Cleaners, couriers, casualisation, cereal and construction: news from grassroots workers’ struggles

A few stories you might have missed from recent days:

The LSE has just announced a pay rise for cleaners that will take them up to the current London Living Wage of £9.75 an hour, which is one of the issues specifically raised as a demand in the current dispute. There are still a number of issues that remain in dispute, such as the reinstatement of the victimised worker Alba, and so the LSE has until 23 December to meet the rest of their demands, or the UVW will begin balloting cleaners for strike action.

Over at Deliveroo, they suspended IWGB union organiser Ben G, and then reinstated him almost immediately when the IWGB started raising the issue in public.

Up in Birmingham, students at Warwick University have ended an occupation after winning a number of demands – to scrap an anti-protest injunction, getting the university to publicly oppose the government’s education reforms, and agreeing to union recognition for hourly-paid and casualised teaching staff. Some occupiers have an article up on Novara drawing out lessons from their campaign.

As strike action continues to ripple across a few different sectors, the latest to join in are Weetabix workers in Corby and Kettering, who’ve given a 9-1 vote for strike action, warning that unless employers back down on proposals to introduce a 24-hour shift pattern without giving appropriate pay increases, they’ll be keeping the production lines locked down till lunch.*

And finally, the Blacklist Support Group and Construction Rank-and-File have released an open letter about union collusion in the construction blacklist. The full text is as follows:

We the undersigned, are writing this open letter in the spirit of fraternal debate amongst members of the newly merged UCATT / UNITE construction union.

The upsurge in industrial militancy in the last few years demonstrates that when the official union works alongside rank and file activists, it is possible to mobilise workers even in a hostile environment. The merger offers an opportunity to start anew the fight against the appallingly high fatality rates and casualization of the construction industry by combining the best traditions of the two unions.

However, one issue threatens to cause internal friction: possible union collusion in blacklisting.

Some years ago, both UCATT and UNITE carried out internal investigations into possible union involvement in blacklisting. But that was at a time when barely any of the documentation was available.

Since the High Court, all that has changed. The employers were forced to provide witness statements and disclose 40 years worth of documentary evidence. It is now in the public domain that officials in both unions were recorded as the source of information on Economic League and Consulting Association blacklist files. Some of those named, remain senior officials in UNITE and UCATT to this day. Every union activist in construction knows who the named officials are, as does every major employer.

The leadership of both unions have now seen the evidence: discussions about those officials potentially implicated in blacklisting or with overly cosy relationships with industrial relations managers has been part of the behind the scenes discussions in the run up to the merger.

The High Court litigation won a multi-million pound settlement for blacklisted workers. We fully acknowledge and recognise the tremendous legal, political and industrial campaigns that the unions have undertook.

But compensation is not the same as justice: there has still been no-one held accountable for their actions. We remain resolute in calling for a public inquiry into blacklisting. But that is for a future Corbyn government. Now is the time to put our own house in order.

We the undersigned call upon the new UNITE construction section to engage an independent legal expert to carry out a thorough investigation of the allegations relating to union collusion in blacklisting, with a remit drawn up in conjunction with the blacklisted workers. If the implicated officials are completely innocent, then this is their opportunity to clear their name once and for all. But if the independent investigation concludes that there is a case to answer, then the union should take the appropriate disciplinary action. We are not looking for a witch-hunt, we simply want answers into possible union collusion in order to avoid repeating mistakes of the past.

This issue has haunted the union for years and until it is prepared to act, it will continue to be a running sore that hinders building unity in the newly merged union. We need to unite in order to fight against unscrupulous employers and the Tories, but the newly merged union needs to start with a clean slate.

We urge members to please attend your branch or regional meetings, and send a motion in support of an independent investigation to the UNITE EC.

Yours fraternally:

Blacklist Support Group
Construction Rank and File (national)
Steve Acheson – ex-UNITE branch secretary & safety rep
Dave Ayre – ex-Crook UCATT branch secretary
Royston Bentham – ex-UCATT steward & secretary UNITE Liverpool construction
Graham Bowker – treasurer UNITE Manchester contracting branch
Graeme Boxall – branch secretary UNITE London construction branch
Ian Bradley – UNITE London contracting branch
Terry Brough – ex-UCATT North West Regional Council
John Bryan – retired Bermondsey UCATT
Daniel Collins – UNITE London construction branch
John Connolly – UNITE Liverpool
Paul Crimmins – ex-UCATT branch secretary & steward
Stewart Emms – ex UCATT full time officials
Peter Farrell – UCATT, Constrcution safety campaign
John Flannaghan – ex-UCATT, Merseyside Asbestos Victims Support Group
Jack Fawbert – ex-UCATT convener
Lee James Fowler – ex-offshore safety rep, UNITE
George Fuller – ex-UCATT safety rep
Jim Grey – Jubilee Line steward, UNITE London contracting
Jim Harte – chair UNITE Combine Committee
Brian Higgins – ex-UCATT Eastern Regional Council & branch secretary
Kev Holmes – chair, UNITE Manchester construction branch
Stewart Hume – UNITE construction NISC
John Jones – ex-UCATT London Regional Council
Tony Jones – UNITE Manchester construction branch
Steve Kelly – Jubilee Line steward, ex-UNITE branch secretary
Stephen Kennedy – Jubilee Line steward, UNITE
Greig McArthur – UNITE construction NISC
Frank Morris –UNITE EC member for construction
Tony O’Brien – ex-UCATT Southwark convenor & branch secretary
Jason Poulter – secretary UNITE Manchester construction branch
Jim Ryan –Crossrail steward, UNITE London contracting
Tony Seaman – UNITE construction NISC
Pete Shaw – UNITE construction RISC, Combine committee
Dave Smith – ex-UCATT branch secretary & London Regional Council
Frank Smith – ex-UCATT branch secretary & steward
Billy Spiers – chair UNITE construction NISC, ex-AMICUS EC member
Tony Sweeney- ex-UCATT Liverpool convenor
Victor Williams – Unite construction
(all the individuals above are signing in a personal capacity

*I thought this was really clever at first, then I realised I was actually thinking of Shreddies, oh well.

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About nothingiseverlost

"The impulse to fight against work and management is immediately collective. As we fight against the conditions of our own lives, we see that other people are doing the same. To get anywhere we have to fight side by side. We begin to break down the divisions between us and prejudices, hierarchies, and nationalisms begin to be undermined. As we build trust and solidarity, we grow more daring and combative. More becomes possible. We get more organized, more confident, more disruptive and more powerful."
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One Response to Cleaners, couriers, casualisation, cereal and construction: news from grassroots workers’ struggles

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