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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…

Folded Arms

The old “folded arms” theory of  syndicalism is the belief workers could topple capitalism without violence and merely by folding their arms and stopping work. This theory sprung forth in the period just after the Paris Commune when the workers were still  recuperating from the slaughter. It was also a response to the growing accommodation that the workers parties developed with the status quo. Syndicalism represented an extreme reaction against reformist, parliamentary socialism which can be viewed as the father of syndicalism.The restiveness of the working class is constantly working out new forms of struggle under changing circumstances that invariably lead towards the question of some sort of workers control over production.

 Those who call for a politicalised socialist trade union should understand that a union needs to recruit all workers to be able to put up resistance to the bosses. Can it possibly wait for all the workers to become socialists before inviting them to organise…

Against the "Realists"

Thinking capitalism is good for you is like thinking a Big Mac is good for you because it has lettuce and a pickle.  In 2008, 1.9 million Portuguese workers in the private sector were covered by collective bargaining agreements. Last year, the number was down to 300,000. Spain has eased restrictions on collective layoffs and unfair dismissal, and relaxed limits on extending temporary work, allowing workers to be kept on fixed-term contracts for up to four years. Andrew Watt, an economist who heads the Macroeconomic Policy Institute in Germany, worries that the push for labor market deregulation will cascade from one weak country to the next, as all engage in a futile race to create jobs by gaining market share from one another in a world of insufficient demand. “Whichever country is weakest at the time is forced into major cutbacks. First Germany, now Spain, next France,” he said.

Inequality across much of Europe has widened. In 1991, the richest 10 percent of Germans took in 26 perc…

We need the union

You cannot be a union man, 
No matter how you try,
Unless you think in terms of “we”
Instead of terms of “I”

Faced with austerity and wage cuts workers, more than ever, need unions that are prepared to fight to defend living standards. The boss doesn’t give up his profits, interests and dividends or bonuses in a recession.  He only demands that the workers give up their wages so that his profits, interests and dividends will be bigger. This is what is known as everyone sacrificing for the “national interest.” Workers soon learns that if they are by themselves , not in an organisation, they will be utterly helpless victims of capitalist greed. If the employer, especially the more powerful employer in the big industries, is able to deal with each worker separately, he can set almost any wage and working standard he pleases. If each worker offers himself singly on the labor market, he soon finds that other workers, especially when there is a large surplus of unemployed, will “underbid” him …

The Real Union Question

Have no illusions about the role of governments, the police or the law - the defence of capitalism and exploitation is the main function of the capitalist state.

Both Marx and Engels advised the workers to unite in trade unions and fight for improved wages and shorter hours. In these struggles, victories would be won. The workers could wring concessions out of the capitalists. “Now and then”, the Communist Manifesto explained “the workers are victorious, but only for a time. The real fruit of their battles lies, not in the immediate result, but in the ever-expanding union of the workers.”

The hand-to-mouth existence of the workers has never made it easy to strike for higher wages and better working conditions. The employers can recuperate lost profits, the workers’ lost wages cannot. As long as the capitalist system exists, the bosses will always try to take back what they have been forced to concede. They will continually try to step up the exploitation of the working class in orde…

The Tyranny of Work

The mental health of Scottish workers is being put at risk thanks to the "relentless pressure" of management systems meant to increase their productivity. Unions and researchers claim workers have suffered extreme stress, depression and in a few cases threatened suicide.  Austerity has allowed some firms to use management techniques to make their staff's lives a misery.

The impact on the mental health of employees was highlighted in the report Performance Management And The New Workplace Tyranny. Phil Taylor, professor of work and employment studies at the university in Glasgow, carried out the research.  He said performance management had evolved into a "continuous, all-encompassing" process of "tight monitoring and strict target compliance".

Taylor said: "Many who have been in the workplace for 10, 15, 20 years, talk with great pain about how the workplace they joined has been transformed beyond all recognition over those decades and the asp…

She-Town

In 1900 Dundee was associated with one product: jute. Jute was the cheapest of fibres, but it was tough. As such it was the ideal packing material. Jute bagging and jute sacks were used to carry cotton from the American South, grain from the Great Plains and Argentina, coffee from the East Indies and Brazil, wool from Australia, sugar from the Caribbean and nitrates from Chile. Dundee was ‘Juteopolis’ – synonymous with its main industry. This association of place and product was not unusual. We still link Clydebank with ships, Sheffield with steel, Stoke-on-Trent with pottery. Throughout the late nineteenth century, over half of Dundee's workforce worked in the textile sector, which, from the 1860s on, was dominated by jute. Migrant workers arrived in Dundee in thousands. By the end of the 19th century, the city had quadrupled in size. Many of the immigrants were from Ireland, poor and Catholic. Many Catholic Irish immigrants faced discrimination and bigotry in Presbyterian Scot…

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 real union struggle

Since the Industrial Revolution there has been a Us versusThem.  Lined up on one side are the men and women who do the actual work, who toil long, tedious hours for a defined wage, and lined up on the other are employers who, while grudgingly recognizing the necessity of workers, are committed to not paying them any more than is absolutely necessary. It’s an economic law. You charge for your product as much as that the market will bear, and you pay your employees as little as you can get away with. Adhering to the principle that there is “strength in numbers,” workers have joined together to form trade unions. And without those strong, militant labour unions acting as buffers, there is no other force capable of resisting the bosses muscle. Unless working people have some form of organisation to represent their interests, they will be subject to any draconian measures the capitalist wishes to enact. Without the capability to fight back—without the means to offer genuine resistance— wo…

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 …

The Red Union

"We will support the officials just so long as they rightly represent the workers, but we will act independently immediately they misrepresent them" - Clyde Workers' Committee

The United Mineworkers of Scotland - The Red Union


The United Mineworkers of Scotland (UMS), functioned for some six years in the few areas in which the Communist Party had a credible industrial presence. None the less, the UMS never recruited more than 4000 members and this had  fallen to 2000 by 1932, of which 65% were in Fife. Once again, as so often in Scottish labour history, religion had an influence. The UMS was strong in the pits with a history of more militancy but also with a higher level of Irish workers. Protestant Harthill was weak in Communist Party membership, whereas Catholic Blantyre support for CPGB ran high. Abe Moffat, the UMS leader, recalled that during a strike in the Shotts coalfield in 1930 that Catholic miners didn't want to offend the local priest by marching in front …

workers defy management

Workers at Scottish Water have rejected a pay freeze. The GMB union said there were fears the ground was being laid for a wage freeze which could last for five years.

“Members resent the fact that five directors will share a bonus pot of £90,000 each while they are being asked to accept a pay freeze.”Richard Leonard, the GMB organiser for Scottish Water said.

The union's membership had rejected the pay freeze offer, which came with a one-off payment of £250 for employees earning less than £21,000, by a margin of 62 to 38 per cent. Strike action could see key employees such as emergency call-out staff and water sewage treatments workers staying away from work during the winter.

Lazy greedy workers ??

Teachers are working an extra 10 weeks a year without pay, according to new research by a major teaching union.A workload survey carried out by the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association has revealed that nearly 54% of teachers work 400 extra hours for their employers each year. The union uncovered that one in 10 teachers works more than 55 hours a week.Two out of every five secondary teachers said they were stressed during the working week.

Collected during December, February and March, the workload survey revealed that more than a quarter of teachers worked between 45 and 50 hours a week, 16% worked between 50 and 55 hours, and 10% regularly worked in excess of 55 hours.

The union also overwhelmingly voted to oppose the establishment of trust schools, which would see schools run by communities at arms-length from local authorities.The SSTA said trust schools are “about saving money, not about improving education”.

Sweet Pickings

David Leslie Fruits , a Perthshire fruit farm , has been ordered to pay more than £26,000 to two fruit pickers. During their time at the farm they lived among 200 workers in cramped metal cabins with no running water or lockers for personal belongings. Workers were also expected to drag a sledge half a mile, unpaid, before spending between 10-11 hours a day in fields picking fruit.

After working for the firm for a month, Mr Kowal and Mr Obieglo asked Mr Leslie to clarify what their rate of pay was after some workers received between £1 and £5 per hour.As a result, the men were threatened then sacked but were later reinstated when other workers, who relied on their translation abilities, said they would go on strike. When the pair presented a 145-name petition calling on Mr Leslie to pay fair wages and to give them the minimum wage, they were accused of stealing fruit, told to collect their belongings and escorted from the farm by police. Eventually the pair were taken to Perth bus sta…

A new International

Even in the 19th Century it w2as recognised that capitalism was a world wide system and that the working class required an international workers association to effectively resist the bosses .

Once again trade unions are recognising the global effects of the employers and are re-organising appropriately .

The Finiancial Times reports a historic alliance between Unite, Britain's biggest trade union, and the almost 1m-strong United Steelworkers union in North America is about to create the first transatlantic union, with more than 2.5m working members.

The move is designed to provide greater protection for workers whose jobs are threatened by the spread of global capitalism. The UK and US partners hope unions from other countries will join the alliance, increasing its strength.

Amicus had previously signed co-operation deals with USW and the International Association of Machinists in the US, and the IG Metall union in Germany, while the T&G had forged working relationships in the US …

Being Taken to the Cleaners

Goldman Sachs is to pay its staff more than £8bn in salaries, benefits and Christmas bonuses this year. The handout follows another bumper year of profits for the US investment bank. Staff worldwide could expect to receive an average of £320,000 this year . Not bad at all for some .

But for the others - It's not too good .

Some 120 cleaners - who clean the Goldman Sachs London offices - campaign for Justice for Cleaners , to give every cleaner in the City of London a decent wage , sick pay, a pension, 20 days' holiday and bank holidays, as well as collective bargaining through the union.

The 120 cleaners employed by Mitie , a contractor, say their numbers have been cut but their workload has not. They are asking for a rise to a London living wage of £7.05 an hour from the presnt wage-rate of about £5.35 .