Hicks’ claims against Unite rejected by Certification Office

October 28, 2014 at 8:30 am (ex-SWP, plonker, posted by JD, SWP, unions, Unite the union)

Jerry-hicks.jpg

 Above: Hicks

Press release from Unite:

No re-run of Unite election as regulator dismisses claims against Len McCluskey

The Certification Officer has dismissed attempts to force a re-run of the election which saw Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey elected to hold office until 2018.
 
Following hearings earlier this month, Certification Officer, the trade union regulator, rejected claims by Unite member Jerry Hicks, the other candidate in Mr McCluskey’s 2013 re-election contest,  relating to the eligibility of some members to vote in that election.
 
The challenge centred on claims of supposed ‘phantom votes’ cast, but this was overwhelmingly dismissed by the Certification Office who ruled against Mr Hicks on the substantial issues he had complained about.
 
Commenting, a Unite spokesman said:
 
“Unite was always confident that we had acted within the rules of our union and the law at all times.

“We are pleased that the certification officer has dismissed the key claims against Unite and we hope that media who gave such credence to claims of `phantom votes’ will now give this legal decision comparable attention.
 
“Unite’s members have had to endure repeated – and as we now are clear, baseless – smears against their union. With this decision our union’s integrity is upheld, and our focus on the vital task of standing up for working people can continue.”
 
The decision by the Certification Office concludes a year of legal proceedings on the matter.

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JD adds: shame on those irresponsible and/or opportunist leftists who’ve supported Hicks and the campaign he waged in the Murdoch press against Unite.

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Support the demo, London, this Saturday!

October 17, 2014 at 1:37 pm (posted by JD, protest, solidarity, TUC, unions, UNISON, Unite the union, workers)

October 18 2014 - March and Rally

Let’s make this the start of a real fightback on pay

Local Government and School workers’ unofficial blog (GMB, Unison, Unite), here

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Local government pay proposals: rubbish now and rubbish in the future!

October 12, 2014 at 7:04 pm (Cross-post, posted by JD, protest, solidarity, unions, UNISON, Unite the union, workers)

Cross-posted from Local Government Worker Activists , a new unoffical blog for Local Government and School workers (whether in GMB, Unison and Unite) to organise to defend members terms and conditions and coordinate a rank and file network against cuts, for decent pay and conditions and against privatisation and the break up of local government.

Unison members on the half-million strong TUC demo, central London, 26 March 2011, against the government's cuts , photo Paul Mattsson

Analysis of the proposal -

The pay proposals from the local government employers are rubbish now and rubbish in the future.

Rubbish now

In the current year the new pay proposals from the local government employers offer;

  • No more money in 2014/15 than if we had accepted the employers’ first offer for everyone who earns more than £430.41 gross a week;
  • A pittance extra in 2014/15 for those earning less – barely enough to buy a round of drinks and much less than has been lost by those who took strike action on 10 July;
  • Coming nowhere near our objective of a flat rate increase of at least one pound an hour;
  • Failing to achieve the living wage for workers up to spine point 10.

Comparing the proposals to the original offer in 2014/15 (national pay spine) at various points demonstrates just how trivial the “gain” for the lowest paid is in these proposals compared to the previous offer;

Spine point Value of previous offer £pa Value of “proposal” £pa Gain £pa Equivalent gain per month Equivalent gain per week
5 580 591 +11 92p 21p
10 175 182 +7 58p 13p
21 193 207 +14 £1.17 27p
26 224 224 0 0 0
31 265 265 0 0 0
41 349 349 0 0 0

Even for those who make some gain in 2014/15, this is far less then the cost of having taken a day’s strike action on 10 July (based on the national pay spine);

Spine point Gain Deduction at 1/365th Deduction at 1/260th
5 £11 £34 £48
10 £7 £38 £54
21 £14 £53 £74

Rubbish in the future

The proposal doesn’t achieve the living wage or anything like it.

For the low paid, we sought to achieve the living wage of £7.65 per hour (£14,759 a year, for a full-time worker based upon a 37 hour week). The “proposal” leaves everyone on spine point 10 and below earning less than the living wage (set in October 2014) until at least April 2016.

The proposal does nothing to make up for the decline in our earnings.

The UNISON online pay calculator shows how much worse off we are as a result of the pay freeze. A worker earning £12,435 (well below the living wage) is £2,248 a year worse off but is being offered only £1,065 to make up for this, with nothing more until April 2016. A worker earning £24,982 is £4,905 a year worse off but is being offered only £547.62 to make up for this, with nothing more until April 2016.

The proposal does not break the Government’s 1% pay policy.

The appearance of a 2.2% increase in 2015/16 can only be achieved by sleight of hand, ignoring the fact that this is a two year deal (paid nine months late) and that the very worst we could have expected anyway, without any campaign or industrial action, would have been two successive 1% pay awards, which together would have been worth a combined 2.01% anyway. A settlement on the basis of this “proposal” would be gambling away our opportunity to fight for a decent pay rise in 2015 (a year in which a General Election will be fought in large part on the issue of living standards) in return for an increase 0.19% larger than the worst we could otherwise have expected.

Spine point (national pay spine) Annual salary in 2015/16 under the “proposal” £pa Annual salary in 2015/16 based upon two 1% increases £pa Benefit of the “proposal” £pa in 2015/16 Monthly benefit of the “proposal” in 2015/16 Weekly benefit of the “proposal” in 2015/16
11 15,207.36 15,179.09 28.27 £2.36 54p
21 19,741.97 19,705.27 36.70 £3.06 70p
26 22,936.75 22,894.10 42.65 £3.55 82p
31 27,122.86 27,072.43 50.43 £4.20 97p
41 35,661.67 35,595.37 68.30 £5.69 £1.31

 facebook group – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Local-Government-workers-deserve-a-decent-pay-rise/590019704361076?fref=ts  from which people can download placard covers, leaflets for the TUC demo, etc. 

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After the referendum: Scottish left falls in behind SNP

October 3, 2014 at 7:25 am (Cross-post, left, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", scotland, Sheridan, Socialist Party, SWP, unions)

bag piper in kilt with rippled Scottish flag Illustration Stock Photo - 3474908

By Dale Street
Cross-posted from Workers Liberty

The working class voted “yes”. The Labour Party is finished. And we need a new mass socialist party.

To one degree or another, and in one form or another, these have been the three main responses of the pro-independence left to the result of the 18 September referendum.

The first element has some degree of truth to it. Three of the four regions which had a “yes” majority (even if not a very large one) are traditional Labour strongholds. The fourth (Dundee) used to be a Labour stronghold, until New Labour decided the sitting Labour MP John McAllion was a liability.

But it is also true that large sections of the working class voted “no”. In any case nationalist separatism stands at odds with the basic labour movement principle of uniting people of different nationalities and national identities.

Any socialist welcoming “the working-class ‘yes’ vote” is welcoming the divisive poison of nationalism penetrating into working-class politics. To try to build on that basis — as the pro-independence left is now attempting — amounts to adding another dose of the same poison.

The demise of Labour? According to the Socialist Party (Scotland):

“13% of USDAW members in Scotland have resigned from the union in protest. Unite is receiving many requests from members looking to cancel their membership because it is affiliated to the Labour Party. Unison is also reporting a series of resignations as workers’ anger over Labour’s role escalates.”
Unlike the SPS, the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) has pointed out that resigning from a trade union is not a good idea. The SSP Industrial Organiser proposes a different way to “punish” Labour:

“We should organise mass withdrawal from payment of members’ fees to Labour in those unions affiliated to Labour. Demand instead that the unions make the break from Labour and help build a mass, working-class socialist party.”

So members of the CWU — which polled its members in Scotland and then adopted policy in favour of a “no” vote at its national conference — should demand that their union disaffiliate from the Labour Party because Labour took the same position on the referendum as their union?

And so too should members of USDAW and GMB who took democratic decisions in favour of “no”?

Labour advocated a “no” vote. The majority of the electorate took the same position and voted against independence. The usual name for something being decided and implemented on the basis of a majority vote is “democracy”.

The call for unions to disaffiliate from Labour because of Labour’s support for a ‘no’ vote amounts to a divisive nationalist attack on the workers’ movement.

No “no” supporter would support disaffiliation on that basis. And it elevates the nationalist demand for an independent Scotland over and above the right of trade unions to base their policy on internal decision-making processes.

The SWP boasts that “we have sold thousands of copies of Socialist Worker and recruited dozens of people.” The SPS makes similar claims. The SSP boasts that “2,200 (at the time of writing, over a mere five days) have applied to join the SSP”!

That’s nothing compared to the 18,000 new members claimed by the SNP. Not to worry about that. An article on the SPS website explains: They join the SNP. They discover that it does not have a Marxist programme. They quit in disgust. They join the mass socialist party which the SPS is building.

In terms of building something broader than their own organisations, the SPS advocates building its Trade Union and Socialist Coalition:

“TUSC represents the best opportunity to ensure that anti-cuts, pro-trade-union and socialist candidates stand in the elections in Scotland next May.”

The SWP calls for a new, broader party to bring together “yes” supporters: “It can agree on a basic set of anti-capitalist policies, be democratic, grass-roots-based and centred on activity. It would stand in elections but not be obsessed about them.”

Generously, the SWP would allow “no” supporters into such a party. That people voted ‘no’ “doesn’t mean they are scabs.”

But the last attempt to build a united left party in Scotland collapsed when the SWP and SPS split the SSP by backing Sheridan after he walked out of the SSP. And the political fallout from that split continues today.

The SWP gets round this issue by simply declaring: “This party (i.e. the new party) cannot be defined by the splits in the Scottish Socialist Party a decade ago or about splits in the left at some point.”

The SSP has not put forward any proposals for a broad party of the left. This is because they think that they already are that party, presumably because they are hoping for many more recruits.

The “yes” campaign provided a natural home, playing a leading role in the new mass workers party. Both the SWP and the SPS look forward to Tommy Sheridan for Sheridan’s bandstanding demagogy.

According to the SPS: “If a political figure with a mass base of support among the working class like Tommy Sheridan made such a call, backed by leading trade unionists, socialists, etc., a new working-class party would become a force of thousands within a couple of weeks.”

The problem for the SWP and SPS scenario is that Sheridan has come out in favour of a vote for the SNP in next year’s general election:

“I suggest that we in the Yes movement promote continued unity by backing the most likely independence-supporting candidate at next May’s election. In concrete terms, that means advocating an SNP vote to try and unseat as many pro-No supporters as possible.”

Despite the entrenched hostility between the SSP and Sheridan, the SSP Industrial Organiser, who carries some weight within the SSP, has come out with a similar position:

“In the 2015 Westminster elections, I personally would support the idea of a Yes Alliance, a pro-independence slate of candidates (whatever the exact name) embracing the three parties that were in Yes Scotland – SNP, SSP and Greens – and others who were part of that coalition.”

That’s one of the things about abandoning class-based politics and selling out to nationalism: it develops a dynamic of its own.

The SSP Industrial Organiser is equally enthusiastic about the prospects for the 2016 Holyrood elections:

“All those tens of thousands who fought for a Yes vote could fix their sights on winning an absolute majority of pro-independence MSPs in 2016.

“Referenda are but one means of winning independence. The democratic election of a majority of MSPs who favour independence in 2016 would surely be equally a mandate for Scottish independence?”

Despite its aversion to an electoral alliance with the SNP, the SPS shares the SSP’s perspectives for 2016:

“If the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections resulted in an overwhelming majority for parties that back independence, it could also be a trigger for a mandate for independence… Or it could lead to an immediate referendum in 2016 or 2017.”

Despite the 55%/45% vote against independence in the referendum a fortnight ago, the pro-independence left wants to keep the issue of independence centre-stage, seeks to win trade union disaffiliation from the Labour Party on that basis, and proposes an electoral alliance with the SNP.

And while denouncing the Labour Party for supposedly “denying the Scottish people democracy”, it also looks forward to, and advocates, independence for Scotland in the absence of any further referendum.

Is the pro-independence left now politically dead and beyond resuscitation?

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Hong Kong workers strike for democracy

September 29, 2014 at 6:06 pm (democracy, Eric Lee, LabourStart, posted by JD, protest, solidarity, unions, workers)

From LabourStart:

Support the online campaigns!

  • International Union of Foodworkers – http://www.labourstart.org/go/hkiuf
  • Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions – http://www.labourstart.org/go/hkctu
  • The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) – the only independent union in China – has called for workers to strike in support of the democracy movement as mass civil disobedience actions come under heavy police attack. The Swire Beverages (Coca-Cola) union and the HKCTU unions of school teachers and dockers are striking and will be joined by other member unions.

    Tensions have been building in Hong Kong since the August 31 government announcement that candidates for the position of Chief Executive would have to be vetted and approved by a pro-business, pro-Beijing committee.

    The protests, originally organized by the students’ federation and the Occupy Central coalition, have drawn increasing numbers of supporters. The mainland government has harshly condemned the protestors’ demands and the “illegal” protests.

    On September 28, the HKCTU declared “we cannot let the students fight alone”, and called for workers to strike in support of 4 demands: the immediate release of all the arrested, an end to the suppression of peaceful assembly, replacing the “fake universal suffrage” formula with the genuine political reform workers have been demanding, and the resignation of Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying.

    The HKCTU has been the backbone of the democracy movement, before and following Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule. Their courageous action deserves the support of trade unions everywhere.

    Show your support – click on the links above.
    Then, spread the word – via facebook, tweets, etc.

    Thank you.

    Eric Lee

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Unison to call off Oct 14 action?

September 26, 2014 at 12:14 am (Jim D, unions, UNISON, workers)

UNISON home

* Breaking News:  the strike of Local Government employees on October 14 has been called off after an improved offer from the employers’ side.

 A Unison activist has told us:

“It is true that an informal offer has been made to unions of an average 2.2% pay increase which will mean some members getting less than 1% to pay for a better increase for others.

“The offer will need to go to NJC. I imagine there will be a call for a lobby of NJC. This is a lot more than I thought we’d be offered early on. I don’t know exactly how it’s being divided out, but it  appears to involve a rise of  2.2 % from 1st of January with one off payments ranging from £250 for lowest grades. going down to £100 for other grades which will be paid in December.”

Trade unionists should still mobilise for the TUC demonstration.
BRITAIN NEEDS A PAYRISE: Join us at the MARCH and RALLY, Saturday 18 October 2014

The march starts on Embankment 1pm , with form up from 11am. We suggest joining from the rear at Blackfriars to avoid a crush further up Embankment. After moving off, the march will go along Embankment to Northumberland Avenue, across Trafalgar Square, along Regent Street to Piccadilly Circus, and then along Piccadilly to Hyde Park Corner, where it will enter the park. The rally in Hyde Park will start as the march reaches the stage.

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Pride! When Lesbians and Gays Supported the Miners

September 22, 2014 at 7:44 pm (AWL, cinema, class, gay, history, Jim D, lesbian, LGBT, solidarity, Thatcher, unions, workers)

I ran into Comrade Clive Bradley over the weekend, and he was warm in his praise for the film Pride, which depicts (albeit in “feel-good” style à la The Full Monty and Made in Dagenham) the role of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) during the great 1984-5 strike.

Clive was a prominent member of LGSM at the time, although he’s not portrayed in the film.

Here’s an interview that Workers Liberty’s paper Solidarity did with Clive a couple of weeks ago, just after the film’s release. There is also a review of the film, which I haven’t republished, but which can be read here.

“The miners needed solidarity”

Solidarity: What was LGSM and what did it do?

Clive: It was a group that was set up of lesbians and gay men set up to support the miner’s strike. It has to be said it was initially mainly gay men, but more and more women got involved over the time. Practically it raised money for the miners who were on strike for a year. Mainly by standing outside lesbian and gay pubs rattling buckets, it raised quite a lot of money. This was sent to a particular mining community in south Wales, in the Dulais valley, with which connections had been made.

Solidarity: Why did this get started, and how did you get involved?

Clive: It was the idea of two people in particular, Mark Ashton and Mike Jackson. Both are dramatised in the movie. They put out a call at Pride in ‘84 and organised a meeting at “Gay Is the Word” bookshop in London. At that time I was just moving to London from Manchester and was a member of Socialist Organiser [forerunner of the AWL]. It’s not rocket science to see how I got involved.

I went to the second ever meeting of LGSM. I was active in supporting the miners and thought it was a brilliant initiative. It proved to have a very powerful effect on lesbian and gay men and on the miners. The NUM went on to lead the pride demonstration in August 1985. The NUM, a traditional union, not famous for its view on matters such as lesbian and gay rights, became quite prominent in the changing policy on gay rights in the Labour Party.

Solidarity: What impact did it have in the gay community, and what arguments did LGSM make about why gay people should support the miners?

Clive: The strike lasted for a whole year and divided the country, divided everybody. A lot of people supported the miners and didn’t need to be persuaded, but we argued that we needed the miners to win. If the miners lost then the Tory government would be going for everybody, and these lesbian and gay communities would be an easy target. People would put a lot of money into the bucket to show solidarity — presumably a lot of money they didn’t have in many cases. LGSM was the first really concrete example of how an “autonomous” movement of the “specially oppressed” (as we used to say) could struggle alongside the organised working class, and transform working-class consciousness in the process.

Solidarity: Were other left groups involved in LGSM? What was their attitude to it?

Clive: Some members of different left groups were personally involved, even members of Militant [forerunner of the Socialist Party] and the SWP, whose organisations were more hostile to the project. Militant , for example, generally argued that any kind of autonomous organisation was necessarily divisive. LGSM and Women Against Pit Closures, etc. showed that quite the reverse was true.

Solidarity: How was LGSM received in the mining communities?

Clive: The film does this quite cleverly. It is basically a rom com between two communities. The film shows you both acceptance and hostility, but a growing acceptance. That isn’t far off what actually happened.

I went to South Wales twice, the second time when the strike was actually finishing in March ‘85. That was very emotional for all of us. My own experience was that people couldn’t really have been more welcoming.

The first time we went down, there was a minibus load of us, we were being put up in people’s houses, that was the deal. We all went down to the miner’s welfare in the evening to sing songs and get drunk. It was completely fine, no hostility at all.

The reality was we were raising money for them. The miners needed solidarity, and I’m sure if people were at first dubious about where the solidarity came from, need overcame that. And, of course, as you make contact with people you realise that you have more in common than you initially thought. Why the suspicions broke down, as I’m sure there were some, is no mystery. It was the nature of people meeting each other and the power of solidarity.

Solidarity: What do you think members of LGSM learnt from the experience?

Clive: For many people it was their first time going to that sort of working-class community, though certainly not for everyone. We were a mixed group and certainly there were people from working-class backgrounds, it was not all middle class lefties. The vast majority were just people who wanted to do something.

When you have a big confrontation between a section of the working class and the government you have to take sides, more than just in your head.

There have been reunions [of LGSM] recently and many people still seem to hold broadly the same views that they used to. You can tell for many people in LGSM it was an absolutely formative experience in their lives, and very important to them.

Solidarity: Do you think there was rolling back after the defeat of the dispute, both in the gay community and in the mining community?

Clive: The miners were beaten and most of them lost their jobs. Generally speaking in the class struggle, the defeat of the miners had a hugely bad effect. We’re still living with the consequences of it.

I doubt miners’ attitudes rolled back too much with regards lesbian and gay rights. You started to get stories of miners coming out. At reunions we get visits from miners. We often hear “it turns out my son is gay”.

Ex-miners and their families came up from south Wales for the film premiere.

In the lesbian and gay community, struggle wasn’t rolled back. You got growth of the lesbian and gay movement after 1985. Not long after was “Section 28” [the Tory law which prevented the “promotion of homosexual lifestyles”] against which you had enormous demonstrations. The pride parades in the early ‘80s were relatively small, but by the late ‘80s and certainly the early ‘90s they were enormous.

Solidarity: What do you think about the film?

Clive: It gets an awful lot incredibly right. It’s in the broad ball park of something like The Full Monty, but much more political. Over the credits you have someone singing Solidarity Forever. It takes for granted that the strike was right. It’s absolutely about the importance of class struggle and solidarity between communities. The portrayals of the real people are very close and a good tribute.

Its good that for the anniversary of the strike, this particular act of solidarity will be remembered.

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TUC: don’t mention the (Ukranian) war!

September 19, 2014 at 9:10 pm (AWL, fascism, posted by JD, scotland, stalinism, TUC, unions)

By Dale Street (cross-posted from Workers Liberty):

“Don’t mention the war!” — that well-known line from an episode of the 1970s sitcom “Fawlty Towers” — should have been the header for the emergency motion entitled “Situation in Ukraine” passed by last week’s TUC congress. (1)

The motion ignored Russia’s ongoing political and military attack on Ukraine’s right to self-determination. It misrepresented the (real but limited) influence exerted by fascist organisations in Ukraine. And its concluding demands sounded left-wing but were in fact politically incoherent.

The motion noted comments by the NATO General Secretary that its recent summit in Wales had been held “in a dramatically changed security environment”. It further noted that this statement came only a day after a Pentagon announcement that 200 US troops were being sent to Ukraine for “training exercises”.

But there is a deliberate triple omission here. The “dramatically changed security environment” is the fact that for the first time since the Second World War the territory of a European country has been seized by that of a neighbouring big power.

In March Russia annexed Crimea. This was followed by Russia supplying separatist forces in south-east Ukraine with weapons, munitions, “volunteer” fighters, military instructors, and political leadership.

In August, with the separatists staring eventual defeat in the face, Russia launched an invasion of south-east Ukraine. It still has troops there. All of this has been omitted from the motion.

The second omission is that the “training exercises” now underway are indeed “training exercises”, and were planned long before Russia launched its campaign of military aggression against Ukraine.

The final omission is that while the motion condemns the presence of 200 US troops in Ukraine it fails to mention the tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of tanks periodically concentrated by Russia at the border with Ukraine.

After briefly expressing concerns about the human suffering caused by the conflict, the motion expressed further concerns about “attacks on trade unionists and the empowering of fascist groups, including the Odessa Massacre which saw that city’s trade union centre burned to the ground.”

The fact that the Odessa trade union centre was not “burned to the ground” is a side issue. More issue is the misrepresentation. Trade unionists should indeed oppose attacks on trade unionists and the empowering of fascist groups. And there are organised Ukrainian-fascist groups in Ukraine, even if they currently enjoy only very limited support: in last May’s presidential elections their candidates each secured only around 1% of the vote.

But there are also pro-Russian and ethnic-Russian fascist organisations in Ukraine. These organisations figure prominently in the separatist leadership, which includes members of the fascist “think tank” Izborsky Club. Russian and French fascists have also been identified in the ranks of the separatist armed forces. (2)

The motion concluded with three demands.

The General Council should consider how best to support those fighting for trade union rights and against fascism in “the Ukraine”.

But this would mean support for Ukrainian trade unions, whose leaders have repeatedly condemned the separatist movement and Russia’s attacks on their country. In fact, given the role played by fascists amongst the separatists, it amounts to a call for support for the Ukrainian military!

There should be an immediate permanent ceasefire and a peaceful negotiated settlement.

But this would require willingness on both sides. As the TUC adopted this motion separatist leaders declared that they were not bound by the terms of the ceasefire agreed in Minsk (3) and that their goal was to sieze the bulk of Ukrainian territory in order to create “Novorossiya”. (4)

And the use of British forces in the Ukrainian conflict should be opposed.

Given that there are no proposals to use British troops in the “Ukrainian conflict”, the purpose of such a clause is – at first sight — unclear.

In fact, the clause fits into the overall politics of the motion.

A few Dave-Spart left-wing truisms (support for trade unionists, anti-fascism, opposition to NATO) grafted onto a Basil-Fawlty attitude of “don’t mention the war” (no mention of Russian troops, Russian weaponry, Russian fascists, or Russian invasions).

Trade unionists should argue for their unions to adopt policy based on events in the real world: Russia, Hands Off Ukraine!; Ukrainian-Russian workers unity against oligarchs and neo-liberalism in both countries; Against fascism — both Ukrainian and Russian!

1) http://www.tuc.org.uk/congress/congress-2014/emergency-motion-e1-situation-ukraine
2) http://www.workersliberty.org/node/23635
3) http://rusvesna.su/news/1410624783
4) http://rusvesna.su/news/1410602639

NB: Eric Lee adds

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Vic Collard, RIP

September 15, 2014 at 10:00 pm (Brum, class, ex-SWP, good people, Guest post, history, intellectuals, RIP, solidarity, unions, workers)

My friend Victor
Guest post by Mick Rice

Birmingham’s engineers march over the hill to shut the gates at Saltley coking works in 1972 (Pic: ©Tony Coult/ http://gallery.me.com/tony3ts gallery.me.com/tony3ts )

Above: Saltley Gates mass picket, 1972

Vic Collard was a friend of mine. We met in the late 1960’s when the heady days of revolt embraced the young. I was a “child of 1968” when the French events demonstrated that different politics were possible. Vic was 10 years older than me and a worker intellectual of the finest calibre. As well as being widely read he was also an AEU Shop Steward! There could have only been a handful of AEU Shop Stewards who knew about Marshall McLuhan never mind being conversant with his theories. Vic knew about the Frankfurt School. He was deeply interested in philosophy and psychology. He knew about Wilhelm Reich and Herbert Marcuse.

How much different the world might have been if the Left had concentrated on perfecting the “Orgone Box”! It has, unfortunately, so far, been singularly unsuccessful in promoting world revolution.

Vic once confessed to me about his role in the Second World War. I thought I was going to be entertained by a humorous Spike Milligan type – Adolf Hitler-My role in his Downfall – story. But Vic was ashamed of his behaviour. He had gone out, with a relative, for a walk by the canal. He must have been 5 or 6 years old. Alongside the towpath a group of German prisoners-of-war were clearing overgrown vegetation. Vic, our intrepid Brit, took a run at the first German POW and kicked him in the shins. No doubt thinking the juvenile equivalent of: “Take that you dirty Hun!” The Dandy and other boys’ comics of the time have a lot to answer for as they, of course, were bastions of British Imperialism. Vic had not yet read Marx.

The poor prisoner was probably just a conscripted German worker. However, if Vic felt that he had something to atone for, he certainly made up for it in later years. In the early 1970s the Birmingham East District Committee of the AEU was considering submitting motions to the union’s National Committee. One branch had sent in a motion supporting the boycott of goods to Pinochet’s Chile. If I remember right a Scottish factory with AEU members had already blocked the export of vehicles. Ted Williams, the leading right-winger, was pouring scorn on the motion. “These do-gooders want to interfere with international trade”, he thundered. “They risk putting in jeopardy AEU jobs”. Normally the later point was the ace that floored left-wing opposition as “AEU jobs” was paramount.

Vic played a blinder which completely changed the meeting. “No doubt”, said Vic, “If Brother Williams had been a member of this committee in the 1930s’ he would have been in favour of exporting Gas Chambers to Hitler’s Germany so long as they were made by AEU members”. Yes Vic was great with words and great at thinking on his feet.

Another time the full time officer was singing the praises of equality as he proudly told us he had negotiated an agreement to allow women to work night shifts! Vic had to point out that we wanted equality up and not equality down as working nightshifts was bad for men. It could not be regarded as a giant leap forward for womankind that they were going to be subjected to the same anti-social, unhealthy working patterns!

In the mid 1960’s Vic and his friend Geoff Johnson, were members of the “Labour Loyalist” group. They would go around meetings campaigning for an end to Incomes Policy which had been introduced by the Labour Government. Of course their intention was to be entirely disloyal to the Labour Government of the day. Calling themselves “Labour Loyalists” confused their opponents and, as they explained to me, it was really the Labour Government that wasn’t being loyal to the workers! A neat strategy that put Labour apparatchiks on the back foot! Read the rest of this entry »

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Support Kevin’s run for LabourStart!

September 10, 2014 at 7:44 pm (Eric Lee, LabourStart, posted by JD, solidarity, unions)

Kevin Curran, chair of the Central London Hotel Workers branch of Unite the Union and former general secretary of the GMB, is running the Snowdonia Marathon on 25 October 2014 to raise money for LabourStart.

Here is what he writes:

“Like many British trade unionists, I rely on LabourStart to keep me informed about the struggles of sisters and brothers worldwide.

“I have been privileged to meet many trade union members in other countries and have learnt to respect what many achieve with the minimum of resources in often hostile — and sometimes lethal — circumstances.

“The development of the web and the Internet has enabled the dissemination of information about these struggles and given us all the opportunity to express our solidarity and provide support to those in struggle — and for this we owe LabourStart a great debt.

“I welcome the holding of LabourStart global solidarity conferences, but feel that those who need new communications technologies the most are often those who least afford to attend.

“Therefore, I intend to run the Snowdonia Marathon in Wales and invite sponsorship to create a fund to allow under-resourced trade unionists to attend the next LabourStart conference.

“This marathon is particularly tough and I plan for it to be my last one, and through it I hope (if I finish!) to make a small contribution to the great work that LabourStart does.

“I’ll kick it all off making a contribution of £100.  I would very much appreciate any amount that you may be able to afford.”

He adds: “From each according to their ability — to each according to their needs.”

Click here to support Kevin’s run and help create the fund to sponsor participants for the next LabourStart Global Solidarity Conference.

Thank you very much!


Eric Lee


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