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Museum workers start historic strike in Liverpool

Coventry Amazon workers held picket lines and UCU grouping disengages from union
Issue 2893
Museum workers strike and picket in Liverpool

Museum workers picket in Liverpool Photo Credit: PCSLiverpoolMuseums

Some 217 PCS union members working at the National Museums Liverpool (NML) kicked off eight weeks of strikes last Saturday. The dispute is over the failure of NML to pay the £1,500 cost of living payment agreed as part of the PCS pay dispute settlement last year. A lively picket that swelled to 80 began at the World Museum in William Brown Street.

Tracey Hylton of the PCS NEC addressed the strikers and Audrey White of the Merseyside Pensioners Association described it as the “happiest picket line I have ever attended”. At 10am strikers discovered that management was attempting to open another site at the Museum of Liverpool Life at the Pier Head so the picket relocated. The other five sites—the Walker, Lady Lever and Tate Northern Art Galleries and the Maritime and International Slavery Museums— remained closed.

Both the International Slavery Museum and the Maritime Museum have planned redevelopment projects costing £58 million. Some of this could easily be used to resolve the dispute. PCS Livepool Museums said, “The problem is, the secret to our museums isn’t the priceless objects. “It’s the priceless staff. About time you invested in them.”

The Museum of Liverpool stated it was open for its usual hours last Sunday. PCS responded by identifying that it was “opened with the slimmest numbers of staff” as most were picketing. The union added, “Good scousers don’t cross picket lines.”

  • Picketing is every day between 8am and 11am until 14 April but may move between sites depending on which management try to open. Send messages of support to PCS@

Dave Owens

Coventry Amazon workers unfulfilled

Hundreds of Amazon workers joined big picket lines outside the BHX4 fulfilment centre in Coventry on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday last week. Around 400 striking GMB union members held up workers going into the Coventry Amazon depot for more than half an hour. They tried to convince them not to cross the picket line.

Amazon worker Darren Westwood tweeted last Tuesday, “Amazon BHX4 is out again. “As Amazon boss Jeff Bezos sells £1.6 million worth of Amazon stock, we are asking for £15 an hour. Every worker should be getting this as a minimum.”

On the second day of the three day strike, workers chanted, “No work today,” and, “What do we want? —£15.” And workers continued to join the union on the picket lines. Since the summer of 2022, over 1,000 have joined the GMB at BHX4.

The company’s internal online bulletin board is bombarded with messages from workers supporting the union with links to join, usually deleted by admins within minutes. Management is doing everything to try to break the strikes—such as bringing in new starters. But many of these new starters joined the GMB— and are now among the most enthusiastic pickets.

Amazon is also trying to convince workers that they would be better off not joining the union. Amazon managers sent an email claiming, “Union recognition may mean that BHX4 employees will not automatically see pay increases offered at other sites.” Management is trying to bribe workers to cross the picket line with a pathetic offer of a £2.50 voucher to spend in the canteen.

That’s barely enough for a coffee. The company pretends to ignore the union, but pay has increased from £10.15 to £12.50, already a rise of 23 percent. Workers at other Amazon fulfilment centres also need to join the action. Last month, workers at the newly-opened Minworth site near Birmingham went on strike for the first time.

Andy Pettit

Black trade unionists in revolt at union approach

A democratic body of the UCU union has disengaged from the union following what it describes as “entrenched racism and systemic disrespect within our union”. The Black Members’ Standing Committee (BMSC) has said its concerns about racism have been met with “resistance, indifference and deliberate stalling” from those at the top of the union. The group also said it wanted to address “internal censorship around the issue of Palestine”.

It added that a statement written by members of the BMSC was censored on UCU’s official channels. Hakim Adi, the first history professor of African descent in Britain, is being made redundant and his course is being scrapped by Chichester University. He said that he wasn’t surprised that UCU has a problem with racism. He said, “I still have no legal support and no action from UCU despite numerous resolutions of support and pious words. We need an anti-racist union led by its members.”

The statement from the BMSC clearly shows that transformative change needs to occur at the top of the UCU. For too long the current general secretary Jo Grady and others have ignored the members’ concerns and tried to bypass democratic structures. The UCU Left group has called on the union to convene an immediate emergency NEC meeting as soon as possible.

Referring to UCU’s silencing of BMSC over Palestine, it wrote, “We reject a bureaucratic move to protect organisational reputation through shutting down the voices of our self-elected Black representatives.” UCU Left is demanding “that the position statement is shared through UCU communications”. Saira Weiner, who is running for general secretary of the UCU, expressed her solidarity with the BMSC and “black members facing structural racism and bullying”. UCU needs a stronger anti-racist voice at the top of the union.

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