Trade union issues

Diary of a Tube worker: First day of shops reopened

“So I have to pay now? Since when? How long for?” The first day of the 60+ Oyster Card being excluded from morning peak time travel, is not going well, at least for these passengers. “Beep beep... beep beep...” I look at the gate and “57” flashes up. The code for a ticket or pass not being valid where it is being used. “Is it a 60+ Oyster or Older Persons Freedom Pass”? It is almost all our conversations for the first hours of the day. We all clock-watch till 9am when they become valid again and the questions will stop. “Where are all these people travelling at 5am who are over 60 going to...

Safe and Equal: three fronts

The Safe and Equal campaign safeandequal.org is pressing on three fronts. Firstly: we want to popularise the idea, adopted as Labour Party policy in conference 2019, and recently re-raised by Nadia Whittome MP, that the care sector must be re-organised as a well-funded public service, rather than as the patchwork of small privately-run companies that currently makes it up. Instead of a jigsaw puzzle of frequently inefficient, abusive and despotic private fiefdoms, we want instead to see a democratically-run service offering the same high standards of care and workers’ rights to all users and...

Five tests (John Moloney's column)

PCS has communicated our “Five Tests” to the Civil Service. These are: No wider return until communities are safe; workplaces must only be for essential work; workplaces must be safe places; staff must be individually assessed; and outbreaks must be controlled. We need to make these demands, and the details beneath the headlines, known and understood amongst the membership — and, crucially, discuss throughout the union how we respond if the employer fails to meet these tests. A national ballot for industrial action is not a practical proposition in the here and now; it would simply take too...

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...

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