overtime 'tops £23bn mark', what can we do to tackle it?

Did you know that February 25th 2005 was the day the TUC said that people who do unpaid overtime will stop working for free and start to get paid? No? Well, that's because it didn't happen. On that day, dubbed “Work Your Proper Hours Day”, the TUC urged people who do unpaid overtime to take a proper dinner break and arrive and leave work on time. They claimed that this would remind Britain's employers just how much they depend on the good will and voluntary extra work of their staff. Didn't work though, did it?

Liverpool SolFed join airport protest against Ryanair

A protest was held outside Liverpool John Lennon airport yesterday to highlight Ryanair's exploitation of employees and also remember Paul Ridgard, a Ryanair pilot who passed away in May of this year. More actions are planned for the future. SolFed are also making enquiries through the IWA/AIT about how we can help make the campaign against Ryanair go continental (our Spanish sister organisation, the CNT, has organised some workers at the airline, see here).

John Foley, founder of the Ryanair Don't Care campaign, speaks about yesterday's protest:

Ryanair Don't Care

Liverpool Solidarity Federation recently agreed to fully support the Ryanair Don't Care campaign, which was formed to highlight and fight against Ryanair's exploitative employment practises. Campaign founder John Foley has been arrested six times for his direct action activism against the airline. Blogs exposing Ryanair's mistreatment of employees have been closed down by sevice providers. Numerous Ryanair employees and ex-workers have also been in touch to share their negative experiences of working for the airline.

Report from Solidarity Federation's Workplace Organiser Training

In the face of the media storm over the protest on March 26, it’s important for all of us involved in fighting austerity to take a step back, whether we think the occupations and property destruction were useful or not. Ultimately, whatever their worth, it’s not through riots or occupations that we can defeat austerity. Only by causing economic disruption, and making it more expensive to carry through with the cuts than to make us concessions, will we win. And where we have the most power over the economy is in the workplace. It’s our work that makes up society and if we withdraw it by striking, or take other forms of direct action such as go-slows or work-to-rule’s, we – the working class – can call the shots and stop this attack on our class!

Problems at work No.1: Can the boss keep ignoring us?

I work in a textile factory that employs around 30 workers. We have complained to management about low temperatures, the lack of heating and poor ventilation but they ignore us and have threatened to victimise some workers. Some of us are members of a union, but there is no recognition. What are our options?

Whether you are in a recognised union or not, the first step for dealing with a health and safety issue is to establish what the problem is and how it is affecting workers. The best way to do this is for as many workers as possible to meet together to talk about the problems. The boss may immediately try and victimise any workers involved. Decide what, where and how to meet to get organised. Consider what contact you want with the union, if any.

Problems at work No.2: Asbestos - the undiscriminating killer

Asbestos now kills a staggering 3,000 people a year in Britain – worldwide, the death toll can only be guessed at. The first clear case of death due to asbestos appeared in the medical literature in 1924. Since then, capitalism has done all it can to hide the truth from workers. First we were told asbestos was safe, then that only blue asbestos posed a danger, then that while all asbestos is dangerous, it is only when you are exposed to large amounts. Only recently, have they finally admitted that asbestos kills and that there is no safe level of asbestos dust in the atmosphere.

Problems at work No.3 How can you secure your right to 4 weeks working holiday?

Election time and Labour is on a spending spree, using our money in order to advertise the many benefits workers have won under Labour. The expensive gloss includes an advert advising us of our new rights to four weeks paid holiday. Before rushing into management to claim your new holiday entitlement, we would urge a note of caution. In deregulated Britain job insecurity is widespread, and still spreading wildly. In such times, claiming your rights may just end up with you taking a permanent holiday - sacked and on the dole.

Problems at work No.4 How and why could I start to raise health and safety issues at work?

The amount of Health and Safety legislation in Britain has increased over the last 20 years (much of it coming from the European Union). However, it is largely unenforced, so bosses can ignore it. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is the government's official enforcement body and has a history of letting bosses off lightly. Even so, its own figures show that many accidents at work go unreported and the vast majority are avoidable.

Although the government and bosses clearly do not care much about our health and safety, the fact that the legislation exists means we have a chance to use it ourselves in order to improve our own health and safety, not to mention getting right up and tickling management noses in the process.

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