Category Archives: strikes

“From ‘Fanfare to Fiasco’. What a deBAcle!”

Jerry Hicks

Jerry Hicks

Statement by Jerry Hicks on the BA strike:

20th December 2009

From ‘Fanfare to Fiasco’. What a deBAcle!

The vote by British Airways cabin crew to defend their hard won terms and conditions was fantastic. More than 80% of members took part in the ballot and a staggering 92% supported taking strike action, proving how members feel both vulnerable and angry. It also proves how well organised the union members and their branch are.

It is worth taking this into context when comparing it with political parties who bemoan ‘indifference’ and brand their electorate as ‘apathetic’ when council elections barely inspire a 30% turnout. Even General Elections fail to capture the imagination of people, with average polls of 60%.

Given such a winning hand, what could possibly go wrong? It started with a flurry of national officials ‘popping up’. At least one blatantly electioneering on the backs of the members, was the first visible sign of the impending unedifying debacle, followed by the spectacle of the Joint General Secretary initially, whatever his intentions, undermining the dispute. Then we see him crying crocodile tears and feigning anger outside the High Court. I and millions of trade unionists know that our main opponents are the government and the employers, but our dismay and frustration extends to those in the union leadership who have allowed it to happen.

Thatcher’s and Tebbit’s anti-union laws drawn up with all the intent and malice to thwart trade unions and its members are now Tony’s [Blair] and Gordon’s [Brown] anti-union laws. The paradox is that it is our union Unite that helps funds the Labour Party with £10s of millions since 1997.

After more than twelve years of Labour government, it’s a scandal that employers like British Airways are able to use anti-union laws. But it should come as no surprise that they do, or that the courts rule against us. Repeal of these laws simply has not been a priority for the TUC or our union. If it had been, Unite would not have been dragged into the High Court, and how much stronger would we all be now and especially the BA cabin staff.

Sadly, in fact all too often, our union has hidden behind those same laws when repudiating workers who, when at their wits end, are brave enough to take on employers by breaking the unjust laws, as with Lindsey oil refinery in Humberside which was coupled with solidarity walk-outs; or the Visteon workers occupying their factories to win back their pensions when sacked with only 15 minutes notice. Instead of supporting those struggles and confronting the anti-union legislation our union chose to comply with the laws. Those disputes were successful, despite the union leadership.

All three main political parties are now lining up to wield the axe as they try to make us pay for the banking bosses mistakes. Employers, one after another are sticking the boot in.

Which means that over the coming weeks, months and years – disputes and strikes are inevitable.
Members have proven over and over again their worth. The question is, will the union’s leadership be the solution or part of the problem?

Next year there will be two elections that will be defining moments. One is the General Election and I hope the Tories don’t win it. The other will be for the election for General Secretary of Unite, the country’s biggest trade union with the potential to be the most powerful union.

It is almost certain all but one of the candidates will come from the current leadership, who bear a collective responsibility for where we are now and how we got here. More of the same will not reinvigorate our union. As someone who is not an official of the union I will offer a real choice and the chance of something very different.

Notes to editor: Jerry Hicks’ legal challenge forced the election for General Secretary in the UK’s biggest union Unite Amicus this year in which he finished runner up. He is thought of as being a possible winner in next year’s election for General Secretary of the whole of Unite.

email: jo@benefield.force9.co.uk

To visit Jery’s website click here

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Jerry Hicks says back the BA workers

Statement by Jerry Hicks, rank and file candidate for General Secretary of Unite:

Jerry HicksSupport BA cabin crew & repeal the anti-union laws.

The vote by British Airways cabin crew in favour of industrial action was a brilliant result. More than 80 percent of members took part and 92 percent supported taking action.

It proves how members feel both vulnerable and angry. That anger was translated into a massive vote for strike action.

All three main parties are now lining up to wield the axe. One employer after another is sticking the boot in. Willie Walsh is the spearhead of all those bosses who are trying to squeeze out profits at workers’ expense by shedding jobs and slashing wages.

After more than a decade of Labour government it’s a scandal that employers like British Airways can still use Thatcher’s anti-union laws. Repeal of these laws simply has not been a priority for the TUC or our union.

If it had been Unite would not have been dragged into the High Court wasting time, energy and money that could have been used to serve our members.

Every trade unionist should do everything they can to support BA cabin staff. We all know that it would be a massive victory for all of us in the working class movement if they win.

Jerry’s website

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Victory for strike at Tower Hamlets College

Teaching staff at Tower Hamlets College voted to go back to work on Thursday after winning victory in their month long indefinite strike.

They seem to have completely rolled back the attack and the college principal has now promised there will be no compulsary redundancies.

As previously reported here over the summer the college had announced that there would be 13 compulsary redundancies and 300 places cut on ESOL courses.

All out indefinite strikes have become something of a rarity nowadays as unions have prefferred one day strikes causing minimal disruption, as a show of strength, before entering into negotiations over cuts behind closed doors.

This tends to mean that cuts and attacks only get slightly mitigated.

This type of srtike action means for most workers just a day at home. They assume apathy amongst workers and and so doing create it. All too often union members end up wondering why they lost a day’s pay on strike when all that results is slightly re-ordered set of cuts.

An indefinite strike like the Tower Hamlets though shows that victory is possible if you go all out.

Not only did they go all out they went on strike during registration week, the time that would hit management hardest. It may have caused some disruption to students, but nothing like as much as the years of cut backs that Further Education has faced.

The mass meeting on Monday when staff voted to reject the previous management offer drew 170 to it.

All out action draws people into action, it gives them something to do, it lets them act for themselves. Strikers were involved in picket lines, mass meetings, going out to the community for support and raising money.

In the processs they gained confidence, connections with the community and other workers and built union organisation. The strike has left them immensely strengthened and better placed to stop any more attacks, and to fight for education in one of the poorest boroughs in the country.

This kind of action shows the way to rebuild the unions and to stop the massive cuts which are heading our way; not passivley waiting for union bossses to lobby behind the scenes or hoping against hope that Brown might just win the election and that he might just cut a little less than the Tories.

To read the UCU (Universities and Colleges Union) statement click here or to read a report from Socialist Worker on the victory click here or on earlier developments inthe strike click here

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Refinery workers set to strike again

lindsey strikeRefinery workers organised by the GMB and Unite have been balloting for industrail action and look set to strike. Obviously the militancy displayed  earlier in the yet is continuing.

To find out more check out the article in today’s Guardian here

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Iranian workers strike for their rights

Film of strikers demonstrating in Shush, Khuzestan province, Southern Iran

On 16 June 2000 workers at the state-owned Haft Tapeh Sugar Mill met in a general meeting to form their own independent union. They have now been on stike for 42 days and despite mounting repression they remain unbowed.

This is the culmination of months of action at the factory. It was paralysed by a two week strike in October last year when 3,000 workers struck and marched on the Govenor of Shush province’s office, a march which ended in clashes with the police. In November strike leaders were arrested but relaesed on bail after further protests

On 5 May five were summoned to appear on various charges connected to the October strike.

On 6 May 3,000 went on all out strike demanding the payment of two months unpaid wages, the ending of the gathering of legal dossiers on workers and summons to court, the sacking of the factory director and management committee, anf the dismissal of the firm’s security chief.

By 10 May the strike had grown to 5,000 workers and had gathered the support of much of the town’s population and 10,000 marched on the Governers Office again (see video).

On 20 May virtual martial law was imposed with large numbers of securtiy forces entering the town and arresting strike leaders. This is did not succeed as on 26th there were further demonstrations and clashes with the police.

This is a side of Iran that no one wants us to see. The hawks in London and Washington may rail against the regime in Tehran, but have no interest in the real struggles of the Iranian people.

Nor do the “left” apologists have anything credible to say about these movements. The last few years have seen a revival of the workers’ and students’ movement and Iran is a society in ferment. The movement also knows that the current western war-drive against Iran can only benefit the most repressive elements in the regime.

The only force that can liberate the Iranian working class, is the Iranian working class

For more information and to find out how solidarity can be built visit the Iranian Workers Solidarity Network website

http://www.iwsn.org/campaigns/sugar.htm

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Strikes Sweep South Korea

Who says the working class is dead? Certainly no one in South Korea. Following a million strong demonstration last week against his government, President Lee Myung-bak is now facing a massive strike wave. Despite being elected in a landslide last December his neo-liberal administration is already in deep trouble as resistance mounts to pension reform, his close relationship with the US and an environmentally damaging canal project. For more:

http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/article4147021.ece

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