Posts tagged unions

Until recently the capitalist class with the help of un­ions had convinced men that if they got a rise in pay they got a rise in standard of living. That’s not true, and women always knew it. They give men a pay packet on Friday and take it back from us on Saturday at the shops. We have to organise the struggle for the other side of wages -against inflation -and that can only be done outside the unions, first because they only deal with the money we get and not with what we have immediately to give back; and second because they limit their fight -such as it is -only to that workplace where you get wages for being there, and not where your work involves giving the money back.

It is not simply that they don’t organise the shoppers; it is that the union prevents such organisation, by frag­menting the class into those who have wages and those who don’t. The unemployed, the old, the ill, children and house­wives are wageless. So the unions ignore us and thereby separate us from each other and from the waged. That is, they structurally make a generalised struggle impossible. This is not because they are bureaucratised; this is. Their functions are to mediate the struggle in industry and keep it separate from struggles elsewhere. Because the most concentrated potential power of the class is at the point of direct production, the unions have convinced the wageless that only at that point can a struggle be waged at all. This is not so, and the most striking example has been the organisation of the Black community. Blacks, like women, cannot limit themselves to a struggle in direct pro­duction. And Blacks, like women, see the function of unions within the class writ large in their attitudes to them. For racism and sexism are not aberrations of an otherwise powerful working class weapon.

You will see by now that I believe in order to have our own politics we must make our own analysis of women and therefore our own analysis of the whole working class struggle. We have been taking so much for granted that happens to be around, and restricting, segregating ourselves to speaking and writing about women, that it looks like we are only supposed to analyse and understand women after others (men) have analysed the class in general–ex­cluding us. This is to be male-dominated in the profoundest sense. Because there is no class in general-which doesn’t include us and all the wageless

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They have taken bailouts from the taxpayer with impunity and continue to give executives exorbitant bonuses

  • ELIZABETH JACKSON: The union representing Qantas baggage handlers and crew say they're meeting this weekend to consider more industrial action in the lead up to the holiday season.
  • Many employees are still smarting over a shareholders decision at the Qantas AGM yesterday, to award CEO Alan Joyce a pay rise of up to 71 per cent. There seems no end in sight to the strikes, which the airline says is costing it around $15 million a week.
  • Bronwyn Herbert reports
  • BRONWYN HERBERT: At yesterday's annual general meeting, Alan Joyce said industrial unrest had cost the company $67 million, almost $20 million more than the cost to the airline from the volcanic ash cloud disruption.
  • ALAN JOYCE: Their industrial objective is to force us to accept their impossible demands by slowly crippling our business and trashing our brand.
  • BRONWYN HERBERT: Peter Harbison is the chairman of the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation.
  • PETER HARBISON: I think what we saw probably was a more definite staking out of the lines of confrontation, unfortunately.
  • BRONWYN HERBERT: He says the losses are accruing as passengers avoid the airline.
  • PETER HARBISON: It's largely based on the loss of revenue caused by passengers, and I'm one of them, vying away for Qantas. Just not wanting to be caught in case they happen to be on strike and if that's the sort of accounting it, it wouldn't be unreasonable I think across the system to think of that sort of number.
  • BRONWYN HERBERT: The Transport Workers Union says there wouldn't be strikes, if management came to the table with a reasonable offer.
  • Tony Sheldon is the general secretary of the TWU.
  • TONY SHELDON: We have another 500 employees that are out voting on whether they join industrial action at Qantas. That would bring up to close to 4,500 employees in our areas of responsibility.
  • BRONWYN HERBERT: What exactly is your union demanding and why is it so important that you're prepared to cause so much disruption to the travelling public?
  • TONY SHELDON: First of all the workforce is not demanding, the workforce is reaching out to the company saying that there's a requirement for the company after making a $534 million profit, that there should be some form of appropriate wages, conditions and jobs security.
  • BRONWYN HERBERT: So what would the unions find acceptable?
  • TONY SHELDON: Look I think that's a very critical question. The company said they will not negotiate. They said that for five months they would not make an offer, then they made an offer which said that they would slash and burn Australian standards, Australian training and Australian conditions.
  • What the unions are saying is, make offers that are actually enforceable under the law because asking us to agree with you when you've breached so many arrangements in the last three years, until then, agreement can't realistically be reached.
  • BRONWYN HERBERT: Qantas estimates about 70,000 passengers have been impacted by the industrial action in recent months.
  • ELIZABETH JACKSON: Bronwyn Herbert with that report.

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Don’t expect instant results, build the movement

The crisis offered the left an opportunity to explain why capitalism wasn’t working and to offer radical alternatives but that wasn’t taken up. Instead pundits put forward technocratic solutions such as the living wage, right to work, restricting bankers wages and the like that only serve to bolster capitalism. Ed Miliband’s latest speech is in this category. His interest is merely in proving to the ruling class his potential as a future manager of the bourgeois order. But resistance is building and deepening. The only way the unions will move is through workers persistently refusing to compromise and calling for continuous strikes. One day ritualised stoppages is not going to cut it, it didn’t work in France and it certainly won’t here as capitalists prove themselves able to withstand these disruptions in their determination to carry out austerity measures.

However, the Sparks protests in which electricians and construction workers refused to take a 35% pay cut does offer an example how militancy is effective and is a recent example of how concessions are being won by workers. Iceland too offers lessons of how militant resistance can succeed. As does Tunisia, Egypt, Guadeloupe and Martinique. It is only where rebellious youth movements have been joined by the organised working class that governments have been overturned and a new political consensus forged, therefore it should be the role of the left to connect the two – youth and workers - together and to build the movement.

The other thing that infuriates me about left discussions following the crisis is the manner in which race has been excised from the discussions with this denial that cuts have fallen most heavily on BAME and the debate is steered towards pandering towards “white working class” racism during Ed Miliband’s conferences and on the book circuit by the likes of Owen Jones. Or more recently, this has been effaced by Ian Duncan Smith by blaming “the ghettoisation of minds” for the UK riot as if it had nothing to do with the erasure of youth prospects in employment or education savagely implemented by this government. Few of the voices who are allowed to grace the columns of CiF articulate these positions. Just as #OccupyWallSt has been a mainly white and anarchist, so it is here. Talk of the failure of these nascent protest movements to effect change due to the lack of building connections with workers and the black community is met with a wild flurry of waving hands and dismissive comments about these methods of organisation. Just too depressing.

But this is good news - 38,000 NYC transit workers will join #OWS next Wednesday.

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One down, seven to go. Under pressure from rank and file protests, MJN Colston have announced they will stay within the national agreement and not cut electricians’ wages by 35%. Kings Cross is the biggest London one yet: protests have now spread to Manchester, Newcastle, Scotland and Liverpool. More info:

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Simon Jenkins’s article (How editors lost self-control – and all respect for the law, 6 July) fails to link the current state of the Murdoch media and the defeat of the print unions in Wapping in 1985. Important consequences of that defeat were that News International’s corporate power grew and grew, unchecked by governments of either party, along with associated rampant profiteering, vicious union-bashing and manipulating the political establishment. The voices of journalists who wanted to challenge Murdoch have subsequently been silenced.

Driving the unions out of Wapping and subsequent derecognition on other papers have left journalists with the option of either putting up or getting out when they discovered wrongdoing and unethical practices at work. Our NUJ code of conduct stipulates that a journalist “obtains material by honest, straightforward and open means, with the exception of investigations that are both overwhelmingly in the public interest and which involve evidence that cannot be obtained by straightforward means”, and “does nothing to intrude into anybody’s private life, grief or distress unless justified by overriding consideration of the public interest”. What’s been going on at the News of the World, flagrantly breaches those clauses. But without the union, the code can’t be enforced and journalists are stripped of collective remedies. The law on union recognition must be changed if the balance of power at work is to be changed and ethical standards are to be enforced.

Barry White

NUJ London NEC member

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It’s not about money, it’s about respect!

This was shot on June 6th, 2011 outside Manhattan’s Criminal Court in Centre Street. New York Hotel Workers’ Union rallied to demonstrate in support of a Sofitel co-worker who bravely reported she had been raped by Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Demonstrations were also held in Chicago, San Francisco, San Antonio and other cities.

Seventy-five percent of New York’s hotel workers are unionised.

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