In brief: short industrial reports

Submitted by martin on 21 February, 2009 - 2:27

St Paul's Way school; Chemilines; Tube cleaners; Amicus-Unite election.

TEACHERS: On a turn out of 88 percent, 81 percent of National Union of Teachers members at St Paul’s Way Community School in Tower Hamlets, East London, have voted for discontinuous strike action to defend their sacked rep Adrian Swain.

Adrian, a trade union and revolutionary militant of many years and member of the Permanent Revolution group, was sacked for failing to comply with a new dress code by wearing trainers. Although this vote is purely indicative, it is a big boost to the campaign for his reinstatement. Management should have been notified this week of a move with immediate effect to an official strike ballot.

The East London Teachers’ Association, which previously failed to back Adrian, has now voted unanimously to support the campaign, though there are signs that some of its leaders are still unhappy about it. In any case, we need to step up the pressure.

Following a 40-strong protest on 16 January, a further demonstration will be held on the evening of Monday 9 February outside a full meeting of Tower Hamlets council. Be there!

Support Adrian Swain – demonstrate 6.30pm, Monday 9 February, Mulberry Place, London E14. Bus 277 or East India DLR.

CHEMILINES: workers in Alperton, north London, met on Sunday 25th, in a meeting closed to non-GMB members. A pay dispute at Chemilines late last year turned into a fight to regain the jobs of 21 workers laid off.

The union called off the second planned strike day for negotiations, but on the third scheduled day the strikers, mostly Asian swomen, were upbeat and for half an hour physically stopped vans trying to leave the site.

The GMB called off the latest action, voted for unanimously and due on 23 January. In the meantime, 30 more workers have been laid off. Some workers previously laid off have been reinstated in the place of union activists. 56 more redundancies are on the agenda.

The union officials are accepting the financial story presented by the millionaire bosses, though it is known that pharmaceuticals and cosmetics have been less affected than other sectors. (The factory repackages and relabels imported pharmaceuticals and cosmetics for distribution in Britain). The official strategy seems to be to fight only for voluntary (rather than compulsory) redundancies.

LONDON UNDERGROUND: The attacks on RMT cleaners' reps on the underground continues, with another rep suspended without pay and threatened with dismissal. Calls for sacked cleaners' union rep Mary Oboakye to be reinstated were amplified on Wednesday 28 January with an action at Metronet offices, and a meeting to discuss further action has been planned for Friday 30th.

On Monday 26 January there was another protest at the ISS offices in Greenwick to support Phillip, who has worked on the Underground for 7 years, but found employers questioning his immigration status only since he became active as a union rep.

Mary Oboakye's crime was to sit down after finishing her work while she was waiting for the train doors to be opened. Three days earlier, she had sustained an eye injury at work - but was denied sick pay and annual leave. She has been targeted for her union activity. Mary must be reinstated!

AMICUS-UNITE ELECTION: Ballot papers for the election of a new general secretary of the Amicus section of the semi-merged Amicus-TGWU organisation (Unite) will go out on 16 February.

Laurence Faircloth was the candidate endorsed by Amicus Unity Gazette, the "official" left in the union, but he has withdrawn after receiving only 44 nominations from union branches and 32 from workplace reps.

Unity Gazette at one point seemed an impressive force, at least electorally, but has failed to develop a coherent response to the rightward drift of current Amicus general secretary Derek Simpson, elected as a left-winger in June 2002. Faircloth had little credibility as a left candidate because most of his history in the union has been as a right-winger.

Faircloth says that "the decision to stand down was made after consultation with the Editorial Board" [the ruling body of Unity Gazette]. He is "recommending that Derek Simpson should receive the support of Amicus Unity Gazette". For its part, the Unity Gazette website declares: "The Editorial Board will make a fuller statement on the election in due course".

The remaining left-wing candidate is Jerry Hicks, a victimised former convenor at Rolls Royce Bristol. Hicks's candidacy has been criticised by some Amicus leftists because of his use of legal machinery to force the election and the personalised nature of his campaign, but he got clearly more nominations than Faircloth.

Two open right-wingers, Kevin Coyne and Paul Reuter, complete the field. Despite the advantage that Derek Simpson has from already being in the job, insiders say that Coyne could win. With Simpson already well aligned with right-wing full-time officials, and increasingly autocratic in his methods, whether that will make a big difference for the worse is an open question.

Derek Simpson had got it written into the terms of the merger that he could remain general secretary until 2011, but an appeal by Hicks to the government Certification Officer pushed Amicus into organising an election.

Jerry Hicks
Kevin Coyne
Paul Reuter
Amicus Unity Gazette.

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