Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Workfare: militant action works

The Socialist Workers Party found itself at the centre of a political storm this week after being denounced by various Tory government ministers. Right wing columnists attacked us for being “placard-toting obsessives” who had “zero impact”. Yet at the same time they accused us of orchestrating an anti-workfare conspiracy that had lured in the BBC and even the Mumsnet website. The Sun newspaper made us their “villain of the week”. And the Sun knows a bit about villainy. We were also treated to “exposes” revealing the startling fact that socialists are involved in the Right to Work campaign.

The reason for this frantic red-baiting is the spectacular success of the broad campaign against workfare. It’s a scandal that unemployed people are being forced to work for free. And millions can see that. The Tories—already in trouble over the NHS—found another key part of their project stalling.

Within days bosses were running scared. Tesco and other major firms pulled out of the scheme. The Tories were left isolated and defensive—and they did not like it one bit. That’s why they launched a smear campaign against the protesters. Tory minister Chris Grayling made baseless accusations about protesters hacking his email.

The bosses also fell out with each other. A Daily Mail front page featured former Marks & Spencer boss Sir Stuart Rose telling firms to “show some backbone” and stand up to the protests.

But many companies realise the campaigners reflect a wider mood. Most people are rightly suspicious of companies whose only interest lies in making money. In Grayling’s own words, “This is part of a broader anti-capitalist trend in our society.”

If a few protests can push the Tories back, think of the possibilities when millions of workers take mass action together. Look at the magnificent strike by 2.6 million people on 30 November over pensions. It was the biggest in decades and proof of a rising mood of defiance. The victory won by electricians this week against construction companies intent on cutting their pay is another indication of our power. Organising in the workplace is organising where we are strongest. When public sector workers go on strike, we don’t see David Cameron and his cronies collecting the bins or teaching in schools. They can’t replace us. Now unions are planning a strike on 28 March. If workers beat the plans to slash their pensions it will be easier for all of us to stop all the other attacks.

We want to bring down the Tories. But we also have a wider vision. We are on the side of workers everywhere, whether in Greece or Egypt or Britain. We think capitalism is what brings us crisis, poverty and war. We want to abolish that system and build a socialist society—driven by the needs of the many, not the profits of the few. This is the Socialist Workers Party’s agenda. It’s not secret. We declare our views every week in Socialist Worker, which we sell on high streets across the country.

If you like what you’ve heard then we hope you become a regular reader. And if you agree with it, we hope you will join us.

Join the SWP – phone 020 7819 1172 or email


© Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Victory: Electricians defeat building bosses

by Simon Basketter

Rank and file electricians have won. They have beaten the building bosses who wanted to tear up their terms and conditions and slash their pay. Electricians across Britain have been protesting, occupying and striking unofficially for the last six months. Today the remaining companies pursuing the attack gave in.

The firms wanted to tear up electricians’ existing JIB national agreement and impose a new agreement called Besna. This would have cut wages by 35 percent and introduced new unskilled grades. The bosses, who collectively called themselves HVCA, issued a joint statement with the Unite union today, Thursday. In full it reads,

“In consultation with the remaining companies and following discussions with Unite, it has been agreed that HVCA will withdraw its proposal for the Building Engineering Services National Agreement (Besna).

“As a result of today’s decision by HVCA, Unite has agreed not to pursue further industrial action or protests against the Besna companies.

“HVCA, supported by its member companies, will now engage in high-level talks with Unite within an agreed timeline, with the aim of creating new proposals and ensuring agreed terms are honoured.”
Ian a member of the London electricians’ rank and file committee told Socialist Worker, “After nearly seven months of fighting, the decision today of the remaining companies to pull away from Besna is a great vindication of our stance.

“This was a cynical attempt to use the economic climate to drive through massive cuts to workers’ pay and conditions and keep profits high. We must use the momentum we have built to make sure we build on our terms. Although we have won this dispute, I can see these companies using negotiation to bring in other attacks. If they do, we must be ready to fight back immediately.”

Originally eight companies had planned to impose Besna on workers. The largest of them, Balfour Beatty, pulled out last week following the pressure of the rank and file campaign and the threat of an official strike. NG Bailey followed suit yesterday with the remaining firms – Crown House, Gratte Brothers, T Clarke, Spie Matthew Hall and Shepherd Engineering Services – today. MJN Colston, which backed out of the agreement last year, was placed in administration today.

Pete, an electrician from Wakefield, said, “It’s a brilliant result. This shows that rank and file militant action is the way forward for trade unions. Leaving it to the full time union officials is not enough. People have to get involved.”

The electricians’ determined campaign has humbled huge corporations – and at the centre has been rank and file workers’ organisation. The lesson is simple. Militant tactics win.

© Socialist Worker

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

New mass strike against cuts on 28 March

It’s on. Three unions have named the day for their next joint strike: Wednesday 28 March.

The PCS civil service workers’ union, the NUT teachers’ union and the UCU lecturers’ union all plan to walk out that day.

And more unions could come in behind them, including sections of the huge Unite union. Up to 750,000 workers could strike altogether.

The pensions battle nearly stalled when some union leaders signed up to the government’s latest pensions deal. But 28 March can reinvigorate the struggle.

Across Europe ordinary people are fighting austerity. In Greece workers are launching massive general strikes and taking to the streets against cuts. 28 March is our chance to bring that Greek spirit to Britain.

© Socialist Worker