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(en) Freedom 6322 16th Nov 2002 - Hackney strike escalates

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Tue, 19 Nov 2002 04:58:49 -0500 (EST)


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Library workers in North East London have been on strike
every Saturday since 24th November last year. Now the
strikers, employees of Hackney Borough Council, are calling
for mass pickets of Hackney Central, Stoke Newington and
Shoreditch Libraries to prevent scab labour from opening
them. The pickets will take place on the first Saturday the
scabs are called in, probably 7th December, and on each
subsequent Saturday until they're withdrawn.

Last year, Hackney Council declared that Saturday was a
regular working day, for which regular pay rates would apply.
Library workers struck for the restoration of
Saturday-enhanced pay, part of the nationally agreed terms
and conditions (known as the 'Green Book'), included in
workers' contracts. These were unilaterally changed by the
council, who falsely claimed that enhanced pay was a
'premium payment'.

Management said it was abolished as part of 'Single Status',
the process whereby the terms and conditions of manual and
'white collar' workers are harmonised. But under Single
Status, only locally-agreed payments can be scrapped. The
national pay rates in the Green Book can only be changed by
agreement. Needless to say, no such agreement was ever
reached, or indeed sought, by Hackney Council.

Councillors seem happy to be lied to by the Managing
Director, Max Caller, and the personnel director, Terry
McDougall. They will no doubt claim they've been 'misled' by
the management, who assured them the payments were
abolished under Single Status. This won't wash, because they
appoint and promote these managers, and pay them salaries of
between £90,000 and £150,000 (compared to around £15,000
for most of the workers whose pay they've cut).

The people of Hackney are 'represented' by people who don't
want to know what's going on and who won't accept
responsibility for it. For anarchists, this isn't unexpected.
We've always argued that 'representation' is a false idea, and
that only structures based on collective decision-making by
everyone affected can deliver what 'democracy' promises.
These structures can only be created through struggles for the
control of public services based on direct action and
self-organisation.

Library workers are poorly paid. Because they're paid at
national rates, they don't get London weighting. To make
ends meet they rely on the additional half-day's pay for the
Saturday they're required to work every fortnight. That they've
been able to sustain their action in the face of losing a whole
day's pay each fortnight demonstrates their determination to
win back what's rightfully theirs. This is in spite of the fact
that the removal of Saturday-enhanced pay is the consequence
of their union, Unison, losing a corporate dispute.
Their determination is supported by strong organisation, built
up in the workplace, which goes beyond the usual trades
union formula of electing shop stewards and relying on them
to 'lead' resistance to management. In contrast to this
steward-based organisation, library workers have been
encouraged to tackle problems collectively with direct action,
rather than asking their stewards to sort problems out with
bosses.
This has made library workers the best organised in the
council. They've successfully closed all the borough's seven
libraries every Saturday for a year. The council's response has
been to hire scab labour to work Saturdays only, in spite of the
fact that they could reopen all seven libraries immediately,
simply by honouring workers' contracts. Instead, they've hired
scabs at an undisclosed additional cost to reopen just three of
them. This expenditure has been authorised at a time when
new appointments for full-time staff have been frozen due to a
financial crisis. Their determination to try and break Unison is
obvious.

Consequently, library workers intend to strike for five days
from Monday 25th November, to mark the anniversary of the
first strike and in support of a claim for London weighting. In
addition, new timetables have been rejected and the scabs will
be neither trained nor assisted by regular workers. Anyone
who can make it is asked to support picket lines at 8.30am and
attend events at lunchtime on 25th November, as a warning to
the council of what will happen if the scabs are sent in. More
information about the mass pickets may be available at this
time.

Local government bosses across London and the country as a
whole are watching the dispute closely. If Hackney can get
away with such a blatant breach of contracts and national
agreements, they'll all want to try it. Hackney's library workers
are showing all public service workers who don't work
nine-to-five, Monday to Friday, how to organise effectively
and how to fight back. It's in everyone's interests that they
win. What are you going to do to support them?

Perry Groves

The three libraries under threat from scabs are:
Hackney Central Library, Technology and Learning Centre, 1
Reading Lane, Hackney E8
Stoke Newington Library, Stoke Newington Church Street,
Stoke Newington N16
Shoreditch Library, 80 Hoxton Street, Hoxton N1
If you want to support the mass pickets on the first Saturday
scab labour is used, check with Unison beforehand - Hackney
is notoriously inefficient at organising things, including
scabbing. Contact Hackney Unison, 2 Hillman Street, London
E8 1DY or call 020 8356 4071.

North & East London Solidarity Federation are calling for an
anarchist contingent to gather at the Central Library around
8.15am on that day. Contact NELSF, PO Box 1681, London
N8 7LE or call 07799 251 053.
People who live in Hackney and who want to support their
libraries should contact Friends of Hackney Libraries (FHL),
PO Box 16, Centerprise, 136-138 Kingsland Road, London
E8 2NS. Or you can telephone 020 8806 6272 or email
friends_hackney_libraries@yahoo.co.uk.




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