North London Solidarity Federation hereby expresses its solidarity with Bloomsbury Fightback and the activists involved in the Bloomsbury Social Centre initiative in their resistance against the imminent threat of violent eviction by SOAS management.
Solfed members were on the pickets in London for the biggest wildcat strike of 2011 and one of the biggest electricians' walkouts of recent years. Below we summarise some of the events around Blackfriars as thousands of electricians downed tools against the breaking of national working agreements which will mean pay cuts of up to 35% and defied an injunction against official strike action brought by Balfour's legal team just days before. Below that we've collated summaries from elsewhere.
An eyewitness account by a Hackney picket:
I went from my picket line to the CLR James library picket at about 10. On the bus up there I was a bit disturbed to see a police helicopter hovering above Dalston Junction. When I got to the library there were a huge number of TSG kettling about 35 people with a mobile sound system. I managed to speak to people in the kettle and they told me that two people had been beaten up and arrested earlier when people had tried to block the road.
I called people on my picket line and asked them to come quickly to the library. A small group of us stood around for ages occasionally having short conversations with the kettled protesters or telling the police that they were disgusting. I phoned my picket again and was dismayed to find out that they had all gone to another picket line that was nearer.
This morning the weekly protests got very lively as the rank and file electricians occupied the Grattes Brothers HQ. With only a few days left of the ballot for strike action, we gathered at 6.30 outside the gates of the building site at Kings X. Electricians and supporters leafletted the workers going in and there was a short attempt to block the gate but the police kept a pathway open so people could still go in to work.
The electricians had called a national day of action for the same day as the student protest of November 9th, which looked like it could have a lot of possibilities. Would these two very different movements be able to link up?
The North and South London Locals of the Solidarity Federation extend our solidarity to the workers at Queen Mary University. With the threat of redundancies across campus, workers have become energised, linked up with students, and exhibited a growing degree of organisation. In response, university management have suspended the Queen Mary UNISON branch secretary on trumped up disciplinary charges.
While the Solidarity Federation recognises the power of the union rests not in its officials, but in an active and self-organised membership, management clearly believe they can defeat their workforce by 'beheading' the union. Such attacks must be resisted.
In the sixth week of the conflict, following last Wednesday's site occupation, electricians gathered on Oxford Street outside two building sites, as part of demonstrations against the attempts to change working conditions in the largest construction companies. Changes include pay cuts of 35% and de-skilling which would affect thousands of workers. The construction companies are trying to push the changes through by December and are threatening workers with the sack if they don't sign new contracts.
On the evening of 29th September, a number of SolFed members trekked to the swanky West End of London to stand in solidarity with the Spanish working class.
We arrived, banners in hand, first to the Spanish Consulate and then to the Embassy. Our arrival coincided with a national day of action called by a coalition of radical Spanish unions, including SF's sister organisation, the CNT. With events planned all over Spain, these militant workers and militant workers' organisations are calling for a general strike to overcome the brutal austerity cuts the Spanish state is attempting to force on Spain's working class.
North London Solidarity Federation have written a statement sending our solidarity to comrades in Brazil.
A secção do norte de Londres (Reino Unido) do sindicato Associação Internacional de Trabalhadores envia a sua solidariedade para com a luta dos seus companheiros pertencentes ao Sindicato de Artes e Ofícios Vários de Araxá em Minas Gerais, Brasil.
Estes trabalhadores tem sido sujeitos a várias situações inaceitáveis, inclusive baixos salários e demissões injustificadas praticados pelo seu empregador FF Comercial (marcas Lotto e Finta). Eles contam agora com o nosso total apoio para com a sua luta que passa também a ser a nossa luta.
A leaflet in support of Queen Mary staff and against the cuts there. Designed to be given out to students and the public.
Today at 7.30 am electricians briefly occupied a building site in protest at attempts to cut their pay and conditions.
The conflict is because the “Big 8” of construction employers want to withdraw from the JIB (Joint Industry Board) agreement on pay, grading and seniority. They want to bring in new grades of semiskilled electricians earning £10.50 and £14 an hour instead of the current hourly JIB rate of £16.25. The protests against this change have been going on for several weeks now all across the country. Last week at the Olympic site workers blocked the site entrance for some time but, as the site is so huge, the management just moved people coming in to work to a different gate, so the protesters blocked the main road near the site for twenty minutes. The demo today was bigger, maybe 250- 300 people, and started out next to Farringdon Station.
Guildhall cleaners and their supporters, including SF members, held a 5.30am protest yesterday after a union rep was suspended. Sodexho, a company with interests in private prisons and detention centres, took over the cleaning contract on Monday. On Wednesday they suspended the union rep. At one point management even tried to lock him in a room.
The protest was loud and defiant and management called the police three times to try and stop us from using drums and megaphones. Passers by were sympathetic with one person commenting that the cleaners in her building had also had problems with being paid late. She took leaflets to give them.
Today at the Shard site near London Bridge, around 200 site electricians protested against an attack by employers on their pay and conditions. The “Big Eight” of construction employers want to withdraw from the JIB (Joint Industry Board) agreement on pay, grading and seniority. They want to bring in new grades of semiskilled electricians earning £10.50 and £14 an hour instead of the current hourly JIB rate of £16.25. It would also get rid of seniority, making it easier for employers to pick and choose who works on site.
As the recession has affected the building industry especially badly, the employers think this is a good time to take on the electricians, who are one of the strongest groups of workers in the building industry. If they win then they will attack pay and conditions across the board in construction.
Solfed members were present at the Shard building site in King's Cross, London at silly-o-clock in the morning (well, 6.30am) to lend a bit of solidarity to electricians. Workers across the country are facing a concerted attempt from the "big eight" construction companies, Bailey Building Services, Balfour Beatty Engineering Services, Tommy Clarke, Crown House Technologies, Gratte Brothers, MJN Colston, SES and SPIE Matthew Hall, to knock 35% off wages in the industry.
Below are pictures from early on (it later grew to about 200 people) and a short interview with protest organiser Alan Keayes, full report to follow! For more information and updates, you can check the campaign blog: http://jibelectrician.blogspot.com.
In January 1986 the Wapping dispute was unleashed with the overnight move of Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers to a new non-union printworks and the sacking of 5,500 workers.
Murdoch’s vast resources and the support of the Tory government and its anti-union laws enabled the company to build and staff the Docklands works and dismiss the original workforce.
A year-long strike failed to win justice for them, as the plant was staffed by strike-breaking labour recruited by the electricians’ union, the EETPU, in one of the greatest acts of treachery in labour movement history.
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Stuff Your Boss - North London
A re-written version of SolFed's national Stuff Your Boss leaflet. Include North London's contact details. (pdf)
Education Struggle are Our Struggles
Generic leaflet that can be given out to education workers, students, parents, or members of the public. (pdf)
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Three SolFed posters: Just saying Barcode At Work (pdf), (pdf), (pdf)
Workplace Organiser Training Leaflet
Leaflet and generic invitation for the Solidarity Federation workplace organiser training (pdf)
Don't Cross Picket Lines!
Short, generic double-sided A5 leaflet meant to be given out on picket lines or in the run-up to a strike. (pdf)
Office Angels Leaflet
"Office Devils" leaflet handed out at picket lines in support of a cheated agency worker. (pdf)
North London leaflet for March 26th
Obviously, this is a bit late, but the content of the leaflet still holds true. Please feel free to plagiarise if you think it will be useful. (pdf)