Trade union issues

Migrant labour, racism and class struggle in Singapore

With migrant workers making up the vast majority of recent Covid-19 cases in Singapore, there are renewed calls for the government to reduce Singapore's dependence on migrant labour. On the surface, this appears to be a progressive proposal, given that it is being made in response to the cramped and unsanitary nature of the migrant worker dormitories. In reality, however, these are xenophobic demands to reduce the number of foreigners and these demands have nothing to do with improving conditions in migrant worker dormitories. Many have compared migrant labour to a drug to which Singapore is...

Tim Roache and the cabal system

On Tuesday 28 April, Tim Roache, general secretary of the big GMB union, which organises in many different sectors, stepped down, just months after his re-election. He cited ill-health. On Wednesday, following the circulation of an anonymous letter to press outlets, GMB issued a statement: “GMB received an anonymous letter, last Wednesday, in which a number of allegations have been made about Tim’s conduct whilst he held the office of general secretary.” The news of the allegations against Roach has reignited discussion of conduct in the labour movement, echoing previous incidents including...

Behind the talk of "heroes"

The “heroes” narrative about NHS and other essential workers is dangerous. As a nurse on the Panorama programme on PPE said, it has an implication that unnecessary deaths are workers willingly sacrificing themselves. It absolves the government of responsibility. It also carries an implication that those workers rebelling against these conditions lack the courage of their colleagues who accept risks due to lack of PPE. We have been here before with the government seizing on a semi-spontaneous “heroes” narrative to deflect and silence criticism. It’s what happened in the Iraq war. All polls...

Supermarket workers organise

Tesco’s response to the pandemic has been unusually clear, and provides a firm starting point for those of us wanting to ensure greater protections on the shop floor now and better pay and conditions when this crisis starts to subside. We’ve been given paid leave to self-isolate up to 14 days, and our vulnerable colleagues (everyone who needs a flu jab, or is pregnant, or over 65) have been given 12 weeks’ paid leave to make sure they stay safe. Gloves, masks, and hand gel should be available to anyone who feels like they need them, and there’s a one-way one-in-one-out system in operation...

John Moloney's column

At Trinity House, an HMRC workplace in the north west, a worker was diagnosed with Covid-19. The bosses only moved people from their immediate team. The local union demanded that the building be shut entirely and deep cleaned. Management initially refused, so the union issued an ultimatum, and management agreed to shut the building. We now have an issue with the Passport Office, where the employer wants to bring large number of workers back into the office to do routine work, despite the fact that very little international travel is taking place presently. Obviously we have huge concerns about...

Changing the Rules under the Coalition government

A confidential ACTU review of the Change the Rules campaign was obtained by The Australian newspaper. The ACTU should release the report so that trade unionists, especially the activists who put so much effort into the campaign, can have a say in how unions can campaign for union rights, pay and conditions. Change the Rules like previous Australian Union campaigns, Rights@Work and to a lesser extent Build a Better Future, organised thousands of trade union activists into local campaigning groups, leafleting, door-knocking in the suburbs to talk about union issues, with an immediate aim of...

Stop Sexual Harassment and Assault on Public Transport

In July, I spoke at an event organised by Islington Labour Party women’s forum, called ‘Keeping women and girls safe in Islington’. There were various speakers from community organisations, the council and the police, plus workshops on domestic abuse, sexual harassment, hate crime, gangs and bullying. My job was to speak about harassment and violence against women on public transport. I work on the Night Tube in the borough of Islington – but of course I made it clear that I was not speaking on behalf of Transport for London! I’m active in the RMT trade union, and am also Trade Union Officer...

Worker activists meet to build solidarity

Activists from the Independent Workers’ union of Great Britain (IWGB), United Voices of the World (UVW), UCU, Unite, RMT, Bectu, and other unions and workers’ organisations came together for the “How To Win At Work” conference on Saturday 18 August, hosted by the left-wing think tank New Economics Foundation. The culmination of a project aimed at linking up the struggles of “precarious” workers such as cleaners, bar workers, restaurant workers, delivery couriers and others, the conference saw activists take part in workshops on the basics of workplace organising and planning workplace action....

Ryanair must change

Ryanair pilots in Ireland, Sweden and Belgium will strike for 24-hours on Friday 10 August. The strike is part of an ongoing dispute as pilots are demanding a fair and transparent approach to transfers between different bases. On 25 July Ryanair escalated the dispute by threatening to sack 100 pilots and 200 cabin crew, or transfer them to Poland. Pilots based in Ireland, and members of FORSA union, have already struck for four periods of 24 hours since 12 July. They may be joined by pilots based in Germany and the Netherlands after a poll by the Association of Dutch Pilots saw 99.5% of...

Fight for workers’ rights

In 1997, shortly before winning the general election, Tony Blair boasted in an interview with the Daily Mail (26 March 1997) that Britain “would still have the most restrictive union laws in the Western world” with Labour in power. That remained true until Labour lost office in 2010, but since then the law have become more restrictive. The restrictions around ballots, picketing, solidarity action, political funds, and others, means the potential of our unions is shackled. Employers have taken advantage of that. According to the Institute of Employment Rights: “On average British workers work...

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