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UK public sector pay dispute - nurses, local gov, civil service, post office, etc.

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Mike Harman
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Aug 17 2007 07:26

700 workers at Manchester Mental Health trust - ballot finished two days ago about branch rep suspension: http://www.unison.org.uk/news/news_view.asp?did=3602

Also Coca Cola workers might be back on strike:
http://www.packagingnews.co.uk/news/731329/Strike-action-back-cards-Coca-Cola-Wakefield-talks-stall/

Orkney ferries - workers just rejected second pay offer 5-1 - 3.8% up from 2.5
http://www.rmt.org.uk/Templates/Internal.asp?NodeID=100418

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Steven.
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Aug 17 2007 09:49

Looks like unison's trying to sell out the health workers:
http://libcom.org/news/health-workers-prepare-ballot-unison-leaders-back-15082007

Dundee_United
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Aug 17 2007 21:26
Quote:
Glasgow social workers

It's social care workers, not social workers, as that was basically what it was about. Their struggle I think had more to do with the ramifications from single status (social care workers had their work regraded and faced onerous assessments etc in future on the nature of their 'skills'). Was a good victory though. I'll write something up about it.

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germs90
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Aug 17 2007 22:41
RPG wrote:
Steven - there won't be a NHS dispute over pay. The union's are doing a deal which will mean England follows Wales and Scotland and pays the 2.5% in full (except its already 3 months late).

I beg to differ.

We had a workplace (blood centre) meeting/info surgery today on the pay offer - Amicus's ballot has already opened + a few members have voted already - UNISON are mailing ballot forms from Monday. UNISON members have explicitly claimed that any payrise less than inflation, whether staged or unstaged, is not good enough.

Amicus nationally may be recommending acceptance but that doesn't wash on the ground. It means nothing - all it takes is a small amount of actual, practical, face-to-face campaigning. I am yet to meet a health worker who says they will vote yes. UNISON members in health have number-crunched up a table which shows the cut for each point on each NHS payband. It's a no brainer. Like gold plated platinum in propaganda terms.

It is very easy to say 'the unions will sell us out', but why let it happen, yet again, this time? If we do then more fool us. It's no cause to be smug + say 'told you so' if public sector workers end up forced to take a paycut - it is cause for shame. Forget your ideological hang-ups about different organisations + think about what will actually work right now in the real world.

At the same time as encouraging all union members to use their vote, we have to talk in depth about the best tactics for action, before public service workers are railroaded into more token one-day all out strikes. Then look at how to apply pressure so that those tactics are on the table as serious options for mass participation. Unfortunately we do not have the luxury of much time. That may mean making use of unsavoury + 'dirty' structures... But it has to all come back to what is best for the workers as a whole (not the personal political cause) in this particular fight.

Union members are not ignorant - so many are aware that casting a vote once a year is not anything like real democracy. They know that voting alone on this pay issue is not enough, + in my experience do think in a farsighted way about possibilites + outcomes.

3 words: Irish. Nurses. Organisation.

Dundee_United
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Aug 18 2007 00:12
Quote:
At the same time as encouraging all union members to use their vote, we have to talk in depth about the best tactics for action, before public service workers are railroaded into more token one-day all out strikes. Then look at how to apply pressure so that those tactics are on the table as serious options for mass participation. Unfortunately we do not have the luxury of much time. That may mean making use of unsavoury + 'dirty' structures... But it has to all come back to what is best for the workers as a whole (not the personal political cause) in this particular fight.

Union members are not ignorant - so many are aware that casting a vote once a year is not anything like real democracy. They know that voting alone on this pay issue is not enough, + in my experience do think in a farsighted way about possibilites + outcomes.

I would tend to agree with this approach wholeheartedly. The key question though is more really about the 'how'. That's a bigger question. There's an 'us' as a political movement, an 'us' as a tendency in the labour movement, an 'us' as the labour movement, and an 'us' as a class. I think we need to be very specific about each of these, and how they interrelate, what forces are at play, and how we influence them.

I have some questions. I tried to raise some of this in the thread that that AWL guy started about the postal workers, but Devrim shot me down on that one without quite explaining where he was coming from, altho I'm sure he has an interesting perspective.

How does the libcom admin team see dispatch functioning?

Does the libcom admin team aim to use dispatch to try and generalise the public sector pay disputes?

What is SolFed's position on how to develop things here?

I like where germs90 is coming from on this and have heard interesting things about initiatives from them and others in their part of the world on this, but I want some organisational perspectives here as I'm yet to have my mind made up about what exactly to do in the current situation.

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Joseph Kay
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Aug 18 2007 07:24
Dundee_United wrote:
How does the libcom admin team see dispatch functioning?

Does the libcom admin team aim to use dispatch to try and generalise the public sector pay disputes?

to encourage direct communication between workers within and between sectors, ideally to the point where the struggle can be controlled and coordinated from below and to communicate news and information within and between sectors about what other workers are doing (many posties down here weren't sure when their next strike dates were, let alone that there were wildcats in glasgow)

Dundee_United wrote:
What is SolFed's position on how to develop things here?

don't know - generally people seem up for distributing dispatch, and this is what we're doing locally in brighton and in edinburgh i think. not a great advert for federalism, i'll ask around to see what's happening and what we think we should be doing.

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Devrim
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Aug 18 2007 07:30
Joseph K. wrote:
don't know - generally people seem up for distributing dispatch, and this is what we're doing locally in brighton and in edinburgh i think. not a great advert for federalism, i'll ask around to see what's happening and what we think we should be doing.

No, a good a argument for centralism though.

Devrim

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germs90
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Aug 18 2007 08:13

This

Joseph K. wrote:
...to encourage direct communication between workers within and between sectors, ideally to the point where the struggle can be controlled and coordinated from below and to communicate news and information within and between sectors about what other workers are doing (many posties down here weren't sure when their next strike dates were, let alone that there were wildcats in glasgow)

is so massively important, it is almost not an overstatement to say that without it you have lost already.

If anarcho-syndicalists can cover the base of thoroughly, heavily + regularly distributing a newsletter all over the country, that is great. That is not all that is necessary. But that is what they are able to bring to the fight. Playing a serious part in one of these public sector disputes (right now) means having to not be purist or sectarian, + suppressing the political gag reflex from time to time.

That's not to say progress is not being made. By even having anarcho-syndicalism as any kind of featured player, workers will first have their eyes opened to a genuine alternative which they might have only imagined before, + then will be able to judge if they like that approach/way of organisation better than the current position of things...

Mike Harman
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Aug 18 2007 16:23

Dundee, ta for the correction.

germs90 wrote:
It is very easy to say 'the unions will sell us out', but why let it happen, yet again, this time? If we do then more fool us. It's no cause to be smug + say 'told you so' if public sector workers end up forced to take a paycut - it is cause for shame. Forget your ideological hang-ups about different organisations + think about what will actually work right now in the real world.

At the same time as encouraging all union members to use their vote, we have to talk in depth about the best tactics for action, before public service workers are railroaded into more token one-day all out strikes. Then look at how to apply pressure so that those tactics are on the table as serious options for mass participation. Unfortunately we do not have the luxury of much time. That may mean making use of unsavoury + 'dirty' structures... But it has to all come back to what is best for the workers as a whole (not the personal political cause) in this particular fight.

Union members are not ignorant - so many are aware that casting a vote once a year is not anything like real democracy. They know that voting alone on this pay issue is not enough, + in my experience do think in a farsighted way about possibilites + outcomes.

The way things are at the moment, the majority of the response to this is going to be union-controlled, I think most of us recognise this regardless of our view of the unions. The postal wildcats show that this is always contingent however, although the recent ones weren't against the union of course, and were quickly brought back under its control. There's also been private sector wildcats around pay and redundancies this year which again are an encouraging sign. Overall the first thing which is going to prevent "sell outs" (although calling crap deals sell outs suggests the union leadership would act any other way) is that people are as well informed as possible about things going on both in their own sector and in others, and that there's direct communication between individuals involved. royalmailchat is doing a fantastic job on this - hopefully dispatch will encourage more discussion both face to face, on rmc and on here.

germs90 wrote:
If anarcho-syndicalists can cover the base of thoroughly, heavily + regularly distributing a newsletter all over the country, that is great. That is not all that is necessary. But that is what they are able to bring to the fight. Playing a serious part in one of these public sector disputes (right now) means having to not be purist or sectarian, + suppressing the political gag reflex from time to time.

That's not to say progress is not being made. By even having anarcho-syndicalism as any kind of featured player, workers will first have their eyes opened to a genuine alternative which they might have only imagined before, + then will be able to judge if they like that approach/way of organisation better than the current position of things...

Just to clarify, "dispatch" isn't anarcho-syndicalist - at least three people involved don't call themselves anarchists at all, and both the local AF and solfed groups have offered to distribute it. Hopefully it not being associated with any one group (it's not a libcom publication either, although some of us are involved) might help it develop as things progress.

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germs90
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Aug 18 2007 17:28
Mike Harman wrote:
Overall the first thing which is going to prevent "sell outs" (although calling crap deals sell outs suggests the union leadership would act any other way) is that people are as well informed as possible about things going on both in their own sector and in others, and that there's direct communication between individuals involved. royalmailchat is doing a fantastic job on this - hopefully dispatch will encourage more discussion both face to face, on rmc and on here.

This is extremely important. Hoping to address the bad problems with worker-to-worker communication across the blood service as a high priority. A non-union/rank + file staff newsletter is under construction + I have wanted to see a web forum for NBS employees for a while.

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germs90
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Aug 19 2007 10:38

Those of you working in health might find these 2 resources helpful in the next couple of weeks:

http://www.unionlists.org.uk/lists/arc/healthactivists/2007-08/msg00057/PAY_OFFER_THE_EFFECTS.pdf
A table which works out what health workers will receive if this 2.5% offer is accepted, what they need to keep up with inflation, + therefore how much of a cut will be taken from their pay.

http://nhsworker.blogspot.com/
This blog about the NHS pay dispute (recently amended after the UNISON witch-hunt began, with names of individuals + branches recommending a no vote removed to avoid victimisation) also has a link to the above info in a far more detailed spreadsheet - figures for each pay point, not just the top of each band - for download.

Mike Harman
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Aug 20 2007 12:49

germs, thanks for the nhsworker blog link.

Could be lecturers strike in Northern Ireland. There was one quite recently wasn't there?

Quote:
ECTURERS in Northern Ireland have rejected a "derisory pay offer which amounts to a pay cut".
The decision of the University and College Union (UCU) was announced after a meeting of the lecturers’ negotiating committee on Tuesday.

The dispute over pay in the further education sector has been ongoing for three years.

UCU’s regional official Jim McKeown said: “Lecturers will be sickened by this derisory offer. It is a year overdue and it is the lowest offer made to any education workers in the UK in the 2006 pay round. It is below inflation for the year and in reality amounts to a pay cut.”

http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news?articleid=3115006

Mike Harman
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Aug 22 2007 03:20

So Metronet voted 95% in favour of strikes.
No dates announced yet though.

Mike Harman
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Aug 26 2007 02:06

Edinburgh council one day strike about school closures: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/edinburgh_and_east/6960048.stm

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Steven.
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Aug 28 2007 11:46

Prison officers set to launch illegal strike:
http://libcom.org/forums/news/prison-officers-set-launch-unlawful-strike-28082007

Mike Harman
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Aug 30 2007 01:10

Heathrow Security Staff next month
Orkney ferries - rejected 3.5%
Dounreay nuclear power station - strike called off, big ballot result though
still a backlog in Watford!
few hundred at Scottish and Newcastle brewery
Liverpool museum staff

Not directly related but some kind of cabbie wildcat last weekend - four days - in Coventry:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/coventry_warwickshire/6957415.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/coventry_warwickshire/6954507.stm

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Steven.
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Aug 30 2007 09:28

shit we need to get that stuff up, and the prison warders, on news, i'm well busy until the weekend though.

Marshall
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Aug 30 2007 10:31

John., catch, et al:

how could I get involved? Am glad to offer my services as a hack to put stories up on the website

Mike Harman
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Aug 30 2007 12:16

Marshall, that'd be great.

Basically any of those stories that haven't been covered, we want to get articles in libcom.org/news for. They don't have to be massively in depth, just 2-3 paragraphs outlining what's going on - they can always be updated if new information comes in. You should be able to add one by going to "create content >> news". Also if different things tie in together - like the Heathrow Terminal 5 and security staff and Nippon Express, or the same area etc. then combining is good.

Images are good to have (there's an upload form) but we can find them if not available.

Tagging and other stuff is covered at http://libcom.org/notes/content-guidelines - let us know if you're able to do something/got any questions.

steven
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Sep 4 2007 15:14

very very good news. i was worried cos Unison accepted a 2.45% deal for police workers, but no the rejected the local govt offer!!

Quote:
Members of UNISON's national negotiating met earlier today to consider the latest revised pay offer from the local government employers of just under 2.5%. They have rejected this offer as an acceptable basis for resolving the long-running dispute over this year's pay claim and have instead voted overwhelmingly to authorise a national strike ballot for UNISON members in local authorities across England, Wales and the north of Ireland. A timetable for the official strike ballot should be announced shortly, but at present if there is a 'yes' vote industrial action could begin in early November.
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Joseph Kay
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Sep 7 2007 08:04
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The largest union representing local government workers has rejected an improved pay offer, increasing the potential for industrial discontent this winter.

Unions have called for a series of co-ordinated strikes affecting more than 2m health workers, local government staff, civil servants and prison officers in protest at pay-restraint policies imp­osed by Gordon Brown

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/e2be66fa-5c9f-11dc-9cc9-0000779fd2ac.html

interesting that the press aimed at the bourgeoisie has no problem seeing this as a cross-sector dispute, but the more mass media has been reporting mostly separate disputes.

RPG
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Sep 7 2007 09:45

I've long thought that the FT has the best coverage of industrial relations...BTW I loved Bob Crowe's quote this week when the Standard asked him how long the Metronet dispute would go on - he said

'we will strike until we win'

liked that!

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Joseph Kay
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Sep 7 2007 09:52
RPG wrote:
I've long thought that the FT has the best coverage of industrial relations...

iirc Chomsky reckons the wall street journal is the most accurate of the US bourgeois press - because if you bullshit stock brokers and CEOs it has adverse consequences.

Marshall
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Sep 7 2007 14:57

RPG - you might be right with the FT - I think it is the only national left with a labour/industrial correspondent.

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germs90
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Sep 8 2007 18:21

Result of Amicus (Unite) NHS pay ballot:

http://www.unionlists.org.uk/lists/arc/healthactivists/2007-09/msg00020.html

angry angry angry

Never mind the result - what about the dismal turnout?!

Before you all start crowing 'sell-out', this is still not yet a done deal.
What is essential now is that any UNISON health members/activists/reps work to encourage as near to full participation in the last days of the ballot. I know this doesn't fit well with the aims of libcom but is what has to happen in the immediate term to safeguard our existing living standards, poor as they are, here + now.
If a majority of members have had their say + still accept a pay-cut, then you can say 'I told you so'.

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Steven.
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Sep 9 2007 14:49
germs90 wrote:
Result of Amicus (Unite) NHS pay ballot:

http://www.unionlists.org.uk/lists/arc/healthactivists/2007-09/msg00020.html

That link doesn't work too well, i'm assuming you mean this one:

Quote:
UNITE HEALTH MEMBERS VOTE OVERWHELMINGLY TO ACCEPT 2.5% 'STAGED' PAY AWARD IN ENGLAND

But anger remains at government interference with the Pay Review Body recommendation

Members of Unite in England, the third largest union in the NHS, have voted to accept the 2.5% pay offer - despite widespread anger that the award was 'staged'.

Unite members in England voted by a margin of three-to-one to accept the staged award which works out at 1.9% over 12 months. 74.8 % voted to accept the award and 25.2% to reject. The turnout was 22.3 % of the 59,000 members in England who were balloted.

NHS colleagues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are receiving the full award backdated to 1April, 2007 from their devolved governments.

Unite Head of Health, Kevin Coyne said that anger centered on the fact government ministers had interfered with the independence of the Pay Review Body (PRB) which had recommended the full 2.5% to be paid from 1 April.

Kevin Coyne said: 'While the result is an overwhelming acceptance of the revised offer, our members remain extremely angry at the government for failing to uphold the recommendation of the Pay Review Body. This must not be allowed to happen again.'

'If there is to be a rebuilding of trust and morale amongst NHS staff which Gordon Brown and Health Minister, Lord Darzi have promised to make a priority, then the integrity and independence of the PRB must be upheld and not tampered with.'

Quote:
angry angry angry

Never mind the result - what about the dismal turnout?!

Turnout seems pretty average for a non-militant union ballot/consultation. And wouldn't this've been a consultation, not an official ballot? Consultations are done very patchily, lots of whole branches don't bother because they don't have enough activists. my workplace's consultation, we consulted more members than pretty much the rest of London put together.

Quote:
Before you all start crowing 'sell-out', this is still not yet a done deal.

Hmmm, I don't know how anyone can call it a sellout if the membership voted for it.

Quote:
What is essential now is that any UNISON health members/activists/reps work to encourage as near to full participation in the last days of the ballot. I know this doesn't fit well with the aims of libcom but is what has to happen in the immediate term to safeguard our existing living standards, poor as they are, here + now.
If a majority of members have had their say + still accept a pay-cut, then you can say 'I told you so'.

i don't think there's anything that doesn't fit with the aims of libcom in trying to get people to vote no. With those things, the bigger the turnout and No vote, the better the chance of getting a better offer.

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germs90
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Sep 9 2007 18:50

Thanks for posting the text up John., I couldn't find the press release on a page to link to last night.

John. wrote:
Turnout seems pretty average for a non-militant union ballot/consultation.

Maybe so, but that is not acceptable on an issue as important as this! It doesn't have to be this low just because it usually has been in the past.

John. wrote:
Quote:
Before you all start crowing 'sell-out', this is still not yet a done deal.

Hmmm, I don't know how anyone can call it a sellout if the membership voted for it.

Neither do I, but I have read posters on here say that the unions will 'stitch up' the members in the various public sector pay disputes, when the final outcome is decided by how the membership votes.

John. wrote:
i don't think there's anything that doesn't fit with the aims of libcom in trying to get people to vote no. With those things, the bigger the turnout and No vote, the better the chance of getting a better offer.

I don't want to tar all posters with the same brush of course, but there seems to be a widely held (+ understandable) view that nothing can or should be acheived to improve workers' lives through mainstream/TUC trade union activity. I disagree with this in the immediate term in relation to struggles over pay offers. In this current case I would argue that organising through trade unions is the most effective option by miles. Constantly slagging off whole unions (as opposed to the very distinct leaders) as if they are homogenous blobs, does not make workers want to participate in, or even be part of the rank + file membership of any type of union in future, in my opinion.

Amicus activists think a bad database + therefore members not even receiving voting forms is part of the reason for the low turnout. UNISON members who have not got a form yet need to ring:

0845 355 0845

or visit:

http://www.unison.org.uk/help/ballot2007.asp

Ballot closes Sept 13th. Joining before Sept 10th entitles you to vote so new members should chase up if they haven't had a voting paper.
Please can health workers circulate the number + link widely as obviously we can't rely on active branch committees doing a thorough job.

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Steven.
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Sep 9 2007 20:44
germs90 wrote:
Thanks for posting the text up John., I couldn't find the press release on a page to link to last night.
John. wrote:
Turnout seems pretty average for a non-militant union ballot/consultation.

Maybe so, but that is not acceptable on an issue as important as this! It doesn't have to be this low just because it usually has been in the past.

John. wrote:
Quote:
Before you all start crowing 'sell-out', this is still not yet a done deal.

Hmmm, I don't know how anyone can call it a sellout if the membership voted for it.

Neither do I, but I have read posters on here say that the unions will 'stitch up' the members in the various public sector pay disputes, when the final outcome is decided by how the membership votes.

I gotta go out - but on this quickly, it's not entirely true. For example, this Unison health deal, the union are stitching it up, not only are Unison refusing to recommend a "no" vote to the appalling offer, they're not letting branches recommend "no" votes either, and are witchhunting branches and activists who are saying "no". This aside from the fact that not only are Unison keeping Unison workers separate from others in the entire public sector dispute, but they're also separating Unison members from each other in different industries like health, education and local govt - a ridiculous situation.

Mike Harman
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Sep 9 2007 22:42
John. wrote:
I gotta go out - but on this quickly, it's not entirely true. For example, this Unison health deal, the union are stitching it up, not only are Unison refusing to recommend a "no" vote to the appalling offer, they're not letting branches recommend "no" votes either, and are witchhunting branches and activists who are saying "no". This aside from the fact that not only are Unison keeping Unison workers separate from others in the entire public sector dispute, but they're also separating Unison members from each other in different industries like health, education and local govt - a ridiculous situation.

Yeah and then we have the CWU putting their members in the, er, unusual situation of being told to cross each other's picket lines, then 3.5 weeks of no strikes just after a massive backlog had been built up, and now no deal after almost a month of secret talks that no-one knows anything about the contents of. Four years ago the leadership pushed through a deal, with a very sloppy ballot (lots of forms lost etc.), and they got ousted along with massive wildcats. No sign of that just yet here though.

This doesn't mean that workers shouldn't go out on strikes called by the unions, or that communists should abstain from giving any opinion on whether people should go out on strike just because the union is calling a ballot. It means arguing for the maximum possible action to be taken, whilst making it very clear that the union's primary focus is maintaining it's place at the negotiating table more than the interests of the members. Effective action is always going to be outside the union framework in most cases, because really effective action threatens their ability to control disputes and deliver a deal, to both sides.

I think the term "sell out" is a misnomer. It's the trade unions' role within capital to negotiate for heir members as wage earners, and to maintain a position within the management structure that allows them to negotiate such deals - a position which is contingent on maintaining 'discipline' in return for a say in how things are implemented. When people talk about a 'sell out' it suggests that they expect the leadership and the union apparatus as a whole to act differently - contrary to their interests.

As such the unions shouldn't be seen as some kind of conspiracy - they just have to be recognised for what they are, so there's not the constant cycle of building hopes up for a successful all out fight within the boundaries set by disputes, then the calls of 'sell out' and demoralisation which follows when this doesn't happen. That focuses attention on a crisis of leadership rather than a crisis of the conflicting interests between workers and their union - which is a distinct institution with it's own particular needs. The 'sell out' cry usually leads to leadership challenges, calls for 'working class representation' (Trot parties), splinter-unions, doesn't deal with the systemic issues which cause them - i.e the actual relation of labour power to capital and the union's role in managing this relationship

An urgent message from Billy Hayes , General Secretary and Dave Ward , Deputy General Secretary (Postal) wrote:
Dear Colleague,

Talks have concluded this evening (Sunday 9th September) without an agreement being reached.

Royal Mail has stated that the period of calm is over and they will now prepare to run the business and move change forward.

We have told Royal Mail we are prepared to continue the talks and extend the period of calm.

Given the seriousness of the situation the Postal Executive will meet tomorrow (Monday 10th September) to receive a full report and consider the next steps.

A further and more detailed communication will follow.

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Joseph Kay
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Sep 13 2007 17:22
Quote:
Former prime minister Baroness Thatcher has left 10 Downing Street after a meeting with Gordon Brown... The visit followed an exchange of letters between Mr Brown and Lady Thatcher, who led the country from 1979 to 1990, shortly after he became prime minister in June.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6993269.stm

call me cynical but with Brown on a mission to break the last of the organised working class, the TUC murmering about a winter of discontent and Royal Mail bosses comparing the current dispute to the miners' strike, i wonder what they could possibly have been talking about.