Sunday, August 21, 2011

AWOL, but, like Dugout Doug MacArthur, I shall return.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


The IWW has reached an agreement which has secured full-payment of the London Living Wage with back pay until May 2011, the staff shortage to be filled and confirmation of the trade union rights of workers. Further discussions are underway on a recognition agreement with the IWW.
As result the IWW Cleaners Branch and London Delegates Committee has cancelled the demonstration called for tonight at the Heron Tower. We thank all trade unionists and fellow workers for their solidarity and support.
Once again the independent workers union the IWW has shown that direct action and solidarity of all union members in support of each other achieves results in the interests of our members.

Friday, August 19, 2011

My granddaughter told me about the dyslexic devil-worshipper who sold his soul to Santa, so I told her about the dyslexic, agnostic insomniac who lay awake all night wondering if there's a Dog.
Turns out she doesn't know what an agnostic is and my incoherent attempts at a definition were of no help.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

In fact the demonstration is at 5pm tomorrow, ‎110 Bishopsgate.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I liked the headline on Russia Today about the US embargo on* Cuba -
"Close but no cigar"

*(Thinks: should that be "embargo of Cuba"?)

Friday, August 12, 2011

(Image via Lansbuy's Lido, ex Ian Bone)

Workers Solidarity interviewed Hackney local and education worker, Alex Carver, about the roots of the London riots. Alex is a long standing activist in the IWW union, housing struggles in the East End, and the big left events since the start of the recession, most recently the M26 Militant Workers Block and the J30 Strike project. He was a direct witness to the rioting on Monday. Here he tells Workers Solidarity why he thinks that the riots are best understood by looking at class rather than race.

You went down to have a look at the riots, were you not afraid of being beaten and mugged? From media scare-mongering that's what would be expected by most people.

Well, I had no idea what to expect exactly, which is why I went, but no, I wasn’t – and I'm not scared by the riots now. I'm not about to glorify them either, but this is not the start of a new dark age.
What's happened in the rioting is an understandable reaction to the way things are set up – I’m reminded of the famous bank robber Willie Sutton answering the question ‘why do you rob banks?’ with ‘because that’s where the money is’. The kids robbed the shops because that's where the stuff is. They attacked the cops because they'd stop them. It was simultaneous, it was not two groups of people, one with a beef against the cops and another with light fingers – it was one group of mainly young people. They didn't attack each other, rape people, mug people - I was able to walk freely amongst them in my shirt and slacks straight from work; lots of people who were obviously not rioting walked with the crowd in daylight – many have said the mood turned later on but actually I stayed with it with a friend, who was also not dressed to fit in, until after midnight.
I understand things have been much nastier in other places; in Hackney at least, enough of the community were unafraid to go out and talk to the youth, even being supportive and sympathetic, to stop its total destruction.

Many were quick to say the rioting was not political – what did you think from what you saw?

When I went through Hackney on the bus the next morning, the damage visible told an interesting tale along with what I already know: Opticians with £100+ glasses, betting shops, estate agents, JD sports, Barclays, pawn shop/crack converters, electrical goods shop, M&S, a small police outpost and a Spar garage. On the other hand we know a local independent shop was thoroughly looted (the one we stopped being torched) and at least 5 cars were grilled.
The first list of targets was done by a mobile mob who left all other shops and buildings in between - very clearly targeting places with instant value goods, impersonal chain shops - or places they had a beef with. Then the second list of targets that are more obviously anti social happened mostly when the rioting had stagnated on Clarence Road next to the Pembury estate. Choices were being made about what to hit and what not to. If we look at who rioted and how they rioted, we can find political aspects to all this, just not a political motivation.

Do you think those on the left have any useful role to play in relation to the riots?

Along with lots of other leftists I have been watching and engaging, and it has been worthwhile: and I have got a really useful idea of what the atmosphere was like - in Hackney at least – and that’s so, so important. I can’t imagine how differently people who only saw this on TV or from miles down the road feel. We have also been advising on police tactics without encouraging the rioting – it is far worse for the area, in my mind, that any kid gets sent down; dealing with someone who has done a stretch is far harder than finding a directionless rudeboy focus. We have also stopped some bad things, like friendly fire incidents with bricks, and I helped my friend put out a fire in the shop on Clarence Road – again, we didn’t get stopped, lots of the crowd ran in and helped; it was almost as if they were making up their minds. I'm terrified I'll be done for going into the shop though, I can’t imagine a judge believing I was putting out the fire whilst everyone else was pilfering the drinks.

What do you see as the main reasons people are rioting? The left, at least, is identifying racism as a major cause.

I feel quite strongly on this. It is not about race, and it’s not about the shooting either. Those are only elements in an overall economic situation. Up and down the country a racial mix of youth have been taking advantage of the chaos - together. I saw this mix personally, but you can see it on the news and internet too. People are looting because they want things. That’s economic and social, that's not some kind of misguided protest at police racism.
In fact the whole narrative of police racism is useless here. You don't nick shoes'n'brews and run from the police 'cos you feel harassed by Stop and Search, and certainly not these kids - they're scallies, rudeboys, they get stopped 'cos they're the kind of kids who do naughty things - like they're doing now. They feel harassed certainly, but they also feel fully excluded from far more than polite treatment by the cops; otherwise their behaviour is inexplicable.
Things have moved on from the early 1990s in terms of policing, but also, things were never really primarily about race rather than poverty in many of the previous famous riots. The people at the bottom of the heap are there because they came to the UK as poor migrants and have been slotted into their new society at the same level at best, or even lower most of the time. This isn’t because all half-decent jobs bar ethnic minorities; look at the difference between Bangladeshi migrants and Indian migrants in terms of earnings and social position; is white English peoples’ racism so complex that they manage to exclude Banglas but allow Indians a foot on the ladder? Of course not.
Social outcomes are primarily set by economic background, your class. Of course that ties in with ethnic groups, but it is that way round. Not the other. Some ethnic communities are poor, their poverty leads to exclusion, which leads to a disregard for the law, which leads to police attention, which leads to grievances. Of course this is also true for completely native white communities too – indeed, poverty is generally shared in mixed race communities. A legion of liars will now come out of the woodwork to try and make this about race and policing, not capitalism. Ignore them and their false 'community' - they are the problem, not the solution.
I know that saying this is considered racist by a whole range of people on the left, in education, in community organisations, in the unions. Even people with a class analysis seem to be obsessed with racism being the core oppression in the UK. I can just see how badly attempting to express what I have just said to a colleague at my school would go.
"Racism man. It's so bad. That shit's like, gotta stop? You know you cross the road sometimes: feel guilty. Police - of course they're racist, especially the coconuts who are ashamed of their blackness (that's not racist 'cos its anti police and the police are racist, see, so it's not). We need to have a long hard talk about racism, lots of awareness training, more black role models, less England flags, more Carnival; we need to kill the racist inside us. The crime figures, unemployment figures, academic figures, homelessness stats - how can you look at them and not see how racist this country is? What do you mean, class is an easily more significant factor? You definitely need to go on a course about this. I bet you don’t even like spicy food."
A lot of my parents’ generation take 'institutional racism' as a given, due to the recent history of colonialism for them and the experience of the early days of mass migration to this country. They see it as a huge issue, and are encouraged to do so by both the right and the left of every stripe, television and print media, historians and authors alike. Very few people think it is actually an easier issue than class, very few realise it is actually an easy excuse for the powers that be. We aren’t confronting the establishment with their racism, we’re letting their economic system off the hook. If they can say the riots are about racism, and they can racialise the obviously economic elements, they can muddy the water and keep public opinion divided and divisive. The right will be bolstered by indignant white people and the left will throw itself into
1) attacking the right,
2) more pointless race initiatives that actually stigmatise and divide our communities as opposed to uniting them.
What visibly unites the rioters is not race, but from up and down the country - dress code. The police see people like that and make the probably very accurate assumption about where that person is from and the kind of attitude they have - and they harass them, they stop them, they give them grief; cos they are think they are from a poor, dispossessed place both literally and psychologically - and are likelier to have committed some street crime.
Why am I not allowed to say that? That crime is linked to poverty? Are we not the left any more, and now have some kind of oppression - lead analysis of everything?

What about the argument that the riot is primarily caused by poor policing and in particular police harassment?

Police visibly target visible crimes, because not only are these easier to solve but they are under pressure from the public: the kind of person who writes to their local paper cannot see fraud and rape, they see street robbery and vandalism. This means police spend most of their time focussing on kids in sportswear; what I'm saying is that this isn't the police being massively prejudiced, it's them going to where the kind of crimes they are told to deal with are.
Police harassment leads to a dislike of the police, but the explosion of disregard for the law over the last few days needs to be seen a broader phenomenon with many factors playing a role in creating the character of the riots. This is actually a far more rewarding way to look at things from a left perspective because it suggests that there are systemic problems that 'better policing' will never address.
The police are slammed again and again about the racism that must be endemic in the Force due to the figures for Stop and Search and the prison population; if they alone could do something about it, they would have. I think the truth is that demanding the figures change is just a game politicians play to complicate a straightforward class and poverty issue - that the geographic areas the prison population and kids who get regularly stopped come from, are poor areas abandoned by the political class, with demands unmet by the economy.
To say whether we think the police unfairly target people of a certain age, race, or appearance is to pointlessly put ourselves in their shoes rather than focus on the bigger issue of why crime happens. I think the important thing about police harassment here is to understand that it exists as a concept in its own right – it has a life of its own.
What matters is that we accept people in many ethnic communities, areas, and age groups, discuss police harassment and are encouraged to do so by politicians and the race industry (all the dodgy think tanks, campaign groups, 'race advisers' etc.) and the ‘community leaders’ that rub shoulders with the race industry and MPs. This is convenient for the political class, as it gets people into a proper tizzy over who is harassed and who is not, why they are harassed, who can be in the oppressed group, who has a legitimate grievance, who gets the funding for their project – etc.
Coming to this situation as someone who wants everyone to be in the same community organisations reveals just how clever the move to special interest groups by the last four governments has been. Until now it has kept a lid on things as our traditional support networks at work and at home have been destroyed along with our job and housing security. People will often yell ‘police harassment’ as a battle cry – the war is over our entire quality of life and sense of belonging.

What do you think will be the consequences after the riots?

Well I can only speak about Hackney, where no one lost their home or died. But if the looting continues nightly and Primark and M&S close down forever, what of it? What will make us happy is a choice of jobs, homes, places to spend time with our friends - not a choice of groceries and underwear. Perhaps this will help more people see that. From the flames comes clarity. The obvious inability of the cops to gain control in the last week means that hopefully we won’t talk endlessly about better policing of poverty, but address this violence by looking at what the answer really is; a society where
1) we feel included, all of us, as many as possible, and
2) where what we want isn't behind glass.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A worthless, pea-brained randroid, who's no longer permitted to soil these pages with his white supremacist idiocy and his misanthropic longings for Armageddon, wants to know why I haven't commented on the rioting in England (but not elsewhere in the United Kingdom).
He's enjoying the madness because he believes that this country is under the control of an alliance of Communists and Islamists, so far is he removed from the real world. He thinks I must be enjoying it too, because, as a dirty red (i.e., not a fascist or worshipper of Mammon) I am part of the conspiracy to destroy civilisation.

So it is necessary once more to waste time arguing with the brainwashed.

The trouble began after an unarmed man was shot dead by police in Tottenham, North London. A peaceful protest march by family, friends and neighbours of the victim, lobbied the local police station. The cops, true to form, changed the mood by beating a sixteen-year old girl on the march with batons. The crowd turned angry and fighting broke out. So far, so predictable.
The violence spread and soon Tottenham was a battle-zone. People with a grudge against the heavy-handed police saw their chance for payback. As always happens in these situations low-life types took the opportunity to indulge in a bout of shopbreaking and theft. Gradually, the whole scene turned into an orgy of vandalism and larceny. While the cops are busy assaulting people with a real grievance the people they should be controlling, but somehow never manage to, are having a field day.
This is our Big Society. The government is in the process of shedding all state responsibility for its citizens. You're on your own now, says Cameron, if you want anything doing do it for yourself. The looters soon got the hang of the new zeitgeist, they helped themselves to what they wanted.
This is the house that Thatcher built, and her successors and admirers built onto or shored up. It's a ramshackle affair and it will collapse eventually, but meanwhile the landlord is squeezing the tenants dry and ignoring complaints about vermin infestation, neglect of maintenance, and overcrowding. But we'd better not take our complaints round to the landlord's office or he'll set the dogs on us.
Deregulation, privatisation, selling off the family silver; the British people see everything earlier generations struggled to achieve being destroyed, dismantled or stolen. What was once in public ownership is sold off to thimble riggers and find-the-lady men; our new aristocracy. People say (and I've heard them) "I know it's wrong but there's nothing we can do about it. We'll just have to put up with it."
What happened to us? Did people start believing all that shit Murdoch and his peers pumped out via their propaganda machines? I think too many of us did.
Is it too late to get off our knees, I mean off our sofas parked in front of the lobotomy box?
This is the Broken Britain Cameron's clients and friends have created, but he wants to shift the blame onto their victims. Partial privatisation of institutions such as the NHS has wrecked them, so what's the answer? More privatisation. More downsizing, more on the dole to join the 'feral youth' on the streets looking for easy victims.
Brilliant strategy.

Neoliberalism’s chickens are coming home to roost. Haringey council’s £41 million cuts devastated the borough’s youth provision. Only last month the local MP David Lammy demanded government action to deal with a 10% rise in unemployment in Tottenham was now has 10,514 people seeking work. Local residents have been saying in interviews that thousands of people in their late 20s have never been able to find a job. It’s no surprise then that the shops selling designer sportswear, mobile phones and state of the art TVs and MP3 players are being looted by people who know that they’ll never earn enough to buy these things.
The capitalists can’t have it both ways. On one hand they say you need these things for status and to feel fulfilled and on the other most of the jobs on offer pay poverty wages on short-term contacts.
By contrast the very rich have never had it so good in living memory. The High Pay Commission reported on August 8 that executives in FTSE 100 companies received average annual pensions worth around £175,000. The average British pension is a paltry £5860 and the Con-Dems want to make working people poorer still. At the same time they are hell bent on transferring vast sums of money to the 300 000 people who pay the top rate of 50% tax on earnings over £150 000. London Mayor Boris Johnson has called for it to be scrapped and his millionaire chum George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer has said he wants to get rid of it.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Heroic Zionists fighting Arab terrorism

(via Angry Arab2)

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Yesterday I followed my regular practice of disappearing into that unloved bookstore in town while the Missus did her shopping. I was browsing through the section on local material when I read the following in a book called "Edge of Heaven" -
"Some years before Screaming Lord Sutch launched his Monster Raving Loonies on the world, a group of harmless anarchists in Hull started the Get Stuffed Party and ran several candidates at the local elections, one of whom, I recall, was Mike Waterson of the legendary folk-singing family. They won a lot of public sympathy, several column inches in the press, a few healthy laughs and hardly any votes."

This was written by the sadly missed Alan Plater in a piece about Hull.
The description of the founders as "harmless anarchists" was correct in that they were harmless (and not at all serious), but no genuine anarchists were involved to my knowledge. Alan P. probably calls them anarchists in reference to their contempt for existing political parties and their intention to poke fun at them. The GSP was a party in the manner of Jaroslav HaĊĦek's 'Party of Moderate Progress Within the Bounds of the Law', that is, a motley crew in search of a good piss-up.
Here's how it all began.
A good friend of mine (in fact a good friend of almost everybody) by the name of Tom Gray was a regular feature at the Bluebell pub in Lowgate, Hull. During the middle to late sixties this boozer was a gathering place for lefties of all persuasions. Several of them would try to sell their party's papers and other literature there. Tom, a freelance socialist, would tolerate none of them. "One day", he'd declare, "I'm going to found my own party, and it will be an honest party. I'll tell the voters the truth; that I'm in it for myself, that when I get elected I'll be looking after number one, and that I'll help myself to the party funds."
People would ask him to elaborate on this new party, and he'd improvise on the spot. Among the proposals I remember - the party would be completely undemocratic; it would have a ludicrous hierarchy consisting of cronies with pompous titles; and all young female applicants for membership would be inducted ('anointed' was Tom's word) in a private ceremony involving only the party leader.
Such was Tom's nameless party.
After a great deal of this blather listeners, stoked up with lashings of bevvy, began to challenge Tom about his plans - he hadn't any of course - and demanded that his great idea be acted upon.
So he did it. He called the product of his 'pontificating' (keyword) the GET STUFFED PARTY, as an open declaration of his intentions toward the electorate. He immediately recruited the members of his regular drinking circle to form the upper echelon, and went about organising. He next went to his more political friends, some of whom joined "for a laugh", others, including myself, said no.
Still he asked me for advice on titles. What hi-faluting title should he give himself? I suggested 'Great Panjandrum' , silly enough to suit. He turned it down. Eventually he called himself 'the Supreme Pontiff', a reference to his fondness for pontificating. This title would later be a problem for the local paper, as it was already the property of another autocrat. So the paper used to refer to Tom as the 'Supremo' of the GSP.
Tom then went about recruiting members, always among the pub's regulars and casual visitors. It surprised me how eager many people were to join. Friends got in free. Others had to buy Tom a pint. Some offered money for the party funds. Tom accepted, explaining that party funds were actually beer money for Tom. No problem. There were some people Tom didn't like and turned down. They offered him money. He refused. They offered him more, they bidded up."OK", he would say, "You can be a menial (the lowest rank). More money would be offered, and Tom would come up with a new title.
The whole title business was something of a mystery. Following the Supreme Pontiff theme The inner circle, i.e., boozing cronies, became cardinals. There were other ranks but the only one I remember was 'menial'. As it turned out nobody wanted to be a menial, so the GSP was a party of chiefs and no indians. Tom had a rethink. The lowest rank would be called 'Carbonari'. Tom explained it to me thus; the original carbonari, Italian charcoal -burners, were of very low status, in fact outcasts. Then a secret society of revolutionaries adopted the name in a spirit of solidarity with the wretched of the earth, and a romantic aura attached to the name carbonaro. Sounds good, means nothing.

So the Get Stuffed Party was born.

The party's mere existence was not enough for some, so it was decided to carry the joke into enemy territory, i.e., put up candidates in local elections. General elections were out of the question, as a substantial monetary deposit was a prerequisite of candidacy. In local elections anyone could stand, and, in the case of the GSP, anyone did. There was to my knowledge, no statement of policies, no leaflets, no canvassing, just a few posters saying "Vote Get Stuffed Party". As Alan Plater noted few votes were garnered and no candidate ever got a sniff of political power. The party continued to put up candidates even after Tom left Hull to take up a job elsewhere, so proving that it wasn't a one man band after all.
At one local election Tom was invited to participate in a television discussion with leading figures of rival parties. I was working away at the time so I missed his big moment, his chance to pontificate to a mass audience. I don't know if the serious opponents attacked him as a trivialiser of the political process, or if they tolerated him as a licenced jester. I did hear that he acquitted himself well.
After Tom's departure I lost my source of information on his creation. I didn't know any of the other 'activists'. The party did continue to put up candidates in local elections, and continued to make no headway. Whether they ever developed a programme I couldn't say. As far as I know the party is no longer extant. But maybe the veterans have reunions where they toast their long deceased founder, Thomas Adrian Gray, all-round fine fellow.

One local writer has stated that the GSP was founded by Alex Craig and Chris Ketchell. Not so, though Alex C. was an early member, and appears to have played a leading role in keeping the party going after Tom's departure. Of Chris Ketchell's part in the organisation (?) I know nothing. Mike Waterson must have encountered the party at the Bluebell, where his family's folk club was based.

A cautionary note.
As the GSP had no real structure, it was, I believe, possible for members to stand for election in any ward that had no other GSP candidate. Any expense incurred would be their own of course.
I heard a story about one young fellow who joined with the thought of being elected. He stood for election in his ward of residence and, contrary to the spirit of the GSP, actually went canvassing from door to door. Some householders asked him about party policy and he had the answers. What's your position on capital punishment? They asked. "We will bring back hanging, he assured them. And immigrants? We'll send them all back, he replied.
I wonder where he is now. He might have done well in some parties I can think of.
To quote a favourite phrase of Tom's in reaction to such stories, "These are the perils."

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

(Posted August 1, on WLSN)

Cleaners at the Corporation of London, Guildhall have achieved a significant victory in a dispute with their sub-contractor Ocean Contract Cleaning London Ltd. Organised in the London IWW Cleaners and Allied Industries Branch (IU 640) this has been a major achievement for the workers and the IWW as a whole.
The Guildhall was built between 1411 and 1440 as a symbol of the English ruling elite – many of its labour policies remain stuck in its medieval past. The workers who maintain the splendour of the Guildhall are on a miserable £5.93 per hour, they receive no sick pay or pension. They are hired through Ocean Contract Cleaning. A company also with a long history worthy of a medieval establishment – in 2006 London Citizens uncovered that workers employed by Ocean at a London University were being commonly under-paid or not paid at all. Those cleaners recovered £50,000 in unpaid wages.
At the Guildhall the cleaners found themselves in a similar situation of being repeatedly underpaid in their wages going back months. Some waited two to three months to get wages they were owed. They even had the Public Holiday for the Royal Wedding deducted from their holiday leave. To add insult to injury the workers who are overwhelmingly migrants, from Latin America, Asia and Africa are subjected to management abuses now commonplace in the cleaning industry, petty bullying, and disciplinaries for next to nothing. If you are five minutes late you are sent home, if you are late again you are fired. IWW members have reported being threatened with dismissal for being two-minutes late.

The cleaners fight back
The cleaners however have matched the management’s arrogance with militant direct action. The thirty four cleaners at the Guildhall got organised – on Tuesday 14 and Wednesday 15 June they arrived for work – however without any guarantee of actual wages they remained in the reception for the duration of the shift until they were given clear assurances they would be paid their wages for their work!
Despite the assurances of Ocean that the workers would be paid by 20 June they were still left with an average of two weeks wages unpaid. The workers raised a collective grievance submitted by the IWW which also failed to resolve the situation.
The IWW cleaners responded by stepping up their campaign calling a day of action on Friday 15 July. Once again the cleaners refused to provide free labour to clean the Guildhall without being paid the wages they are owed in return. This time the cleaners protest called by the IWW Cleaners Branch, was joined by a demonstration in solidarity supported by the IWW London General Members Branch, with support from cleaners in other workplaces, UCL and SOAS workers and students, Colombia Solidarity Campaign and members of RMT, NUJ, UCU, UNISON and UNITE. Over sixty people demonstrated in solidarity from 5:30 AM at the Guildhall, the protest assisted by the Vicar David Parrott from the nearby Church who provided tea and coffee and the Church facilities.

Cleaners secure their objectives
Workers painted their hands with ‘Stop the abuse’ and chanted slogan such as ‘No pay, no work’, the old IWW anthem ‘Solidarity Forever, For the union makes us strong’ echoed around the Guildhall which is so used to hymns of praise to the Lords of capital!
It was only as a result of the IWW members at Guildhall stepping up their campaign that the Guildhall management intervened – inviting our union to meet with them and their sub-contractor Ocean. A delegation of composed of the Secretary of the London IWW Cleaners Branch, a representative of London General Members Branch and a three IWW members from the cleaners at Guildhall then met with the Guildhall management and the Ocean Contract Cleaning.
To facilitate the negotiations, and with the approval of the cleaners we agreed to relocate the demonstration from the Guildhall Yard – allegedly we were on private property even though the City Police had twice given permission to demonstrate there. The bosses were clearly irritated by the demonstration and repeatedly tried to trick the IWW to accept their offer of a room for the workers to wait whilst negotiations continued. Wage slaves we may be – fools we are not!
Under pressure - and with the Guildhall management openly arguing with the Ocean management – the IWW secured agreement of immediate payment of wages owed and a review of the wages over the last sixth month. After five hours of protest action IWW secured written evidence from Ocean HR department that the payments to the cleaners had been made before ending protest.
The 15 July protest alongside the previous actions in June has resulted in the cleaners achieving their demands at the Guildhall – it has been a significant victory. All the IWW members at Guildhall and in the Cleaners Branch are to be congratulated for what has been inspiring campaign.

Veiled threats and Next Steps
On several occasions the management at the Corporation of London’s Guildhall have challenged the IWW that the action of the cleaners is illegal industrial action. Unlike the traditional unions, the IWW is not running scared of the anti-trade union laws introduced by Thatcher to stop workers from taking effective industrial action. The IWW does not disown or refute the actions democratically decided upon by members to advance their interests. When it was mooted that disciplinary action may be taken against the cleaners, the IWW made clear to management that our union will mount a campaign to defend any IWW member victimised for attempting to secure wages that they are fully entitled to receive.
However contrary to what the bosses have said and some web-sites unrelated to the IWW, the IWW did not need to call a strike at the Guildhall – instead what arose has been tantamount to a virtual lock out against the cleaners by their employer. Far from the cleaners taking illegal action it has been the employer who repeatedly failed to fulfil their contractual obligation to pay wages properly payable to workers in return for their labour. These workers on the minimum wage are not providing charity.
We will make these views clear on Thursday 28 July when the IWW will be meeting the Managing Director of Ocean Contract Cleaning. The IWW Cleaners Branch will now be taking forward the next steps in a campaign to improve the conditions of the members at the Guildhall. Amongst the key objectives are:
1. Recognition of the IWW. Almost all cleaners at the Guildhall are members in the Industrial Workers of the Work, the independent workers union. Instead of trying to undermine the IWW, as the new contractor Sodexo is seeking to do by holding one-to-one ‘consultations’ with cleaners – the employers need to face the reality the union is here to stay.
2. A Living Wage now. IWW members have decided to campaign for the London Living Wage which is currently set by the GLA at £8.30 p/h. The cleaning contractors see wages as burden on their profits, which for months they have been boosting by not paying the proper wage rates. For workers the wage rate is the price of survival, with a rising cost of living and worsening recession the current £5.93 p/h is worse than poverty pay.
The Guildhall can claim it is not responsible for the cleaners – it is up to the sub-contractor Ocean and from 1 September the new contractor Sodexo. However as the saying goes – ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’. It is the Guildhall who decided to contract out their cleaning; it is the Guildhall who sets the terms of the tender. The Guildhall could bring the contract in house and put cleaners on the same conditions as other staff, it could only give contracts to those who pay a living wage and recognise trade unions. Whether the Guildhall employs it cleaners directly or through a sub-contractor the IWW demands justice for cleaners now!

Cleaners Know Your Rights
The IWW will be hosting a briefing for cleaners who work at the Guildhall after your shift ends at 08:00, the date and venue to be announced. The IWW has arranged for an Employment Rights Solicitor who will provide an outline of your rights as a worker, covering your contract of employment, wages, holidays and rest breaks, discipline and grievance, redundancy and much more. Spanish and French language translation will be provided.

English Language Classes
Employers have been using workers knowledge of the English language as a means to exploit and abuse them. Whilst the IWW is arranging for literature in Spanish and French to assist members we are also arranging for free English language classes for IWW members to be held in the near future.

Monday, August 01, 2011

An old mate of mine, sadly no longer with us, used to sport a sticker on his car that read "Support your local anarchist".
No longer a subject for humour, it seems -

"Anarchism is a political philosophy which considers the state undesirable, unnecessary and harmful, and instead promotes a stateless society, or anarchy. Any information relating to anarchists should be reported to your local police."
(from a Metropolitan Police leaflet, since withdrawn)

A lot* of pimply youths and elderly pacifists will be thrilled to know that "the best police force money can buy" considers them a threat to the social order.
In my opinion the anarchist movement(s) can be summed up in terms of piss-ups and breweries.
Nice ideas though.

*'Lot' may not be the mot juste.