Hackney Unite the Resistance meeting brings key struggles together

2 September 2016

We held a great Hackney Unite the Resistance Meeting last night. Speakers included Juan Cantos (Wood Street Striker), David Hardman(Victimised UCU London Metropolitan University rep at London Metropolitan University) Malathi (UNISON rep at Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust fighting ISS cuts), Jane Bassett (Hackney NUT) and Petros Elia (United Voices of the World the union),

Juan Cantos talked of his experiences fighting ‘Thames Cleaning & Support Services’ at 100 Wood Street in the City The workforce struck for 58 days for the London Living Wage and for reinstatement of sacked colleagues ” It’s really important to unite against their system because we can win. In the strike I found our how great solidarity is. The only salvation for workers is in unity and organisation”

Malathi said that she has worked for two outsourced companies within the NHS: “They come in and their watch-words are the neoliberal mantras of ‘restructuring’. and ‘efficiency’ but their aims are the same – more work for less money so their profits are larger. They use zero-hour contracts and meaningless consultations to make job cuts and cut workers hours but we can resist. ISS at Homerton Hospital wanted to cut 68 jobs in cleaning, security and catering. Our resistance has meant they’ve backed off and now propose to cut 12 jobs. We are fighting for those jobs too. We’ve held lunch-time demonstrations, petitioned and had an indicative ballot for strike action. A union has to keep going forward, if you don’t keep a forward momentum you’ll fall back.”

David Hardman said that his victimisation “must be put in the context of the general Tory attack on free, accessible quality education. The Tories have unleashed the market in education. The new director at London Metropolitan University is a former director of Pierson Publishing. The market has it’s own logic. Last autumn the university announced 93 job cuts. That included my job and my fellow UCU London Metropolitan University rep Mark Campbell. In the spring they announced a further 395 job cuts. We are not just going to walk away. The fight is for decent conditions for lecturers and a quality education for students. It’s the same fight. There will be a strike in induction week at London Metropolitan University in defence of our jobs and a series of actions which will culminate on the 19/11/2016 with a joint National DEMO: United for Education by the National Union of Students and the UCU – University and College Union

Petros Elia talked about how United Voices of the World the union work; “We have built and grown organising migrant workers. Traditional methods of organizing don’t work for us. How do new members get on board? – they fight back, they win and then they tell their families and friends. United Voices of the World the union is trying to socialise our campaigns reaching out to new workers. Our problems are the same across the labour force. Confidence is low and fear at work is high. We are concentrating on developing a social dynamic which is lacking in many people’s lives. We want to breach the wall between workers and their unions. There should be a drive on the part of unions to reach out to workers socially and culturally. We also need to change our perceptions about strategy. There has been a focus on density in recruiting to unions. The ideal is density but that doesn’t work in every sector. We organise migrant workers in the hotel industry. The turnover of staff is very high – up to 400%. One chain has 20,000 on their books. it’s not realistic to go for density. the key is organising, fighting, winning and building an activist base. The key is struggle. We have organised cleaners to take action in the Barbican, at St George’s University, Whither’s Law firm (and Sotherby’s). Each struggle has been different and you never know what will work. it needs a bit of audacity. After winning the LLW at Whithers we chanced our arm and demanded the firm to back-date the worker’s wage rise. And they did.Some struggles are low-hanging fruit like that, some are more difficult like the Wood Street struggle.
The trade union movement needs to think about organising non-English speaking workers. There are thousands of workers out there who speak little English but know how to fight. We have found that a lot can be done on the basis of personal relationships – “friendly campaigns”. And nothing succeeds like success. When cleaners at surrounding firms saw the strike at Wood Street had won better conditions, they wanted to follow our example!”

Speakers from the floor included shop-stewards from Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, USDAW, Unison, and others.

I pointed out that the panel (and the audience) was made up of cleaners, caterers, teachers and lecturers and they came from across the world but our enemy was the same and their language of ‘restructuring’ and ‘efficiency’ was the same, Their weapons of zero-hours contracts was the same. The capitalists drive for profit is insatiable. ISS made £250 MILLION profit last year but they are cutting jobs and hours because that is not enough. The government are trying to divide us with racism but worker’s can unite in struggle against the common enemy of the bosses and their filthy capitalist system. The slogan of the United Voices of the World the union striking at Wood Street was “We are NOT the dirt that we clean!”. That spirit needs to be taken up by the whole movement.

It was a serious meeting.

The last word goes to Petros Elia: “We should love each other more and hate our bosses more!”

La lucha continúa!

Sasha Simic's photo.
Sasha Simic's photo.
Sasha Simic's photo.
Sasha Simic's photo.

 

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