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Sunday, 1 July 2012

Where my union heads next, a look into unites internal workings

As you may or may not know I’m a member of Unite the Union a critical member at best you could say Unite I would like to say has done really nothing for me yet I continue supporting it with my subs each year and those subs continue to go to the capitalist labour party against my wish’s and my protests to the union over countless email protests yet nothing has been done on that front.

We have just seen the end of Unites political policy conference where they once again over rode the membership and voted to remain backing financially and politically the labour party. This goes against Unites policy I must point out Unite clearly opposes all cuts in its policy agreed last year in 2011 I blogged heavily about this as I felt this was a major step forward. How wrong was I since then Unite backed Labour party MP’s and councillors have continued to pass on and support the tory cuts handed to them. Not even a whimper at all has come from these not even a cry for help just a complete silence and acceptance that the cuts are necessary. Which as readers of this blog will rightly know is not the case.

So why do these Labour MP’s and Cllr’s continue to accept the need for cuts ?

Well they do not see any alternative any fight back is not in their remit they see their job as keeping a balanced budget and making sure numbers add up. Not even stopping to think what their cuts not Tory cuts their cuts at a local level as despite what Labour councillors tell you their budget is cut yes I accept that bit but its them who choose what to cut if at all. They could and its not out of their reach to oppose all cuts and turn around and say we were not elected to vote for cuts which they weren’t I accept and to say we will not make your cuts. If the Tories wish to make cuts let them and be it on their heads. But as a party if Labour is ever to regain any credibility at all they must reject all cuts as a starting policy for workers to ever engage with them ever again. Bottling it and say we have no choice or we’ll have our budget taken overhand imposed from central Gov by the likes of Eric Pickles is a complete and utter cop out. This has never even been tried not even in Liverpool when 47 brave socialist councillors stood up to the Tories and said NO and stood by this in defence of the people who elected the in to defend services. There eyes an alternative if your prepared to fight for it. Liverpool city council won a big bonus of 60 million pounds plus extra through funding for housing and local development a defiance of the government who wanted them to make cuts put them in the firing lien and unlike other Labour councils today decided to stay and fight. It is not always about doing the right thing but it’s about doing the right thing for your class and the people who elected you. I.e. the working class in this case!

By unite having a official policy to oppose cuts which in my view they do not enforce at all and backing Labour candidates who stand on a manifesto however left they claim to be accept the need for cuts which unite and the socialist party witch I’m a member of completely reject.
For unite to break from this consensus which is a labour dominated one I firmly believe they should break with the labour party and back anti cuts candidates including the likes of TUSC. Not only is this the right thing to do it is the moral thing to do why back candidates in the labour party time after time if they only turn around and attack our comrades in Unite ?? It’s just barmy and Unite as Labours biggest donor this is no more pressing than this.

For me Unite speak a good game and often back up their members for example with the bus workers strike in London which I’ll come on to but so so often they are there but are so often coming in with support too little too late such is the example with the Coryton oil refinery workers. Which Unite backed don’t get me wrong and the full time officials were genuine but were far too slow off the mark and sat on that dispute for months were instead they could have been building solidarity and links within the industry and with other unions involved in oil refinery in a bigger attempt to save the Coryton workers jobs.
With the Bus drivers dispute in London this represents opportunity for Unite but more importantly the rank-and-file members to reclaim their union and light a flame to the militancy developing within a section of workers today.

The socialist party as ever was supporting this strike by London bus workers last week and will be again on this coming Thursday the 5th and the 24th of July when further bus strikes have been called. Keep an eye on my blog and the socialist party website for more updates

The sleeping giant has woken up - on 22 June 20,000 London bus workers came out on strike over payments for extra pressure during the Olympics. The big turnout on the picket lines reflected the enthusiasm for this display of strength. In 1982 London bus workers struck in support of the nurses but the last strike you can compare was probably 1958.
Transport for London said 85% of drivers were on strike but claimed a third of routes were operating. But most Londoners didn't bother waiting for the few overcrowded buses driven by supervisors, agency staff and a minority of new drivers on probation who had been personally warned by management. These buses were mainly for show.
Leyton bus workers took part in the 22 June 2012 London-wide bus strike, to)
Unite the Union wrote to London Mayor Boris Johnson last September and tried to talk to the bus companies. But the bosses would not talk. Just before the strike Boris found £8.3 million towards a settlement and called on the private operating companies to make up the difference (another £5.7 million according to Unite.) Three firms obtained court injunctions to temporarily stop the action.
Other passenger transport workers are getting a bonus for the Olympics. We are determined to get ours. But it's not just about the £500. It's about standing up at last against a bullying management and privatisation.

Supervisors, controllers and office staff have been overwhelmingly sympathetic to the bus drivers. That is despite - partly because of - the fact some were forced to drive buses on strike day. Nearly all of them were drivers in the past and are relieved to be out of it. They see management's bullying methods much more than drivers do. They see decent, hardworking drivers, some with a lifetime's service, treated poorly.
The strike has been a big push. But the £500 bonus is still to be won. More importantly an active branch urgently needs to be built in every garage.
Bus workers - especially young bus workers - must consciously reclaim the leadership of our union. The regional officials have helped initiate this campaign but only bus workers can win it.

Picket line reports
London Socialist Party members
100 strikers picketed the Lea Interchange bus depot, next door to the Olympic site in east London. Construction workers at the Olympic site beeped support as they passed. Of the 800 workers based at the depot, only four had gone in. The workers were determined to win this struggle but also wanted to talk about the Tories, the cuts, trade unions and the Labour Party.
The picket at Hackney central at lunchtime was really good - no buses on the road and a great atmosphere. "We've been waiting for this strike for ages" said pickets at Bow bus garage. "It's not just the Olympic bonus but last year they slashed our pay, we don't get overtime we won't be paid for breaks now. Some people have lost £3,400 a year."
One of the bus drivers explained how he had completed a test run for the Olympics on his route and it had taken an hour longer than it should. This is before all the extra traffic that is expected!
In south London 50 workers formed an angry picket line at Catford bus garage. Hardly any buses went out. The passing public gave loads of support; endless beeping horns were greeted by cheers from the pickets.
In the solid strike in Bromley, pickets jeered at the very few scab buses. Committee member Steve said: "What we need is all the unions out on the same day".
You could hear the main picket line at New Cross bus garage - they were singing local football team Millwall's old chant "No one likes us, we don't care". There were about 80 on the picket lines, of all ages, sexes and countries of origin. They got great public backing. Lorry, van and car drivers tooted support, largely disproving the words the pickets were singing!
One picket told us: "The basic salary of bus drivers is £24,000 which is nothing for London prices. Yet we're frontline workers when the Olympics come. Tube workers get more than us because they fight for it and because the tube has been publicly owned while our money goes to shareholders."
Another picket explained that private bus companies like Go Ahead are still making big profits. "But," said another driver, "what about us donkeys that work hard to make their money? We get a small carrot on a long stick and we have to kick hard to get any of it."
The information screens at Croydon bus stops indicated no bus arrivals and illustrated that the strike has been a resounding success.

Full reports at

All this neds to be taken forward putting pressure on the union leadership and officials to push for more action and more concentrated action with a plan to re take the union on behalf of the members and the rank-and-file and to clear out all labour party links and anti worker sentiment and the bureaucracy which put a block on workers struggles winning and gaining momentum.

Unite is our union and should speak for us not the labour party who endorses capitalism it is time to fight for a union that is ours, Ours that the members can feel proud of and lives up to its name. United in the working class!

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