Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/586/7492

From The Socialist newspaper, 30 June 2009

What we think

Victories show the way forward for struggles

The third conference of the National Shop Stewards' Network (NSSN) could not have been better timed, coming just one day after the victory of the Lindsey Oil Refinery (LOR) construction workers.

The NSSN conference was able to hear first-hand from Keith Gibson and others from the strike committee how the Lindsey victory came about. They spoke from the main platform and in the special workshop on the lessons of the strike. Conference also heard from Rob Williams, re-instated convenor of Swansea Linamar, and John Maguire, convenor of Belfast Visteon.

The recession has brought a relentless onslaught on workers' jobs, pay and conditions. These three struggles show that it is possible to successfully fight back against the onslaught. Although the NSSN is still only in its early days, this conference was an important step towards building the kind of mass shop stewards' organisation that will be a vital weapon in the struggles of the coming years.

To many, particularly younger people, this was the first whiff of what it was like to be involved in the huge trade union battles of the 1970s and 1980s in the private sector. Indeed, for everybody who was there, this was the most important gathering of trade union activists for some time.

The conference was an overwhelming success, attracting as it did shop stewards and workers' representatives from around Britain, but, like workers' struggles in general, there was a complete media blackout when it came to reporting this important event.

The victory of the LOR construction workers over Total, the international oil giant, was reported by the BBC website with accompanying library footage, featuring workers with union jacks and a homemade piece of cardboard saying British jobs for British workers. They could not bring themselves to show the reality of a magnificent demo by two thousand workers last week at Lindsey waving dozens of trade union flags and placards and calling for basic class demands. But what the media cannot hide was that the Lindsey workers scored a victory, in the words of Keith Gibson: "for workers everywhere".

The huge attacks on workers' jobs and wages since the onset of recession has been accompanied with relentless propaganda from the capitalist media, echoed unfortunately by too many trade union leaders, that workers are powerless to do anything to defend themselves. Saturday's conference showed clearly that this is not true.

Green shoots of struggle

Even three swallows, perhaps, a summer do not make, but what tremendous 'green shoots' of struggle they show. As the recession continues, half the workforce in Britain faces pay cuts or cuts in hours, with the resulting loss of pay, or a combination of both. Each struggle will be different, depending on its leadership, the economic conditions, and other factors which have to be taken into account.

Linamar, for example, faced the certain shut down of the Ford assembly plant in Kansas if the Swansea factory had gone into all-out strike action. In both Linamar and Lindsey, one of the lessons to be drawn is the effect that the threat of, or in Lindsey's case the carrying out of, all-out strike action had in forcing management to retreat.

In the recent period one or two day strikes have dominated. It will still vary from strike to strike, but all-out action will increasingly be posed.

Lindsey, of course, became a lock-out for the LOR construction workers themselves when they were sacked, and a national strike from below for the other 30 sites that took solidarity action in support of the Lindsey workers. This type of solidarity action is the music of the future.

Economically the engineering construction workers were, and are, in a powerful position as regards their bosses. The bosses have plans, costing hundreds of millions of pounds, to develop new capacity both in existing plants like Lindsey and in completely new ones, for example, in the nuclear power stations now being put on order. Not every group of workers will have the same muscle, but it will still require the development of action from below and bold leadership as each struggle develops over the next period.

All three battles were of a defensive character. In the case of Visteon this was even more so because on the surface they did not seem to have much economic power, but the decisive action of the Visteon workers, in occupying the workplaces deprived the owners of getting crucial machinery and components out of the factories, and cut across any possibility of reopening the factories under a different name, thus preventing the owners from taking the workers' money and running.

The existence of the NSSN enabled these three struggles to be brought together. But the role of the national unions cannot be ignored. As Keith Gibson said at the conference: "if the national union leaders had backed us last January and February, when Lindsey was left without leadership for a few days, then some of the more backward demands that appeared briefly [on placards] would have been kept even further in the background."

In the most recent strike the union leaders were drawn into supporting the struggle primarily because the workers had already acted from below. What the NSSN can do, as it was able to do in the case of these three struggles, is not only to act as clearing house for information about what is going on but also take a lead.

When the Unite union held its demo in Birmingham earlier this year, the NSSN had the authority to organise a fringe meeting of 200 around the issue of Linamar. The actions of the Linamar workers also brought about the promise at the same demo by Tony Woodley that he would accept the sacking of Rob Williams over his "dead body".

Construction workers throughout the country will soon be balloted for strike action over the issue of wages and conditions. Already the employers, fresh from being defeated by the massive demonstration of solidarity over Lindsey, are drawing up new battle lines. They will draw into their camp all the weapons they have at their disposal, including the law.

The employers' leader Mike Hockley (Financial Times 29 June) said that the ballot is illegal because it calls for jobs to be given to existing workers on contracts that are coming to an end. He claims that it breaches the Race Relations Act! This is not a case of the employers wanting to be fair in their employment hiring practices, but a case of them wanting to break the power of the trade unions on the sites.

The union leadership must not accept that the law can stop the struggle to defend these basic conditions, but if they do, then the construction workers themselves will have to take control of the situation and, as they have already proved they can, brush these anti-union laws to one side.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation

 

Your message: 

 


In The Socialist 30 June 2009:

Militant action pays!


Youth fight for jobs

Decent jobs not poverty schemes!


Socialist Party editorial

Victories show the way forward for struggles

Total's fat fingers in every pie

"We came out with Lindsey and we'll go back with Lindsey"


Socialist Party campaigns

New Labour's house building plans amount to just a drop in the ocean

Pride not profit - London Pride Saturday 4 July

Crisis looms in FE colleges

Tower Hamlets demo

Councils try to gag us

Campaign to save Lewisham Bridge school continuing

Fast news

BNP: Looking beneath the suits


National Shop Stewards Network

National Shop Stewards Network Conference Confident and enthusiastic


Socialist Party Marxist analysis

25 years ago: Liverpool - a city that dared to fight


Workplace news and events

Glasgow council: Social work dept staff start all-out strike

Justice for the Shrewsbury pickets march and rally

Construction industry in major crisis


 

Home   |   The Socialist 30 June 2009   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Lindsey:

triangleTen years since Lindsey strike: when militant action stopped the 'race to the bottom'

triangleLiverpool Socialist Party: Lessons of the 2009 Lindsey Refinery strike

triangleSpied on by the state and bosses

triangleWorkers' Memorial Day: strike for safety

triangleOil Refinery workers protest

Strike:

triangleThailand: Youth rising against hated junta

triangleLondon bus drivers begin strike ballot over remote sign-on dispute

triangleTate workers on indefinite strike hold march and rally

triangleStrike wave marks new stage in revival of Iranian workers' movement

NSSN:

triangleLobbying for a lead from the TUC

triangleNSSN rally: Workers must not pay the price of Covid

triangleDemand a fightback from the TUC and unions

Construction:

triangleNo return to unsafe construction sites

Construction workers:

triangleHull construction workers force bosses to shut down site over health and safety fears

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis

23/9/20

Housing

Extend eviction ban! Cap rents! Build council homes!

23/9/20

Coronavirus

Testing shambles: unions must fight back

23/9/20

Universities

Covid and the campuses

23/9/20

Coronavirus

North East lockdown: simmering anger at Tory incompetence

23/9/20

NHS

Fund NHS and pay rise now

23/9/20

Coronavirus

Tory Covid chaos

23/9/20

Banks

'FinCEN Files' expose rampant financial corruption: nationalise the banks!

23/9/20

Amazon

News in brief

23/9/20

Schools

Johnson's schools social-distancing lie

17/9/20

Britain

Britain's fragile Covid equilibrium is coming to an end

16/9/20

NHS

NHS workers: "We deserve a fair wage" - 15% now!

16/9/20

Covid

Capitalist profit and the race to develop a vaccine

16/9/20

Covid

Covid and the third sector: for public planning, not charity stopgaps

16/9/20

Profit

Under the microscope

16/9/20

Covid

'Covid marshalls' must be accountable to communities

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


September 2020

August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999