Monday, February 21, 2011

Article for Labour Briefing on London Transport workers' struggles

I have written this short article for Labour Briefing:

On 6 February, despite strong opposition from trade unions and passengers, London Underground completed its cut of 800 jobs from its stations. It slashed ticket office opening hours and removed staff from around the stations, leaving safety and security compromised and passengers without the help they need. Private-sector-run upgrades are seeing repeated failures, and maintenance regimes are being slashed.

RMT and TSSA fought the job cuts, taking four separate days’ strike action between September and November. The two unions are now engaged in a review of the job cuts with LU management which may yet restore some of the cut jobs.

During the dispute, LU took hostages, sacking three RMT representatives in an attempt to weaken the union. LU has since reinstated stations rep Peter Hartshorn on appeal, as his Piccadilly line workmates prepared for strike action. But train driver RMT reps Eamonn Lynch and Arwyn Thomas remain sacked. Both have won ’interim relief’, as Employment Tribunal judges ruled that LU had sacked them unfairly due to their trade union activities. It is very rare for sacked union reps to win interim relief; the fact that Eamonn and Arwyn did so shows beyond doubt that their sackings were an anti-union act.

Eamonn’s and Arwyn’s workmates on the Bakerloo and Northern lines have taken two days’ strike action to demand their reinstatement. RMT is now preparing to escalate the dispute by balloting all our driver members for strikes. Rank-and-file reps and members understand that the sackings are not merely injustices against two members, but an attack on the union and on trade unionism in general.

Workers on the Docklands Light Railway voted in January by a big majority for strike action over several issues, including cuts in pension rights, imposed restructuring, and the sacking of two workmates. But the employer, Serco Docklands, ran to the High Court, which duly obliged them with an injunction against the strike. RMT had not broken any existing anti-union law, so the judge invented a new one and declared the union to have broken that!

The injunction extends Britain’s already highly-repressive anti-union legislation, by declaring that a union must give a far more detailed explanation of how it compiled the information it has to provide to the employer in its notices of ballots and industrial action. So RMT has appealed against the injunction; as I write, the appeal has been heard, but judgment may not be given until March.

Once again, democratic, effective trade union action has been thwarted by anti-democratic laws and judges, bent on serving the employers. It is telling indeed that when a court rules a strike unlawful on a flimsy pretext, the union has to obey and call off the strike; but when a court rules a sacking unlawful on good grounds, the employer does not have to obey and reinstate the sacked worker! David Cameron claims that Britain’s employment law is weighed too heavily in favour of the employer, but these latest cases prove the opposite.

It is easy enough to denounce anti-union laws and judges; it is now high time for a renewed campaign to defeat them. Our unions must mobilise members to fight for trade union rights, and those who claim to represent the labour movement in politics must make a stand against the anti-union laws, rather than staying away when they have a chance to do so, as when John McDonnell’s Lawful Industrial Action (Minor Errors) Bill was debated in Parliament.

Follow RMT in the London Transport region:
Twitter: @RMTLondon

By Janine Booth, London Transport region representative, RMT Council of Executives

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Urgent appeal : Abortion Support Network to run out of funds by the end of the month

Many support the right of women to have safe legal abortions when they need them. Well, now is the time to put your money where your principles are .

from the F-Word :

The Abortion Support Network, which helps women who have been forced to travel from Ireland to Britain for an abortion, is urgently in need of funds and is set to reach the end of its reserves by the end of February.

ASN’s director Mara Clarke sent a pleading email to supporters yesterday, explaining what has happened: in short, more women than before are coming forward as media coverage has made them aware of the organisation’s existence, and a number of expensive cases involving young women and women late in pregnancy.

So far in 2011, ASN has helped women including:

A 15 year old girl
A 20 week pregnant 16 year old
A 19 year old pregnant as the result of rape, who had to go through the added distress of having to find a way to provide DNA evidence to the police
A mother of two who had to reschedule her appointments due to snow, making her later term
A single mother of a young child, recently out of a rehabilitation facility,
A mother of four supporting her family with a part time job only able to come up with £800 towards her £1390 procedure
A single woman who wanted her baby - until she lost her job.
A woman who came to the UK for a 2-day procedure without realising she would need to find her own accommodation
Marta says:

By donating today, you can help break down the barriers preventing women from obtaining timely, cost-effective abortions and, in turn, help us to be able to serve a greater number of women. 100% of your donation will go DIRECTLY toward paying for a women’s abortion.

Right, this service is essential. Donate now .


Friday, February 11, 2011

Links: Workers' and Trade Union Involvement in Egyptian Uprising

While the exciting events in Egypt make headline news, the mainstream media do not tell us much about workers' and trade union involvement. So I have compiled this selection of links:


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Go now Mubarak

So, what exactly did he say ?

Well, he isn't going . Not yet, not until September .

The speech that droned on about commissions blah blah , amendments blah blah , how he has listened , sons of Egypt (err, what about the daughters)and playing the nationalist card.

Oh and lots about bleeding heart and fake concern for those who died while protesting. He will make those responsible accountable . Well that shouldn't take long, look in the mirror.

Oh and its not about him he said. Well yes and no, but the people clearly are calling FOR HIM to go. No in that a bit of tinkering is not enough, real change is needed when he goes .

A very out of touch speech, sickly and repetitive . Bottom line , some bollocks about listening, transition and that he is going nowhere till September.

That was the second nauseating thing I have had to listen to today . Earlier was subjected to the torture that is Coldplay, while being put on hold by a bank. Still at least Chris Martin isn't in charge of a nation.

The response from the people, whose expectations have been dashed seems to be growing anger and a determination not to give up.

The protesters include young and old, men and women and different religions and none . Strikes are happening and building .My fear though is off increased violence by the state .

Time to go Mubarak.


Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Blogging and life

I have been so busy recently my fingers have barely touched a keyboard apart from work. I have a few months work at the moment and that , realistically, is my priority if I want to keep my home and cats . I leave the house before 7am and get home after 7pm, zonked.

So much has been going on in Egypt and i haven't had a chance to report . So much else as well.

I hope to do some posts in the next few days this space !


Sunday, February 06, 2011

Update on Brenda Namigadde

On 28th January Brenda Namigadde was placed on a 9:20pm flight en route to Uganda, by UK border officials. Then, at the eleventh hour, an injunction stopping her deportation was granted, and Brenda was taken off the flight shortly before takeoff.

From an e-mail by AllOut:

Brenda is scheduled to attend a High Court hearing on Monday morning to review her case. We are hoping the judge finally grants her asylum, but unfortunately we have plenty of reason to be skeptical: the British government is currently refusing up to 99% of asylum claims made by LGBT people.2

Luckily Brenda’s Member of Parliament, Andy Slaughter, is advocating strongly on her behalf. At a time when the Ugandan parliament is debating a law to make homosexuality punishable by death - and with last week’s murder of LGBT activist David Kato - he understands the grave danger Brenda faces. Slaughter has put forward an Early Day Motion3 in Parliament to pressure UK Immigration Minister Damian Green and UK Home Secretary Theresa May to intervene in Brenda’s case in the event that the court does not rule in her favour.

Our contact in Andy Slaughter’s office has told us that if even just a few dozen MPs sign this motion in the next few days, it will send a powerful message to Theresa May and the Home Office that they must intervene on Brenda’s behalf. Will you take a moment to ring your MP and ask them to sign on and support Brenda? It only takes 2 minutes and will make a huge difference:

1. Find your MP's number:

2. Ask them to support Brenda. Here's a quick script to help:
“Hello. My name is (YOUR NAME) and I’m one of (MP NAME)’s constituents. I’m calling today about the case of Brenda Namigadde, a lesbian who is in danger of being deported to Uganda where she faces grave danger.
Please urge (MP NAME) to sign onto Early Day Motion 1385, sponsored by MP Andy Slaughter. The motion calls on the Government to exercise its powers to allow Brenda Namigadde to remain in the United Kingdom.
I will continue to follow Brenda’s case closely and urge you to sign the motion today before her hearing at the High Court on Monday.”
3. If you make a call, please reply directly to this email and let us know your MP’s response, so we can pass this information on to Brenda and her lawyer. On Monday, we want Brenda to know she still has our support, and we want the court to know how many others in the UK and around the world are standing by her side.

All best and All Out,
Andre, Jeremy, Joseph, Tile, Wesley and the rest of the team at All Out

More info here and here.

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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Galloway to make an electoral alliance with Solidarity ?

Seems Galloway is hawking himself around to get a seat as a MSP.

Press TV not pay enough? Missing his old MP salary? Bit handy then that Sheridan got banged up, one ego departs and another takes his place .

So, will the SWP now have to start defending him when he stands with the Iranian regime rather than those oppressed by that reactionary state ? How will they twist themselves to defend his Kylie knickers moments in his Daily Record articles ?

Then of course there are the contortations needed to explain why one minute he finds Solidarity too left for his tastes and of course the question of independence.

Expect a bit of doublethink re writing by his supporters and those perhaps returning to trail in his wake .