Sacked Friction Dynamics workers deserve better
The 87 members of the TGWU 4/550 branch at Friction Dynamics, Caenarfon, Gwynedd, were sacked after eight weeks locked out by their employer for going on strike. They are still picketing the plant. Their strike committee chair, Gerald Parry, knows what determination their stand has shown.
He says, 'Times are hard now, though-their Jobseeker's Allowance money ran out at Christmas and there's a slow trickle of men getting jobs elsewhere.' The union decided to stay within the law, and avoid 'provoking' the boss. This squandered any chance of victory for the workforce. As a result, the hopes of the workforce now lie with the forthcoming industrial tribunal.
One striker, John Davies, will act as a test case for the 86 others. The union case is based on the actions of Craig Smith, the boss. He did not engage in 'meaningful negotiations' during the eight-week cooling off period, as required by the 1999 Trade Union Act introduced by New Labour.
Smith refused to meet the plant union leaders and then obstructed ACAS talks. This dispute, along with William Cook's in Sheffield, seems to have produced a shift in TUC policy – in favour of removing the eight-week period. The eight-week period encourages some employers to wait and then do what they intended all along – sack the workforce.
Two coachloads of pickets are set to travel down to Cardiff on Sunday 3 February for a rally and a lobby of New Labour's spring conference, where Bill Morris will be arguing for a change in the law.
We need to be piling the pressure on the TUC and the government to plug the loopholes in the law. Meanwhile, these strikers deserve your support.
JOHN UNSWORTH, Holyhead, Gwynedd
Rush donations to TGWU, 7A Victoria Chambers, Crown Street, Caernarfon, Gwynedd LL55 1SY. Cheques payable to TGWU Dispute Fund.
Socialist Alliance prepares for the May elections
OUR SOCIALIST Alliance in Tower Hamlets is working to build the 16 March conference on the unions' political fund. We hope to have a broad range of workers there, from the local council, hospitals, schools, colleges, bus garages, fire stations and tube workers. But we are also ensuring that we campaign on key issues in local communities and are preparing for May's council elections. These elections will be a crucial test for the Socialist Alliance. In London every council seat is up for election, as are a third of seats in many important cities.
We have decided here to stand one Socialist Alliance candidate in a ward, in an election where everyone will have three votes. That can appeal to people who may still have loyalties to Labour to use one of their three votes for the Socialist Alliance. We have already begun selecting well known candidates.
We will be out campaigning with leaflets, stalls and a rally over transport. To make an impact in May we can't wait until the official three week campaign. We need to be out there now, raising our profile and winning people to be part of our campaign.
KAMBIZ BOOMLA, secretary Tower Hamlets Socialist Alliance, East London
TUC exposé causes stir
SOCIALIST Worker's investigation into the TUC caused a real stir. At a recent GMB meeting many of the other stewards who are women childcare workers bought copies of the paper for the first time. We all work for Manchester City Council which employs 26,000 people. Around 18,000 are members of a trade union.
Questions are now being asked about how the TUC stitch-up affects our union. For a lot of the childcare stewards these revelations have led them to take their first political steps, and this has led to a debate about GMB funding for the Labour Party.
Some shop stewards didn't even know we give money to Labour. Now people are asking, does Labour deserve to get all our trade union's money? Many of these stewards are now set to come to the city's meeting on the union's political fund and where it should go.
RITA McLOUGHLIN, Manchester
Not enough to heal Congo's wounds
THE CRISIS that has hit Goma since the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo has plunged thousands of people into further misery and despair. Jack Straw announced that he would be making a visit to the region and the government would donate £2 million towards emergency aid. This is pure hypocrisy.
Congo has been the plaything of Western powers for generations. The current war has claimed almost three million lives and has involved five African countries. Western companies and governments have profited massively from the carve-up of the country's rich mineral resources, and help to sustain both the war and regional governments.
According to a UN report foreign companies backed by Blair 'were ready to do business in Congo'. On the brink of war with Afghanistan, Tony Blair declared in his 2001 conference speech that the state of Africa was 'a scar on the conscience of the world'. For more than 20 years Africa has suffered under the weight of structural adjustment programmes.
Blair is an outspoken advocate of such policies. The solution cannot be found in Western 'initiatives' or any form of recolonisation, but through the struggles of those who have resisted the policies of Blair and Co.
LEO ZELIG, South London
Anti-war mood in Pakistan
SINCE THE new threat of war between India and Pakistan a Joint Action Committee (JAC) in Karachi, in Pakistan has been formed The committee calls on India and Pakistan to ease tensions creating war and resolve disputes through negotiations.
It is made up of NGOs, socialist groups and many individuals. In Karachi the JAC has held three public protests since December. About 100 people came to the first protest and despite police brutality the demonstrations have grown.
The people joining the protests are young and working class. The best thing was that people who came to the first demonstration have continued to take to the streets, unlike in the past when people thinned out. We have more people now and the new people are very open.
DR RIAZ AHMED, Karachi, Pakistan
US flout the rules
IT IS typical of the arrogance of the US to say that the men they are imprisoning are not prisoners of war. This is not the first time the US has acted in this way.
During the Second World War German prisoners taken by US forces were called 'unarmed enemy forces'.
The US claimed they too were not to be entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention.
RON ACOCK, Ilkeston
TOO RIGHT postal workers are going to strike over the treatment handed out to the Doherty brothers. They were wrongly sacked and have won their tribunals with reinstatement guaranteed. So what are Post Office managers playing at? I remember when Almeida Street sorting office held a wildcat strike after Tom Doherty was sacked.
The only way union negotiators could persuade the staff to go back to work was to guarantee that Tom would get his job back if he won an appeal or a tribunal. This has not happened. It is the same as when Mick (our chair) won his tribunal reinstatement. It's important everyone understands why postal workers are withdrawing their labour-it's because of management lies.
CECIL BROWN, East London
I WAS surprised you did not cover the TUC's report on the progress unions are making in winning new union recognition deals. The report shows 470 new union recognition agreements covering 120,000 workers last year.
While there are many justifiable criticisms of Labour's union recognition provisions, this rise shows how much the situation has changed since the Thatcher-Major years. Campaigning needs to start now if the unions are to make Labour change the rules.
GREGOR GALL, Stirling
CWU UNION members will shortly be receiving their ballots for strike action over pay. The onus is on all CWU union reps to ensure that all members cast their vote. We can show the Post Office that we are a union of deeds, not just words.
ANDREW O'BRIEN, Watford