Unions & Equalities

Support cleaners' fight for dignity and fair pay

On 4-5 June 17 cleaners at Ark’s Globe Academy, just south of the Elephant and Castle in Southwark, South London, walked out over unpaid and underpaid wages. The workers are members of the small, radical, United Voices of the World (UVW) union. Their employer, the cleaning company Ridgecrest, seems to have now addressed some of the issues of money owed. Nevertheless some of these badly paid workers had faced the threat of eviction for non-payment of rent as a result of not being paid properly and on time. The workers are now fighting for the London Living Wage, which would represent a...

US dockers strike for Black Lives Matter

On 9 June, on the West Coast of the USA, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) stopped work for an eight minute, forty-six second moment of silence (the length of time the cop had his knee on Floyd’s neck). On 19 June the ILWU will organise another Black Lives Matter strike, for a full eight hours. They picked that day because “Juneteenth” is the date slavery was abolished in Texas at the end of the US Civil War, and now a major commemoration and celebration. To get round anti-union legislation, they are also striking as part of their ongoing fight against...

Section 44 and the civil service

Civil service employers have been reticent to go for a return-to-work drive in the short to medium term. The Cabinet Office informed the union that they would continue to support homeworking. That approach isn’t completely uniform, and the Cabinet Office hasn’t exerted any particular pressure to rein in departmental employers who are taking a different approach, but there has been no central, concerted, back-to-work lurch. The major exception to this is the outsourced contractors, who have behaved appallingly and are forcing workers to continue working despite the buildings they clean or...

Industrial news in brief

UVW at St George's Outsourced security workers in the United Voices of the World union (UVW) at St. George’s University in Tooting, south London, are continuing their campaign for equality. UVW members and supporters recently occupied the lobby of the main St. George’s building during a university open day, holding an impromptu rally addressed by St. George’s strikers, UVW reps from victorious anti-outsourcing campaigns at LSE and St. Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, and an RMT activist. UVW is also preparing what it describes as a “landmark legal case” to challenging outsourcing in court. The...

How unions should tackle sexism

It’s HeartUnions from 10 to 16 February 2020. I was reminded of the week of activity, highlighting the work of unions, by a parcel from the TUC arriving at my union office announcing the focus this year is on sexual harassment. It was accompanied by a letter from our co-ordinated industrial leadership, bringing together 48 unions and 5.5 million members, and declaring “a radical yet practical plan” to end sexual harassment. Over 1/2 women and nearly 7/10 LGBT workers are sexually harassed in the workplace. Subjecting women to fear, shame, and discomfort in a workplace, street or union meeting...

Brexit, the white working class and liberal left

Six months ago now a debate was sparked by comments made by Eddie Dempsey, an activist for “full Brexit” and in the rail union RMT, at a “Full Brexit” rally on 26 March. Dempsey said that “people that turn up for those Tommy Robinson demos or any other march like that – the one thing that unites those people, whatever other bigotry is going on, is their hatred of the liberal left and they are right to hate them” (emphasis added). He further commented that “too many in the Labour Party have made a calculation that there’s a certain section at the top end of the working class, in alliance with...

RMT activists oppose Lewis expulsion decision

The conference on 23-27 June of the rail union RMT passed, by a majority of two votes with six abstentions, a motion expelling left Labour MP Clive Lewis from the RMT’s Parliamentary Group. The conference decided that Lewis should be expelled unless he retracts and apologises for the criticisms he made of comments by RMT member Eddie Dempsey from the platform of a “Full Brexit” rally. RMT activists who oppose the decision are circulating a statement of protest, already signed by numerous AGM delegates as well dozens of other union activists. Lewis criticised Dempsey’s assertion that Tommy...

PCS leadership censured for evasions on trans rights

Motion A21 at the 2019 conference of civil service union PCS dealt with the leadership's approach to trans rights. (See the motions document, p12.) In 2017 and 2018 conference voted to support amendment of the Gender Recognition to facilitate self-identification; despite opposition from the NEC in 2017 these motions passed overwhelmingly. This year A21 condemned and proposed censure of the NEC for its response and for General Secretary Mark Serwotka’s unilateral signatory of a letter published in the Morning Star, alongside numerous vehemently trans-exclusionary individuals, suggesting that...

CWU faces change

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) met for its conference on 29 April-3 May. It took place as the union finalised reorganisation plans ("Redesign"), to tackle declining membership, in the context of industrial change in both the telecoms/financial services and post/courier sectors. An emergency motion from the National Executive on Brexit passed at the union′s general conference (attended by delegates from both sides of the union) was widely reported in the press. The conference voted decisively for ″Labour′s Manifesto commitment″ to deliver ″a Brexit deal that prioritises jobs and living...

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