Hacked off in Hackney


Hackney council sees itself as New Labour's laboratory for wholesale privatisation of local public services. Back in May, Catalyst reported on the attacks on council workers' pay and conditions in Hackney. Since then, in many ways, things have gone from bad to worse.

HACKNEY - FOR SALE - this offer is not available to the poor!

Address: 15 Atherden Road, Lower Clapton, Hackney

Description: Formerly a nursery, but we got rid of the kids + their whining parents. We even fibbed in court, to get rid of the squatters who had reopened it as a community centre of all things. We told the master that we were not going to sell this building but, Ha! - It is now freed up to give lots of potential for profit as a yuppie wine bar or a private health club for city workers to unwind and spend lots of their hard earned dosh.

Workers escalate year-long strike

Workers in Hackney's libraries have been on strike for over a year - in fact, every Saturday since 24th November 2001. They are calling for mass pickets of Hackney Central, Stoke Newington and Shoreditch Libraries to prevent scab labour recruited by the Labour-controlled Council from opening them. These pickets will take place on the first Saturday the scabs are called in, probably 7th December, and on each subsequent Saturday until they are withdrawn.

London Weighting dispute rolls on

London Weighting dispute rolls on UNISON members in Local Government have been undertaking a series of one-day strikes for increased London Weighting. This is currently £2,646 for Inner London Boroughs, and £1,407 for most workers in Outer London. The claim for £4,000 for all 32 Boroughs has been met with “there's no money, pay increases will mean redundancies” from the Bosses.

No more waiting for weighting

Local government workers in London are currently fighting for a much-needed increase in London weighting. What with crazy house prices and rents, we simply have to get decent pay.

So far, the dispute has been under union leadership control. It has been 100% lawful and official - hence we have not yet achieved victory. We need to increase the pressure on the employers and try to win, and win quickly. We need to organise solidarity action, even if this does not have the official approval of union leaders. The first step is GMB and TGWU members not crossing UNISON picket lines. By doing this we can show the management that we are a united, determined workforce. If solidarity action escalates, they will have to give ground on the pay claim. But if they see people crossing picket lines, they will think they have the green light to reduce our wages and conditions.

Radical Workers Bloc on Anti-Cuts March

On Saturday 23rd October 2010 a number of trade unions have called for a march in London to lobby the TUC to fight the cuts. This is the same day as the annual London Anarchist Bookfair and a day when a large number of anarchists are in the city. We are calling on all anarchists and militant workers to join us in forming a 'Radical Worker's Bloc' on the demonstration, not to beg the trade union bureaucrats to take action, but to argue that we fight the cuts based on the principles of solidarity, direct action, and control of our own struggles.

Lewisham Occupation

Since 23rd April parents of pupils at Lewisham Bridge Primary School in Lewisham, south east London, and their supporters have been occupying a school roof. They are protesting against Lewisham Council’s plans to demolish the school building and replace it with a school for children aged 3 to16. The proposed new school will be squeezed into a site presently occupied by the primary school, which has less than half of the 835 pupils projected for the “all age” school, so play areas and room sizes would fall below government recommendations.

The new school would only have one primary class per year, instead of the current school’s two. Eleanor Davies, whose six year old son, attends the school, said:

Strike in the city

Latin American cleaners on Friday 3rd April held the latest in a series of weekly demonstrations outside their former workplace in the insurance firm Willis in the City of London against the sacking of five of their colleagues by the Mitie cleaning contractor. The four men and one woman were dismissed following an email conversation with management, in which the cleaners registered their unhappiness at a sudden change in shift patterns, done without consultation.

Tube staff go off the rails

From 7pm on the evening of Tuesday June 9th until 7pm on Thursday June 11th 2009, London Underground workers in the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union took strike action. The main issue was job security as tube bosses flatly refused to rule out compulsory redundancies, putting 4,000 jobs at risk. London Underground originally also tried to force through a five-year pay agreement which could see significant pay cuts linked to deflation. This, alongside severe management bullying, led the workers to strike.

As the strike began, the London papers really pushed the boat out using distortions and outright lies to attack the striking workers. Claims of workers demanding 5% pay increases ignored the fact that management asked the RMT to submit a pay claim in November (when inflation was higher) while Transport for London have yet to offer anything. These sleight-of-hand tricks with the facts were coupled with barefaced lies like talks stalling over two sacked drivers on the Victoria line. This entirely separate issue, though symptomatic of wider abuses of procedure on the tube, were at no point a part of the main negotiations.

Of course, the papers also failed to mention the 123 tube managers on £100,000+ salaries, plus bonuses. Or that forty minutes before the strike, an agreement had been reached which, while the documents were being typed up, was cancelled by City Hall. These facts disappeared from media view entirely.

The theme of the media coverage was one of trying to stoke resentment against the strikers. Newspaper letters pages were filled with angry comments about ‘people losing their jobs while tube staff want more money’. We’re in recession now so we all have to tighten our belts, apparently. However, this just means that workers will be asked to tighten our belts, while our bosses continue living on six-figure salaries. Tightening our belts now doesn’t mean bosses will reward this good will in the future, rather they will see it as an opportunity for further attacks.

Rather than resent the tube workers’ struggle for jobs, conditions and pay, we should see it as a source for inspiration. As the recession continues, many of us will face similar attacks as bosses try to save money while saving their own salaries. Taking action together, like workers did on the Underground, will be the only way to protect ourselves from these attacks.