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Archive for January, 2012

GMB head for courts in Servisair John Lennon Airport baggage handler dispute

January 30, 2012 Leave a comment

From Liverpool Daily Post.

Liverpool Daily Post

GMB UNION bosses today said they would be heading for the courts in the bitter Servisair redundancy strike at Liverpool John Lennon Airport.

It comes as baggage handling firm Servisair presses ahead with its intention to axe between 28-35 jobs in Speke.

The GMB union has to reluctantly end their industrial action today as they reach the end of the legally-enforced 12-week period.

The trade union said Runcorn-based Servisair had ignored attempts to find a resolution to the two-month dispute. The GMB will now head to the courts to obtain a “protective award” as the row deepens.

If a tribunal rules in the GMB’s favour, Servisair would have to stump up between 30-90 days pay for each of the 13 employees potentially left at the risk of redundancy.
Click here to find out more!

And, as relations sink to what the GMB describe as “an all-time low”, any future employment dispute would automatically lead to a full 12-week walk-out.

The union has conducted discontinuous action since November, picketing for two hours in a morning and afternoon, four days a week.

Termination letters have been handed out while some staff at Speke are set to begin contracts downgraded from 42 hours to part-time 32-hour contracts.

Some Servisair employees have chosen to take voluntary redundancy following anger over “partial performance”.

That dispute occurred as management stopped any payment to a striker if they walked out for two hours on a shift.

Servisair argued that the cost of hiring cover workers, financing their meals and accommodation, made allowing picketing employees back on shift not viable. Unlawful deduction grievances have been registered by the GMB, but both parties insist their legal position on this issue remains strong.

Regional organiser Eddie Parker told the ECHO: “As management won’t recognise the need for proper consultation, we will remain out for the full 12 weeks in future disputes.

“We have asked to be provided with financial information from Servisair to back up the redundancies which has been ignored. If shared, that would remain confidential.

“The fact remains, Servisair made a big profit last year and Liverpool is one of the more efficient sites.

“It has been pleasing that members have stood shoulder to shoulder with those made redundant. It shows the principles of the trade union movement are alive and kicking in Liverpool.

“It’s very rare when people will take a financial hit, when they don’t have to, to support their colleagues.”

Asked to explain their current stance, Servisair said they did not wish to comment.

Negotiations between management and GMB have proved difficult with little sign of headway on either side despite the intervention from arbitrators ACAS.

Management have stressed the jobs cuts would result in a more multi-skilled workforce, but the union have accused the company of ‘blatant profit-making.’

GMB said relations between Servisair management and their members was now ‘dire’ with an absence of any goodwill.

Mr Parker added: “Our members will be professional and do their job, but in all jobs people do things that’s not expected of them, that’s what a good working relationship is about.

“But that’s now gone.”

Sherwood Anderson – Lift Up Thine Eyes

January 27, 2012 1 comment

This is taken from the oldest ‘Solidarity’ journal available at the Working Class Movement Library in Salford, bit of an interesting find due to Sherwood Anderson’s fame!

Agitator: For Workers Power (Vol. 1, No. 3), pp. 5-9

The following article, written in 1930 by American author Sherwood Anderson lays bare the essential nature of exploiting society – the utter subordination of human beings to an alien will in the process of production.
Political ‘sophisticates’ will no doubt argue the superior merits of ‘planned production’ and ‘state control’ as opposed to the ‘anarchy’ of competitive capitalism. For such people Socialism has been drained of all human content and hence of all meaning. They are obsessed with the legal forms of property, as if these were the fundamental reality and not the social relations between men at the point of production.
What Anderson describes here are the relations of production prevailing in a class divided society. He bases his story on an American plant; but who can doubt that similar relations exist in the nationalised British coal mines or in the tractor factories of Stalingrad. Anderson’s article points implicitly to the primary and most urgent task confronting the socialist revolution: the domination of the producer over the labour process, and the end to the degrading division between rulers and ruled.

Anderson in 1933

It is a big assembly plant in a city of the Northwest, They assemble there the Bogel car. It is a car that sells in large numbers and at a low price. The parts are made in one great central plant and shipped to the places where they are to be assembled. There is little or no manufacturing done in the assembling plant itself. The parts come in. These great companies have learned to use the railroad cars for storage.

At the central plant everything is done to schedule. As soon as they parts are made they go into the railroad cars. They are on their way to the assembling plants scattered all over the United States and they arrive on schedule.

The assembly plant assembles cars for a certain territory. A careful survey has been made. The territory can afford to buy so-and-so many cars per day. .

‘But suppose the people don’t want cars ?’
‘What has that to do with it ?’

People, American people, no longer buy cars. They do not buy newspapers, books, foods, pictures, clothes. Things are sold to people now. If a territory can take so-and-so many Bogel cars, find men who can make them take the cars. That is the way things are done now.

In the assembly plant everyone works ‘on the belt’. This is a big steel conveyor, a kind of moving sidewalk, waist-high. It is a great river running down through the plant. Various tributary streams come into the main streams the main belt. They bring tyres, they bring headlights, horns, bumpers for cars. They flow into the main stream. The main stream has its source at the freight cars where the parts are unloaded, aid it flows to the other end of the factory and into other freight cars. The finished automobiles go into the freight cars at the delivery end of the bolt. The assembly plant is a place of peculiar tension. You feel it when you go in. It never lets up. Men here work always on tension. There is no let-up to the tension. If you can’t stand it, get out.

It is the belt. The belt is boss. It moves always forward. Now the chassis goes on the belt. A hoist lifts it up and places it just so. There is a man at each corner. The chassis is deposited on the belt and it begins to move. Not too rapid. There are things to be done.

How nicely everything is calculated. Scientific men have done this. They have watched men at work. They have stood looking, watch in hand. There is care taken about everything. Look up. Lift up thine eyes. Hoists are bringing engines, bodies, wheels, fenders. These come out of side streams flowing into the main streams. They move at a pace very nicely calculated. They will arrive at the main stream at just a certain place at just a certain time.

In this shop there is no question of wages to be wrangled about. These men work but eight hours a day and are well paid. They are, almost without exception, young, strong men. It is however, possible that eight hours a day in this place may be much longer than twelve or even sixteen hours in the old carelessly run plants.

They can get better pay here than at any other shop in town. Although I am a man wanting a good many minor comforts in life, I could live well enough on the wages made by the worker in this place. Sixty cents an hour to begin and then, after a probationary period of sixty days, if I can stand the place, seventy cents or more.

To stand the pace is the real test. Special skill is not required. It is perfectly timed, perfectly calculated. If you are a body upholsterer so many tacks driven per second. Not too many. If a man hurries too much too many tacks drop on the floor. If a man gets too hurried he is not efficient. Let an expert take a month, tow months to find out just how many tacks the average good man can drive per second.

There must be a certain standard maintained in the finished product. Remember that. It must pass inspection after inspection.

Do not crowd too hard. Crowd all you can. Keep crowding.

There are fifteen, twenty, thirty, perhaps fifty such assembly plants, all over the country, each serving its own section Wires pass back and forth daily. The central office – from which all the parts come at Jointville – is the nerve centre. Wires come in and go out to Jointville. In so-and-so many hours WIlliamsberg, with so-and-so many men, produced so-and-so cars.

Now Burkesville is ahead. It stays ahead. What is up at Burkesville? An expert flies there.

The man at Burkesville was a major in the army. He is the manager there. He is a cold, rather severe, rather formal man. He has found out something. He is a real Bogel man, an ideal Bogel man. There is no foolishness about him. He watches the belt. He does not say to himself ‘I am the boss here’. He knows the belt its boss.

He says there is a lot of foolishness talked about the belt. The experts are too expert, he says. He has found out that the belt can be made to move just a little faster than the experts say. He has tried it. He knows. Go and look for yourself. There are the men out there on the belt, swarming along the belt, each in his place. They are alright, aren’t they ? Can you see anything wrong ?

Just a trifle more speed in each man. Shove the pace up just a little, not much. With the same number of men, in the same number of hours, six more cars a day.

That’s the way a major gets to be a colonel, a colonel a general. Watch that fellow at Burkesville, the man with the military stride, the cold steady voice. He’ll go far.

* * *

Everything is nicely, perfectly calculated in all the Bogel assembling plants. There are white marks on the floor everywhere. Everything is immaculately clean. No-one smokes; no one chews tobacco; no-one spits. There are white bands on the cement floor along which the men walk. As they work, sweepers follow them. Tacks dropped on the floor are at once swept up. You can tell by the sweepings in a plant where there is too much waste, too much carelessness. Sweep everything carefully and frequently. Weight the sweepings. Have an expert examine the sweepings. Report to Jointville.

Jointville says: ‘Too many upholsterers’ tacks wasted in the plant at Port Smith. Bellevile produced one hundred and eleven cars a day, with seven hundred and forty-nine men, wasting only nine hundred and six tacks.’

It is a good thing to go through the plant occasionally, pick out some man, working apparently just as the others are, fire him.

If he asks why, just say to him, ‘You know’.

He’ll know why alright. He’ll imagine why.

The thing is to build up Jointville. This country needs a religion.
You have to build up the xxxxx of a mysterious central thing, a thing working outside your knowledge.

Let the notion grow and grow that there is something superhuman at the core of all this.

Lift up thine eyes, lift up thine eyes.

The central office reaches down into your secret thoughts. It knows, it knows

Jointville knows.

* * *

Do not ask questions of Jointville. Keep up the pace.

Get the cars out.
Get the cars out.
Get the cars out.

The pace can be accelerated a little this year. The men have all got tuned into the old pace now.

Step it up a little, just a little.

• * *
This have got a special policeman in the Bogel assembling plants, They have got a special doctor there A man hurt his finger a little. IT bleeds a little, a mere scratch. The doctor reaches down for him. The finger is fixed. Jointville wants no blood poisonings, no infections.

The doctor puts men who want jobs through physical examination, as in the army. Try his nerve reactions. We want only the best men here, the youngest, the fastest.

Why not?

We pay the best wages, don’t we ?

The policeman in the plant has a special job. That’s queer. It is like this: Now and then the big boss passes through. He selects a man off the belt.

‘You’re fired.’
‘Why ?’
‘You know.’’

Now and then a man goes off his nut. He goes fantoed. He howls and shouts. He grabs a hammer. A stream of crazy profanity comes from his lips.

There is Jointville. That is the central thing. That controls the belt. The belt controls me.
It moves. It moves. It moves.

I’ve tried to keep up . I tell you I’ve been keeping up.

Jointville is God. Jointville controls the belt. The belt is God.
God has rejected me.

‘You’re fired.’

Sometimes a man, fired like that, goes nutty. He gets dangerous.
A strong policeman on hand knocks him down. Takes him out.

* * *

You walk within certain definite white lines.

It is calculated that a man, rubbing down automobile bodies with pumice, makes thirty thousand and twenty-one arm strokes per day. The difference between thirty thousand and twenty-one, and twenty-eight thousand and four will tell a vital story of profits or loss at Jointville.

Do you think things are settled at Jointville, or at the assembling plants of the Bogel car scattered all over America ? Do you think men know how fast the belt can be made to move, what the ultimate, the final pace will be, can be ?

Certainly not.

There are experts studying the nerves of men, the movements of men. They are watching. Calculations are always going on. The thing is to produce good and more goods at less cost. Keep the standard up. Increase the pace a little.

Stop waste. Calcualte everything.

* * *

A man walking to and from his work between white lines saves steps. There is a trememdous science of lost motion, not perfectly calculated yet.

More goods at less cost.

Increase the pace.

Keep up the standards.

It is so you advance civilisation.

Website of the week

January 10, 2012 Leave a comment

McDonalds Workers Resistance

The other week Webel phoned McDonald’s customer services: “I got some fucking menu but then I got through to a very pleasant sounding woman:
McWoman: Hi, how can I help?
Webel: [in aged, exasperated, snobby voice] Yes, I am wondering that myself. I visit McDonalds a lot, sometimes six or seven times a week, I spend hours there, and recently I became very dissatisfied.
McWoman: Yes…
Webel: I was at your store on @*!£$£# Street in Glasgow.
McWoman: Hang on, I’ll just enter that (…) is that *%£$## ?
Webel: Yes.
McWoman: And can I ask when you visited?
Webel: Well I seem to be there half my waking life [laughs]
McWoman: [Laughs]
Webel: But I want to talk particularly about my time at the store yesterday.
McWoman: Yes, can you remember what time yesterday?
Webel: Really as soon as I entered the place, about 11:00
McWoman: Okay, so what happened?
Webel: Well I was shouted at by a manager.
McWoman: [pause] Shouted at?
Webel: Yes, by a manger.
McWoman: Like… spoken to aggressively? Unpleasantly?
Webel: Yes.
McWoman: [furious typing noise]
Webel: And I was told that I couldn’t have the food I wanted. I had requested a vegetable burger without mayonnaise, but I was informed that I had to eat something that had already been made!
McWoman: [Laughs politely] Oh dear. [Furious typing]
Webel: I’m a vegan.
McWoman: Pardon?
Webel: A vegan.
McWoman: Oh, a vegan, right I see [furious typing]
Webel: I asked for a drink of water…
McWoman: Yes
Webel: But I was told it was too busy.
McWoman: Too busy?
Webel: Yes!
McWoman: [long pause] Dear, it sounds like you’ve really had a bad experience.
Webel: Yes, but to add insult to it all, the manager made derogatory comments about my appearance.
McWoman: [pause] comments about your appearance?
Webel: Yes, because I wasn’t clean shaven.
McWoman: [furious typing] is this the same manager who spoke to you aggressively?
Webel: Yes.
McWoman: What was his name?
Webel: I don’t know, he didn’t introduce himself, he spoke to me like I was a machine.
McWoman: Right, yes. Can you give me a description?
Webel: Big, sour, not pretty.
McWoman: [furious typing] Big as in tall?
Webel: Yes. And I saw in the kitchen and a number of elementary hygiene procedures were not being followed.
McWoman: er… can you give me an example?
Webel: I saw people picking food off the ground.
McWoman: [long pause] OK, you definitely saw that in the kitchen?
Webel: yes!
McWoman: I mean certainly that is something we take extremely seriously, I really, em, yes everything you’ve mentioned we take very seriously, and we will certainly look into your complaint and attempt to verify it. Er… I mean, if verified…
Webel: I just feel you don’t really care…
McWoman: [pause] No, this, if verified, you know it does sound very serious if verified. We take all customer feed back very seriously.
Webel: Customer? No you misunderstand me, I was working there…
McWoman: [silence]
Webel: Thanks for your time [hangs up]

So that achieved nothing but was a bit of a laugh. In particular we hope that the nice woman got a break from the indescribable monotony of listening to people droning on about their burger experiences. Working in call centres is always shit, we can only imagine what it must be like to work in a call centre run by McDonalds. Solidarity with our comrades on the phones! And Webel says that if the nice woman ever reads this, could she get in touch?

LibCom archive of texts.

Categories: Uncategorized

Staring at another noble defeat? Or an opportunity for a real workers’ victory?

January 6, 2012 1 comment

Apologies for the nature of this post but I feel the need to think out loud.

I read on the Liverpool Echo website today that the GMB shall be calling off their members’ strike action at the end of this month, as after this 12 week period any people taking part in strike action can legally be sacked by Servisair for taking part in ‘unofficial action’. At first this made me feel how the laws are unfairly weighted in favour of the bosses and against the workers. Then, I thought about all the successful instances of workers in the UK taking unofficial action that I had read about. Such as the hundreds of electricians who took unofficial action on the 7th of December. They nationally coordinated this day of action in response to their union calling off an official strike that had 81% of members voting for action, after Balfour Beatty claimed 25 office workers who were Unite members were not balloted.

Unfortunately, this is not one of the pictures plastered in the Servisair buildings at JLA

I also thought about the politics of Left-Communists and the ICC’s pamphlet ‘Unions Against the Working Class’ and if it would be right to state that this shows the bankruptcy of the union framework.
I thought that if I was heavily under the influence of the ICC I might say something like ‘Against GMB bureaucrats! Fight union sabotage!’. Although it is true that a problem with unions is that the legal hoops they have to jump through serves to hamstring their actions and demoralise workers, if I turned up to a picket line with a leaflet with this headline the workers would not be very happy! Workers on strike, for all their misgivings of it, do identify with their union and such an approach would probably demoralise them (if I was taken seriously at all). However, only the most dysfunctional creep takes an interest in politics to make friends – the real reason I feel I could not take this approach is that I know nothing of the real situation on the ground. Not only do I not work there but the dispute has been overshadowed by both the national electricians and public sector pensions disputes, meaning that there has been next to no coverage in the left wing press. This means the key factor is unknown, is there a real will amongst the workers to fight and win?
It could be possible for the workers to defeat the bosses in January if they were able to set up mass pickets, preventing scabs from getting to work (watch this video of a mass picket of London fire fighters from November 2010, part of an official strike). Successful mass pickets would cost Servisair much money and important prestige and could see them back down.

Although I can only speculate from afar, evidence would suggest that there is a will to win. The workers themselves know that they can beat the bosses, management first tried to push through redundancies in the summer of 2009, they were met with a two week all out strike and backed down after fire service workers at the airport prepared to ballot for strike action in their defence. Furthermore, despite taking place in the run up to the Christmas period, ballot results in the highly unionised workplace were strong, with 85% voting to strike and 95% voting for action short of a strike. Attempts to ‘lock out’ strikers and confiscate security passes will have only served to heighten tensions.

I mentioned in a previous post that this is part of a (inter?)national move by all ground handling firms to casualise the industry. Baggage handlers are traditionally seen as militant workers and due to their strategic position have received relatively high wages for what is classed as unskilled work. The capitalist class is using the mass unemployment created by the economic crisis to force out full time workers and replace them with a larger, casualised, agency work force, working less hours and with no ‘right’ to strike. A defeat for the Liverpool baggage handlers would not only be a defeat for all those in the industry, but for the working class as a whole.

If the GMB regional organiser is to be believed when he reports “Our members have made a statement and they are more solid now than before. I attended eight picket lines and the strength was evident.” then why don’t they go for it? They have nothing to lose but their chains!

Guildhall cleaners says “No Nos moveran”

January 6, 2012 Leave a comment

From einsteindurango.

Ian Bone – Carbon Black

January 2, 2012 1 comment

Taken from Solidarity: For Workers’ Power, Vol. 6, No. 10

This article is a follow-up to the one on the ‘Politics of Community Action’, published in our last issue, in which we sought to demystify people concerning the activities of well-meaning but misguided radicals, busying themselves in the ‘community action’ field. The present text counterposes to such activity a form of direct action, initiated and kept under the control of the people themselves. It also shows how ordinary people are beginning to struggle against pollution.

Worker at carbon black plant, Sunray, Texas (Library of Congress)

The United carbon Black factory, situated in the Port Tennant area of Swansea, produces carbon blacks for use in car tyres. It is American controlled, Although large in size it only has a small, non-union labour force.

Besides carbon blacks the factory also produces clouds of black smut and dirt which constantly rain down on the houses nearby. This makes it impossible for washing to be hung outside. Within an hour it is filthy, so all washing has to be dried indoors. But the dirt also comes indoors, covering food, furniture, children and babies. A local manager of the factory once remarked that the people of the area were living in slums anyway, we why were they complaining about dirt?

Port Tennant is a working class area composed of rows of terraced houses. It has returned Labour councillors since time immemorial. Twenty years of protests to the Labour Council have not however changed the situation as regards the pollution.

In January 1970 local housewives dumped their dirty washing at the Guildhall and temporarily blocked the road leading to the factory. In response to this the management installed a new burner in March 1970, claiming this would end the “muck-spreading”.

By January 1970 the situation was as bad as ever. Having tired of useless protests to the Council, to M.P.s and to the local Health Department to people of Port Tennant decided to act on the own behalf. At a meeting on January 26, it was decided to block the road leading to the factory indefinitely, until the filth it spewed out ended.

To maintain surprise a Committee consisting of one representative from each street in the area was elected to decide the time of the action. When the time came each Committee members would inform all the households in his or her street.

On February 1 it was announced at a Council meeting that the Carbon Black factory was planning to increase production by 25%. At 9.30 a.m. on February 3, fifty housewives moved onto the road leading to the factory and stayed there, The aim was not a symbolic temporary blocking of an entrance. It was to be permanent obstruction until production was brought totally to a halt or the pollution ended. The housewives were also determined to remain until the plans for expansion had been scrapped.

Cars and lorries bringing in supplies were turned away, but police escorted empoyees and others through the crowd on foot. The blockage continued throughout the night, much to the annoyance ad surprise of the management who had confidently told lorry drivers to park ‘round the corner’ and deliver during the night. If the management had any further doubts that the road blockers were there to stay these were son dispelled. A large tent was pitched on that road and a fire built up. Chairs, stores and radios were brought in. Meals were cooked on the spot. Local trades-men brought in wood, coal and other supplies. A fish ad chip shop sent a huge tray of free pies and another small shop stayed open till 4.00 a.m. to supply the night shift with tea and sandwiches.

As the days went by, the organisation improved. To combat the cold weather – there were strong gales with driving sleet and rain throughout the first weekend of the protest – ropes were slung across he road at head hight, and large tarpaulins draped over them. To one of these tarpaulins was attached a notice reading “We’re not budging, even if we catch pneumonia”.

Shifts of fifty a time were organised on an informal basis – “We just dash round each others’ houses to see who can or can’t go on blockade duty”. The whole pattern of everyday life was changed. The women were getting up early to cook breakfast for husbands and children, then going immediately to guard the factory entrance against lorries trying to enter. Then, sometime during the day, they would take a two-hour break to do essential housework. At night the men took over – often coming straight from work.

Even the local newspaper was moved to write “It is in the evenings that the comradeship is most evident. Fighting spirit becomes akin to party spirit as people bring portable record players and share their food.”

Many of the men took their winter holidays to take part, though one remarked “We don’t normally spend our holidays on the Port Tennant Riviera”. The humour of those taking part was apparent throughout.

On Shrove Tuesday a fancy dress and hot pants pancake race was run round the factory and the residents turned out en masse to join in the fun. By staging such events the road blockers were able to keep their morale high at a tie when lack of sleep and terrible weather could easily have dampened enthusiasm.

During all this time no vehicles of ay kind were allowed to enter or leave the factory, though employees were able to come and go. It was not long before this had an effect on production, although a full week elapsed before the management admitted that production had been cut back.
At the end of three weeks several departments had bee closed down and the employees were being put on maintenance work. Since no lorries could leave the factory all finished products were being stockpiled.

At this stage the management proposed a “truce”. This was immediately rejected. The management then stated that they were meeting their legal requirements (and they were). They appealed to the Secretary of State for Wales to back them up. Swansea Council had also referred the matter to the Welsh Office, being only too pleased to pass the buck. The fact that the management were not taking some initiatives revealed that they were not seriously concerned at the protesters threat to stay till Christmas (“the one after next”, as the local people were at pains to point out).

Peter Thomas, Secretary of State for Wales, (and also Chairman of the Conservative Party) stated on February 12 that the report of a Welsh Office Alkali Inspector showed that the factory was indeed meeting its legal requirements. Some interesting facts then emerged about Thomas’ position. The Carbon Black parent company is Anchor Chemicals Ltd. The Deputy Chairman of Anchor Chemicals is Sir Clyce Hewlett, an active member of the Conservative Party and friend of Peter Thomas, whom he met at the young Conservatives’ Conference at Eastbourne, during the blockade Thomas’ decision came as no surprise.

There followed another report, this time by Britain’s Deputy Chief Alkali Inspector. This ended with the same result. Edgar Cutler summed up the thoughts of the road blockers when he said “We’ve not been hanging around here 24 hours of the day for 17 days for nothing. We will continue our stand”. It was noted that as the Inspector arrived, the works momentarily went out of production; no smoke come out of the stack that day. As soon as the Inspector left; production started up again.

Production was now being increasingly affected. On February 26 a meeting was held in Cardiff, between the road blockers, the management and Swansea Council. The management made some concessions. The promised to control the smut and grime more effectively, stating that they were to spend £200,000 on pollution-control. The factory was to be thoroughly spring-cleaned. Lorries would be re-routed. More importantly it was agreed to half production when strong easterly winds were prevalent (surely a unique agreement in British industry). A Liaison Committee was to be formed consisting of the management, the Port Tennant residents and the council. This Committee was to keep a continual watch on the pollution situation, enabling the residents to exert some control over the situation. It was hinted that the expansion plats were to be dropped.

Were these proposals a victory for the residents or not? Obviously this would depend on how they were interpreted. What constitutes “a strong easterly wind”? Would the decisions of the Liaison Committee have any weight? Would the new expenditure by the management really take place? And it so, would it be any more effective than previous expenditure in stopping pollution? Only time would tell.

Given these terms, the residents reluctantly agreed to life the blockade. Howard Bevan spoke for many when he said “A lot of us are not satisfied. We’ve heard all these promises before. Although we have taken down our shelter we have stored it near the entrance. If Carbon Black don’t keep their promises we won’t take long to erect it again. All we can do now is wait and see what the outcome will be If we blockade again it will be on a much larger scale than during the last three weeks.” Three days later it was announced that the plans for the extension of the factory had been shelved.

The blockade had lasted 24 days, in the middle of winter. After years of asking the Council to do something for them the people of Port Tennant had acted unitedly, on their own behalf. At the end of it many who had taken part were despondent about what they had achieved. But they were not despondent about the type of action they had undertaken. All were contemptuous of the Council and confident that in the future it would only be by their own action that they could change the situation. If they had not got all they wanted it was because their action had not been strong or direct enough, not because it what been the wrong type of action.

The people of Port Tennant had however established some important principles, and shattered some myths in the process. The management of a large factory has been forced to allow those who lived near it to have some measure of control over its production (i.e. no production when there was an easterly wind, and shelving of the plans for expansion).

Direct action has gone beyond the range of the symbolic protest:
You don’t show that you could close the factory if you wanted to – you try and do it!

The concern of politicians and businessmen over “pollution” has been expressed for the sham it is. The Carbon Black factory was operating quite legally as its filthy much ruined the peoples’ homes and health. Peter Thomas, one of the Tories whose concern for the environment is never off his lips, was quite happy to see the pollution continues. The pollution could be stopped entirely if the management was willing to spend the money. The people of Port Tennant knew this. The management had been refusing as this would have meant cutting into profits.

Mrs Barbara Davies summed it up simply: “I remember picking water lilies, wild irises, bulrushes, and blackberries from the banks of the canal. As children we swam there. There were swans and we held fishing competitions. Now we have to wash our windows every day, spend at least 15/- a week on a family wash at the launderette and dare not put a baby in its pram in the garden. All this when everyone’s talking about pollution ad conservation.”

Finally, and most important, the people of Port Tennant have discovered in themselves a new sense of comradeship and self-conficen in their own ability to take action and change their surroundings. This will not quickly be lost.

A few weeks ago the Chief Public health Inspector of Swansea referred to the smashing of pollution-deposit gauges on an old cinema in Port Tennant. He said “it seems that out attempts to look after the interest of the community are not appreciated”. He can say that again! As one of the women said: “I don’t need an Alkali Inspector to tell me if my babies’ nappies are dirty”. Now she can add that she doesn’t need a Councillor to tell her how to put an end to it, either.

Ian Bone.

Guildhall cleaners intimidated by police and forced to leave their sit in

January 1, 2012 Leave a comment

Stolen from Cleaners Branch Facebook.

Cleaners at the Guildhall have been holding a sit in and stopping work since the 22nd of December because of mistreatment and intimidation. Early this morning management called the police, who came and intimidated and threatened the cleaners. The cleaners protested that they were holding a completely peaceful sit-in. They finally left due to police threats to drag them out physically.

The cleaners started organising in the summer, striking against unpaid wages. Since then they have been fighting for union recognition, better pay and an end to bad working conditions. After a new company, Sodexho, took over the cleaning contract, their union rep was suspended and they have been subject to all kinds of intimidation and abuse. The workers say there is one supervisor in particular who is abusive to them and there are currently various complaints by different cleaners against him, but Sodexho are refusing to do anything about his behavior. Sodexho are trying to drive out the organised cleaners by continually changing their work areas, giving them the worst jobs, increasing their workload and, now, using intimidation and harassment.
Four of the cleaners currently have injuries to their arms or shoulders due to the work they are being told to do. They feel they are working in a climate of fear. Today a cleaner told us, “What seems incredible to me is that we live in England which they say is a country which defends human rights, and because I protest for my rights at work they call the police on me. And this supervisor, who is bullying and threatening all the workers, he is untouchable. They call the police on me, and him they send on holiday.” Another cleaner said “For standing up for my rights at work, they have subjected me to constant threats and bullying. For two hours I was shut in an area, two days running, alone in an isolated area and they are carrying on punishing us every day, because every day they give us different work and every day it is harder and harder.” Another said “you know what their aim is? Everyone who worked for Ocean [the previous company that Sodexho took over from] and is in the union and who fights for their rights, they are on our backs until we leave. A lot of people have left and those of us who are still here they are hurting us all the time.”

The cleaners forcefully pointed out to the police the difference between how they were treated for having a peaceful sit in and how the company were allowed to get away with injuring them and threatening them, and left with their heads held high after maintaining their sit in for several days