UK trade unions

Unite: transforming our union

The Unite General Secretary election gave us a chance to talk about what our union, and wider movement, should look like.

International Women's Day strike

Workers at four Picturehouse cinemas in London struck on International Women′s Day, Thursday 8 March. Workers and supporters picketed Picturehouse Central in Soho, and the picket line was addressed by TUC General Secretary Frances O′Grady. The picket line was later joined by about 500 people from the Women′s March event, which for a period of time created such an effective picket line that no customers were able to get through the crowd to go into the cinema. Writing for The Clarion magazine in advance of the strike, sacked Ritzy Cinema rep Kelly Rogers said: ″In the context of the abusive...

Open up the Labour General Secretary contest

The contest which has opened up over who will replace Iain McNicol as General Secretary of the Labour Party should be an opportunity to talk about what a left-led Labour Party should be like in its culture and structures. Whether it can be anything other than an acrimonious factional battle, and one that is impossible for ordinary Labour members to decode, remains to be seen. First of all it should be an open contest. That was Momentum Chair Jon Lansman's stated reason for standing, and he is right against the leadership of the Labour Party who want Unite official Jennie Formby to get the job...

Emile Zola, Socialism and Anti-Semitism

Émile Zola was one of the foremost novelists of late 19th century France. He was also sympathetic to socialism and a hero in the “Dreyfus Affair” of the 1890s. This interview with him by Max Beer appeared in the Social Democrat (magazine of the Social Democratic Federation, then the main Marxist group in Britain) of October 1902. Beer was the British correspondent of the German socialist paper Vorwärts and author of a History of British Socialism. Jean Jaurès and Jules Guesde, referred to by Zola, led two factions in the French socialist movement; the “Guesdists”, though generally more...

Class War in Britain's Ports (1967)

The Devlin plan and the docker (1967) This July 1967 pamphlet was the first piece of public literature put out by the Workers' Fight group, forerunner of AWL. The "Devlin plan" was the government's plan of the time to "rationalise" the ports and push through "containerisation", a root and branch technical revolution in the workplace. THE DEVLIN PLAN AND THE DOCKER D DAY OR V DAY ? The employers have called September 15th D Day - and most dockers take this war- time language as proof that what the employers really want is not D Day but V Day: the day of their victory over the docker, when the...

Unions and smartphones

In recent weeks, I've gotten a few requests for information about a survey LabourStart did a couple of years ago. It's odd because we've not done anything to publicize this. So I asked one of those who wrote to me where they'd heard about it. It turned out it was on a website for business people, in an article about how advanced unions were in their use of the net. Author Jessica Miller-Merrell warned companies that "While HR is slow to adopt and understand social media, unions on the other hand are very open to using this online technology." I think anyone who has spent time working with...

How workers' action freed the Pentonville Five

It is July 1972. With the union leaders safely in talks with [Tory Prime Minister] Heath and knuckling under to his Industrial Relations Act (IRA), the Tories now went for the real union power on the docks: the rank and file. They were going to make an example of five dockers from east London to cauterise resistance to the long-term running down of the docks, to stop the unofficial blacking [refusal to unload] of lorries and picketing at the container depots that were taking the dockers' work, and, most importantly, to complete the enforcement of the IRA and finally succeed in beating down the...

Tower Hamlets College: Still solid in week 5

As teachers at Tower Hamlets College enter their fifth week of indefinite strike against cuts, their action remains strong. A mass meeting on Wednesday 16 September (day 16) saw the biggest turnout of the dispute: 166 members vote to continue the strike action, with 14 abstentions and no members voting against. Management have been forced to concede some key concessions, but the offer was flatly rejected. Negotiations with the principal continue and ACAS are getting involved. A fighting spirit remains amongst those on strike, with picket lines lively and well-attended and a whole host of...

The unions must channel the anger

It is very clear that the political consensus put forward by the major parties over the last 20 years has been blown out of the water and has been shown to be a sham. And I think that will be seen to be the case far and wide. People know if they can find the money for the banks they can find it for pensioners and other social concerns. People will have questions. It is the role of the trade unions to channel the anger, and we now have a great opportunity to do that. We need to campaign on several areas. We will see the return of wage militancy, we’ve seen that from our members recently. We...

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