Monday, 29 June 2009

Some great wins. More needed.

Given the anger among working people against the way we've been treated by greedy employers and market-addicted government, I've been saying for quite some time that we needed some visible victories to give people confidence to turn that anger into action.

Now we have some.

1) Visteon workers forced Ford to intervene and fund sizeable redundancy payments. While it's sad that they didn't secure their jobs, overturning one of the world's most powerful corporations is not mean feat. Starting your fight when you've already lost your job and you're told your employer is bust is far from the easiest campaign to win. But by occupying their workplaces and threatening to picket Ford plants they did win.

2) Bristol refuse workers won a pay rise after deciding to escalate their action to all-out strike.

3) Workers at Linamar in Swansea won the reinstatement of their convenor, Rob Williams, after a great vote for all-out strike action.

4) Construction workers at Lindsey Oil Refinery and dozens of other sites defied anti-union laws, got the sacked strikers reinstated, overturned the original redundancies and secured agreement for no victimisations.

When the general picture is still one of job losses and cuts in pay and conditions being pushed through without resistance, these four victories show an alternative.

The lesson is clear. If you don't fight, you will lose - your employer will take whatever concessions you give and come back for more. If you do fight, you can win.

The trade union movement is never good enough at celebrating our successes. We have to shout these wins from the rooftops. We have to make sure that no boss can arrogantly believe they can mistreat their workforce without someone piping up "Why don't we do what Lindsey did?".

I've been to two interesting conferences in recent weeks. Firstly the "Right To Work" conference, and secondly the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) conference. Both had a flavour of this new idea - "winning". Let's hope it catches on!

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