Archive for April, 2012

London May Day Protest

April 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Unite’s poster for early morning May Day demonstration against agency work and in support of direct employment. As part of the Sparks dispute.

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More on Dutch cleaners

April 23, 2012 Leave a comment

A more in depth article on the recent cleaners’ dispute in Holland, written by Peter Storm.

The strike was an important and impressive one. The deal, presented by trade union and left wing groups as a victory, leaves quite a bit to be desired.

The strike started on January 2, after negotiations between the union and the bosses broke down. The strike was suspended within a week, ‘to give the bosses time to think’, but soon resumed, and continued until this week. All in all, the strike lasted 105 days, which makes it the longest sector-wide strike in the Netherlands since 1933. The number of strikers was about 2000 in the beginning, but rose to around 3000. The number of workers in the cleaning business, however, is 150.000.

The strike was combined with a whole number of actions. There have been ten ‘Marches of Respect’, by 1.500 to 3.000 strikers and sympathizers, in one city after another. There have been impressive sit-ins by strikers at the University in Utrecht, in Amsterdam, and a smaller one at an university building in Nijmegen. In these sit-ins, students and others participated, links between them and the striking cleaners were built, and the dismissal of a few cleaners was successfully opposed. Public opinion moved to the side of the strikers, a group of low-paid workers whose demands were broadly seen as reasonable and whose slogan of ‘respect’ resonated widely. A famous talk show host and even a right wing business columnist expressed sympathy with the cleaners.

The union demanded, among other things: a serious wage rise, better regulations for travelling from home to work, measures against the excessive work (a consequence of less and less cleaners doing the same work), and paid sick leave from day one (up to now, cleaners who get sick have to pay the first two days themselves, which is worse than in other branches of employment). On a number of issues, the deal that was reached granted the unions’ demands, at least partly. The payment of sick leave, however, became a sticking point: a bosses’ representative talked darkly of ‘grey absenteeism’, implying that people calling in sick just do it for fraudulent reasons. In the deal that was reached, there will be an ‘experiment’ for some workers with payment from day one, combined with ‘better’ policy regarding absenteeism and sick leave. For most cleaners, however, nothing will change for now. The fact that this was a main demand and was not granted makes the deal even less satisfactory than it already is.

Left wing groups and the trade union itself – and many strikers, probably – see the deal as a major victory. They point to the much higher wage rise granted than in other sectors. One should, however, keep in mind that the cleaning wages ware comparably low; the fact that the rise is relatively high, only brings it somewhat closer to wages in other sectors. Besides, this is a 4.85 percent wage rise in TWO years, which is enough to keep pace with inflation but certainly not much more. That the agreement reached is relatively good says something about all those other agreements which are considerably worse, with wage ‘rises’ below inflation. Still, while this was not the ‘major victory’ some leftists see in it, it was not a defeat either. If the bosses had their way, the agreement would have been much worse. The main gain, however, was the experience of the strike itself, of its collective militancy, of the links of solidarity built among strikers, and between them and other groups in (potential) struggle.

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Incredible scenes from Iran

April 19, 2012 Leave a comment

This mobile phone footage shows an angry crowd blocking and swarming around Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s car. He is then confronted face to face by an angry young woman.

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Victory for Dutch cleaners

April 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Dutch cleaners have called an end to their 105 day strike.


On strike in 2010


From UNI Global Union.

Cleaners will get a pay increase of 4.85%, better training, regular workload measurements and there is more security for temporary workers. There is also an important step towards the treatment of sick cleaners. The strikers voted to accept this offer and go back to work today.

On 1 May the cleaners get a 2% pay increase. In December, they’ll get a further 1.6% year-end bonus. As of 1 January 2013, they will receive another 2%. If the cleaning contract changes, everyone goes longer than 1.5 years on the object and then find no changes instead. Money has been put aside to help 500 cleaners learn Dutch and 6000 will get skills training.

All temporary employees will receive a permanent contract of employment with their cleaning employer after one year of employment. Employers will pay 1.4% more pension contributions.

“Nobody can do more around us. We are in times of economic storm and climbed up the ladder. We are far from over, but we are no longer in the cellar.” said a proud Khadija Tahiri (pictured on left). Tahiri is a hospital cleaner and the elected President of the Union of Cleaners. “We have won perhaps one of the highest wage increases in the Netherlands, but we are most proud of the respect agreements on workload, training, and treatment of sick workers.

This follows a nine week strike in 2010 over wages.

Any comments offering additional info are welcomed.

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Reza Shahabi is on hunger strike

April 18, 2012 Leave a comment

Reza Shahabi has begun a dry hunger strike because of the unjust verdict against him.

Mr. Shahabi the incarcerated Labor activist, after being informed of a verdict of additional six years of prison sentence against him on Saturday April 14th, has initiated a dry hunger strike. His wife, Mrs. Robabeh Shahabi, while confirming his action has told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that:

“Today, Monday April 16th, I met him after two days into his hunger strike in Evin Prison. Reza told me that he would continue his hunger strike until he is transferred to a hospital and a change in the verdict against him. He also said, so far they had kept him in prison, without bringing up any charges, for 23 months, and now they are charging him with such an unjust and heavy verdict. He also said that He hasn’t done anything wrong, and he has not committed any crime to be charged with such a heavy sentence. All he has done is to defend his rights as a worker, and all his activities have been within legal boundaries, and everything he has said has been correct and just.”

Mr. Shahabi is a Board member of the Bus Drivers Syndicate of Tehran, and its Secretary Treasurer. After being incarcerated with no charges for almost two years, and after going through five court sessions, he was charged by the 15th Branch of “Revolutionary” Court’s Judge Salavatti to one year prison on charge of propagating against the state and five years of prison on charges of assembling and collusion against national security. According to the same verdict he has also been banned from any social activity for another 5 years. Mr. Shahabi’s attorney was informed of the sentence on Saturday April 14th.

Polish metalworkers fighting casualisation

April 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Information from a LibCom poster and from ZSP, the Polish section of the International Workers’ Association.

On Monday the second of April a few hundred metalworkers at Huta Batory steel mill started a wildcat strike against layoffs and the use of agency labour. 50 people were sacked last week whilst temporary agency workers were brought in on half the wage of an ordinary worker. The managers stated that the plan was to make the workforce 80% agency labour, the workers demanded the reinstatement of the dismissed workers, respecting of the existing collective agreement and the direct employment of those agency workers. They did not wait for union negotiations and just went on strike.

The next morning hundreds of local people came to support the strike. At around 5am ambulances, fire engines and the police arrived. The company had also hired security guards from the city of Bydgoszcz to break the strike, however once they saw the angry crowds they turned round and went back home.

Watch this amazing video of Ruch Chorzów football fans outside the factory.

The workers refused to let trucks carrying the goods they had made be transported outside of the factory.

In retaliation the company announced that the factory would be closed and immediately sacked 110 workers who were seen to be troublemakers.

ZSP are asking that people send messages to Roman Karkosik’s company, Alchemia SA, who control the factory. Roman Karkosik is one of the 100 richest people in Poland and Alchemia is a very profitable company.
They ask that people be imaginative but that it is a good start to say you support the workers of Huta Batory.


Stansted strike called off

April 3, 2012 Leave a comment

GMB have called off their easter strike concerning Swissport baggage handlers at Stansted airport following ‘talks’.