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Year 2001 No. 113, July 2, 2001 ARCHIVE HOME SEARCH SUBSCRIBE

John Monks Misrepresents the Stand of the Trade Union Leaders

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

John Monks Misrepresents the Stand of the Trade Union Leaders

Workers’ Movement:
Welsh Workers Vote to Continue their Fight
500 March over Redundancies at Solectron
Tesco Workers Strike in Ireland

Against the Neo-Liberal Agenda
Lambeth Council to End Private Sector Contract

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John Monks Misrepresents the Stand of the Trade Union Leaders

There was disquiet among the trade union leaders who attended the dinner with Tony Blair at Downing Street on June 27 after TUC General Secretary John Monks said in a TUC statement that the discussions had "helped to clear the air".

John Monks claimed that the talks "were both friendly and useful – and gave all sides a chance to explain their position."

He went on: "The Prime Minister was able to reassure unions that the government’s priority was to improve the quality of public services. He clearly recognises the importance of winning the support of public sector staff in any programme to improve services. Unions stressed their support for the government’s decision to make public service improvements the centre piece of their second term. We want to be part of the solution."

All the union leaders want to be "part of the solution" in the sense that they aspire to re-enter a tripartite arrangement of government, business and the big unions. However, not all are as keen as John Monks to toe the Labour Party line on privatisation and public services. It is evident from reports that all had not been as friendly and useful at Number 10 as the TUC general secretary had claimed.

The movement amongst the workers is to reject the government’s programme of delivering public services over to private capital. The union leaders cannot ignore this movement, but the issue is presenting itself how far they will go in building partnership with government or taking a stand against the anti-social offensive. Indeed, the "left" as a whole is caught in this dilemma, because the independent programme of the working class gets left out of the equation.

After the meeting at Downing Street (at which no-one is saying what replaced the symbolic "beer and sandwiches"), some trade union figures accused others of succumbing to Tony Blair’s charm offensive, while the counter-accusation was that some were spoiling for a fight and thinking that they should be running the country.

The issue for the workers is to persist in the task of building the Workers’ Opposition to the "Third Way" programme. Within this they must reject the partnership with government and social partnership promoted by TUC chief John Monks. At the same time, they have to continue the fight within the trade unions that the workers’ organisations must base themselves on opposition to the anti-social offensive and on defence of the workers’ struggles against exploitation and globalisation. Irrespective of the squabbles among the trade union leaders, the workers must continue to discuss what are the solutions to the problems of society in order to lead it out of the crisis in the direction of socialism.

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Workers’ Movement

Welsh Workers Vote to Continue their Fight

At a mass meeting at Caernarfon Football Club on Tuesday, June 26, workers from the Dynamex Friction factory near Caernarfon in Wales, voted unanimously to continue their nine weeks long industrial action

The workers are resisting plans to change their working practices – including a cut in wages of 15%. Management locked them out of the plant at the end of the first in a planned series of week-long stoppages. The workers were then threatened with the sack if they refused to return and agree to the changes in their working conditions by June 27.

On Thursday, June 28, dismissal letters began arriving in the post. Union officials said the workers' fight will become more intensive and will go on.

The local member of the Welsh Assembly, Dafydd Wigley of Plaid Cymru, said that the workers were being treated appallingly. Dafydd Wigley said, "The way things are going is on a downward spiral." He said he had very grave doubts about the future of the plant if the workers lose their jobs and others are brought in.

Hywel Williams, the Plaid Cymru MP for Caernarfon has tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons, which has attracted a number of signatures. The resolution reads: "That this House deplores the attitude and behaviour of the employer in the dispute at Friction Dynamics Caernarfon, in demanding without negotiation that the workers accept a change in their working conditions and take a cut of 15 per cent in their pay, which already had been frozen for four years; rejects the employers negative attitude to discussions with the workers’ representatives held under the auspices of ACAS and their most recent move to dismiss those workers involved in this legitimate dispute; applauds the workers’ reasonable attitude and their determination to pursue a just settlement; and calls on the employers to withdraw the dismissal notices and enter into meaningful negotiations forthwith."

Article Index

500 March over Redundancies at Solectron

About 500 people protested Saturday, June 30, in Newport, South Wales at the sacking of hundreds of workers at the Solectron factory at Cwmcarn. The US monopoly manufactures telecoms equipment.

Led by workers from the factory the demonstration was called by the Communication Workers' Union (CWU) as part of plans to fight the proposed job cuts. Employees were told in May that 520 jobs were going as part of a "restructuring" programme. To symbolise the threats to their livelihoods, workers from the factory are also mobilising outside the plant on July 2 to release hundreds of black balloons.

Neath MP Peter Hain said in a message: "It is irresponsible and heartless for a company to transfer this work abroad at a whim. Workers deserve more. We deserve more. Wales deserves more. I pledge my support for the CWU campaign."

Article Index

Tesco Workers Strike in Ireland

Tesco’s 9,500 staff staged a one-day strike on Friday, June 29, that closed down all 76 of the British-based supermarket outlets.

Tesco's cumulative sales losses could hit £4 million if next Thursday's strike of 9,500 Mandate and Siptu union workers goes ahead as planned, it is estimated.

Almost ten hours of Labour Court talks last week failed to reach agreement between Tesco management and unions, resulting in the full-day stoppage at all outlets on one of the company's busiest trading days.

Mandate's John Douglas said profits at the retail chain had risen by 13 per cent to £1.17 billion. Tesco was the only retailer ranked in the top five European companies but its pay rates were far below the average industrial wage.

"Workers in city stores – who are the highest paid – start off on £4.85 per hour, just marginally above the national minimum wage, with their pay rising to £7.41 per hour after ten years," he said.

John Kane, national industrial secretary of Siptu, said that Tesco management did not realise the depth of anger among employees on issues that had been on the negotiating table over the past 12 months. He said there had been a huge expansion of trading hours, now spread over 14 hours a day, seven days a week.

A Tesco spokesman denied the accusation that Tesco was a low payer.

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Against the Neo-Liberal Agenda

Lambeth Council to End Private Sector Contract

Lambeth Council in South London has decided to end private contractor Capita’s seven-year contract half way through its term.

According to the Council, Capita has made a "total mess" of running the local authority’s housing benefit system. Despite claiming that it could win up to £18 million in a civil action, Lambeth Council has dropped a planned lawsuit in order that it can get rid of Capita quickly.

Far from being the key to reforming public services, as Britain’s biggest outsourcing company, Capita has demonstrated that private capital is being handed over the whole of public services solely in order to make maximum profit.

Capita had been praised by the government as providing better service and value for money in the public sector. But the residents of Lambeth who have had anything to do with Capita know just how badly they are treated, since the people’s well-being is not one of the company’s preoccupations.

A spokesman for Lambeth Council said: "A major chunk of the benefits administration system … is in an awful mess. The council considered legal action but it wants to get it turned around as quickly as possible."

Capita tried to defend itself, saying that it found an extra 40,000 backlogged benefit applications over and above the 60,000 it had been told about. This figure had now been reduced to around 30,000. A spokesman said: "We feel we have made great improvements."

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