Unite

"This can inspire workers in all workplaces"

Rolling strikes by Rolls Royce workers in Barnoldswick, Lancashire, are continuing, as workers resist attempts by bosses to cut 350 jobs. The strikes, which involve workers in different parts of the factory striking at differ- ent times, maximising the impact on the employer whilst minimising the impact on workers, started on 6 November and will run until Christmas Eve. A statement by the workers’ union Unite said: “This week [starting 23 November], the company will be meeting with ministers and MPs to discuss the proposals. Given the criticism of Rolls-Royce’s actions from across the...

Striking to win at Barnoldswick

Workers at a Rolls Royce site in Barnoldswick (Lancashire) began an initial three weeks of rolling strikes on 6 November, to resist the loss of 350 jobs. The strikes have now been extended to 23 December. Unite organiser Ross Quinn spoke to Daniel Randall about the dispute. DR: How's the strike going so far? RQ: It's going really well. We've targeted specific areas in the factory. That's something we did at Camell Laird [shipbuilder] two years ago, where there was only ever 20% of the workforce on strike at any one time, but no production was going on. We've used the same overall principle...

Right to picket

On 6 November, the police dispersed a covid-distanced picket line over pay at the Optare bus factory in Sherburn-in-Elmet, near Selby in North Yorkshire. They warned strikers they would be issued with penalty notices for breaking lockdown rules if they returned. But after a legal challenge from Unite the Union and the scheduling of a judicial review against the North Yorkshire Chief Constable and the Secretary of State for Health, the government conceded the right to picket should be upheld. It says it will issue guidance to all police forces that workers can undertake covid-distanced...

Rolls-Royce workers strike for jobs

Workers at a Rolls-Royce plant in Barnoldswick, Lancashire, began a three-week programme of strikes on Friday 6 November, in a bid to resist the loss of 350 jobs. Rolls-Royce, which intends to cut 9,000 jobs throughout the UK, plans to outsource the work of the Barnoldswick site to Singapore. The industrial action is rolling through the three-week period and will see workers in different roles and departments strike at different times, but with Covid-distanced picket lines throughout. The strike ends on 27 November. A statement from the Unite union said: “It is simply unacceptable that Rolls...

Unite and Labour: we must democratise both party and unions

The Executive Council of the big trade union Unite has agreed to cut its affiliation to the Labour Party by 10% or 50,000 members, in what is generally seen as a protest against Keir Starmer’s leadership. It is not a good or effective protest, if the aim is to promote left-wing policies, Labour democracy, and a working-class voice in politics. Unite’s official statement is cryptic. It does not refer to Starmer’s leadership or the direction it is taking Labour, except in the vaguest of hints, instead talking about support for “emerging talent”, “talented thinkers” and “energetic organisations”...

It depends who's saying it

The Morning Star (and the Daily Worker before it) for years survived thanks to a subsidy from the Russian leadership: Moscow paid it £3,000 a month in the 1960s (equivalent of £60,000-plus today), and in the 1970s and 1980s purchased 12,000 copies a day. When the order was cancelled in 1992, the paper was saved by the leaders of several British trade unions pumping money in. Union funding continues to ensure the paper’s survival via bulk orders, generous payments for advertising, and subsidised special editions for union conferences, Tolpuddle, the Durham Miners’ Gala, etc. Paradoxically, this...

Next steps on NHS pay

The cross-union campaign “NHS Workers Say No!” is organising a day of demonstrations on 12 September. (London: 11 a.m. from the BBC, Portland Place. Details for other cities here). Article and video. This follows a round of protests in many cities on 8 August, when NHS workers across the country came onto the streets to demand a pay rise, an earlier London street protest on 29 July, and workplace actions across the country. The demand is that all NHS workers (including those contracted out) get a 15% pay rise. That does not fully make up for the loss in pay NHS workers have had over the last decade due to pay freezes. When taking inflation into account, NHS workers have lost 20% in real terms.

Tube: an alternative to cuts

As well as a loud “no” to cuts proposed by the ongoing KPMG-led audit of Transport for London’s finances, Tube workers and our unions also need to spell out our “yes”. We’re unlikely to get that kind of vision from the “independent review” London Mayor Sadiq Khan has commissioned to run in parallel. RMT has produced its own submission to the TfL review, making the case for public funding, public ownership, increased staffing levels, and the in-housing of all services. It’s a useful contribution to discussion, but needs to be connected to an active campaign with roots in workplaces. It also...

NHS protests set for 12 September

The rank-and-file NHS workers’ campaign for a 15% pay rise — “NHS Workers Say No to Pay Inequality” — is heating up, with actions and events across the country from 26 August. 26 August will see workers’ rallies at hospitals and workplaces in places including Ipswich, Cambridge, Aintree, Birkenhead, Manchester, North Tees, Southend, Chelmsford, Basildon and Coventry, as well as across London. Then the first half of September will see public demonstrations in places including Plymouth, Glasgow, Newcastle, Leeds, Brighton, Bournemouth, Southend, Norwich and London - mostly on Saturday 12...

Beckett careerism splits United Left

Howard Beckett (pictured, right), head of Unite the Union’s Legal Department, announced on 20 August that he will stand for election as the union’s General Secretary. In online hustings held in mid-July the millionaire solicitor had sought to win the backing of the United Left, the “Broad Left” in Unite. He lost to Assistant General Secretary Steve Turner (pictured, left). Beckett whinged that the vote had been marred by procedural deficiencies and irregularities, using the increasingly whacky Skawkbox website as his main media outlet. The United Left provided a detailed rebuttal of Beckett’s...

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