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Letters—I hope Altrad walkout in Hull triggers more

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Construction worker tells the lessons of his unofficial walkout
Issue 2807
Construction workers sit in

Around 300 construction workers employed by Altrad, who organised a mass sit-in at Ineos oil refinery in Hull.

I was one of those involved in the walkout you reported by Altrad workers at Ineos near Hull (Socialist Worker, 12 May). We didn’t win everything we wanted, but it was really positive and I think it might be an example we will see more of.

It was caused at first by stupid actions by the employers. Not paying workers what they have been told they will be paid is guaranteed to set people off. Not employing enough people to get this right is a really bad mistake.

I am someone who has been part of union-led actions in construction in the past, but this was different. Lots of those involved had no experience of being in a trade union or knew anything about the laws about unions. They would have just laughed if someone had said they had to hold a postal ballot and take six weeks before they could go on strike. The attitude was,“It’s wrong, so let’s get out.”

And then having done it they felt very strong because Altrad had to do the plant maintenance quickly. Otherwise it wouldn’t reopen on time. They also knew they had to work democratically so everyone felt OK about how it was going.

Trade unions have real strengths, and I think people should join one. But we will probably see more of this sort of action where people just feel they have to do something whether they are in a union or not.

And those of us who are used to the speed and the shape of disputes in the last decade may have to think differently. The main thing at Altrad was to make what had happened as effective and united as possible. 

It would have been quite wrong to say that it couldn’t work without direct union involvement. The unions need to catch up with the mood.

Young workers, migrant workers and new workers won’t be held back by people saying, “This is how we have always done it.” A final point. Nobody was jailed, nobody was fined, nobody lost their job because of the walkout. Union laws? Nah.


West London

Save Earth by sinking the richest

We all know the super rich contribute disproportionately to climate change, but it’s hard to visualise their impact. Or it was. I’ve just seen numbers that paint the most sickening picture.

Businessman Roman Abramovich’s yacht fleet alone is responsible for the same annual carbon emissions as 6,500 average people, and his planes, helicopters and cars another 1,600. That’s the whole population of Totnes, Devon.

Producer David Geffen isn’t far behind. His yachts spew the yearly equivalent of 4,000 people and his ‘other transport’ another 400. Sales of super yachts, the world’s single most polluting asset, almost doubled last year as the rich got richer and the rest of us struggled to make ends meet. 

A tenth of all flights out of France are now in privately-owned planes that generate as much carbon dioxide in four hours as the average person in the European Union does all year.

And on and on it goes. Billionaires zooming around in super-polluting toys while the rest of us are told to tighten our belts and reduce our carbon footprints. We don’t have much choice. Low wages and inflation have seen to that. I don’t usually advocate individual solutions for climate change. But I’ll make an exception for this lot. Rinse the rich. Better still—let’s get rid of them all together.

Kim Hunter


No backdown to the crackdown on activists

In a very worrying development, two Palestine Action activists remain in prison after a judge denied them bail at a hearing. The two were part of a team of nine who on Nakba Day occupied and damaged the Bristol headquarters of Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest arms company. 

Although seven have been released, Stav Sinai and Ronnie Barkan remain awaiting trial. The taking of political prisoners in this way is part of a wider agenda of repression in Britain today.

The group has promised no backdown to the crackdown, and called for heightened direct action against Elbit, which produces drones, ammunition, and chemical weapons. Supporters can write letters to the prisoners—email [email protected]

Susan Jackman

North London

Tories trample on Pinochet’s victims

Harlow Council leader Russell Perrin’s proposal to rename Allende Avenue as Zelensky Avenue is a disgrace. Whatever your views of the Ukrainian conflict, we should continue to remember socialist Salvador Allende who was elected as president of Chile in 1970.

The US waged a campaign of sabotage and economic warfare against his government, culminating in the CIA-backed coup on 11 September 1973, which installed general Augusto Pinochet. His regime murdered around 3,000 political opponents and tortured 40,000, and also forced 200,000 people into exile. 

Some on the left have long suspected that the commitment of some Conservatives to democratic values is only skin-deep. Perrin’s proposal to paint over the memory of the best-known victim of General Pinochet does nothing to allay that suspicion.

Many people in Britain, Chile, and the rest of the world will see Perrin’s proposal as metaphorically spitting on the graves of Pinochet’s victims.     

John Wake


Behind the Uvalde horror

I’m sure the appalling mass shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas, has many particular causes. But there won’t be any real change until there’s attention to a US society that is saturated in violence. 

You can’t have endless glorification of the military and its technology of death without encouraging the idea of guns as the solution to everything. And the cult of individual success leaves out many people who are then made to feel failures and outcasts.

Margaret Skerratt

South London

When money tree blooms

Chancellor Rishi Sunak handed out billions the day after the partygate Sue Gray report came out. Isn’t it amazing how the magic money tree always miraculously appears every time the Tory party finds itself in trouble?

Caitlin Morehouse

On Facebook

No buses to cover rail cuts

Your report on the ScotRail chaos (Socialist Worker, 25 May) shows how inconvenient it will be for passengers when the last train to many destinations leaves much earlier than before. I asked ScotRail how many replacement buses there are to compensate. The answer? Absolutely none.  

Alan Holmes


Drax hates cash for poor 

I noticed that Tory MP Richard Drax accused chancellor Rishi Sunak of “throwing red meat to socialists” with his energy support package last week.

Drax has an estimated fortune of £150 million and his family profited from slavery. No wonder he thinks that any cash for ordinary people is money wasted.

Patrick McGovern

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