Postal workers in the UK have now taken five days of strike action against the attacks on their jobs and working conditions, spearheaded by Royal Mail and backed by the government. RM are responding by rolling out Britain’s largest strikebreaking operation since the pivotal miners’ strike of 1984-85. However, Communication Workers Union bureaucrats – who have been doing their best to dampen down rank and file anger since the early summer – have claimed this is “not a sticking point”.
Last Wednesday, members of the Nottinghamshire Industrial Workers of the World branch leafleted outside the Station Road Jobcentre Plus branch, urging centre users not to cross picket lines and undermine the strike. Actions like this are vitally important, because the new workers’ movement is starting from a historical low in terms of class consciousness and knowledge of industrial tactics, and under-25s make up nearly four in ten on the UK unemployment roll.
In another historical milestone struggle, Ford workers in the US have emphatically rejected the latest sacrifices proposed by United Auto Workers president Ron Gettelfinger, with nearly three quarters voting no on the deal. It is the first time a national deal has been rejected stateside since 1976, and the first time at Ford since 1972. Since then, the UAW has helped to wipe out 750,000 US auto industry jobs, leaving Detroit and other manufacturing centres utterly devastated.
Union executives around the world and in every industry have argued that economic globalisation means that cuts are necessary sacrifices, and a whole generation of workers have grown up in that environment, giving more to their bosses, and getting less back, while the bureaucrats have enriched themselves. Ford workers have seen 45% of their colleagues made redundant since 2006, and have overwhelmingly decided that enough is enough, drawing a red line in the sand. They must link up with their counterparts at Chrysler and General Motors (the other two members of the ‘Big Three’, who had similar deals foisted upon them by Gettelfinger and President Obama at the start of the year), and workers internationally. The nationalist, pro-capitalist perspective of the business unions has been exposed as a dead end, but now the case has to be made for workers’ control.
Finally for this week, more than four thousand undocumented workers are taking strike action and holding occupations in Paris. Their demand is for the same legal rights as indigenous French labour. Under the slogan ‘Colonised yesterday – exploited today – tomorrow regularised’, the strike wave is far larger than a similar uprising in spring last year, which involved six hundred workers and won two thousand regularisations. According to an article in The Commune:
“This exemplary movement perfectly illustrates the contradictions of capitalism. In order to maintain profits, this system has for years carried out a policy of outsourcing and casualising the labour force. This logic is pushed to its extreme with undocumented migrant workers. Furthermore they suffer growing state and police repression with the development of Fortress Europe, a racist Europe, which lauds the free circulation of capital yet allows thousands of people to die every year in the Mediterranean.”