Union organising

The role of leverage

We continue our discussion of the lessons of the Grangemouth defeat. Here, a contribution from Mark Best discusses how Unite’s “Organising and Leverage Department” can help win disputes.


Football pundits are fond of pointing out that it is not so much the defeat itself that teaches you anything meaningful about a team, but how they react to it in the matches that follow. Much the same could be said about Unite and the left following Grangemouth.

We continue our discussion of the lessons for organised labour and the left from the defeat at the Grangemouth oil refinery.

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Outsourced University of London workers to strike

Outsourced cleaning, catering, and security workers at the University of London will strike on 27 and 28 November.

Their strike ballot returned a 97% vote in favour of strikes, on a 70% turnout. The workers, who are employed by agencies such as Balfour Beatty and Aramark, have been fighting for sick pay, holiday, and pensions equality with their directly-employed colleagues through the "Tres Cosas" ("Three Things") campaign.

Outsourced cleaning, catering, and security workers at the University of London will strike on 27 and 28 November.

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Industrial news in brief

Outsourced cleaning, catering, and security workers at the University of London are balloting for strikes in their long-running campaign to win sick pay, holiday, and pension equality with their directly-employed colleagues.

The workers are organised by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), a small union with few resources. Solidarity and financial support are essential if the workers are to be able to take the kind of action necessary to force concessions from the bosses. You can donate to the strike fund online.

Tres Cosas campaign; rail cleaners occupy bosses office.

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3 Cosas campaign fights on

On Tuesday 5 November, cleaning, catering and security workers at the University of London begin balloting for strikes.

The strikes are part of the workers’ ongoing campaign for sick pay, holiday, and pensions equality with their directly-employed colleagues.

The workers are members of the Independent Workers’ union of Great Britain (IWGB), and have run the rank-and-file “Tres Cosas” (“Three Things”) campaign since summer 2012.

Cleaning, catering and security workers at the University of London are balloting for strikes.

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Organising for revolutionary socialist ideas

The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL) met for our annual conference on 26-27 October at the University of London Union. The purpose of the AGM is to review our activity over the previous year, debate and decide policy, agree our political priorities, and elect our National Committee.

The conference noted some significant successes. AWL has been integral to the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, which has beaten back Tory attempts to cut maternity and A&E services, preparing the hospital for closure.

The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty held its annual conference on 26-27 October.

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Cinema workers continue organising fight

Members of the BECTU union working at Curzon cinemas (mainly based in London) are continuing a campaign, involving leafleting, demonstrations, and an online petition, to win the London Living Wage and union recognition.

Activists have leafleted customers at the cinema, and BECTU has submitted a statutory recognition claim.

A union statement said:

Workers at Curzon cinemas are continuing their fight for living wages and union recognition, and against zero-hour contracts.

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Embassy protest begins solidarity campaign with migrant workers in Qatar

On 12 October activists demonstrated outside the Qatari embassy in London in solidarity with Nepali and other migrant workers in Qatar, hundreds of whom have been worked to death as the Gulf dictatorship prepares for the 2022 World Cup.

On 12 October members of the Nepali community in London and British labour movement and migrants' rights activists protested outside the Qatari embassy to protest against the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar. More than 700, mainly Nepali, workers have died in the last year, the majority as a result of heart failures or industrial accidents, as the Gulf dictatorship goes into a building overdrive in preparation for the 2022 World Cup.


Protest organiser Shreya Paudel is on the right

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Deserters or class fighters?

Since 2012, Workers’ Liberty members have been involved in supporting outsourced workers at the University of London in their fight for sick pay, holiday entitlement, and pension equality with their directly-employed colleagues.

Their campaign, “3 Cosas” (“3 Things”), began after their hard-fought campaign to win the London Living Wage, which they won in summer 2012. Throughout both fights, the workers have been self-organised, holding regular workers’ and campaign meetings.

The “3 Cosas” campaign has raised important questions about how socialists active in the labour movement can transform our unions, whether building or joining independent unions is ever a useful tactic, and how we as socialists should relate to fellow workers who take a decision on an organisational question that we may not agree with.

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3 Cosas, independent unions, and transforming the labour movement

Earlier this summer, Max Watson, Chair of London Met Unison, and on the National Executive Council, wrote on his blog an article entitled “IWGB: Two small unions?”. Max documents the behaviour of the IWGB (Independent Workers union of Great Britain) trade union at London Met – claiming poaching, duplicity, and more.

How can socialists transform the labour movement? A contribution to a debate about the 3 Cosas campaign and independent union initiatives.

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The fast food workers' fightback

In America, fast food workers employed by chains like McDonalds, Burger King, and Pizza Hut have struck back against low pay and bullying managers. Regional strikes in November 2012 and April 2013 were followed by a nationwide strike on 29 August.

The workers’ headline demand is a $15 per hour minimum wage (most currently earn slightly more than $7). Workers also want union recognition and an end to management bullying. The fast food workers’ movement followed a similar, and ongoing, struggle of Walmart workers, the world’s biggest private-sector employer.

In America, fast food workers employed by chains like McDonalds, Burger King, and Pizza Hut have struck back against low pay and bullying managers.

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How fair is Fairphone?

I recently attended the London launch of Fairphone — “a seriously cool smartphone that puts social values first”.

Fairphone is a Dutch initiative to create an alternative to the decidely “unfair” phones that are being made and sold today.

Their phone, prototypes of which were available at the launch, is in some ways an improvement upon the mass-manufactured phones most of us carry around today.

Those phones are usually made with little or no concern for the environment or the well-being of the workers who make them.

Fairphone is a Dutch initiative to create an alternative to the “unfair” phones that are being made and sold today.

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"The fundamental element was our confidence in the working class"

Mike Treen, the National Director of the Unite union in New Zealand (no connection to the British union of the same name) spoke to Solidarity about their drives to organise precarious workers in the fast food and service industries.

Mike Treen, the National Director of the Unite union in New Zealand (no connection to the British union of the same name) spoke to Solidarity about their drives to organise precarious workers in the fast food and service industries.

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Joe Hill

Joe Hill was a Swedish-American labour activist and songwriter, a member and troubadour of the Industrial Workers of the World. Framed for robbery and murder he was executed by firing squad in November 1915. A decade later, this verse appeared in Labour Defender, monthly magazine of the International Labour Defence.

Joe Hill was a Swedish-American labour activist and songwriter, a member and troubadour of the Industrial Workers of the World. Framed for robbery and murder he was executed by firing squad in November 1915. This verse appeared in Labour Defender, monthly magazine of International Labour Defence.

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“3 Cosas” news

The “3 Cosas” campaign of outsourced workers at the University of London for sick pay, holiday, and pensions equality organised a week-long “planton” at the university’s flagship Senate House building on 8-13 July.

The “3 Cosas” campaign of outsourced workers at the University of London for sick pay, holiday, and pensions equality organised a week-long “planton” at the university’s flagship Senate House building.

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Were the University of London outsourced workers right to leave Unison?

This article was written in response to a piece in Socialist Review. The author has also requested that it be published there. We host it in our website in the interests of furthering the debate.


The move of Senate House cleaners, other outsourced staff, and their supporters to leave Unison en masse and form a University of London branch of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), after the annulment of their elections, has sparked heated debate within trade union circles, especially among Unison activists.

Jason Moyer-Lee, secretary of the University of London IWGB branch, contributes to the debate about whether outsourced workers were right to leave Unison.

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3 Cosas campaigners invade Senate House

Outsourced workers at the University of London are keeping up the pressure on management as part of their “3 Cosas” campaign to win pensions, holiday, and sick pay equality with their directly employed colleagues.

An unannounced demonstration disrupted a conference in the university’s flagship Senate House building on 28 June, and while some attendees were angry at the disruption, many expressed support for the workers. Demonstrators briefly blocked the doors to Vice Chancellor Adrian Smith’s office.

Outsourced workers at the University of London are keeping up the pressure on management as part of their “3 Cosas” campaign to win pensions, holiday, and sick pay equality with their directly-employed colleagues.

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Student activists set up impromptu holiday camp in support of 3 Cosas campaign

University of London Union activists set up an impromptu holiday camp at the university's iconic Senate House building, as part of the 3 Cosas campaign's summer of action.

The University of London Union (ULU) mobilised student activist to set up an impromptu "holiday camp" outside the office of Vice Chancellor Adrian Smith in the university's iconic Senate House building.

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Industrial news in brief

Teachers at Bishop Challoner school in East London are balloting for strikes against management bullying.

East London teachers plan strikes against bullying; Northern Rail casualisation ballot; fighting Green cuts in Brighton; Post Office strike; University of London cleaners rally on May Day.

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Turkey: workers' centres nourish new culture

In mid-April 2013, I visited Istanbul to meet a group of socialist activists involved in building a workers’ support group, Uluslararası Işçi Dayanışması Derneği (Association of International Workers’ Solidarity, UID DER).

My visit co-incided with feverish campaigns to prepare for May Day celebrations.

A report from a Workers' Liberty member who has just returned from Turkey on how socilists there are organising workers.

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Militant trade unions save lives

In a row with Jeremy Hunt, the Royal College of Nursing has rejected calls for it to split into two organisations — a professional body and a trade union.

Hunt, parroting the conclusions of the Francis Report into the Mid Staffordshire Hospital scandal, argues that the RCN was complicit there because they “allowed their trade union responsibilities to trump their responsibilities as a Royal College to raise professional standards.” But this conclusion was nothing but Francis’ own bourgeois prejudice.

The government is allowing capitalist market relations to kill off the NHS and with it patients.

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Sussex University workers build for strikes

Sussex University branches of the University and College Union (UCU) and Unite have both returned large majorities for strikes against outsourcing in indicative ballots.

UCU members vote returned a 75% majority on a 60% turnout, and the Unite ballot returned a 93% majority on a 70% turnout. Unison, which conducted a “membership survey” on industrial action, has yet to release its results. They are due on Thursday 9 May, but many workers say they have yet to receive their papers so are fighting for an extension in order to allow them to vote.

Sussex University branches of the University and College Union and Unite have both returned large majorities for strikes against outsourcing in indicative ballots.

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Dhaka factory tragedy: capitalism is guilty

Solidarity — not ethical shopping — is what the garment workers of Bangladesh are demanding.

On the afternoon of 24 April, Rana Plaza, an eight-storey building housing textile factories in Savar, a suburb of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, collapsed. When rescuers gave up searching for survivors on 29 April, the official death toll was 380.

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3 Cosas workers: right to leave Unison?

Solidarity 281 (10 April 2013) carried an interview with a worker involved in the “3 Cosas” campaign at the University of London, who explained their decision to quit Unison and join the Industrial Workers of Great Britain (IWGB). Their decision has caused some debate in the wider labour movement. We print two contributions originally posted on the AWL website.

Two activists comment on the decision by cleaning workers at the University of London to split from Unison.

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Fifteen years of online solidarity

Bruce Robinson reviews Campaigning Online and Winning: How Labour Start’s ActNOW campaigns are making unions stronger by Eric Lee and Edd Mustill.


Working-class solidarity follows capitalist globalisation to respond to attacks on workers’ rights wherever and whenever they occur.

A review of Campaigning Online and Winning: How Labour Start’s ActNOW campaigns are making unions stronger by Eric Lee and Edd Mustill.

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Fast food workers strike against low pay

Four hundred fast food workers in New York struck and demonstrated on 4 April to demand a $15/hour minimum wage.

The strike involved workers at McDonalds, KFC, Burger King, Domino’s Pizza, and other multinational fast food chains.

Naquasia Legrand, a KFC worker, said low pay in the fast food industry forced workers to make impossible choices: “You have to decide whether to feed your family or get a Metrocard so you can go to work. Or you have to choose between paying your rent or feeding your child”.

Four hundred fast food workers in New York struck and demonstrated on 4 April to demand a $15/hour minimum wage.

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New unions show unrest

A recent report by Acas into the work of the Certification Office (which, among other things, maintains the official register of trade unions) identifies a “steady trickle” of new unions being established, despite a general trend of decline.

According to the report: “These new unions appear to be motivated by, among other things... an attempt to gain improved recognition for under-represented groups of workers...”

New unions are not an alternative to transforming the mass unions but they can play an important role in some struggles.

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Unison officials sabotage democracy

A worker involved with the “3 Cosas” campaign spoke to Solidarity about their fight for equal rights and union democracy.


“3 Cosas” (“Three Things”) is a campaign organised by outsourced workers at the University of London, mainly cleaners in halls of residence and the university’s flagship Senate House building, but also catering staff, post-room workers, and security workers.

A worker involved with the “3 Cosas” campaign at the University of London on their fight for equal rights and union democracy.

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Migrant women organising

Around the globe, migrant women’s labour plays an important role in developing capitalism.

Vicki Morris explores some of the issues this raises for socialist feminists. We welcome comments as we are developing a workshop around the topic — email wfightback@workersliberty.org.


Women make up around half of migrant workers and travel throughout the world to work in all fields.

Around the globe, migrant women’s labour plays an important role in developing capitalism.

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Cleaners strike for dignity

Cleaning workers employed by the contractor Mitie at the Barbican Centre in London struck on Thursday 21 March.

They were demanding a pay increase to bring them in line with the London Living Wage of £8.55 an hour. Their current wage is £6.19 an hour.

They also want an end to the bullying and harassment they face from managers.

Cleaning workers employed at the Barbican Centre in London struck on 21 March.

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