Industrial notes

Submitted by Anon on 1 May, 2003 - 11:28
  • You can't kill the spirit
  • 23% with no strings
  • Average pay rises go up
  • What planet?
  • Dublin
  • Rail stikes
  • Pensions

You can't kill the spirit

Commentators have been predicting the end of the class struggle for over a hundred years. First it was the distraction of football matches, pigeon fancying and whippets. Then, in the Sixties, a washing machine and two weeks in Mablethorpe. In 1987 Labour leader Neil Kinnock was telling Ron Todd of the TGWU that his members-"dockers with holiday homes in Marbella"-weren't interested in the class struggle. Two years later there was a national dock strike against the employers' plans for casualisation and in defence of regular employment.

When telecom engineers were switched to a system of working that no longer saw them going to a depot to be given jobs, but was instead organised around instructions being sent down the internet to their home, it was supposed to mean the end of their class consciousness. Instead of regularly meeting up as a collective, the engineers were supposed to become dispersed atoms devoid of any sense of solidarity. That was management's theory and even some lefties in the CWU bought into it.

Nice to report, then, that despite the supposed consciousness-numbing effects of being based at home, BT customer service engineers last month voted for strikes against a hated divide and rule bonus system. Irony of ironies, this was a bonus system that many on the left - including the Socialist Party - supported.

23% with no strings

Tony Blair says he will not make any concessions to militant trade unionism. He likes to play tough with firefighters, nurses, teachers and other groups of public sector workers who lack direct economic muscle, though they might have bucketfuls of public support. If workers get a decent pay rise then economic Armageddon will certainly follow, says Tony the millionaires' friend.

Funny that we haven't heard him denouncing the 23%, no strings attached, three-year deal just signed up to by the unions and bosses in the construction industry. But then, we couldn't have any publicity that suggested that a tradition of wildcat action, combined with recruitment problems for the bosses, produces pay rises.

Average pay rises go up

According to Income Data Services average pay increases have moved up from 3% to 3.5% since the start of the year. As you might expect the construction sector has seen deals average around 7%, but in some sections of manufacturing - like metal bashing - there has been a wave of pay freezes and even pay cuts.

What planet?

Our old friend the ex leader of the Communication Workers Union, turned Minister Alan Johnson - the man who opted for a safe seat in parliament rather than face being kicked out of office by his membership - has been attacking the unions again.

According to Mr Johnson, the movement is run by people who take day trips to Planet Zog, spend all their time attacking the government and who refuse to recognise that the trade unions and workers are in a stronger legal position than in 1979.

The fact that the Prime Minister boasts that we have the most restrictive union laws in Europe has passed the minister by. Obviously he was on a day trip somewhere.


The National Bus and Rail Workers' Union says that a Dublin wide strike is inevitable in the next week against plans to privatise 25% of the city's bus routes.

Rail strikes

The RMT rail union has two more strike days coming up in the battle to restore the guards' safety role: 7 and 8 May.


The TGWU has just signed a new pensions deal for 9,000 London bus workers employed by the First group. The deal is based on pensions calculated from career average earnings, rather than final salary, and is based on a 60/40 employer/worker contribution ratio.

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