Sunday, May 03, 2009

Lewisham Bridge and the Non-Union Fightback

Parents continue to occupy the roof of Lewisham Bridge school, under threat of closure and demolition. Well, you would, wouldn't you? Parents defend their kids from all sorts of things - illness, playground bullies, traffic ... why not council wreckers too?!

Here is the Early Day Motion that John McDonnell and others have put together. Why not drop your MP a note asking him/her to add his/her name? Better still, if you live in London, take yourself down to Lewisham and spend a spell on the roof yourself!


McDonnell, John; Cryer, Ann; Wareing, Robert N

That this House applauds the action taken by parents of children at the Lewisham Bridge Primary School who are occupying the school rooftop to express their anger at plans to close their school and build a new academy; notes that pupils' lives are being disrupted by being bussed to a temporary school in New Cross as a result of the project whilst Lewisham Bridge Primary School currently stands empty; and therefore urges Lewisham Council to halt plans to demolish the school and allow the pupils to return.

It is interesting that it is parents, rather than teachers or other school staff, who are leading this action. Just as it is interesting that it was non-unionised workers who occupied Prisme in Dundee, and seemed to have achieved a victory in winning funding for a workers' co-operative. Even where unionised workers have taken radical action, such as at Ford Visteon, they did not have a particular tradition of militancy or active union involvement. And this is not a new phenomenon. The Grunwick dispute, one of the major struggles on the 1970s, was a fight by workers who at the outset were not union members.

So what is happening here? Are established trade unions proving to be a brake, rather than a vehicle, for working-class resistance? Do unions give out a vibe to members that the union will do everything for them, or worse, that there is nothing that can be done? If you are not in a union, does that mean you will be more inclined to rely on yourself and your workmates than on some distant bureaucracy?

In other words, are we wasting our time trying to build and strengthen trade union organisation? Would we better off forgetting all that and looking out for spontaneous, radical action to support?!

Or does this make the case not for giving up on trade unions, but for a radically different view of what an effective trade union would be?

The comments box is all yours ...

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