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(en) UK, Catalyst #9 freesheet of the Solidarity Federation - International Workers Association, Spring 2004 - The &23 billion flexible friend

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 9 Apr 2004 17:56:46 +0200 (CEST)


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Inside:
Asbestos rip-off, Scab union scam, Missing the last train, Problems at work -
Next years news, Kasual Killing, No more weighting for weighting

The welfare state was introduced largely
at the behast of capitalism to
ensure a healthy and educated
workforce. Its origins date back
to the Boer War when the army e
recruits were in such health
they were unfit to fight. Since
then, things have changed. Large
sections of the working class are
now surplus to the needs of
capitalism, so the capitalist state
no longer so much about our
health, education and welfare.
Consequently, the Government is
now withdrawing from many areas of
welfare provision and handing
responsibility over to charities, religious
groups and the voluntary sector. This
brave new world is the US model,
where those in well-paid jobs have
private schooling and health provision,
while the low-paid and unemployed are
left to under-funded public sector
provision and whatever handouts the
voluntary sector provides. In some US
cities, health provision has been handed
over wholesale to right-wing
fundamentalist Christian groups.
It is not only those who need
services who suffer; there are also
major implications for those who work
in the public sector. As the government
and local authorities retreat from
welfare provision, many people who
worked for local government have
moved into the voluntary sector as their
posts have disappeared. Those who
would have found employment as
council workers now find themselves
employed by a charity run by a board
of trustees.
Local government was one of the
most widely unionised areas of work.
Even if you worked in a small office or
depot you were linked to hundreds of
other workers in the same town and
across the country. Now, by and large,
workers find themselves isolated in
non-unionised workplaces
numbering only a handful. This
process of casualisation has resulted
in a dramatic decline in pay and
conditions, with many workers
being employed on part-time and
temporary contracts.
Employment in the
voluntary sector is often on
a part-time basis, and this
has led to a sharp decline in income, as
workers no longer get enhanced rates
and overtime payments for anti-social
hours. This is usually replaced by time
off in lieu (TOIL). Because the
voluntary sector works on a shoestring
with the minimum of staff, taking
TOIL becomes a near impossible task,
as hours are forgotten or unable to be
taken due to the daily pressure of
workload. This affects even larger
organisations with lots of small offices
dotted around the country.
.urthermore, while voluntary sector
bosses dont get fat profits they do
draw enormous wages, which is just
profit by another name.
Casualisation amongst welfare
workers is reflected in a recent TUC
survey that found British workers
currently do &23 billion of unpaid
overtime per year. This is money saved
by the state by handing over welfare
provision, which is instead borne by
voluntary sector workers. The whole
ethos of the sector is based on the idea
that staff donate their time to help out
the less fortunate. This puts
tremendous pressure on staff to not
take hours owed or to take on extra
unpaid work.
Workers in this sector need to
organise. A good starting point is
around Health & Safety. It is one of
the few areas under British law that
provides some protection. As a first
step in redressing the power between
workers and management we can begin
to raise basic H&S issues as a means of
initiating collective organising in the
workplace. Joining a union can help in
this, but we also need to network
together with others who work for the
same organisations as well as those
working in similar work both nationally
and locally.

Asbestos rip-off
The plight of those suffering from
asbestos related diseases is going from
bad to worse (seeprevious Catalysts).
First, Turner & Newall (T&N), once
one of the biggest global asbestos
companies,went into voluntary
liquidation to avoid paying out
compensation to asbestos victims.
The nKroll, the firm administrating
T&N, started charging over £460 per
hour for Their services (so far their
bills is £23 million). Meanwhile, The
US administrators have been charging
$75 million a year.
Whilst this legalised robbery has
been going on, The asbestos victims
have got nothing. Last November, a
protest took place outside the
Manchesteroffices of Kroll, who were
asked to make a donation to the victims
out of their fat profits. After a long
wait The Northe rn Victims Support
Group (NVSG) received a letter saying
they were not prepared to make a
donation. Currently, 4,000 people per
year are dying from asbestos - related
diseases and this is set to rise to
10,000 a year. The longer the crooks
keep creaming off the cash and
delaying compensation, the more
innocent victims die never having seen
justice for the living, the fight for
compensation is urgent.
The Northern Victims
Support Group can be
contacted on
0161 953 4027

Storm in a tea cup
Knowsley Housing Trust recently
attempted to withdraw their workers
rights to ate a break. Workers were
asked to leave the works canteen by The
Assistant Depot Manager. When they
refused, three of the men were made the
subject of a d isciplinary investigation.
In a show of solidarity, all the workers
(even those who had been out working)
returned to the canteen in an organised
mass tea break. The mass disobedience
went ahead despite management threats
that any one taking a break would get
disciplinary action. Faced with The
united response management were
forced to backdown and reinstate the
workers right for amorning tea break.
By the time the official union
representatives arrived, the workers
imaginative direct action had already
won the dispute.

Scab union scam

Lawyers are getting their hands on a large slice of &2b
of state funds set aside to compensate miners suffering
from industrial related diseases.
The payout to individual miners is already
pitifully low but is seems that lawyers who already
receive millions in handling payments from the
government are still charging miners up to 20% of
their settlement for administering the claims.
And it is not only lawyers who are robbing
chronically ill workers. Leaders of the scab union,
the UDM, have become the best-paid trade union
bosses in Britain also by cheating miners out of their
full compensation. The UDM have set up a front
company called Vendside to handle the miners
claims. As a result, many miners do not even realise
that their compensation claims have been processed
by the despised UDM.
The extent that the UDM is ripping off miners
can be gauged from the fact that the UDMs General
Secretary Neil Greatrex, receives a massive wage of
over £150,000 a year while compensation payments
to miners can be as little as £1,800 and out of this
measly amount a large cut goes to fund the lifestyle
of the lawyers and UDM officials.
Unlike the larger mining unions, the NUM and
Nacods, the UDM has been allowed by the DTI to
pursue legal claims directly on behalf of former
miners, through an exclusive handling agreement
with the Government. Under the terms of the
agreement, the union receives a lower payment for
each claim that it processes than the solicitors of
other claimants, but in return is allowed to charge up
to £587.50 to successful claimants.
The Labour Government clearly has a soft spot
for the scab union and has allowed the UDM to gain
massive financial benefit from a compensation
scheme meant for the miners. In 2001, Vendsides
gross profit was just over £6m. Up to November
2003, the company had received £26.5m from the
Government in legal fees as part of the miners
compensation schemes.

Missing the last train
If you want an example of how not to
organise at work, look no further than
ASLE., the train drivers union.
In +=J&, we reported on the election of
Shaun Brady as leader since then he has
threatened to sack staff working at ASLE. head
office and replace them with non-union labour.
Why? Because they had voted to strike over
bullying by none other than Brady himself. It
is all part of the bitter ASLE. turf war between
the left faction led by ex-leader Brian Rix and
Bradys right faction (actually orchestrated
by Adams).
Typically, the socialist left will urge the
trade union movement to rally together to oust
the odious Brady. However, a change of
leadership will do little to stem ASLE.s steady
decline and rightwards drift. During his
supposed left term, Rix pursued the usual
sectional drivers interests to the detriment of
other railworkers and was quite happy cosy up
to management. After all, he signed up to an
EEPTU deal with Railfreight that at a stroke
derecognised the majority of the non-driver
RMT workforce. It took strike action by RMT
members to win back union recognition.
The root cause of ASLE.s problems lies
not in its right-wing leadership, but in its
fundamental craft elitism that divorces it from
the rest of the workforce. All workers must
work together and present a united front
against management. A campaign aimed at
breaking down divisions between workers, with
open meetings through which common aims
and demands can be developed, would be far
more constructive than wasting energy on
left wing leaders who, once elected, quickly
abandon their pretend principles. This
openness must also extend to the casual
contract labour that now represents a large
minority of rail workers, who are invariably on
low pay and poor conditions that potentially
risk the health and safety of all rail workers.

Problems at work No. 7: Womens work - next years news
The government is set to introduce yet more
measures aimed at empowering women which
actually means in this case, forcing them to take low paid jobs.
From October 2005, lone parents on
income support with children over 14 years
old will be forced to attend work-focused
interviews every 3 months. This is a blatant
attempt by Labour to intimidate single
parents into pointless shitty jobs.
Alongside this, the government also
announced that lone parents will have to
complete a compulsory action plan, part
of which will include applying for any jobs
on offer. These draconian measures are
designed in the longer term to force single
parents to take on any suitable job or lose
their benefit.
By forcing lone parents into work, the
Government is allowing capitalism to
continue to drive down wages to the point
where workers would not do the work
unless the Government forced them to. The
result will be even more inequality within
society one of the most shameful blots on
their record since 1997 is the ever-widening
wealth gap, which exposes their anti-social
credentials. In the case of lone parents,
the overwhelming majority of which are
women, it can only add to the appalling
inequality we already experience. Not to
mention that fact that it simply adds to the
already enormous pressure placed on
women trying to raise a family in difficult
conditions on a low income.
The unions apparently dont care much
about the growing number of people forced
to get by on poverty wages. This speaks
volumes about the detachment of the
unions from a whole sector of the working
class. Contrast this with the CNT (the
anarcho-syndicalist union in Spain).
Instead of having fancy offices staffed by
overpaid union bureaucrats on big expense
accounts, the CNT locates its offices in
working class areas, and they are staffed
by union activists on a voluntary basis.
Through this means, the CNT is part of the
working class community and a focal point
for local campaigns against low pay. It als
gives people the support and confidence to
resist state intimidation aimed at forcing
people into low paid jobs in the first place.
It is this form of fighting union that we at
Catalyst want to see established in Britain,
as an alternative to the more dead-head
unions we have to suffer at present.

Write in for a full & frank answer to a problem at work,
orCatalyst,the ansaphone helpline forManchester
contact advice - 07984 675 281
Catalyst, SF, PO Box 29, SW PDO,Manchester M15 5HW.
solfed@solfed.org.uk


Norwich Union Job losses
It was recently announced that the UKs largest insurer
Norwich Union (a member of the Aviva Group) is to offshore
and centralise its operations, causing 2,500 job losses.
Norwich Unionis just one of a number of companies
making the sechanges-others include BT, British Airways
and the HSBC bank. Abbey (for mally Abbey National) has
also announced a further 400 job losses in the UK. It has
been predicted that up to 2 million financial sector jobs will
be exported from the UK over the next 5 years.
Locally, the effects will be devastating. For example,
of the 2,500 job losses, 350 will be lost at the Norwich Union
call centre in Preston. This centre currently
services insurance policies which include Age
Concern, NUT, AT Land Shell. These job
losses came as a great shock to the staff at
Preston as just over a year ago Norwich Union
spent in excess of £2 million refurbishing their offices. The
business from the claims department is being moved to
offices in India. 56% of the Preston staff have been
employed for less than 2 years and, as a result, willnot
receive any form of redundancy payment. Also, they
have been informed that they will have to remain in
employment until the end of March to receive their annual
bonus-any staff who leave before this date will not be
entitled to any thing.

Kasual Killing
Nothing demonstrates the both the
inequity rife in Blairs Britain and the
true blight of asylum seekers than
the death of a 47 - year - old man in a
basement rubbish room of the Café
Royal in London. For two years,
while the rich dined in opulent
splendour upstair she lived in the
bowels of the hotel behind the bins.
When his naked and badly bruised
body was discovered, police first
thought he had been murdered, before
it was established that he lived naked
due to the heat generated bythe
basement boilers and a post-mortem
found that hisin juries were consistent
with a fall. The man had been an
immigrant worker employed by an
agency one of thousands without
papers who are forced to work for a
pittance in hotels across London.
A House of Lords report recently
described such workers as a new
ethnic under class. However, its
findings will never be acted upon
because the Government knows such
workers undertake all the cheap,
menial and dirty jobs, without which
central London would grind to an
expensive halt. Unregulated and
hidden from view, these workers are
forced to work in appallingly unsafe
conditions for poverty pay. The sad
lonely death of a man far from his
home underlines the reality; market-
driven casualisation continues to kill
and always will until we stand
together for real change.


No more waiting for weighting

Local government workers in London are
currently fighting for a much-needed increase
weighting. What with crasy house
prices and rents, we simply have
to get decent pay.
So far, the dispute has been under union
leadership control. It has been 100% lawful
and official - hence we have not
yet achieved victory. We need
to increase the pressure on the
employers and try to win, and win
quickly. This means organising
solidarity actions, even if this does
not have the official approval
of union leaders. The first step is
GMB and TGWU members not crossing UNISON
picket lines. By doing this we can
show the management that we are a united,
determined workforce. If solidarity action
escalates, they will have to give
ground on the pay claim. But if they see
people crossing picket lines, they will think
they have the green light to reduce our wages
and conditions.
If we are going to win, we need to go
further in future and organise our disputes
entirely ourselves. Members of all three local
government unions (GMB, TGWU and
UNISON) will need to take unofficial action
together. A good example of success with
this type of approach occurred last
November, when postal workers won an
unofficial dispute against victimisation and
attacks on working conditions.
Workers in unofficial disputes do not
need to follow the trade union laws that
prevent effective action being taken.
When workers take official action the
law says they have to give a lengthy
period of notice.This means the
bosses have time to organise scabbing
and bullying the workers into not
striking. Going on unofficial strike
gives us the element of surprise and has
a much bigger impact on management.
Unofficial disputes require
organisation by the rank and file, which
means setting up a union structure at
workplace level that is independent from the
union leadership. This is not about being anti-
union - because the workers are the union!
We just want our organisation to be more
effective. If you want more info about
organising workplace assemblies contact
Catalyist.




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