Socialist Worker

Right to work conference voices

Participants in the conference in Manchester speak about the day

Issue No. 2187

Dot Gibson & Ian Allinson

Dot Gibson & Ian Allinson

Claire Lyall

Claire Lyall  & Clara Osagiede

Steve Richards & Juan Carlos Piedra

Steve Richards & Juan Carlos Piedra

David & Katie Goode

David McGrath & Katie Goode


“I’m a community worker. Glasgow council wants to cut 600 jobs and close 12 community centres. These centres are absolute lifelines.

We’re building a campaign involving trade unions and community activists fighting together.

We probably need to take a leaf out of the Vestas workers’ book and start thinking about occupying as well.”

Claire Lyall, Glasgow anti-cuts campaign

“Cleaners are paid peanuts. The bosses use immigration laws to exploit and victimise us. But we are not criminals—we have a right to work here.

Cleaners on London Underground took strike action and won the London Living Wage.

Saying we should have ‘British jobs for British workers’ is a ploy to divide the working class so capitalists can drag down wages for everyone. But working class unity can win.”

Clara Osagiede, RMT union cleaners’ campaign, London

“I came here to re?evaluate my ideas.

In the students and young workers workshop, the debate gave me a sense of how workers in unions must work together with students.

The conference has inspired me to become more active.”

Katie Goode, student at Teesside University

“The leaders of our Justice for Cleaners campaign are always under attack.

Some are sacked. Others have the police coming round, trying to get them thrown out of the country.

The most important thing to come out of this conference is unity. At the end of the day we are all workers.”

Juan Carlos Piedra, suspended union activist

“There are 2.5 million pensioners below the poverty line—the same as when Labour took over in 1997.

Unless unions take up the fight for state pensions, the future of their members is at stake.”

Dot Gibson, national secretary of the National Pensioners Convention

“Yesterday was the ninth day of our strike to defend jobs pay and pensions—the first ever national strike in the IT industry.

Our message is that fighting back is worth it.

People are here from so many different unions and campaigns. It’s a fantastic opportunity to focus on what we can do to support each other.”

Ian Allinson, chair of the Unite combine committee at Fujitsu

“Signallers in Newport struck for two weeks before and after Christmas.

Management imposed new rotas that disrupted their work-life balance.

Signallers aren’t a militant group of workers.

But the only place to go was to the picket line.

The anti-trade union legislation makes balloting difficult.

Shame on the Labour Party for leaving these laws in place.

But we had a network of support that gave confidence to the signal workers.”

Steve Richards, RMT signallers’ rep in South Wales

“I’m a blacklisted construction worker.

I’ve had no support from my trade union officials, though I’ve been in Unite for 35 years.

I’ve read the blacklist files. They list name, national insurance number and source.

The number of people where the source says

‘full-time trade union official’ is unbelievable.I’ve sat unemployed while there are cranes on every street corner.

People should get onto their officials and say, why aren’t you helping to organise that site?”

Colin Trousdale, Manchester Campaign Against Blacklisting

“I’ve seen the strengths and weaknesses of union organisation.

Trade union hierarchies can dissipate workers’ energy.

The upper levels of the unions are strong?armed by the government to call off action.

We have to organise on the ground to hold them to account.

Without standing up for what we want, we won’t defend ourselves from attacks.

You need grassroots organisation and activism.”

David McGrath, south central No 1 CWU union branch, Oxford


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