More repression news and upcoming events for mid-April

A few assorted announcements:

This weekend, the Land Justice Network have arranged a walking tour of London’s land and housing crisis, dropping in on a few of the capital’s biggest landlords and property speculators. The 14th is also the date of the monthly Grenfell commemoration walk marking 10 months since the disaster, and is the first to fall on a Saturday, so it should hopefully see a big turnout. That day will also see a big mobilisation against the “Generation Identity” fascist conference.

A few workplace news items are that Deliveroo and Ubereats couriers up in Glasgow have formed a new network for couriers in Scotland, cleaners organising through the IWGB have begun balloting for action over redundancies at financial/legal firm Ernst & Young, while their colleagues at the University of London continue to get ready for their big strike on the 25th and 26th, and cleaning staff at the Royal Opera House continue to fight for the reinstatement of their sacked colleagues, with regular nightly protests set to continue throughout April.

Elsewhere, the occupation of Queen Mary university has come to an end after the university partially backtracked on planned cuts to bursaries, with an extra £260,000 per year for the next two years having been secured as a result of the occupation.

In international news, big struggles are ongoing in France, as a wave of industrial action takes place at the same time as the attempted eviction of the occupied space known as La ZAD. As ever, the Dialectical Delinquents site is an excellent resource for keeping up with the news, especially in France, and it carries some information about internal conflicts within the ZAD that I’ve not seen anywhere else in English.

A few notes on US prison struggles, trials and repression: Elderly prisoner and former Black Panther Herman Bell, having been granted parole but not actually released yet, is now facing a major backlash from the NYPD and their supporters which might derail his chances of release. A few ways to keep up the pressure in support of his release are collected here.

The J20 case against people mass-arrested at Trump’s inauguration continues, with the next trial group set to start soon, and their defence campaign are requesting continued support and pressure on the prosecution to get the charges dropped. In Charlottesville, Corey Long and Donald Blakney are still facing charges and upcoming trial dates for their roles in defending the town from last summer’s nazi march, so there’s a call to get their charges dropped too. In the confusingly-similarly-named North Carolina town of Charlotte, people involved in the 2016 Charlotte Uprising that took place in response to a police killing are also facing prosecution, there’s a long interview on the subject here and you can donate to their defence fund here.

Meanwhile, a mass hunger strike took place at Washington State Penitentiary earlier this month, political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal has a shot at getting released and also an upcoming birthday, and today marks the 25th anniversary of the start of the historic Lucasville Uprising, which is a good opportunity to draw attention to the cases of those who are still facing harsh repression for their alleged role in the events, like Greg Curry, who’s raising funds to overturn his conviction.

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Posted in Anarchists, Housing, Racism, Repression, Riots, Strikes, Students, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Updates on courts, borders, workplace and welfare disputes for mid-April

A few quick additions and updates to my previous round-up of ongoing events and disputes for April:

On a legal note, Trans Survival Trans Defence are asking anyone who can make it to get down to Hendon Magistrates Court on Thursday 12th and Friday 13th April in support of a young trans woman facing charges from an incident at a counterprotest against transphobia last year. I’m aware that this incident was controversial and there’s a range of opinions about it, but I think that opposition to any involvement of the police and CPS in political disputes has to be a basic starting point, and inviting the involvement of state violence in these kinds of disputes can only worsen them.

Meanwhile, the Stansted 15 trial of people facing terrorism charges for blocking a deportation charter flight has been adjourned, apparently until October. Keep up with End Deportations for more on that case as it continues.

In more border-related news, Schools Against Border Controls are celebrating a big victory, as the government has scrapped a policy of collecting data on migrant children that formed part of their overall plan to create a “hostile environment”.

In workplace news, one big story is that McDonald’s workers are now balloting for strike action at six stores, in Manchester, Central London, Cambridge, Crayford, and two locations in Watford, over pay and hours. They’ll also be having a fundraiser on Friday 20th in London for their campaign. In Manchester, the long-running dispute against management’s victimisation of workers at Fujitsu continues, and they’ve now arranged a strike fundraiser gig for Friday 13th in Castleton, Rochdale. Down south, the proposed Thurrock bin strike against surveillance cameras has now been suspended by Unite after management agreed to tighter rules on who could view the cameras, although the cameras themselves are still set to be installed, and the possibility remains that the strikes could resume over other issues. And up in the North Sea, a wildcat broke out at the weekend over poor working conditions on an offshore platform.

In welfare and disability news, a new claimants’ group is being formed in Surrey, and Disabled People Against Cuts are asking for people to contact them with accounts of trying to communicate with the DWP via email as evidence for an ongoing lawsuit. DPAC also have an important update about how to stop the DWP contacting your doctor.

Finally, the London and Leicester Anarchist Communists will be holding meetings on the 19th and 25th respectively, on “anarchism yesterday, today and tomorrow” in London and a discussion/critique of privilege theory and anti-oppression politics in Leicester.

Posted in Anarchists, Disability, Gender, Repression, Strikes, Unemployment/claimants and welfare, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

We are all the wrong kind of Jews: solidarity with Jewdas against the fascist collaborators and hypocrites

I think humanity is finally rejecting what has always been an impossible project, the project of representation. The present proliferation of major and minor pharaohs around the world is the final and ludicrous stage of that impossible project. My life can’t be lived as a representation; my representative can’t realize my aspirations, take my steps or engage in my actions. The pharaohs are the final and definitive proof of the impossibility of representation. I think we’ve all finally learned what took me so long to learn, namely that I’m robbed of my enjoyment if my representative enjoys himself for me, that my hunger remains when he eats for me, that I don’t express myself when he speaks for me, that my mind and my imagination stagnate when he thinks for me and decides for me, that I lose my life when he lives for me. – Fredy Perlman, Letters of Insurgents

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour – Shemot/Exodus, 20:13

A few things to note about the latest controversy over some Jews observing Passover: first of all, it’s important to note that the source of this story is the despicable “Guido Fawkes” website, run by one Paul Staines. It’s worth taking a moment to review Mr Staines’ history here: he is on record as having written to the BNP organiser in Hull, back in his Federation of Conservative Student [FCS] days, to propose joint “direct action” against leftists. This wasn’t the relatively soft and fluffy BNP of the 2000s, but the much harder and more openly neo-nazi version of the mid-1980s, when it was still under the leadership of long-time nazi John Tyndall. At around the same time he was also engaged in writing jolly little songs, including one with the chorus “gas them all, gas them all… Yes we’re saying goodbye to the Left, as safe in their graveyards they rest. ‘Cos they’ll get no further, we’ll stop with murder, the bootboys of FCS”.

He’s also reminisced about this period of his life as being one where “I never wore a “Hang Mandela” badge but I hung out with people who did“, although to be fair to the man he has now recognised that this was a tactical mis-step – bad optics, as they say nowadays. Elsewhere, he’s boasted about his role in arming right-wing death squads, characterising it as “I was over in Washington, in Jo’burg, in South America. It was ‘let’s get guns for the Contras’, that sort of stuff. I was enjoying it immensely, I got to go with these guys and fire off AK-47s. I always like to go where the action is, and for that period in the Reagan/Thatcher days, it was great fun, it was all expenses paid and I got to see the world.”

Of course, it would be unfair to hold these things against him if they were just youthful indiscretions; but as recently as this decade, he’s been enthusiastically singing the praises of the murderous dictator Pinochet, and boasted “I don’t have any problem with having raised money to kill communists.

And as for the Guido Fawkes website itself, credit goes to Magpie Ranger for having the stomach to dig up these charming gems (the odd spelling is apparently because Staines’ readership is so full of vehement antisemites that he’s had to put word filters in place to try and slow them down a bit):

These are the people who’ve set the agenda that large parts of the media and the Labour Party have followed by choosing to promote the idea that it’s somehow scandalous to attend a Passover celebration organised by an anti-racist Jewish group – as opposed to, say, Chris Williamson defending the antisemite Scott Nelson/”Socialist Voice”, or that indefensible open letter about “a very powerful special interest group”, which seem to have been completely overshadowed in all the fuss.

This isn’t about defending Corbyn. It’s about defending the idea that there should be space for Jews who disagree with Jonathan Arkush, and that there’s nothing shameful about being associated with Jews who disagree with Jonathan Arkush. Similarly, it’s not just about the fact that Jewdas are Jews – Gilad Atzmon and Tony Greenstein can also claim Jewish descent, and I wouldn’t defend anyone choosing to seek out their company. What’s important here are that Jewdas are a group of Jews with a long track record of opposing antisemitism on both the left and the right, including in the Palestine solidarity movement.

Their record of campaigning against antisemitism doesn’t automatically make them right about everything – I thought their take on the current controversy, while entirely reasonable in the context of an internal debate within “the Jewish community”, didn’t get the emphasis quite right for an article that was bound to be read by people outside of that particular context – but I’ll take a group of Jews dedicated to opposing antisemitism over the kind of Pinochet fanboy who gets his kicks from being allowed to hang around with death squads or the pathetic gentile schmucks who’re in such a rush to pronounce on which Jews are and aren’t acceptable that they can’t even take the time to learn the words they’re using, any day of the week.

Top marks for nauseating hypocrisy go to the Campaign Against Antisemitism, who in 2015 helped to organise against a neo-nazi march as part of a campaign initiated by Jewdas and publicised in the Jewish News, but who now claim that attending a Jewdas event is “a very clear two fingered salute at mainstream British Jewry”. Presumably when they joined in with Jewdas’ anti-nazi organising back in 2015, they were also giving a clear two-fingered salute to mainstream British Jewry, and Jewish News was doing the same by publishing their article.

But no-one can beat Jonathan Arkush, with his characterisation of Jewdas as “a source of virulent antisemitism”, for hyperbole. In the past, I’ve warned against the danger of a kind of semantic dilution rendering the term “antisemitism” meaningless*, which would be an extremely worrying development. Antisemitism is a real problem, and antisemites do really exist, and they should be fought against vigorously – but if that’s going to happen, we need some sort of minimal clarity about what the word means. There is nothing that would please antisemites more than for the word to lose all meaning, so that the taboo against it is erased and it evokes nothing more than a cynical shrug or an eyeroll instead of revulsion; and by trying to make the term “antisemitism” so elastic that there is literally no difference between a group of Jews who campaign against antisemitism – and are given space in completely mainstream Jewish publications to do so – and “a source of virulent antisemitism”, Jonathan Arkush is taking us a significant step down that road. Of course, that doesn’t make him “a source of virulent antisemitism” himself, but it does make him a thoroughly nasty and dishonest bastard.

 

 

* in one of those nice little ironies of history, I was criticising a letter that Jewdas had cosigned.

Posted in Labour, Racism, The media, The right | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Refuse workers refuse work: early April round-up of workplace and social struggles

A quick overview of ongoing workplace disputes, social struggles, and other relevant events:

The cleaners’ and porters’ dispute at the Royal Opera House is still ongoing, with the nightly protests set to continue from Tuesday 3rd April onwards. People can also help keep up the pressure on the Royal Opera House and Kier by emailing them at alex.beard@roh.org.uk and haydn.mursell@kier.co.uk respectively to urge them to reinstate the sacked workers.

The wildcat strike at the Orion recycling plant in London is also set to resume after the Easter break, and a strike fund has been set up and is now taking donations.

The recycling/waste collection sector seems to be seeing a bit of a mini-wave of militancy at the moment, as up in Hull, Wilmington waste recycling staff employed by FCC Environment have gone out on a two-week strike in a dispute over hazardous conditions and the company’s refusal to provide sick pay. Apparently two workers have been suspended after returning to work from a previous round of strike action. If anyone can get down to Wilmington at the weekend, local trade unionists are organising a festival of music and solidarity to liven up the picket lines on April 7th. An online strike fund has also been set up for the FCC workers here. And down in Thurrock, waste collection workers are also set to walk out for a series of strikes starting on Thursday 12th April, in response to a variety of horrible management policies including a proposal to install surveillance cameras on all refuse lorries. The reliably sound South Essex Stirrer folks have more coverage of the issue, so get in touch with them if you’re in the area.

Elsewhere, Bromley library staff have gone out on an indefinite strike over pay, Aberdeen bus drivers have also been out on strike and are threatening “all-out indefinite” action in response to management’s attempt to introduce a two-tier system that would leave new staff on worse pay, and the long-running Fujitsu dispute against the victimisation of some workers continues, with the current round of strike action lasting up until Friday 6th.

The Bristol Care Workers’ Network is pretty active at present, having produced a statement urging healthcare workers to reject the latest NHS pay offer, and another looking at Unison’s shameful decision to accept a below-inflation pay offer in local government, even after the membership voted to reject it.

Meanwhile, the teachers’ unions are considering national strike action over pay, and one London-based teacher has produced an overview of recent local education disputes in that area.

Upcoming dates for workplace-related action include Friday the 13th, when German couriers will be holding a day of action against Deliveroo and the IWW are calling for solidarity actions here, Friday 20th, when the BFAWU are holding a fundraiser for their organising campaign at McDonald’s, and Wednesday 25th, when the RMT are calling for a national protest in London to mark the two-year anniversary of the driver-only operation dispute, while cleaners, porters, receptionists and other outsourced workers at the University of London, organising through the IWGB, will also be holding a big strike on that date to demand that they be brought in-house and given equal terms and conditions with other staff.

In other news, it’s been a busy few weeks for the spycops inquiry – the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance have a round-up of some of the many recent developments, including the police finally admitting that they spied on construction workers to collect information that they then passed on to bosses for blacklisting purposes, Freedom News being given core participant status after it was established that an undercover wrote for them for a while, and sleazy spycop-turned-tory-councillor Andy Coles admitting his spycop past but denying the relationship that he groomed a teenage girl into. If you’re based in or near Peterborough, the next demo against this scumbag will be on Wednesday 18th April.

Looking at other ongoing social struggles, Salford’s seeing a big campaign against the closure of five nurseries that’s forced the council to put back the closure plans for a year, although local parents are understandably keen to continue the fight until the nurseries are saved for good. The Salford Star reports that the council is now launching a consultation, with questions such as “would you be interested in running one or all of the LA nurseries?”. The Star’s coverage of this issue has been great, especially when it comes to highlighting the contradictory role played by the local Labour Party, with headlines such as “Salford Councillors to Lobby Themselves over Nursery Closures”.

A few other upcoming dates of interest: on April 14th, London Antifascists will be taking on Generation Identity, the latest re-branding effort from the far rightsee here for more background on who Generation Identity are. On the 18th, Disabled People Against Cuts are calling for a rescheduled day of action against Universal Credit, with local events confirmed for Sheffield, Birmingham, Brighton, Ceredigion, Manchester, Norwich and London so far.

Further ahead, April 28th is the International Workers’ Memorial Day, in remembrance of all those killed by unsafe conditions at their jobssee here for a listing of local events across the country. And immediately after that, of course, is May Day, when there should also be events happening across the country – a few interesting-sounding ones that have been announced so far include Brighton, where they’ll be holding the second annual “Physical Resistance” antifascist martial arts festival, Bradford, where the 1 in 12 Club will be hosting a mayday march and punks’ picnic, and Barnsley (all the Bs – I’m sure Brighton will be doing summat as well), which will be hosting a festival of solidarity, including a Marxist magician.

Further ahead still, the annual With Banners Held High festival, which started out as a miners’ strike commemoration event, will be held in Wakefield on Sunday 20th May, and Manchester’s antifascist 0161 Festival will be happening in mid-June.

Finally, a few international notes: in the USA, Kentucky teachers have gone out on a mass wildcat, while Oklahoma teachers and other public sector workers are set to join them. Meanwhile, the defence campaign for the remaining Inauguration Day J20 defendants is calling for a day of solidarity on April 10th, if you feel up to showing some support then.

Over in Russia, Crimethinc have produced an article explaining the current wave of repression and torture against anarchists and antifascists, along with some posters to help draw attention to the issue.

Posted in Anarchists, Disability, Labour, Protests, Racism, Repression, Strikes, Unemployment/claimants and welfare, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Nuremberg, Germany: Campaign *Escape.Departure.Anarchy* – Freedom for Jan and everyone else

Via Contra Info:

About:

This campaign was started to give an anarchist answer to the repression following to actions of the 31st of May 2017 in Nuremberg. For further information about that day and why it is important to combine our anti-racist, anti-repression and anti-state struggles within this campaign, view the text below.

Contact us:

If you have questions, wish for further translations and/or want to send us information about solidarity actions to be published on this blog, please write us an encrypted message to: ausbruchaufbruch[at]riseup.net.

You can find the PGP code under:  https://ausbruchaufbruch.noblogs.org/kontakt/

This is the text of the campaign’s flyer:

On the 31st of May 2017, a student of a vocational school in Nuremberg (Germany) was to be deported to Afghanistan. His classmates did not accept this and reacted, together with hundreds of others, with a blockade to the attempted deportation. The police’s answer to this was as typical as it was brutal: In the end, there were several injured and arrested people.

To penalize those who opposed the deportation, the judicial authorities made use of remand prison and are applying the recently tightened law about “resisting and/or attacking an officer of the law” (§113/114 StGB). Dozens of people are accused of participating in the blockade. To distract from the good reasons for the demonstrators’ actions, their anti-racist protest is being criminalized. This proves to be a strategy that the german state frequently and willingly uses to prevent an effective approach against its racist practices of sorting out and deporting people. The fact that the 31st of May was a great example of how successful direct action in solidarity can be, is probably just another reason for the state to show exceptional harshness against the accused.

With Jan being one of the accused (among many others), the repression now is also directly concerning an anarchist. We – friends, comrades and supporters of Jan – are convinced that this link is no coincidence. Right after the 31st of May, the Bavarian government tried to split the protesters into ‘non-violent students’ and ‘militant radical-left autonomists’. This division is supposed to support their tale of a friendly, peaceable police, which only had to become excessively brutal to react to the attacks, that militant opposers of the deportation allegedly had started.

As a consequence of steadfast antifascist action, Jan has been condemned in court before. This earlier conviction makes him perfectly suitable for the picture of an activist who is threatening to the state and to cops. Somebody who they successfully criminalized in the past already for his anti-authoritarian actions.

It have been Jan‘s anarchist ideals which made him oppose the violent deportation of a young person on that 31st of May. Because of his radical anti-state convictions it is to be expected that the legal authorities will feel called to aim at an extraordinarily rigorous penalty for him.

And yet, despite having been criminalized before, in the end Jan is only one of so many accused after the 31st of May, some of who face trials under similar conditions. And with regard to the large number of anarchists who currently are threatened and affected by state oppression, his case appears to be almost insignificant.

But the repression against Jan must not be seen isolatedly. It is part of the list that is growing longer each time when the state once more tries to silence anarchists. Our bitter anger against the penalty that is threatening Jan, fans the same fury that we feel when we read about the cruel arrogance, with which the german state locks up comrades after the g20-summit.

It is the same cold rage coming over us when we hear about the state murdering an anarchist in Argentina, who fought against capitalistic land-grabbing. It is the same relentless fury that drives us, when we find out about the greek government tearing down refugees‘ squats; when we see the turkish state invading and trying to destroy the free and emancipatory communities in Rojava.

It is our struggle for freedom that unites us with all of these anarchist comrades and friends all over the world. For a freedom in solidarity, where society no longer feels like it needs to guard itself with prisons and oppression from those ideas, that could actually put an end to the omnipresent exploitation and inequality. Where ‘state’ and ‘police’ have become nothing more than a very bad joke, and where prisons and the repression authorities have been torn down once and for all!

So let us give an appropriate answer to the state’s attempts to intimidate us: Let us give a clear expression of our rage against the attacks on Jan and all of us! And let us keep on taking no matter which actions to oppose racism in state and society in each and every possible way!”

Posted in Anarchists, Repression | Tagged , | 1 Comment

In the spirit of Yanovsky and Feigenbaum: against the cranks, against the “community leadership”

I’ve spent a while this trying to work out what I think about the latest controversy over Labour and antisemitism, which saw two opposing crowds gather in Parliament Square earlier this week as those organisations that claim to represent Britain’s Jews squared off against the party that claims to represent the working class, and will be the subject of uncomfortable conversations for left/Labour-leaning Jews at Seder nights across the country tonight.

This is definitely one of those issues where two different things are true at one time: that Corbyn’s comments, and more importantly the way that some Corbynists have reacted to them, are indicative of a genuine problem, and that the issue is being cynically exploited by Corbyn’s enemies who’ve gone out of their way to ensure that his stupid comment got to be a rather bigger news story than six-year-old facebook comments usually do. Both these elements have to be kept in mind at once to have any adequate understanding of the situation.

The two best things I’ve read about it, both more-or-less focused on a single aspect, are Three points about antisemitism and the Left by Richard Seymour, and Enough is Enough! by Jewdas. Seymour approaches the issue as a conflict within “the left”, and so – perfectly correctly, given that framing – focuses on the need to oppose antisemitism; Jewdas approach it as a conflict within “the Jewish community” and so – equally understandably, using that framework – focus on the cynicism and rottenness of those organisations that claim to be able to speak for that community.

Jewdas are right to point out that they stand in the tradition of heroes like the Arbeter Fraint group and those who actually opposed the fascists at Cable Street, as well as having taken part in militant action against antisemitism in their own right, while the likes of the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Chronicle can claim direct descent from those who warned that “Jews are urgently warned to keep away from the route of the Blackshirt march and from their meetings. Jews who, however innocently, become involved in any possible disorders will be actively helping antisemitism and Jew-baiting. Unless you want to help the Jew-baiters, keep away.” But having an impeccable record in the past is no guarantee that you’ll make the right call this time around; and, while it makes sense in the context of internal discussions within “the Jewish community” to prioritise opposition to the Board of Deputies over opposition to antisemitism, since openly antisemitic viewpoints are relatively unlikely to be expressed within those Seder night arguments, I think the Jewdas statement runs the risk of being overly narrow and so unhelpful within the broader picture.

It’s hard to measure these things with any degree of accuracy, but I do feel that the last few years have seen the growth of a conspiratorially-minded “grayzone”, the sort of space where crap like that peddled by Mear One is seen as acceptable. Certainly, it’s hard not to feel alarmed and disgusted by those Corbyn supporters who’ve signed up to Frances Naggs’ characterisation of this week’s events as “the full onslaught of a very powerful special interest group mobilising its apparent, immense strength”.

Of course, the internet is what it is, so I’m not going to claim to know what was going through the heads of those who responded by clicking on the “haha”, “wow”, “sad” or “angry” reactions (all of which would be sort of appropriate, in their way), and even of those who specifically asked for their names to be added, it’s hard to say how many might just be general trolls stirring up trouble, or antisemites on the other side of the world excited to see someone finally standing up to this “very powerful special interest group”; but even so, if we accept that any of those who’ve asked for their names to be added to the open letter are in some way a part of “the British left”, then those of us who are, however reluctantly, associated with that left have a real problem on our hands.

But that’s the bad news; the positive side of this situation is that, as Seymour highlights, the amount of attention currently being paid to this issue means that there’s a real chance to mount a proper offensive against the red-brown alliance. This is why I was slightly disappointed that the Jewdas statement focused so heavily on the shortcomings of the “community leadership”, and didn’t pay enough attention to the positive opportunities this situation opens up for an active campaign against the cranks and their enablers; we can all agree that it’d be much better for the political tone of that campaign to be set by the likes of Jewdas rather than the Board of Deputies or the Jewish Chronicle, but that’s not likely to happen without radical Jews stepping up to make it happen.

“Oppressed groups” are never homogenous entities, and any attempt at militant resistance at oppression always opens up faultlines, as groups like Jewdas, the Arbeter Fraint group, the Asian Youth Movements or those who’ve been on the frontlines of militant resistance to police killings in the US are always condemned by their respective “community leaders”; but, however contemptible the businessmen, politicians and rabbis who claim the right to speak for working-class Jews in shops, pubs, warehouses and offices across the country might be, a critique that focuses solely on them and misses the need/opportunity to engage in active hostilities with the kind of scum that picket Holocaust museums is incomplete.

Posted in Labour, Racism, The left, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Recycling workers wildcat over safety in East London

The Notes From Below site has put up a detailed report from the Orion recycling plant in East London, where workers have gone out on a wildcat strike over unsafe conditions. Reading the whole thing is recommended, but here’s an extract:

At 9.30am on Wednesday morning, 15 workers confronted the site manager. They demanded immediate changes to working conditions to make the plant safe – or else they would walk off the job and begin a wildcat strike. The site manager told them to fuck off, grabbed one of the key organisers and tried to push him about, then threatened to sack them all. By 11am all 15 workers walked out into the rain. Within minutes, the conveyor belts had stopped, the plant was closed, and the boss was out in the yard, negotiating in broken Spanish. The transition from contacting the union to beginning strike action had taken 19 hours.

On the picket line, issues of safety were uppermost. The workers refused to return to work until they had gloves and full-face masks with ventilators. The law gives workers a right to stop work if their safety is at risk, so their strike could be conducted with a degree of security. They also demanded soap and toilet paper for their toilet, showers for after their shifts, and 4 sets of uniforms. The boss began to concede. The masks were ordered with next day delivery, no one would start work until they arrived, the union would be given the chance to approve them and the entire strike would be conducted on full pay. Toilet paper and soap were ordered next, then they were told a shower would be fitted within the month, and finally that 4 sets of uniform would arrive by the end of the week.

But before long, workers were listing other demands. They made the boss force the bullying site manager to apologise for grabbing a striker and trying to push them about earlier that morning. They demanded a pay rise to the London Living Wage and the introduction of sick pay above the statutory minimum. The boss tried to head them off: ‘we’re in the red, we can’t afford it’ and so on. But before long, he was saying he’d speak to the board, and would meet with the union next week to discuss further demands. Workers agreed to return to work as soon as basic personal protection equipment had been provided. In less than a day, the world had been turned upside down…

At Orion, the enclosed conveyor-belt workplace created the technical conditions and the common migration status, language, and housing situations created the social conditions for collective self-organisation. That informal organisation, despite none of the workers ever having been members of trade unions before, was the basis for the wildcat strike and explains its speed and power. Together, they overcame their fear in order to turn the tables on the boss…

The strike has continued today (29/3/18) as Orion management have failed to provide the necessary safety equipment required for the strikers to return to work.

There’s also a different report up on the UVW site.

Posted in Strikes, Stuff that I think is pretty awesome, Work | Tagged | 1 Comment