Disgusted by what you are seeing on TV about Amazon? Read this

Disgusted by what you are seeing on TV about Amazon? Read this

Tax dodging corporations profit from casualization

Amazon

Amazon

The following article was published in ‘The Socialist’ newspaper at the start of October. It is highly relevant given the Panorama programme currently showing on BBC1. If you agree with what we are saying fill in the form at the end of the article to help us build a movement that will fight for a society that puts people before profit, a socialist society.

Only trade unions can defend workers’ rights

By Ronnie Job

The Swansea Amazon warehouse location, next to the former Linamar/Visteon/Ford site, is a graphic illustration of how casualised, low-paid work has replaced unionised, skilled manufacturing.

The local press has hailed Amazon for announcing it will employ 1,500 extra workers in the run-up to Christmas.

However, an agency worker who was at Amazon last Christmas told me about their experience.

“At the end of the first day’s warehouse tour, the guide pointed out ‘your rep’s office’. One new worker asked if they meant union rep, but was told it was the agency rep’s office and they didn’t have unions. Don’t think the person asking the question lasted long!

“The first wage packet was a lot smaller than anybody expected, with compulsory deductions for a locker deposit (although I wasn’t assigned a locker as there weren’t enough), CRB check and drugs test.

“Despite supposedly being employed for 25 hours a week plus overtime, workers were frequently sent home, often not having earned enough to pay for their bus fare or petrol.

“Some days, agency workers were sent home while work was given to unpaid jobseekers on the workfare scheme.”

Amazon pays next to no tax in the UK but is at liberty to take advantage of government schemes that provide free labour!

Points mean P45s

“It is not easy to get to the site by public transport, especially around Christmas, but anybody turning up late would be assigned penalty points. These were accumulated and led to dismissals.

“Other ‘offences’ attracting points included ‘errors’, like not putting the right amount of brown paper in a box or forgetting to put in the advertisements. All absences (all unpaid of course) were treated the same, even certificated sickness or attending a job interview.

“The site had a real gulag feel. Everybody was subject to security scans whenever they left the floor, and random scans while working, with a handheld scanner.

“CCTV cameras are everywhere and you’re told that you can face a drug or alcohol test at any time, have your locker searched or your drinking water tested.

“Everybody was fearful when scanning their security card to gain entry to the site; finding your card had been deactivated was a common way of discovering you had been dismissed. This happened to people on Christmas Eve. Others were dismissed and escorted off the floor part way through a shift.”

Unionisation of sites like Amazon in Swansea is essential to halt the race to the bottom on workers’ rights.

The determination of the BFAWU members at Hovis (see the Socialist issue 781, Bakers rise against Hovis: Victory shows zero-hours can be beaten) shows how militant trade unionism can beat casualisation.

University Workers to Strike Back

University Workers to Strike Back

UCU banner

UCU banner

By A Socialist Party Member in UCU in the Coventry area

31 October will be a day of coordinated strike action by UCU, Unison and Unite members working in Universities. This is the first UK-wide joint action between these Higher Education unions, demonstrating the anger that their members feel about the employers’ insulting 1% pay increase.

Even pro-capitalist commentator Will Hutton, writing in the Observer notes that “The real wages of academics have fallen by 13% since 2008, one of the largest sustained wage cuts any profession has suffered since the Second World War.” This is despite the scandalously high fees charged to students, which have subsidised lavish pay at the upper echelons of University management while ordinary teaching, research, and support staff struggle.

We want a publicly funded system of Higher Education, free at the point of use and paying a fair wage to its workers. In addition to real-terms pay cuts, casualisation of all jobs is rife in the sector, including use of fixed-term, hourly-paid and even the now-infamous ‘zero hours’ contracts. This job insecurity together with management bullying and excessive workloads will also motivate UCU members to undertake a ‘work to contract’ following the strike day.

Many student organisations, including official students’ unions, have offered support. It will be vital to build on these links and make clear to students that this industrial action strengthens their fight for free education, particularly if exam marking ends up being affected. Already propaganda about the USS pension scheme has tried to pit students against staff – in fact this scheme is healthy in any reasonable measure, and a bizarre accounting practice is being used to claim students will end up ‘bailing out’ their lecturers’ pensions. Nothing could be further from the truth, but this and similar falsehoods will be peddled by the ConDem Government and their media chums if the dispute continues.

This and other elements of a serious fighting strategy could see a victory in the form of a significantly improved pay offer. But ultimately the dispute has arisen from the politics of austerity and we need to make links with other unions – our members already look to the disputes that other unions are involved in -and the call for a one-day general strike against austerity is gaining ground. Socialists in Higher Education unions will fight to make it a reality.

Coventry trade unionists join massive protest at Tory Party conference in Manchester

Coventry trade unionists join massive protest at Tory Party conference in Manchester

Coventry Trades Council on the march

Coventry Trades Council on the march

Dozens of trade union members from Coventry and Warwickshire joined over 50,000 protestors today in Manchester against the Conservative Party conference. The annual gathering of the Tories was met by this huge protest made up of people disgusted with capitalist austerity. The start of the demonstration was delayed for some time due to the numbers arriving from all over the country. The protest was called against the privatisation of the NHS, and this was the main focus. However it was also an outlet for anger against many government policies – including the attacks on other public services and the bedroom tax.

Socialist Party trade union activists from NUT and Unite

Socialist Party trade union activists from NUT and Unite

There were huge contingents from many different unions, as well as student organisations. The march took place as teachers in the NUT and NASUWT prepare for action next week, as CWU members get ready to defeat Royal Mail privatisation, and the FBU who took action last week. This was a brilliant turnout in Manchester – now we need to link up and co-ordinate industrial action across the whole economy building for a 24 hour general strike.

Socialist Party members distributed thousands of leaflets outlining the way forward for the trade union movement and sold many copies of ‘The Socialist’ newspaper.