Union organising

How to organise young workers

One of the most visible impacts of capitalist globalisation has been the massive expansion of low-paid (and often semi-casual) jobs in the service sector. This “precarious” employment — in bars, restaurants, nightclubs, hotels, fast-food chains, supermarkets, high-street retailers, call centres and elsewhere — means long hours, barely-legal wages and unsafe working conditions. Young people fill these jobs. According to a recent TUC survey, workers between the ages of 16-24 make up nearly a third of the total workforce in hotels and restaurants in the UK (migrant workers and women of all ages...

Workers' Liberty 3/3: Factory bulletins in the 1920s and today

Workers' Liberty 3/3 (March 2006) reproduces many communist factory bulletins from the 1920s, and discussion from that era about how they should be produced. "Workers cannot write newspapers? Really? Just tell us some news about your factory". It also includes information on workplace bulletins produced by the AWL. Click here to download pdf.

Uber cheats justice as drivers strike

On Monday 22 March food couriers working for UberEats struck in Plymouth, demanding higher pay. At the time of going to press, UberEats drivers in Sheffield are discussing taking action, too. For all that Uber is trying to turn the screws on its food delivery workers and cheat its taxi workers, recent developments in the courts have opened a door for workers to make big gains. A ruling by the UK Supreme Court earlier this year stated that Uber taxi workers (though not yet UberEats workers) should be classed as “dependent contractors”, i.e. a type of worker, also known as a “limb (b) worker”...

Organising couriers in Israel

Uri Metuki spoke to Michael Elms of Solidarity about couriers in Israel fighting for rights of union organisation. Uri leads the “youth and students” section of the Histadrut organising effort. JustEat/10bis employs 1,700 couriers. The other company is called Wolt, which is a spurious self-employment company. We have some couriers who approached us from Wolt, we started talking with them and finding out about the situation, but the organising drive took off with JustEat/10bis. We have more than half the workforce, but they did not recognise the union. They used all kind of union-busting...

"Modern slavery": grandstanding vs helping workers organise

Emily Kenway is a former adviser to the UK’s first Anti-Slavery Commissioner and the author of The Truth About Modern Slavery (Pluto Press, 2021). She spoke to George Wheeler for Solidarity. (The book is reviewed here.) Can you explain a little of what the book is about, and why you wrote it? The book is about how modern slavery is a particular narrative about exploitation, constructed largely by philanthrocapitalists, anti-sex work activists and anti-migrant politicians. It shows how calling exploitation “modern slavery”, and all that this entails, suggests a moral crusade but undermines the...

Black workers take on Amazon

A union organising drive at Amazon’s new fulfillment centre (BMH1) in Bessemer, Alabama, a majority Black and working-class city adjacent to Birmingham, began in the late summer of 2020, when a handful of workers, fed up with stressful working conditions, intrusive monitoring and lack of safety during the pandemic, contacted the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union. The union has a high profile in the region, where it has organised poultry workers, many of whom are African American, as are around 85% of the BMH1 workers. From the beginning, Amazon mounted a massive anti-union propaganda...

New members for the union (John Moloney's column)

Our members in HMRC [Revenue and Customs] have voted overwhelmingly to accept a department-specific offer on pay and conditions. The National Executive Committee has decided that HMRC members therefore won’t be balloted as part of any national ballot for action to win better pay, against the Tories’ pay freeze, although they may be balloted as part of national disputes on other issues. Whilst I understand the logic of the NEC’s position, in my personal view I don’t believe that the HMRC deal fundamentally solves the real pay, terms and conditions problems that workers in that department face...

Make Uber pay up!

In a case brought by taxi drivers including Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar of the App Drivers and Couriers Union, the UK Supreme Court has ruled that drivers working for Uber are not independent contractors, but workers. Specifically, they are “dependent contractors” or “limb b) workers”. This judgement means that Uber owes its workers sick pay, holiday pay and the national minimum wage going back to the start of their employment with Uber. Law firm Leigh Day, which is representing thousands of couriers making a joint claim for this money, estimates that Uber may owe something like £12,000 per...

School cleaners docked pay

The United Voices of the World union is asking supporters to email the headteacher of La Retraite Roman Catholic Girls’ School in south west London, and the boss of the company to which it outsources cleaning, to protest at the withdrawal of pay from 13 cleaners at the school. The cleaners exercised their rights under Section 44 of the 1996 Employment Rights Act to refuse unsafe work. UVW says that after weeks of pressure, cleaners resumed work on 8 February. Ecocleen, the outsourced cleaning contractor, had agreed to implement “improved supply of PPE and hand gel, staggered start and finish...

Victory at BMA

Cleaners outsourced by the British Medical Association have prevented 30 redundancies there. The cleaners, employed by CWS, were furloughed since the first lockdown, with the BMA topping up the 20% of their salaries not covered by HMRC. In October 2020 the BMA suspended this, citing lost rental and event income. The cleaners’ union CAIWU appealed to CWS to continue the furlough arrangement — costing the company just £1,741. CWS instead dismissed the cleaners from 31 January. CAIWU’s campaign went public on 26 January, and by the end of next day the BMA had agreed to support continued...

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