editorial of issue 13 of The Commune
As The Commune went to press the news media was dominated by coverage of the 6th May General Election. Both in mainstream politics and among the left there is much discussion of the policies of Labour, the Tories and Lib Dems.
Yet in reality there is little choice in the election. Parliament does influence our lives, and yet barely half of registered voters will vote. There is widespread disillusionment but no alternative in the election.
We believe that workers’ self-organisation is a far more important means of changing society. PCS, RMT and Unite members are all organising to stop the cuts planned by all three major parties.
One recent example of struggle was the international day of action against Swiss bank UBS, which via contractor Lancaster has imposed an effective 10.75% pay cut on its cleaners in the City of London and sacked shop steward Alberto Durango.
The protests were called in solidarity with the cleaners’ demands for stable working conditions, the sacking of the contractor and the reinstatement of Alberto Durango. Demos were held in London, Zurich, Edinburgh, Manchester, New York, Buenos Aires, Kyiv and Stockholm.
Despite a lack of official backing from the Unite union, these migrant workers are standing up against the election consensus. Resisting the cuts agenda, attacks on immigrants and politicians’ love-in with the banks, their struggles show a different idea of politics: resistance from below.
Candidate for Unite general secretary
We need solidarity and strength in numbers of trade unionists and non-trade unionists, of campaign groups, pensioners, workers and the unemployed, all those who will be facing the wrath of the cuts to come. The employers who mete out the cuts, victimisations, their fear and intimidation: this will be met by our wrath. Our wrath of solidarity.
There are millions of us. In my union, 1.7 million trade unionists. If we all spat together we would drown UBS in the flood.
In weeks to come will be the General Election. Whichever party gets in they offer cuts: savage cuts, £75 billion worth of cuts, and the Tories promise to be the most unpopular government since the Second World War within 12 weeks of office. Not one of those parties would offer the repeal of anti-trade-union-laws or offer reinstatement for victimised workers.
Unite construction branch
Unite construction workers support this campaign 100%. We recently wrote to Steve Hart, the union’s regional secretary, who said these people demonstrating are anti-union. When we got this letter back: well, I’ve never heard so much rubbish in all my life.
Where is Steve Hart, where is Derek Simpson, where are the leaders of Unite? Not here, as usual: they never turn up on any demos, they leave us hanging out to dry. I’d appeal to you to write from your branches demanding that Steve Hart get behind Alberto and support his members in struggle. Instead of swanning about talking with employers, how about coming out and supporting their members? That’s the name of the game, that’s what we’re all here for.
We support you 100% Alberto, and you are more than welcome at our branch. The same for all cleaners, indeed, any worker in struggle. It doesn’t matter what union you’re in, as far as I’m concerned any union member deserves the backing of all unions.
Victory to Alberto, victory to the cleaners!
– 26th March saw a similar protest at University College London, addressed by a worker victimised by contractor Office & General because of the cleaners’ demand for a ‘living wage’.
Juan Carlos Piedra
victimised cleaner activist
Today is another day of struggle for workers’ rights. Along with the demonstrations in solidarity with Alberto Durango, we want to tell the companies that we are not going to allow any more discrimination and victimisation against cleaner activists.
We are sure that the UCL students, unions, teachers and admin staff at UCL will back that call not to allow the violation of the rights of workers here on this campus. We are also part of the wider campaign against cuts in public spending: we are fighting for now and for our future.
NEXT UBS CLEANERS’ DEMO: 5pm, Friday 23rd April, 100 Liverpool St, London