Occupation victory for La Senza shop workers
La Senza shop workers at the Liffey Valley shopping centre in Dublin courageously occupied their workplace—and won. This victory sets an example to follow for retail workers who want to fight back.
The occupation started on Monday 9 January when workers found out their jobs were terminated with no prior warning.
For most of that day it was business as usual. But at 7.40pm they received a call informing them that their services were no longer required.
Loyal workers, most employed for many years, were put into the care of administrators KPMG. They were treated as something to be disposed of.
Nine heavily built men were sent by KPMG into the Liffey Valley store to pack up and collect remaining stock.
But the shop workers were owed overtime for December and January wages. So they decided to take action and barricaded themselves into the store. La Senza staff from other stores in Ireland made their way to Liffey Valley to take part in their sit-in.
Vanessa Ryan, one of the Liffey Valley workers, said, “We gave up time over Christmas with our families and now we are getting nothing. We just want what we are owed.”
The company knew it was heading towards liquidation during the busy Christmas period.
Profits totalling some 6.5 million euros (£5.4 million) were sent from Ireland to La Senza’s British parent company, which has also gone into administration.
Under the laws surrounding liquidation, workers are considered as creditors. The wages they owed would have been at the bottom of the list had they not occupied.
Instead KPMG officials agreed on Friday to pay all the back money due to over 100 La Senza workers across Ireland. The payouts are believed to amount to 800 euros (£660) each.
Investors will buy and sell retail chains like La Senza in their search for profits. And despite these capitalists “putting on the poor-mouth”, they have made money from the retail bubble.
Staff at La Senza were inspired by another sit-in in Cork by Vita Vortex workers. These could begin of a wave of similar occupations.
The inspiring action from La Senza staff shows how other workers can fight and win.
Leah Speight, Dublin, Ireland
Obscenity laws are unworkable
A milestone in the law about sex was reached this month. The legislation against obscene publications has become unworkable.
Michael Peacock was prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act for distributing pornographic DVDs. They showed legal and consensual acts at the wilder end of gay sex—piss and fisting.
The jury acquitted him. They did not agree that the DVDs would “deprave and corrupt” those who watched them, the legal definition of obscenity since 1959.
This suggests that no jury can be relied on to convict anybody. So the Obscene Publications Act has no force.
The past 50 years have seen a remarkable change in attitudes to obscenity. Until 1968 the law banned plays containing sex or bad language.
Now the only effective ban is against violence. Gay men who took part in consensual sadomasochist sex were convicted in 1990—a breach of their human rights.
The collapse of the obscenity laws is in many ways a good thing. The laws have always operated on a class basis.
DH Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover was first published in 1928. But when Penguin Books brought out a cheap paperback edition in 1960 it was charged with obscenity.
The chief prosecutor famously asked the jury if this were a book they would wish their wife or servants to read. The jury sensibly decided to acquit Penguin.
So socialists should welcome the fact that it is becoming harder for the law to harass those who depict or take part in consensual sexual acts.
This does not imply that there is anything liberating about pornography. All porn presents a distorted version of sex, and straight porn typically degrades women.
But obscenity laws are not the way to tackle this problem. That is why the collapse of the case against Peacock represents a modest step forward.
Colin Wilson, East London
Class considerations on Scottish devolution
With all the talk of Scottish devolution it is paramount we keep a class analysis at the forefront of our minds.
I understand the position that devolution would give an imperial possession back to control by its own people. But in class terms things are far from clear.
Currently, due to the block grant system, Scottish people receive 17 percent more per head than do English residents. This accounts for the comparatively good welfare provision there.
Devolution would give various taxation rights to the Scottish parliament, and the “devolution max” option some are floating would remove the block grant too.
Scotland could (just about) raise the funds for current welfare spending by gaining control over oil revenues. But these revenues are set to decline—and there is talk of actually reducing top level income tax.
The Scottish National Party are nationalists not socialists. There is no guarantee that social democracy is their priority.
Scotland could easily mark itself out as a tax haven with its reduced tax burden.
The loser in all this would be the working class, irrespective of the labels “English” or “Scottish”. Anti-imperialism is a laudable principle, but it shouldn’t blind us to class politics beyond nationalism. That’s where our real analysis must be.
John Gullick, Newcastle
Zero tolerance for Suarez’s racism
The stance Liverpool football club has taken over Luis Suarez’s racist behaviour has been utterly shameful.
They have tried to portray Patrice Evra, the target of Suarez’s racist language, as the perpetrator, while painting Suarez as the victim of a miscarriage of justice.
Many have said the Football Association (FA) acted in a firm manner, but I disagree. “Kick racism out of football” should mean just that, not “kick it out for eight games”—the length of the FA’s ban on Suarez.
Suarez and Liverpool have accepted no responsibility for their wrongdoing. Until this happens I don’t see how Suarez can be allowed to enter a football ground.
Eric Cantona got an eight month ban in 1994 for kicking a supporter who was verbally abusing him—and yet Suarez will serve only a month.
Racist ideas have no place in society and no place in football. Every club in the country has had to challenge racism head on, and will continue to do so as long as we live in a society where racism exists.
Liverpool’s behaviour sends completely the wrong message. Patrice Evra is the victim in this, not Luis Suarez.
Cuts will hit the disabled
Could I encourage all Socialist Worker readers to look at and support Pat’s Petition?
This grassroots petition currently has over 20,000 signatures from the effort of a small group of disabled people and carers. It needs 100,000 to generate a debate in parliament.
The petition calls for the government to “stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families”.
To sign Pat’s Petition please go to http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/20968
Pat Onions, South Lanarkshire
Problems with Syrian rebels
Simon Assaf’s article “Syrian protests threaten Assad” (Socialist Worker, 7 January) suggests it is only the regime that is mobilising sectarianism.
Unfortunately some of the “revolutionaries” are doing the same.
More significantly from an anti-imperialist perspective, leaders of the Syrian National Council are pledging their future regime will not support resistance against Zionism.
Simon appears to see Hamas moving their offices from Damascus to Cairo and Qatar as an endorsement of the “Syrian revolution”.
It is more likely to be a climbdown in the face of imperialist pressure.
This underlines the point—made by Simon among others—that Islamist movements, like the nationalists before them, lack a socialist programme.
That is why they all eventually compromise with imperialism.
Nasser Baston, East London
The real Iron Ladies
I was one of a crowd of Chesterfield SWP comrades who demonstrated outside the Cineworld cinema with veterans of the Women’s Action Groups from the Miners’ Strike of 1984‑85.
We were protesting against The Iron Lady, the new film about Margaret Thatcher starring Meryl Streep.
We sold copies of Socialist Worker’s 7 January issue with Pat Stack’s excellent critique of the film.
It was heartening to be able to stand in solidarity with some real Iron Ladies.
Lucretia Packham, Chesterfield
Plaid Cymru to shift left?
Plaid Cymru, the Welsh nationalist party, is in the middle of a very interesting leadership campaign.
After a drubbing at the 2011 Welsh Assembly elections—in which they lost four of their 15 seats—Ieuan Wyn Jones stepped down as leader.
Leanne Wood AM is one of the favourites to take over. She is a self‑avowed socialist and staunch supporter of the anti‑war movement and campaigns against cuts.
Despite the contradictions in Plaid, a win for Leanne could herald a shift left in the party that all socialists should welcome.
Gareth Jones, Merthyr Tydfil
Don’t let them expel James
Student protester James Heslip is currently serving 12 months for breaking a window at the November 2010 Millbank protest.
Now Kingston University has expelled him from his course. This move sets an appalling precedent. We need to fight it.
Sign the petition at bit.ly/jamespetition to help reinstate James.
Nina Power, Defend the Right to Protest campaign
In praise of Occupy camps
The Occupy camps provide an ever-present jolt to the consciences of those behind our economic ills.
Any sensible city would encourage the social cohesion inherent in these informal tent communities.
Instead they pursue eviction policies which can only lead to unnecessary violence.
John Eoin Douglas, Edinburgh