12 June 2014
Around a hundred of the 180 odd delegates at the BFAWU bakers’ union’s annual conference in Southport packed into a Unite the Resistance fringe meeting to hear from inspiring strikes taking place across the trade union movement.
The meeting took place as around 1.5 million public sector workers in the NUT teachers’ union, Unison local government and the PCS civil service workers’ union prepare for a potential mass coordinated strike over pay, and just as the FBU’s fire fighters were set to strike again over attacks on pensions.
Audrey Glover, a teacher and assistant secretary of Lancaster, Morecambe and District NUT, explained why teachers are striking on 10 July, and that this was a fight to defend education too.
She told the meeting, “We were proud to take our NUT banner to Hovis in Wigan, but there is nothing to thank us for – that’s solidarity”.
Care Uk strikers from Doncaster spoke, where Unison members are fighting an onslaught on their pay and have taken 34 days strikes so far.
Gina and Richard, who made the journey to Southport to address the meeting explained that it gave them a boost to see how much support there is for their action, and how it was also a fight to defend care and defend the NHS.
UCU Lambeth College strikers Gillian and Dagmara had travelled all the way from south London, where they have been on an all-out indefinite strike since 3 June to stop an all out assault on contracts and conditions.
They told delegates how their fight was of national significance as if the attacks go through it will set a precedent.
Nik Hughes from BFAWU at Hovis in Wigan shared the experience of how the union won their fight against zero hours and stressed that BFAWU members should get involved in supporting other strikes as solidarity was so crucial for their victory.
Rob from BECTU at the Ritzy talked about the inspiring and lively nature of their strikes for the living wage, where young workers in a typically hard to organise sector have been delivering solid, imaginative strikes with widespread support.
The meeting also heard from Ronnie Draper, BFAWU general secretary, who stressed the need for solidarity, Sam Vickers from BFAWU in Yorkshire who discussed BFAWU’s involvement in local activities in the Fast Food Rights campaign, and Julie from the Fast Food Rights campaign, initiated by BFAWU alongside John McDonnell MP, and Unite the Resistance which has links with the US fast food strikes.
This included a report from the international fast food workers’ conference hosted by the IUF (international food workers’ union federation), and the experience of meeting the US strikers and building the 15 May strikes.
The strikes in 15 May came off the back of a campaign that in just over a year spread from a group of 200 fast food workers in New York walking off the job, to strikes hitting 150 cities across America.
The 15 May global day of action garnered solidarity protests in over 30 countries.
The BFAWU conference collected hundreds of pounds for the striking workers, and passed motions underlining the importance of translating the experience of how solidarity can help lead to victories into delivering support for groups of workers fighting back now.
The conference also saw delegates express outrage and a will to fight back over the disgraceful use of zero hours contracts, the bedroom tax, energy prices, the attacks on the NHS and education, poor housing, and other elements of the Tories’ austerity attacks.
Repeatedly, delegates stressed the importance of keeping up the pressure on the Labour party, raising demands for commitments over these issues.
Other speakers invited to address the BFAWU conference included John McDonnell MP and Ricky Tomlinson who stood with the Hovis Wigan strikers for a solidarity photo celebrating their victory.