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From The Socialist newspaper, 30 January 2019
Liverpool Travelodge digger wrecking: union organising is the answer
NSSN activists lobbying the TUC for action, 9.9.18, photo Mary Finch (Click to enlarge)
Roger Bannister, Liverpool Socialist Party
Footage of a disgruntled construction worker, owed £600 by his employer, smashing the reception of a newly built Liverpool Travelodge with his digger has gone around the world. It has attracted humorous comments, condemnation and some sympathy.
Within a few hours, crowdfunding had raised hundreds of pounds - initially to cover the £600, but then to help pay for legal representation in the inevitable court case.
The many workers who have been underpaid by their bosses will no doubt sympathise, and may even wish they had access to a mechanical digger!
Despite the myths peddled by the capitalist media, British law is overwhelmingly biased towards the employer. It is extremely difficult to prevent an employer from cheating you on pay or other rights in advance, and there are only limited means to seek redress after the event.
According to the government's own statistics, over 9,000 minimum-wage workers were underpaid by bosses in 2018, to the sum of £1.1 million. And in recent years, local councils have had to pay millions for historic equal pay legislation breaches to thousands of low-paid women. Just recently, the heroic 8,000 Glasgow strikers forced their employer's hand on this too.
But reports suggest the worker in question here is not a member of a trade union. This case illustrates an important fact of life under capitalism: workers' rights count for little if workers have no effective method of enforcing them. It is of crucial importance that all workers belong to a trade union.
Unions can provide legal assistance to pursue non-payment of wages. But more importantly, a well-organised workplace is more likely to prevent these problems occurring in the first place - by stopping the job with industrial action if workers don't consider employers' treatment of them proper.
Union leaderships vary. Some are good, some are bad. Even the best-led unions may vary in effectiveness from place to place, section to section.
It is therefore also vital that rank-and-file workers take control, by electing fighting shop stewards in their workplaces, and combative representatives to their unions' governing bodies. Militant shop stewards can link up with like-minded reps via the National Shop Stewards Network, to learn from each other's experiences, and plan coordinated action where appropriate.
- Find out more about the NSSN at shopstewards.net
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In The Socialist 30 January 2019:
What we think
Venezuela: resist the pro-imperialist coup!
Join the fight to defend women's lives
Austerity out, Tories out
Tory on homeless: "tear down these tents"
Liverpool Travelodge digger wrecking
Fresh inquest into killer air pollution: nationalise energy and public transport!
International socialist news and analysis
International solidarity with the struggle of the Sudanese people
Brazil: Hundreds die in avoidable dam collapse
Belgium: Movement against climate change grows
Germany: School student walkouts reject Coal Commission proposals
Tesco changes threaten thousands of jobs
PCS Left Unity chooses Chris Baugh - unite behind the left AGS and NEC slate
Leicester college staff strike against low pay
Teachers vote 83% for strikes
Unison union campaigns for school support staff action
Trade unions protect rail workers' picket line in Hull
Campaigns and party news
Councils can fight cuts!
Coxford ward byelection: No to cuts - defend our vital services
Keep profiteering developers out!
A strategy to fight the far right
Want to oust the Tories and change the world? ...Then give us the resources to do it!
Socialist Party Wales conference
East Midlands conference
Exhibition: Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War
Fiction: Tombland "The power of common people fighting for justice in the 16th century"
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