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The function of a trade union

The function of a trade union is to eliminate competition among workers on the labour market. But if the trade union, as an organization of living human beings, is to attain its goal, it can do so only through the will of its members. The transient personal interests of the individual worker often clash with the interests of the class as a whole. The organisation requires certain sacrifices: dues, expenditure of time, readiness to engage in struggle. Anyone who remains outside the union earns the good will of his employer and avoids conflicts, unemployment, or demotion. The stronger the trade unions become the more the entrepreneur strives to keep his workers out of them. He substitutes his own social security arrangements for those of the trade union, and deliberately exploits the conflict between personal and class interests. The trade union struggle is a struggle over the labour contract.

The capitalist is opposed by the individual worker while the individual employer is engaged i…

Against the General Strike

“Solidarity for ever,
  For the Union makes us strong.”

The union movement has proven itself to be a powerful instrument of a defensive character and as a force that poses the possibility of a transformation  from wage labour to a free association of workers and common ownership. The labour movement has won through battles on the picket lines but has often been lost, due, to counter attacks by the representatives of the employers as a class in control of parliament, and the state in its totality. The employers, through their agents in control of parliament and the entire state apparatus, have erected a whole network of laws and regulations designed to hamstring the labour movement. Organised labour is weak in relation to the power of the ruling class. Large numbers of workers, poorly paid and helpless before the onslaughts and insecurities that are products of capitalist society, have fallen prey to the capitalist- inspired propaganda that the union movement is a narrow, a sectional po…

The General Strike Weapon

The possibility of a general strike keep cropping up within the trade union movement. There have been many different types of general strikes in the history of the working class internationally. A general strike is a practical tactic or a token gesture, useful or detrimental, according to the conditions under which it takes place, the method it employs and the end it proposes. When we speak of the general strike we are not concerned with the general strike of a single trade union but of all workers. The movement is no longer, a trade union movement but has become a class movement.

For the general strike to succeed, the working-class must be convinced of the importance of the aim for which it is declared. It must be demonstrated that the purpose is legitimate and victory is realisable. The general strike must not be a disguise for revolution, but simply the right to strike on a wider scale and with a more clearly marked class character. The Socialist Party dismisses the idea that the …

China's class struggle

More than 1,000 furious migrant workers besieged a factory in Shanghai and held 18 Japanese and Chinese managers against their will for more than a day, after the workers were subjected to unequal regulations. 400 police freed the managers.

The workers of Japanese electronic appliance maker Shanghai Shinmei Electric staged a strike and besieged the factory for two days following the introduction of a new factory policy calling for heavy fines, demerits or immediate termination for workers who made a mistake.

A worker wrote via a microblog about the desperate situation management allegedly put them in. "We earn less than 2,000 yuan a month, but we could be subjected to fines of 50 to 100 yuan for arriving late or spending more than two minutes in the toilet,"

The National Bureau of Statistics last week revealed the country’s Gini coefficient – which measures income inequality. The official figure of 0.474 is a belated acknowledgment that China has a serious problem. On the …

How Clydebank stitched up Singers

The 1911 Clydebank Singers strike is considered the first battle between labour and international capital in Scotland if not in the UK. It was also the biggest single firm strike in Scotland up to 1914. The strike lasted three weeks.

In 1867/8 the American company Singer Sewing Machine Co. expanded into Scotland. It first opened a small sewing machine factory in Glasgow near John St. However growing demand forced the company to expand to a larger factory in the Bridgeton area of Glasgow. In 1882 they moved again, to a greenfield site at Kilbowie in Clydebank. It was a very anti-union company. Tom Bell, an activist during the 1911 strike, in his book “Pioneering Days” states; “The firm refuses to recognise any union, and those union men that were employed had to keep it quiet.”

The class struggle

Members the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), Scotland's largest teachers union, yesterday voted in favour of fighting austerity measures in a renewed campaign which could lead to industrial action in the autumn. The union backed motions calling for action to protect the profession from public sector cuts and oppose changes to their pensions being made by the UK government. While pension reform is reserved to Westminster, the Scottish Government has said it must implement the changes or face losing £100 million a year it receives from the UK government. Last November, Scots teachers took part in a UK-wide strike over pension changes – the first nationwide walkout by the profession in Scotland since 1986.

In a scathing attack the newly-elected EIS general secretary Larry Flanagansaid  “We understand that it is the UK government, the coalition, that has been the driving force behind the attempt to make teachers pay more, to work longer and to get less. We know who the guilty …

Strike to defend pay and pensions

Tens of thousands of Scottish workers will be on strike today protesting at government pension reforms. Departments affected include Jobcentres, tax and benefit offices, courts, coastguards, Historic Scotland venues such as  Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle, and civilian workers at the Faslane nuclear base and the Scottish Parliament. Some health workers, mainly porters and technicians from the Unite union, are also expected to take action.

PCS Scottish Secretary, Lynn Henderson, said the changes, which appeared in April's pay packets for the first time, were costing some members up to £150 a month.

 STUC general secretary Graeme Smith said the action demonstrated the frustration people were feeling. "People feel aggrieved at being asked to pay more, having to work longer and get less at the end of the day," he said.

We are being told practically every day that we are living in hard times and that we must be prepared to tighten our belts. Longer working lives, lower p…

The 1926 May Days

“The miners occupy the front trenches of the position singled out for attack and if their wages are reduced it will be the beginning of a general wage reduction” (John Wheatley, Labour MP)

The General Strike lasted from 3rd to 12th May

Over the years a struggle had been developing between a growing militant working class and the employers and the state.The industrial working classes defined British politics in the 1920s; some 7 Million workers (one in six of the population) were employed in heavy industry or the land. Two million men worked down the mines and hundreds of thousands of others were employed in the iron and steel industry, in the railways and docks, in the building and engineering industry and in textiles and transport. The 1926 General Strike was initiated to defend the living conditions of the miners. The longer-term view of the 1926 General Strike sees it as the inevitable outcome of a struggle between classes that began during the First World War. Soldiers returning …

Red or Pale Pink Clydeside?

In the eyes of many, Glasgow during the First World War and its aftermath gained the reputation of being a centre of socialist ideas, a hotbed of revolution. The city acquired the nickname "Red Clydeside". There remains a debate on the Left, over whether the Red Clydeside movement constituted a genuine revolutionary opportunity for the working class, or that the revolutionary potential of the Clydeside working class has been exaggerated. Prior to the Red Clydeside, Glasgow was quite solidly Liberal at elections and did not have a significant history of workers’ militancy. The city shared the jingoistic wave which swept Britain at the outbreak of the First World War. Thousands of Glaswegians signed up for the armed forces of their own volition. The trade unions, supported by the overwhelming support of their members, agreed not to call any strikes and didn’t bat an eyelid at repressive pieces of legislation such as the Defence of the Realm Act. To undermine the war effort wa…

class war in India

India factory workers in revolt and kill company president. Workers at the Regency Ceramics factory in India raided the home of their boss, and beat him senseless with lead pipes after a wage dispute turned ugly. The workers were enraged enough to kill Regency’s president K. C. Chandrashekhar after their union leader, M. Murali Mohan, was killed by baton-wielding riot police. Once news of Murali’s death spread, the factory workers destroyed 50 company cars, buses and trucks and lit them on fire. They ransacked the factory. The workers had been calling for higher pay and reinstatement of previously laid off workers since October. India’s factory workers are the lowest paid within the big four emerging markets. Per capita income in India is under $4,000 a year, making it the poorest country in the BRICs despite its relatively booming economy.http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2012/01/27/india-factory-workers-revolt-kill-company-president/


Fight back or revolution

Education, hospitals, transport and the like are primarily a service for the smooth running of capitalism and were brought in as such. It is the essential nature of the services in these industries which has led to their being associated with state control. In other words, they are useful to the capitalist class and so it is in their interest to maintain them at a reasonably efficient level. On the other hand, the public sector costs money to run and this can only come in the end out of taxes, which ultimately fall on the capitalist's profits.

Cameron and other apologists for the status quo claim that the whole population will have to make “sacrifices” to keep paying for those public services. What these defenders of capitalism utterly and deliberately fail to tell us is that the overwhelming burden of the sacrifice will have to be made by the working class. The rich will, for the most part, as usual keep their privileges and luxurious lifestyles. Capitalism always works in the int…

Cameron threatens the unions

In his first television interview of the year, Cameron, facing a possible spring of discontent as unions consider co-ordinating strikes against public-sector cuts, sent a tough message against any militant action. "Striking is not going to achieve anything and the trade unions need to know they are not going to be able to push anyone around by holding this strike or that strike or even a whole lot of strikes together – they can forget it,” he declared.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT union countered: “If David Cameron thinks he can batter working people into the dirt through his undiluted brand of fiscal fascism, then he’s got another think coming.” He added: “Millionaire public schoolboys, who are insulated from the lives of working people taking the daily hit of VAT increases and spending cuts, are in no position to tell the unions what we should and should not be doing to defend our members.”

Grahame Smith, the STUC general secretary Cameron was deliberately raising the …

Council workers in strike action

Up to 150,000 council staff in Scotland staged the second 24-hour strike over pay in two months. Schools, ferry services and rubbish collections are being disrupted as members of the Unite, Unison and GMB unions take part in the action.
It comes after the rejection of an amended offer from local authority umbrella group Cosla to change the 2.5% pay offer from three years to one year. The unions are calling for a 5% increase in line with inflation. Matt Smith, Unison's Scottish secretary, said he was impressed by the turnout for the strike and threatened more industrial action if the dispute continued.
Members of the Socialist Party participated in this walk out, just as ordinary workers who are union members.We reject any notions of wage increases 'ever' being the cause of inflation.Wages always play 'catch-up' with inflation.There is over a century of socialist writing on this subject which can be accessed on the SPGB website, as this search will show.

The police and the class war

Scotland's rank and file police are to call for the right to strike, currently denied them by law.
Members of the Scottish Police Federation , representing ranks up to chief constable, will debate the issue at their annual conference.

Police are prohibited by law from striking. The nearest they came to industrial action was a demonstration last year when 22,000 off-duty officers south of the Border protested over the pay deal they had been given. Many officers believe not being able to strike means they enter pay negotiations at a disadvantage and there is an increasing feeling within the federation that pay levels have been slipping.

Charity doesn't begin at home

Staff at Shelter Scotland went on strike yesterday for the first time in the homeless charity's history in protest over pay and conditions. Offices around the country were closed as more than 100 workers and their supporters gathered at a rally in Glasgow to voice their opposition to new employment contracts.

The union Unite said that a proposed extension of staff hours would see employees working an extra three weeks a year without pay.Workers are also opposed to plans to downgrade 40 posts across Shelter's UK services, including four at Shelter Scotland, and to make up to five staff redundant. Unite said the walkout, following the breakdown of earlier talks, would be repeated on Monday unless management was prepared to negotiate a new offer. The prospect of a resolution looked unlikely, however, as Shelter's UK head warned that if the current offer was refused, up to 200 of its 850 staff UK-wide could lose their jobs.

Tesco drivers' strike

Tesco drivers' strike continuesUp to 150 Tesco lorry drivers have begun a strike after refusing to sign up to new working terms and conditions.The dispute came after the supermarket chain revealed plans to move its depot in Livingston, West Lothian, to a new site nearby. Local MP Jim Devine has called for a one-day boycott of Tesco for threatening to sack drivers who refuse to sign the new contract. A Tesco spokesman said the chain "strongly refuted" Mr Devine's claims. The drivers, all members of the Transport and General Workers Union (T&G), are taking part in a strike which is due to last from Thursday until Saturday. Tesco vehicles were having to turn around at the warehouse as workers formed a picket line, according to union members. The T&G claims the new contracts, brought in with the move to the new site, mean losses to the drivers of between £3,000 and £6,000 and the de-recognition of the union.
Tesco strongly refuted claims that the drivers would lo…