Joining a union and striking

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jef costello's picture
jef costello
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Jul 16 2011 12:49
Joining a union and striking

When talking about the strikes the nature of official and unofficial strikes and the ability of employers to fire you on this came up.
As far as I understand it if you are a member of a striking union or not a member of any union then your strike is official, if you are a member of a union that is not striking then it is unofficial and you can be sacked for it.
I'm starting in a new workplace soon and I'm expecting there to be some strikes. As there are several unions they usually take it in turns to scab. I was thinking that as joining a union isn't reallly that helpful would I do better not to join one at all, that way I join in on all strikes. Also if I am in a scab union can I resign from that so I can strike (or join another one)?
This is about teaching unions but I think it should be similar for most places (depending of course on the dues you have to pay)

http://libcom.org/forums/organise/j30-generalise-strike-day-action-against-cuts-29052011?page=1

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Jul 16 2011 15:11

That's funny, regarding not being a member enabling you to participate in all of them. To be honest I'm not sure about that, as I know some posters here have stated that anti-union laws have the effect of outlawing discrimination against workers on the basis of not being union members (i.e. not enabling employers to victimise non-union member strikers) but I'm not sure if that is definitely correct.

If you are worried, you can of course just join any union which strikes on the day of the strike, then leave the next month.

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Jul 16 2011 16:01

Don't forget, mgmt has no right to know if you're in a union or to which union you belong. If there's a strike and you don't go in, mgmt will probably just assume you're in one of the striking unions. If they do ask, and you want to play it safe, tell them you're in every teaching union.

The one exception, of course, is if you're in a job role that's not on strike, claiming you're in the union that's on strike won't be any good as. Even if you were, it still wouldn't be lawfully protected. This isn't a reason to come to work during a strike, of course, you just have to make sure there's a picket line not to cross or call in sick.

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Jul 17 2011 09:45

Aye Jef to my knowledge you can join/leave/rejoin unions fairly freely if you're pursuing it as tactical protection in your school during discontinuous strikes.
NUT certainly encouraged it recently, offering free membership til Jan 2012 so people would join for June 30th.

In our place about 3 or 4 joined NUT who were non-union prior, so they could strike. The rest were NASUWT and some of those intentionally so as they left NUT so they could scab during the 2008 pay strike.

The way it's broken down in our place is roughly, NUT as the 'political' union that's likely to strike, NASUWT as the non-strike 'aspirational teacher' union, ATL as the middle-manager/senior manager union (though there's hardly any of them) and NAHT for the heads.

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Chilli Sauce
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Jul 17 2011 12:18

Not to be an organisation plugging wanker, but there's good info in both these leaflets:

http://solfed.org.uk/sites/default/files/uploads/strike_june30_a5_0.pdf
http://solfed.org.uk/sites/default/files/uploads/dcpl2.pdf

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Jul 21 2011 07:19
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Don't forget, mgmt has no right to know if you're in a union or to which union you belong. If there's a strike and you don't go in, mgmt will probably just assume you're in one of the striking unions. If they do ask, and you want to play it safe, tell them you're in every teaching union.

This is fine, unless the NUT and NASUWT reps give full lists of all members to the head before a strike as happened at a school I know a teacher at before the June 30th strike. I hear this is not an isolated case either. When asked about this the NASUWT rep said "but how will the head know what bits of the school she can keep open otherwise?". For fuck's sake.

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Chilli Sauce
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Jul 21 2011 16:26

That's true and is something you need to be aware of. That said, on June 30th, you had until midnight on the 29th to join the NUT and be recognised as a protected member. Doesn't mean the steward won't sell you out, but worth keeping in mind.

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Steven.
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Jul 21 2011 16:54

Chilli, you can even join on the picket line itself.

Chilli Sauce's picture
Chilli Sauce
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Jul 21 2011 19:39
Steven. wrote:
Chilli, you can even join on the picket line itself.

As in join the union the night before and you're even protected as a picket?

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Steven.
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Jul 21 2011 19:48

No, you can join on the day on the picket itself. The last couple of times we've been on strike we've recruited people this way

Chilli Sauce's picture
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Jul 21 2011 20:03

Oh wow, 'round here the NUT was telling people they had to have joined the night before to be covered. Interesting and useful fact in any case, any link detailing exactly when protection begins re: joining--ACAS, WorkSmart, LRD? (Not that I don't believe you wink )

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Jul 21 2011 22:40

It depends on the rules of the union. In UNISON you're a member from the point you sign the form. Maybe the NUT it's the next day. It's probably in the UNISON rule book

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Jul 24 2011 22:01

Joining a union and striking in America is largely piss shit because the large unions in the USA are like the unions in China....under the control of the interests of capital.

The question should be "creating large unions with workers interests (socialism) in mind". The unions in the US I've been a part of....well...lets just say the average white male construction worker isn't too happy when the word socialism comes up. I think it has a lot to do with listening to the capitalist owned radio stations during the work day then watching the capitalist owned TV stations at night when they get home.

I don't know....I'm not even sure a "general strike" could usher in socialism anymore these days. I may be turning into some sort of Marxist. In his time he saw unions as useful because workers were concentrated in factories, now everything is fragmented and spread apart so solidarity on a mass scale has become quite a hard task.

I've been struggling lately with taking over the state or abolishing it right off the bat....

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Jul 24 2011 22:25

CRUD, all relevant questions (although I disagree with you and your utter lack of material analysis--and it has nothing to do with 'group think' or whatever shit you say when people disagree with you), but this was actually a pretty focused thread. Let's keep it that way.

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Jul 25 2011 12:44

As I wrote elsewhere I think the NUT rep at our college tried to get people to join the NUT prior to 30 June in order to go on strike. I dont know whether many joined as a result but it was useless as far as non- teachers were concerned. The key thing in any situation like this is the collective feeling that gets generated in the approach of a strike; as it happened at my place the meetings called by the open discussion forum prior to the 3Oth did a lot more to strengthen this than either of the teaching unions (ATL and NUT), neither of whom even called a meeting. It was at these meetings that we could discuss together what would be the situation of people like the UNISON members or non-unionised teachers who wanted to join the strike, and it was herre we were told that Senior management would not punish anyone for striking . I am not putting this forward as a panacea because different workplaces have very different situations but the point is that the responses that revolutionaries at the workplace need to make always have to reinforce the capacity to get together across union divisions; In education we certainly have a wealth of these to confront so the logic of some kind of workers assembly or indpendent meeting is pretty clear; Sorry if this doesnt answer your question directly jeff. Again I am not putting forward universal answers but I think it is perfectly possible to put forward a clear militant position from a non union stance.
I am away at the moment so may not be able to reply for a bit.

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Jul 25 2011 18:18

Alf, good post. In terms of whether the unions picked up members - apparently the NUT recruited 6000 new members

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Steven.
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Jul 27 2011 10:41

admin: off topic post unpublished. Don't derail the thread

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Jul 28 2011 09:07

Despite not being in a union, I joined the UCU strike at my workplace earlier this year. In any case, the union I would have eligible to join wouldn't have been on strike anyway.

I went to all the union meetings on the issue and, despite being told in no uncertain terms by the union regional official that I shouldn't be on strike, I joined the pickets anyway.

At the time, I did a little checking on the legal position and as far as I could work out the following is the case:

As long as a strike is a "protected" strike (i.e. it's jumped through the union hoop) you can join the strike without being a member and you have all the same protections (can't be sacked for 12 weeks following the industrial action unless the employer sacks all strikers, etc.) as union members.

In my case, there were no particular consequences other than being docked two days pay as with all the other strikers.

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Nov 28 2011 17:00

Industrial action by workers who are not trade union members

If you take part in industrial action when you are not a trade union member you are normally treated as taking part in unofficial action. This means that if you are dismissed while taking part in the action you normally have no right to complain of unfair dismissal.

You can still claim if the reason for your dismissal was automatically unfair.

You are treated as taking part in official action if both:

members of a trade union are taking part in it
the action is official industrial action taken by their trade union

This means that the law treats you in the same way as it treats trade union members. Your rights if you are dismissed depend on whether the industrial action is protected or unprotected and when you are dismissed.

from

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/TradeUnions/Industrialaction/DG_179248