Make 10 July the start of the fightback!

July 9, 2014 at 8:03 pm (AWL, posted by JD, protest, solidarity, unions, UNISON, workers)

Strike 10 July 2014

Adapted from a Workers Liberty leaflet:

Up to two million workers will strike on 10 July.  Members of unions in local government will strike to oppose a 1% pay offer, and are demanding an increase of at least £1 per hour or to the “Living Wage”, £7.65, or £8.80 in London. Other unions involved in the action have their own pay demands.

According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the cost of maintaining a decent standard of living in the UK has risen by 46% since 2008, while wages have increased by just 9%. It’s the harshest squeeze on real wages in the UK since records began. According to TUC figures, around five million workers in Britain (20% of the total workforce) are paid less than the living wage.

The 10 July strike can be the start of a working class counter-offensive challenging the capitalist logic that demands workers pay for the financial crisis.

We need a plan, not just a day at a time

One-off strike days, each followed by a long wait until union leaders report back or call further action, aren’t nough.

The remedy is not just to convert one-day protest strikes into two-day protest strikes, but to plan continuing action, discussed and decided in advance by union members. This could include limited, selective action as well as all-out strikes and be directed by local strike committees.

Local strike committees should continue meeting after 10 July, and the executives of all the striking unions should meet together.

After 10th July?

Unison’s leaders have already talked about further strikes on 9 and 10 September. Unions should liaise with each other in order to pin down the most effective date, and other actions should be planned between now and then – even small, local events like lunchtime rallies, demos and street stalls.

NHS workers should be brought into the dispute. Unison should act on its 2014 Health sector conference decision to ballot for strikes over pay. Strike funds should be levied at both local and national level to ensure the lowest-paid  workers are supported in taking sustained and escalating action.

On strike days every workplace should be picketed, with pickets approaching non-striking workers and attempting to persuade them not to cross. In 2011 some activists held members’ meetings with discussion and voting – not just set-piece rallies.’ We should organise such meetings this time, as well.

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All Out July 10th!

July 9, 2014 at 12:24 am (Cuts, posted by JD, protest, solidarity, unions, UNISON, Unite the union, workers)

Public sector workers strike

Unison leaflets here

If you can’t get to the London demo, here are the local picket lines and demos:

LONDON & EASTERN

The Woolwich Centre, Wellington Street, Woolwich

Luton Town Centre
5.15 am Morson Road, Depot, Enfield
10.00 am Walthamstow Market Square
(10.45 move to Oxford Circus and assemble outside
Broadcasting House, Great Portland Street for 11.30 am)

Barking & Dagenham
Civic Centre Dagenham
Frizlands Lane Depot
Barking Town Hall
Creek Road Depot

Thurrock
Civic Office, New Road, Grays
Oliver Close Depot, West Thurrock
Curzon Drive Depot, Grays

Redbridge
Ley Street Depot
Town Hall Ilford

Newham
Building 1000, Becton
Town Hall, Barking Road,
Folkstone Road Depot, East Ham

Peterborough
Picket lines:
6.30 am Amey Depot
7.00 am Bayard Place (throughout the day)

EAST MIDLANDS

Northampton
11.30 am Beckers Park, Northampton
12.30 pm Rally at All Saints Plaza

Derby
Picket lines:

5.00 am Stores Road Depot
7.00 am The Council House
7.45 am Middleton House

11.00 am Rally at The Market Square

Chesterfield
11.00 am Rally at Rykneld Square

Leicester
Picket lines:
07.00 am Sulgrave Square
07.00 am Layton Road
07.00 am Blackbird Road

11.30 am Rally at King Street

Lincoln
11.30 am Rally at Brayford Wharf North
12.30 Rally at City Square

Nottingham
Picket lines:
Loxley House
Eastcroft Depot
Eastwood Depot
Nottingham City Homes

10.30 am Rally at Forest Recreation Ground

WEST MIDLANDS

Walsall
Picket lines:
7.30 am Town Hall, WS1 1TW
7.30 am Civic Centre staff entrance & environmental depot
200 Pelsall Road, Brownhills WS8 7EN

10.30 am Sandwell mbc organising a mass demo outside
the council house, oldbury with free transport to the TUC
demo in Birmingham

Stoke
Picket lines

07.30 am. Civic Centre, Swann House
Hanley town hall
Cromer Road depot

Kingsway Stoke, outside the civic centre – rally

NORTH EAST, YORKSHIRE & HUMBERSIDE

11.00 am Northumberland Road (next to City Hall), Newcastle
Northumberland County Council, Stakeford Depot
Durham County Council, Meadowfield Depot
Redcar & Cleveland Council Depot
Middlesbrough Council, Town Hall

SOUTH EAST

Southampton
Marlands
Civic (front & back)
City Depot
Shirley
Southampton Common
Woolston School Base

Portsmouth
Picket lines:
07.30 Green & Clean Depot, Port Royal Street
07.30 Civic Offices, Guildhall Square
08.00 City Museum, Museum Road
10.00 Portsmouth International Port
12.00 pm Rally at Guildhall Square

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The Left must face the truth about UKIP’s working class support

June 8, 2014 at 4:12 pm (AWL, class, elections, Europe, immigration, labour party, populism, posted by JD, unions, workers)

Words of wisdom from Dave Kirk at Workers Liberty:

Pointing the finger: the Ukip poster for the European elections has caused controversy

Above: UKIP’s appeal to angry British workers

In the left’s comments on UKIP “surge” there is much about anger and disenchantment with mainstream politics.

It is true that there is an understandable revulsion against the politicians and parties whose policies and ideology accelerated the effects of the greatest economic crisis since the 1930s.

Tom Walker talks about that anger in his article for Left Unity.

Walker sees UKIP’s support as primarily a repository for anger with the mainstream that is channelled against migrants, minorities and Europe by UKIP. He argues that a strong “populist” party of the left could channel that anger to progressive ends.

Other left commentators have argued a similar thing about the nearly two thirds of voters who abstained in the election. That many of them could be won over by a convincing left party, if it existed.

I think this is dangerous wishful thinking that ignores ideology. Neo-liberal, pro-austerity and anti-migrant ideas are the ruling and largely unchallenged ideas of the age. It would be patronising and wrong to think those working-class voters who voted UKIP were duped into voting for a neo-liberal anti-migrant party. They must to some degree be convinced by, share and reproduce those ideas.

We would also be kidding ourselves if we thought that non-voters shared a form of left wing anti-austerity politics rather then reflecting the balance of ideology amongst those who do vote.

We can win these people to independent working class politics, but we must face facts squarely. Those who vote UKIP or are so despairing that they do not vote are much further from socialism then most Labour voters or Green voters.

Anger is not enough to win people to socialism. We must consciously build a socialist mass movement, a socialist press, a system of socialist education.

To do this the fight to transform the existing organisations of the working class, the unions, is key. It will also require a fight in the political organisation most left-wing workers still look to, the Labour Party.

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Photos from the Miners’ Strike

June 7, 2014 at 7:08 am (Art and design, class, cops, good people, posted by JD, solidarity, unions, workers)

My old friend and comrade John Harris invites us all to visit his exhibition of photos from the miners’ strike.

John took the famous photo featured in the flyer below, and the cop on the horse took a swipe at him a moment later:

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The socialist case against Scottish independence … in a nutshell

June 2, 2014 at 6:45 pm (AWL, internationalism, national liberation, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", scotland, Steve Bell, workers)

Steve Bell 25.2.2014

I’ve never seen or heard it expressed better, or more succinctly, than this from my comrade Patrick Murphy:

Something I will never understand is left wing support for Scottish independence.

This is not a matter of championing the RIGHT to self-determination against national oppression, rather it consists of socialists running around trying to persuade an electorate which has been consistently opposed to independence and prefers unity that they are wrong and should separate from their fellow-workers across national borders

The default position of the entire socialist tradition is for internationalism and no borders. The right to self-determination is an important exception to address particular conditions (colonies, Ireland, Palestine etc). It’s not the norm and we certainly shouldn’t be agitating for it where those conditions don’t exist in any meaningful sense.

Yet another bizarre reflection of a loss of political bearings.

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Autogrill: Another successful LabourStart campaign

May 31, 2014 at 7:24 am (Eric Lee, Germany, LabourStart, posted by JD, solidarity, unions, workers)

Less than 24 hours ago, I wrote to you asking for your support in the struggle of Autogrill workers in Germany for decent wages.Your response was overwhelming.

Nearly 5,600 of you were quick to send off email messages to the company urging management to reach an agreement with the workers.

The reaction of Autogrill’s management was swift as well.

Within hours of the launch of our campaign, a representative of their Legal Department got in touch with LabourStart to demand that we stop sending them messages.

They specifically wrote that “we will not tolerate the sending of further messages“.  (That’s right — they actually said “will not tolerate” — as if we needed their permission).

And they added that if we didn’t stop at once “we will start the necessary legal proceedings to protect our interest“.

In other words, your voices were heard.

You overwhelmed the company with your messages of support.

And the striking workers know this as well, they know about the solidarity they’ve been receiving from thousands of workers around the world.

The NGG union in Germany had to take a decision what to do, because this is their campaign and it is their members on the picket line.

After consultation with their lawyers, the union has asked us to suspend this successful campaign and to thank you all for your support.

I am very proud of what we have done, and this is yet another demonstration of the power of online campaigning for the global trade union movement.

It is also important to emphasize that LabourStart only campaigns at the request of trade unions, and we are guided by those unions in decisions about when and if to close campaigns.

Now that you’ve gotten the attention of Autogrill management, please make sure that you’re supporting all our other current campaigns too — click here.

Solidarity forever!

Thank you.


Eric Lee

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For workers’ unity across Europe: not an inch to “No to EU” populism!

May 26, 2014 at 8:39 am (capitalist crisis, class, elections, Europe, fascism, France, Greece, internationalism, Jim D, populism, Racism, Socialist Party, solidarity, stalinism, UKIP, workers)

French far-right leader of the National Front Party, Marine Le Pen

French far-right leader of the Front National, Marine Le Pen Photo: AP

Ukip came top of the Europolls in Britain on 22 May. The Front National, which has a clear-cut fascist lineage, won in France. Populist and racist anti-European parties did well in other countries.

In Germany, the new, right-wing, and anti-euro AfD is at 7% scarcely a year after being launched, while in Denmark the far-right Danish Peoples’ Party gained three seats.

Greece, the country which has suffered most with cuts plans from the European Union and European Central Bank, is a partial exception to the rise of the anti-EU far-right.

There, the left-wing party Syriza for the first time ran clearly ahead of the main right-wing party, New Democracy. Syriza rejects the EU leaders’ cuts plans and proposes Europe-wide solidarity to break them rather than advocating “get Greece out” as an answer.

Alarmingly, the neo-Nazi (and anti-EU) Golden Dawn party came third with 9.4 of the vote, winning three seats. The other group gaining ground is a new party, To Potami, which is vague but leftish and not anti-Europe.

Greece shows that the left can provide answers to the social discontent, but only with an effort.

If the left goes halfway with the nationalists by endorsing “get out of the EU” as an attempt to jump on a populist badwagon, that will only help the right. Fanciful footnotes from idiots like the Morning Star and other supporters of the pathetic No2EU, which speculate that the re-raising of economic barriers between countries will somehow push towards socialism, are simply reactionary nonsense – and reactionary nonsense that achieved a derisory vote.

Voters persuaded that re-raising national barriers is the first step will inevitably drift to the serious, powerful barrier-raisers: the nationalist right.

“No to the EU” agitation, whether from right or idiot-”left”, threatens the position of millions of workers who have crossed EU borders to seek jobs.

We should instead seek to unite workers across the borders for a common cross-European fight against the cross-European plans of capital and of the EU leaders. Anti-EU populism, whatever “leftist” slogans may be tacked on, can make no useful contribution to that fight.

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Unite: going through the motions

May 19, 2014 at 6:13 am (Europe, labour party, Middle East, palestine, Socialist Party, stalinism, Stop The War, Syria, unions, Unite the union, workers)

logo-unite

By Dale Street

No merger with the PCS this side of a General Election. And maybe never.

Although they do not put it as bluntly as this, that’s the substance of two of the motions submitted to the Unite Policy Conference being held in Liverpool late June and early July.

Merger with a union not affiliated to the Labour Party would be “a huge distraction” from winning the election for Labour. Mergers are a good thing only if the unions involved have “similar industrial interests”. Mergers are bad for Unite if its financial situation would be damaged by the pensions liabilities of the other union.

Consequently, there should not even be any discussions about any merger this side of the General Election. And any proposed merger should have the approval of either Unite’s biennial Policy Conference or at least 75% of its Executive Committee.

Given the enthusiasm of the Unite and PSC General Secretaries for a merger – albeit one not shared by broad swathes of activists in both unions – these two innocent-sounding motions are likely to provoke no small degree of controversy at the Unite conference.

And they are not the only motions likely to do so.

Conference will again see a clash over Europe, with one motion calling for opposition to quitting the EU, opposition to a referendum on EU membership, and support for a pro-EU vote in the event of a referendum.

Other motions variously call for the union to demand a referendum and British withdrawal, and to campaign alongside of other unions and organizations such as the RMT and “No to EU/Yes to Democracy”.

According to the latter motions, the EU “blocks any political advancement” (apparently simply by virtue of its existence), the EU is becoming “a NATO-style military force” (given its “involvement” in countries from Afghanistan to Mali), and Unite needs to offer an alternative to UKIP (apparently by saying the same thing as UKIP on the EU).

Given their involvement in the “No to EU/Yes to Democracy” electoral initiative, one wonders whether the Socialist Party will be backing such motions (which no doubt originated with supporters of the Communist Party of Britain / Morning Star).

Conference will also see a re-run of what is becoming the ritual biennial jousting about the union’s affiliation to the Labour Party.

Some motions argue that the Labour Party is the only show in town and denounce “the growing talk about establishing a new party as naïve and dangerous adventurism and question the real motive of those developing this agenda.”

Motions on the agenda which seek to “develop this agenda” include demands for what might be called a sliding scale of disaffiliation (a 10% cut in affiliation fees each time Labour and/or its leadership commit various political misdemeanours).

Other motions of the same ilk call for Unite to convene an open conference “on the crisis of political representation for the working class” in order to “discuss the way forward for working class representation.”

In fact, the real controversy about matters pertaining to the Labour Party will not be triggered by the pro-disaffiliation-but-too-gutless-to-say-so-openly motions but by two other motions.

One of them – a pro-affiliation motion – “applauds the 13 members of the Unite Executive Council who had the foresight to vote against the Collins proposals.”

(It should be remembered that the Unite leadership slavishly backed the Collins Review, and that the bulk of the United Left members on the Executive Council either backed or abstained on the vote on the Collins Review – contrary to United Left policy.)

The other motion commits Unite to encourage councillors to vote against cuts, to support councillors who do so, to defend them against disciplinary action, and to “establish a dialogue” with Councillors Against the Cuts, with a view to possible joint campaigning activity.

(At the moment the Unite “line” effectively amounts to standing on the sidelines, on the grounds that Labour councillors are accountable to the Labour Party, not Unite.)

The vast bulk of the motions on the conference agenda focus on what might be termed “bread and butter issues”, in the positive sense of the expression.

They are motions which focus on the basic issues which face workers, in workplaces, in Britain, under a Con-Dem government, in 2014:

Attacks on terms and conditions of employment. Declining health and safety standards. Attacks on pension rights. Attacks on effective trade union organization. The privatization of public services. The spread of zero-hours contracts. Austerity. Growing inequalities in employment and in society as a whole. Environmental damage caused by the chase for profits.

It is important to register that fact to counter bogus claims by the right wing – within and outside the trade union movement – that unions have lost touch with their members and focus on esoteric international issues at the expense of their members’ real concerns.

Having said that, the agenda does include a number of oddities.

Motion B27 harks back to the “Buy British” campaign of the Daily Mail of the 1960s by calling for legislation to ensure that multinationals, companies and government departments “buy British goods to support British workers.”

Motion F28 rightly condemns celebrations of the 1914-18 war but claims that the Tories’ celebrations are “at least in part a consequence of their defeat in Parliament over armed intervention in Syria”, and that opposition to militarism requires support for the so-called “Stop the War Coalition”.

(The latest feat of the latter “coalition” was to act as apologists for the Russian militarism’s annexation of Crimea.)

Among various motions attacking “Israel the Apartheid State”, motion F11 condemns the “inhuman conditions” in Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Syria resulting from “the siege” and “military attacks”.

But the forces carrying out the siege and the attacks (i.e. the Syrian army, which enjoys the support of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (General Command)) are not even mentioned in the motion. Instead the real culprit is … Israel! As the motion puts it:

“The situation in Yarmouk is a direct result of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Palestine since 1948 and the failure of the world to address the rights and demands of the Palestinian people.”

(In contrast to the various “End Israeli Apartheid and Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine” motions which advocate ratcheting up the boycott of Israel, motion F12 calls on Unite to encourage Israeli and Palestinian unions “to maintain their strong bilateral relationship as an important aspect of bridge-building for the peace process.”)

Finally, and on a very different note, motion P5 lists a comprehensive and worthwhile series of measures which Unite should take to support lay reps in the workplace.

Never has the aphorism “When I try and get hold of a full-timer, none of the f***ers ever phone me back” been expressed more eloquently and more constructively than it is in this motion.

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No to the PCS-Unite lash-up!

May 16, 2014 at 2:51 am (AWL, labour party, Socialist Party, unions, UNISON, Unite the union, workers)

From the AWL website:

Above: McCluskey and Serwotka

By a PCS activist

The annual conference of PCS, the largest civil service trade union, on 20-22 May will debate a motion submitted by the union’s Executive (NEC) on PCS merging into the big general union Unite.

The motion would instruct the NEC, on completion of talks with Unite, to convene a special delegate conference to debate the terms of “merger” and decide whether to proceed to a membership ballot to authorise the “merger”.

Strictly speaking the “merger” would be a transfer of undertakings. PCS members, staff and assets would transfer into Unite, essentially on the basis of the Unite rulebook (although the PCS leadership is said to be looking for assurances on democracy and PCS membership of Unite decision making committees).

Some PCS members think the leadership is keen on merger because the union’s future looks extremely difficult. With Tory-led Coalition’s austerity drive, PCS has lost a significant number of members since May 2010. In 2013 alone it lost a net average (leavers minus joiners) of 1,600 members each month. Further civil service job cuts are looming.

Moreover the union is under explicit threat of Tory ministers quickly ending the “check-off” whereby civil service departments deduct PCS dues directly from members’ wages and pass them to the union.

The PCS Independent Left, the left wing opposition to the ruling Left Unity/ Democracy Alliance, has said that if PCS is facing financial meltdown then “merger” with Unite has to be supported, irrespective of qualms, simply to keep trade union organisation alive in the civil service and other workplaces where PCS organises.

However the PCS leaders claim that the union is well able to continue as an independent organisation. The PCS Independent Left therefore argues that it should do so rather than transfer members to Unite.

The PCS leaders proclaim that moving PCS to Unite “would create a union able to bridge the traditional divide between unions operating in the public and private sectors so that we can boost our bargaining power.” They do not explain how, for example, the bargaining power of Unite members in a car factory will be boosted by the adhesion of PCS to Unite, or how the bargaining power of civil servants in HMRC or DWP will be boosted by being in the same union as car workers and other trade unionists in the private sector.

The Left Unity/Democracy Alliance has run PCS for eleven years. Over that time it has totally failed to overcome successive governments’ divide-and-rule policy of carving the civil service up into a huge number of “delegated bargaining units” and to regain civil service national bargaining. Yet that same leadership now asserts that merely by joining Unite it will overcome the bargaining divisions between public and private sector workers.

The PCS leadership effectively assumes that union “merger” is a shortcut to the development of wider working-class political awareness and industrial militancy.

The PCS leaders state that “merger” (transfer!) would create “a new, powerful force in the public sector adapted to today’s changing industrial circumstances that can deliver more for members” but has not explained precisely what it sees as the changing industrial circumstances and precisely how this new force within Unite would be better able to deliver for Unite and PCS public sector members. They do not say how the awful defeats PCS has suffered under their leadership would have been avoided if we had been Unite members.

The underlying and only very partially stated argument would seem to be that:

• PCS cannot “win” against the state on its own (winning is rarely defined by the PCS leadership),

• Public sector workers must therefore strike together on pensions, pay, jobs and services (and presumably keep striking until the demands of all the different occupational areas of the striking public sector workers have been satisfied – not a model the PCS leadership followed in the pensions dispute with the last Labour Government)

• Unison and other unions cannot be trusted to do so, as shown by the pensions debacle in November 2011

• If PCS “merges” with Unite and a large public sector group is created, then Unite will be able to call out its civil service, NHS and local authority workers at the same time, and thereby put pressure on Unison and other unions to join with it.

There is plenty of talk about a “new powerful force”, “making a difference”, needing “a more effective trade union fightback in the public sector” and PCS and Unite sharing the same basic approach of being genuine fighters for members. However, nothing has prevented Unite and PCS from calling such joint action before now if they wanted to.

In reality, Unite remains a relatively minor player in the NHS and local government. A fully united public sector fightback would require Unison to play an effective and committed role. That is extremely unlikely under the current Unison leadership.

PCS should certainly agitate for joint action, but has to develop its own independent strategy for winning on issues facing PCS members. There is no short-cut through merger with Unite.

The PCS leaders hint that they see themselves (in Unite) as competing with Unison for authority in the TUC and members in the NHS and local government. They say, “A merged union would become the second largest public sector union. It would be the first public sector union to hold substantial membership in…the NHS, local government and central government.” PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka spoke at last year’s PCS conference of creating a “left wing pole of attraction” in the union movement.

But competition with Unison is unlikely to attract its membership in mass numbers. If a few left-wingers are won over, that will be at the price of them abandoning the fight to replace the leadership in Unison of Dave Prentis or a successor in the same mould chosen in Unison’s next General Secretary poll in 2015.

Mark Serwotka or the Socialist Party, the dominant group in the PCS leadership quite clearly see themselves running Unite’s public sector group. They are certainly not going to give up the leadership of an independent trade union just to play second fiddle in one sector within Unite.

And Socialist Party must have high hopes of dominating Unite’s “United Left” through the much bigger PCS Left Unity membership.

Merger is likely to mean losing PCS’s democratic structures and its actual and potential industrial coherence.

PCS has annual elections at all levels; annual national and group conferences; delegates directly elected by branch members; and a widespread membership understanding of the key industrial issues.

Delegates to Unite’s national conferences are indirectly elected by regional committees and regional industrial sector committees; national policy conference takes place every two years; national rules conference every four years; industrial sector conferences every two years. Elections for the Unite NEC, Regional and Branch Committees are held every three years.

PCS’s very different circumstances enable direct relationships between members and the different levels of the union and within the single “industry” that is the civil service and the private sector support companies that provide services to the civil service. The end result is a membership with common workplace experiences and issues that gives national PCS an explicit and (potentially) unifying coherence of trade union purpose. That makes accountability (potentially) easier to judge and deliver.

There is simply no real industrial logic to merger with Unite.

There is some opposition on the left and right to merger with Unite because of its relationship to the Labour Party. It’s an opposition which either sees PCS in apolitical terms (a union for state employees!) or sees politics purely in terms of standing would be left-wing independent candidates in opposition to the Labour Party. Both are wrong and fail to outline any way in which PCS can help remove the Tories from government, ease the considerable pressures on members, and replace them with a trade-union based party whose leaders need to be opposed and tested with positive working class policies.

For certain an alternative to Labour will not be found through TUSC or similar candidates. Serious socialists opposed to the merger should not get caught up with opposition on sectarian grounds.

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Murder – not an “accident” – in a Turkish mine

May 14, 2014 at 8:40 pm (LabourStart, posted by JD, solidarity, tragedy, turkey, unions, workers)

Via Labourstart:

by Kıvanç Eliaçık

Director of International Relations Department
Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey – DISK

On 13th of May 2014 Turkey [was] faced with the biggest coal mine explosion in the country’s history. It is reported that there are more than thousand mine workers trapped inside the privately owned mine and death toll rises every single second. More than 230 mine workers died, is the last information we have received. There is a 15 years old boy, Kemal Yıldız among the deceased and more than 80 injured mine workers and rescue team members are at the hospital. 

Unfortunately, there are no healthy official announcements about the death toll and the cause of the accident from the authorities. The families of the mine workers are waiting anxiously in front of the collapsed pit or in front of the hospital, hoping to hear that their loved ones are rescued.

The district of Soma is known for its coal mines, it won’t be wrong to say that Soma is the heart of coal mines. After privatization of the mines for many years, so many occupational accidents have been erupted. Coal mines are just an example to the rest of the occupational accidents that have been going on for a long time in other industrial sectors in Turkey. To give some numbers, the occupational accidents have increased by 40 per cent from 2002 to 2011 in Turkey. This number is too high to be disregarded. The main reasons for the increase of occupation accidents are the widely used system of subcontracting, lack of occupational health and safety measures and inadequate inspection of work places by the authorities.

In order to draw attention of the government on this issue, a Member of the Parliament from the main opposition party, CHP, Özgür Özel, presented a motion to research to the Parliament about the occupational accidents and security measures in the district of Soma recently. This motion was denied with the votes of the ruling party.

Soma Holding is the owner of the coal mine in the district of Soma in Manisa province. Reportedly, there has been an inspection recently in the mine where the accident has occurred. The inspectors, then, concluded that all the practices and the technology that was used in the mine were in line with the relevant legislations. However, still today, the company could not even announce the number of workers who were inside the mine at the time of the accident. This raises the question of the approved technology and its appropriateness, not even talking about the inspection itself.

Soma Holding is a ‘redevance’ company which means that the privately owned mine is run by “rental in return of coal” system. The cost per ton of coal was 130 -140 US dollars before Soma Holding acquired the mine but the company decreased the cost per ton of coal to 23.8 US dollars after the acquisition. It is clearly seen that the company transferred the profit it earned from the mines to the construction sector.  The company is also the owner of the famous skyscraper in Istanbul, named as Spine Tower. Most of the workers are either unregistered or they work for minimum wage.

The government officials, local authorities and mainstream media try to conceal the death tolls and even announce misleading and unrealistic numbers. Repeated information on the company’s undisputed record of security measures and occupational safety is being shared with public, reminding that coal mine accidents are unavoidable. It is unjust and unacceptable when the Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan makes a press conference after 24 hours of the accident and said that: “these accidents are usual.”

Just a week ago Ministry of Labor and Social Security organized an International Occupational Health and Safety Symposium. The Minister bragged about the improvements of occupational health and security measures in Turkey, and accused the trade unions for not contributing to the issue. It is important to remember that on May Day this year, he authorities have blocked all the streets and impeded the trade unionists to raise the issue of occupational health and safety publicly on May Day events.

Today trade unions are organizing actions in work places and city centers. ITUC and ETUC members DISK and KESK Confederations, together with TMMOB, The Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects and TTB, Turkish Medical Association announced a countrywide general strike for tomorrow. The unionists, activists, students and workers are gathering in Taksim and in front of the company’s headquarters in protests tomorrow, to remind the duties and responsibilities of government officials on occupational health and safety and to end subcontracting that leads to violating workers’ rights.

According to trade unions in Turkey, there is a system of subcontracting, there is a system of maximizing profit rather than humanity and also there is system of seeing workers’ health and occupational safety as cost items. The company is not the sole responsible of the murders but the authorities who have not conducted the necessary and appropriate inspections are also associates in crime.

We have hope, we wait for good news… But we also mourn… Merle Travis is singing his song ‘16 tons’ for Soma miners; St. Peter, don’t you call me, ’cause I can’t go /  I owe my soul to the company store

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