Category Archives: Workers Rights

A tribute to Jayaben Desai: An unlikely and reluctant star of the British trade union movement

Jayaben Desai, in August 1977, outside the Grunwick factory, where she led a walkout and a long-running strike

DesaiAs one of the sacked women workers employed by Grunwick, a film-processing firm based in north London, Jayaben fought for better pay, conditions and dignity for workers in 1976 and 1977, on behalf of 137 sacked and poorly paid Asian women. At first she and her fellow workers were not in a trade union, but after a visit to the Trades Union Congress, she and her workmates joined Apex, which is now part of the GMB. Their struggle was supported by Brent Trades Council.

This was the beginning of a legendary battle for trade union rights, it was to become a watershed for British trade unionism and Jayaben Desai was to become an inspiration to a generation of trade unionists, and beyond. Famously, she told her factory manager, “What you are running is not a factory, it is a zoo. But in a zoo there are many types of animals. Some are monkeys who dance on your fingertips. Others are lions who can bite your head off. We are those lions, Mr Manager”. Jayaben Desai, union activist was born 2 April 1933 and died 23 December 2010.

This Black History celebration event will feature Jayaben Desai’s struggle and will allow some prominent modern day trade unionists to describe how she helped to shape their views and working lives. Kamaljeet Jandu will explore lessons for unions from that struggle in meeting the ongoing challenge of ‘organising migrant workers’ today. There will be plenty of time allowed for contributions from the audience.

Speakers Include:    

Tim Roache               General Secretary, GMB

Betty Joseph             Chair, SERTUC Race Relations Committee and NUT

Kamaljeet Jandu     National Equality Officer, GMB (Theme: Organising of, and organising with, migrant workers)

Megan Dobney        SERTUC Regional Secretary

2 October 2017: 5.30pm for 6pm start, concluding with a short drinks reception 8pm-8.30pm

Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS

Congress House is a fully accessible building. There is no charge for attending this event

If you wish to attend you must register by contacting sertucevents@tuc.org.uk, by calling 020 7467 1220, or register by post to SERTUC, Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS

 See SERTUC Resources at http://sertucresources.wordpress.com/ for information about other SERTUC events or publications

LSE University cleaners to strike every week, indefinitely until they win equality

qVprSWvTCoXwiLl-fullsizeMigrant workers at the London School of Economics University begin indefinite programme of strike action over unequal treatment and terms and conditions on 11 May. An almost entirely migrant workforce of outsourced cleaners is about to embark on an indefinite programme of strike action over the LSE’s refusal to grant them simple equality with their in-house counterparts. Read more here.

Messages of Solidarity for “Barnet Two” email contactus@barnetunison.org.uk

18342733_10155078055521206_1978186995523180223_nPLEASE SUPPORT.

As a result of consultation we have now learnt that the two welfare rights workers (now to be referred to as the “Barnet Two”) are not being sacked in order to make CUTS, they are being sacked because vulnerable families will get a better service without them!

Before I address the issue of why it is so wrong to sack the Welfare Rights workers I want to highlight this scene in Ken Loach’s BAFTA Award winning film “I, Daniel Blake”

This scene shows the daily humiliating life experiences people in need are facing.

I’m referring to this scene, because the Barnet Council proposal is to move away from helping to sign posting. It sounds good in the highly paid consultancy circle world. BUT the grim reality this is not just a cut for two workers it is a cruel cut that will deny access to the vital information, advocacy and support for the most vulnerable families in Barnet.

Before Barnet UNISON found out that this was NOT a financial saving, we would have referred the Council back to the uncontrollable Agency/consultancy worker costs which have gone from a round £7.3 million in 2012 to 19.8 million by March 2017.

“I have heard of Barnet Council’s sackings of welfare rights officers and the closure of job centres. Does the Council have any idea of the cruelty of the treatment of vulnerable people? The DWP’s procedures are set up to trap and punish those who need support and advice. By these cuts, the Council is colluding in this conscious brutality. In solidarity, Ken Loach.”

On behalf of the Barnet Two and our branch I would like to once again thank Ken for his message of solidarity and support for the “Barnet Two” and his condemnation of the planned closures of job centres in Barnet.

“Why will this proposal cause hard to vulnerable families?”

In the past seven years there have been many changes in the way Advice in the London Borough of Barnet has been delivered.

The following organisations have either closed down or no longer do Welfare Rights Advice.

  1. Welfare Rights Unit (Barnet Council)
  2. Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) has closed five of their offices (a) Avenue House (b) Grahame Park (c) Finchley (d) Edgware Hospital (e) Dollis Valley hub. Currently, the New Barnet Office is only open on Mondays morning and is due to totally shut in October 2017. The only remaining CAB is the Hendon one which is also only opened three days a weeks
  3. CAB also used to operate a home visiting service which has also ceased.
  4. Barnet Law Service (Dealt with Welfare Rights Appeals)
  5. Mary Ward Legal Services (Dealt with Welfare Rights Appeals)
  6. East Barnet Advice Services
  7. Disability Action in the Borough of Barnet
  8. Mencap (substantially reduced service since 2013) This service refer to the two Welfare Rights workers for Appeals and complex cases
  9. Jewish Deaf Association Barnet (substantially reduce services now drop in sessions only on Tuesdays morning for people with hearing impairment)
  10. Mind Barnet
  11. Due to the Legal Aid cuts no Solicitors in Barnet do Welfare Rights Appeals.

The two Welfare Rights workers are the only service that still provides comprehensive/ impartial benefits Advice up to Appeals level in Barnet. Both statutory and non-statutory organisations refer to the above workers.

In consultation it has been put to Barnet UNISON that the service could be picked up by other organisations. What is clear is that the report does not appear to know what is being provided out there in our community.

Below are some of the organisation mentioned who could pick up the work left as a result of sacking the two welfare rights workers.

  1. Welfare Rights Task Force – Benefit Advisors only support clients affected by the benefit CAP and assist them with income and expenditure in order for them to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment
  2. Employment Advisors do not specialise on welfare benefits, their remit is employment
  3. Shelter specialise in Housing and debts. They do not provide Welfare Rights Advice
  4. DWP is unable to help the majority of our clients as there may be a conflict of interest. We support client in taking cases to the Tribunal against DWP. There would be a conflict of interest, should the DWP provide welfare benefits advice. Welfare Benefit Advice exists to ensure that clients are made aware of their legal rights and represented in the event of disputes and maladministration of benefits.

Next actions:
On Tuesday 9 May at the Family Services JNCC Barnet UNISON declared a ‘failure to agree’ in response to the proposed sacking of the two welfare rights workers.

The matter has now been escalated to a meeting chaired by the Chief Executive.

If the proposal to sack the workers is not withdrawn the matter will be raised at General Functions Committee on 28 June where we will address the Leader of the Council.

Solidarity
John Burgess
Branch Secretary
Barnet UNISON

Messages of support and solidarity to contactus@barnetunison.org.uk

Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK) – Crossrail

FACK Statement on the Prosecution of Crossrail construction companies 12 April 2017, Westminster Magistrates Court, 18 Marylebone Road, London NW1 5BR.

On 12th April at Westminster Magistrates Court, three companies are being prosecuted for the death of one worker and the injury of two others workers on Crossrail:  BAM Nuttall Limited, Ferrovial Agroman (UK) Ltd, and Keir Infrastructure and Overseas Ltd. 1.

They are being prosecuted in relation to three incidents that took place during the construction of the new Crossrail railway tunnel construction, which runs east to west across London. 

All three companies will to face four charges each.  Two relating to the death of Rene Tka’cik on the 7 March 2014, and one each relating to injuries to Terrence Hughes on the 16 January, and Alex Vizitiu on 22 January 2015.  Rene Tka’cik died after he was crushed by falling concrete on the 7 March 2014 while working on the Fisher Street cross-over tunnel.

FACK stands in solidarity with the family of Rene Tka’cik, the injured workers, Terrence Hughes and Alex Vizitiu, the Construction Safety Campaign, CSC, and London Hazards in their silent vigil outside the magistrate’s court at 2pm wearing purple forget-me-knot ribbons.  Purple ribbons are the symbol of International Workers Memorial Day 28 April every year which is dedicated to ‘Remembering the Dead and Fighting for the Living’   because no one should ever go to work and be killed. 2

Almost all deaths and injuries at work are due to employers’ mismanagement and these three companies are being prosecuted for alleged breaches of health and safety law.

There have been many reports of health and safety mismanagement of companies working on Cross Rail from blacklisting for reporting health and safety issues that went on to seriously hurt other workers, for poor welfare facilities –workers having to walk miles for a toilet.. 

It is completely unacceptable in 2017 that large construction companies can neglect workers health, safety and welfare and all employers must be held to account for the sake of justice for those killed and harmed, their families, and for deterrence: to stop other employers corporate killing.

FACK families say:

“No-one we loved died from too much regulation and enforcement but from far too little. We believe everyone should be able to go work and come home safe every day as the law requires.  No employer should be able to flout the law and put anyone at risk.  Our hearts go out to Rene’s family and we hope they will get some justice, and that employers will stop hurting workers.”

More information contact FACK 0161 636 7557 or 07929800240

RMT announces victory for justice over Night Tube drivers’ career progression

T342rmtlogo-554UBE UNION RMT has called off strike action and heralded a victory for justice for Night Tube drivers as LUL agreed to end the practice of preventing them from moving into vacant full-time positions for a period of at least 18 months. All other staff, including part-time Night Tube Station Staff had been eligible to apply, but Night Tube Train Operators were not.

This policy had led to the union being in dispute with LUL with a whopping 96% voting for strike action and over 98% for action short of a strike. Strike action had been planned for April 8 and 9 and April 29 and 30.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:

“I want to congratulate our members for standing firm and delivering a massive vote in favour of strike action over this discriminatory policy. It forced London Underground to see sense and stop discriminating against Night Tube drivers over their career progression.

“It was a senseless and damaging policy that picked out one group of staff for negative treatment and of course the drivers were angry, which is why our members voted overwhelmingly for action.

“Now that the dispute has been resolved we have called off the strike action and instructed our members to work as normal.”

IFFCO Egypt union leaders acquitted of criminal charges face retrial

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Workers at the IFFCO edible oils factory in Suez, Egypt are fighting to defend their union against employer brutality and government repression. The IFFCO workers have been fighting for an independent union for many years, and succeeded in registering the IFFCO Egypt Labour Union in 2012. Towards the end of 2016, the union formally requested a customary end-of-year salary adjustment to help offset runaway inflation. On December 26 workers were informed that money had been allocated, but the bulk of it would be distributed to management, with workers receiving little. Local management rejected the union’s request for formal negotiations to discuss distribution of the salary adjustment, prompting the union to organize a peaceful protest and declare its intention to hold a strike. On December 29, police raided the homes of the union President and General Secretary and four other workers. And on January 3, police stormed the factory and arrested 13 striking workers. On January 29 the workers were all acquitted in a Suez court of ‘inciting’ a strike, but the prosecution has appealed the decision and the workers will be tried again. Fifteen IFFCO workers including the union President and General Secretary are barred from returning to work and union members are under pressure to ‘resign’.

The IFFCO workers need your support

Report: Stand Up to Racism Trade Union Conference

944343_838222376289599_8345544089945264528_nLast weekend, we had the excellent initiative of having a specifically trade union and labour movement conference about anti-racism was held in London. Delegates from Barnet TUC went along.

The day itself, of course, also happened to be the day of further protests against the most racist (to say nothing of also sexist and authoritarian) president of recent American history, Donald Trump. SUtR organisers quite right cancelled the morning session to allow us all to join around 40,000 other people on this lively and important demonstration, and it put people into the right frame of mind for the day.

The opening session contained greetings and introductions from a range of trade union speakers. Ronnie Draper, general secretary of the of the Bakers’ Union, spoke about how his union was combating the myth that immigration, rather than employers, are the cause of low wages. Suzanne Matthews of Unite the Union spoke her work organising black workers with the TUC. Janet Maiden from Unison Health spoke about NHS workers defending the ideal of multiculturalism. The conference then split into three workshops: one on Brexit and Workers’ Rights, one on building solidarity with refugees and a third on the threat of the Prevent policy.

I went to the refugee solidarity session. It was kicked off by Sara Tomlinson of Lambeth TUC, who had been involved in the Care for Calais organisation. Teachers from Lambeth had been volunteering at a pop-up school at the refugee camp operated by a courageous refugee activist who has since received the NUT’s “Service to Education” award. The school served around 100 adults and dozens of children. The school provided a vital centre of normality and stability for the refugees and was more than just a place of education (in a sense, this is true of any functioning school!). It was destroyed when the camp was forcibly dispersed in November, and conditions for the refugees are now far worse, as they now live completely rough as fugitives, and risk death to sneak onto literally any vehicle they can. Care for Calais has continued distributing basic aid to refugees, even though this is now far harder, and continues to appeal for support. Trade unions are encouraged to help out by sending useful items like sleeping bags to Stand Up to Racism and to get trade unionists to the site to help, as Lambeth teachers have. A very good report from Mile End hospital followed about them organising their own-workplace based solidarity collection. Activists are strongly advised to reproduce these actions at their own work.

There was also some good information about things that have been done to help refugees inside Britain. Unite Community in the city of Chesterfield has managed to organise English for Speakers of Other Languages classes for refugees, based on its existing programme to help Eastern European workers learn English. This actually helped build solidarity between the communities and has also resulted in refugees and migrant workers joining the unions at work, which they might otherwise never have had the opportunity to do.

The other sessions also got very positive report backs. For people who do not know about Prevent, a very handy pamphlet has been produced to explain it. Essentially an institutionalised programme of getting education workers to report “potentially extremist” behaviour by students, who are almost exclusively Muslims, has created a surreal atmosphere of paranoia and discrimination that would be funny if weren’t so horrible. Young Muslims have been called in for questioning for wearing badges that say “Free Palestine” or mispronouncing words so someone else can think they heard the word “bomb”. Children growing up in such climate can scarcely be said to be free and enjoying their rights: our movement must oppose Prevent, and champion an education that is actively anti-racist. The session on Brexit was also useful, and contained a report back from the new Free Movement of Labour Campaign, which has been invited to send a speaker to Barnet TUC’s AGM next month.

Generally, this was a timely and very well organised conference that turned what could be a very bleak few hours into a useful organising event. I would support having another one in future.

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