what ‘went wrong’ with the winter of discontent?

the commune

Often portrayed as responsible for bringing down a Labour government and ‘letting in’ Thatcher’s Tories, the 1978-79 ‘Winter of Discontent’ remains a high point in the history of the class struggle in Britain.

by Sheila Cohen

The Winter of Discontent (WoD) has not had a good press – either from the right or, less predictably, from the left. The most recent diatribe against this historic wave of struggle comes in a relatively recent publication whose author claims that “The Winter of Discontent marked the democratisation of greed…It was like the spirit of the Blitz in reverse”. A former Labour minister’s comment on the WoD that “it was as though every separate group in the country had no feeling and no sense of community, but was simply out to get for itself what it could” is used to illustrate “the callous spirit which characterise[d] the disputes”.

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serwotka sellout sets seal on olympic exploitation

By Adam Ford

As women footballers were getting ready to unofficially kick off the London Olympics, the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union general secretary was preparing to bow to ruling class pressure, and call off a strike of workers in the Border Agency, Criminal Records Bureau, and the Identity and Passport Service. In doing so, darling of the fake left Mark Serwotka was setting the seal on years of collaboration between union officialdom and the London Olympics authorities.

Brendan Barber (TUC), Sebastian Coe (Olympics) and Ed Sweeney (ACAS)

Tomorrow’s aborted strike was originally called as part of a dispute over 8,500 Home Office jobs the PCS say are at risk as a result of government cuts. Had the walkout gone ahead, it would have caused some disruption to last minute Olympics preparations, particularly with spectators, athletes and others in their entourages still arriving in the country.

Serwotka faced a storm of pressure from the right wing abuse over the strike, with the usual papers seizing on the opportunity to bash the supposed “arrogance” of workers choosing to withdraw their labour at a time when it might have most impact. As could be anticipated, the media ‘debate’ weighed heavily on the ‘national pride’ side of the Olympics, and against working class consciousness. Continue reading “serwotka sellout sets seal on olympic exploitation”

all out at preston remploy

Mark Harrison visited Remploy pickets taking part in a national strike this morning

There used to be over 50 workers at the Remploy factory in Preston, now reduced to only 18, each of them was out on the picket line for the second day of their national strike, 100% turn outs were also reported at Heywood and Wigan. Support came from BAE and Rolls-Royce workers as well as teachers, passing council refuse workers and ex-Remploy workers who had taken advantage of previous redundancy packages.

The government has been Orwellian in claiming they are helping disabled people into work whilst sacking them from their jobs. In Preston the workers were shown 6 job opportunities to apply for, each of these positions turned out to already have been filled. One ex-Remploy worker had found work on the railways and promised 20 hours a week of work, only to be told upon arriving for his induction that he was only going to be offered a zero hours contract. Continue reading “all out at preston remploy”

spanish miners strike back against austerity

By Adam Ford

Two sets of miners have now been occupying their workplace for a month

Spanish miners are now a month into action against the Popular Party government, and behind them the international banking aristocracy, as they demonstrate against 60% cuts in subsidies, which are expected to result in the loss of 40,000 jobs. Continue reading “spanish miners strike back against austerity”

london busworkers: olympic 500 – phoney war or wages battle?

First published in Solidarity Forever, paper of London Regional Committee IWW(IWGB), which comprises the London Busworkers Branch (IU IU530)

The union Unite has raised the profile of the campaign to secure a £500 bonus payment for the 28,000 bus workers in London. Leaflets, posters and even executive members have appeared in some garages. The demand for the bonus is just. The increased revenue the bus companies will make during the Olympics will more than cover the cost of a bonus in recognition of the even more stress and demands placed on bus workers. However, this issue raises far wider questions. The campaign has placed on the agenda the more important issue of the steady deterioration of bus workers wages and working conditions. Continue reading “london busworkers: olympic 500 – phoney war or wages battle?”

why the phony war?

London based college worker Siobhan Breathnach writes about the top down nature of the UK public sector pensions dispute

We got notice of the 10th of May strike on a Friday afternoon ten days before, in the middle of an emergency meeting about redundancies. The first response was “They have got to be fucking kidding.” There was a general expression of dismay and disbelief. So what is the problem? Why weren’t we pleased about being called out? Continue reading “why the phony war?”

strikes and solidarity

If this year’s strikes are to have power, we must take our lead from the electricians, bypassing union attempts at defusion by offering each other solidarity in new ways and across artificial divides, writes Deb Harris.

Solidarity is illegal. Thatcher said so. She only permits us to strike if we have a specific and identifiable common complaint – we are not allowed to strike together in recognition of the general horror. In 2011, submissive as ever, the unions found the only thing that the public sector can legally unite around – pensions – and conveniently forgot that everyone is angry about a lot more than that. Their speeches, placards and leaflets were all about pensions. As if we had given up on anything but retirement. Continue reading “strikes and solidarity”