Solidarity with retail workers affected by Walthamstow Mall fire

A huge fire tore through Walthamstow Mall this morning. The mall has 66 retail stores plus restaurants which will now be closed for the foreseeable future. We wish those hurt a speedy recovery and salute the 150 firefighters who tackled the blaze.

We stand in solidarity with the mall’s retail and service workers and call for no loss of pay for all those workers affected and for travel allowances to be paid to workers who will be transferred to other stores and be forced to travel.

We also call for the mall workers and their trade unions to be involved in the investigation and to lead any inquiry.

The Save Our Square campaign, which represents thousands in the community who oppose privatisation and redevelopment of the area around the mall, have called a meeting Thursday 25 July, 7.30pm at William Morris Community Centre on Greenleaf Road, Walthamstow. Workers are welcome to attend to discuss the response to the fire.

Scott Jones,
Usdaw shop workers’ union East London retail branch chair (personal capacity)

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Give members a vote on pay deals in Tesco

Usdaw members in Tesco have not had a vote on pay for over two decades since the union and the company entered into a partnership agreement in 1998. Over time Tesco members have seen an erosion of terms and conditions, cuts to premiums, redundancies, low hour contracts, flexi contracts and staff shortages. As well as a decline in Usdaw membership in Tesco.

We believe every member should have the right to an individual vote on their pay. We call for a return of the ballot on pay to replace the current ‘forum’ process. And we have an opportunity to strike a blow now as a first step towards this.

At the 2019 Usdaw annual delegate meeting in Blackpool in May a proposition was moved forward by North Sussex calling for a ‘one member, one vote’ in Tesco pay negotiations. The proposition called for the Tesco membership to have the individual right to vote on their pay by an in-store ballot run by reps in a similar way as distribution sites, and in companies such as Morrisons.

The pay deal would still be negotiated by the national forum but the final say would ultimately sit with the Usdaw membership in Tesco. The proposition was vigorously debated and culminated in a card vote – For 235,577 (68.85%) and Against 106,600 (31.15%).

Usdaw’s executive committee has decided to refer the terms of the proposition to the national officer with responsibility for Tesco for action as appropriate. To help deliver the sentiment behind this proposition, if individual members of Tesco wish to gain the right to vote on their pay it is imperative that they raise it on their staff forums for escalation to the Store Director Forum (SD Forum).

I encourage all Usdaw members in Tesco, submit this issue to be discussed in your store forum to go the SD Forums and make sure your voices are heard!

Amy Murphy, Usdaw President (personal capacity)

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Vote No to the Morrisons’ Pay Deal

Heading into British summertime sees the latest controversial pay deal in the retail sector. The latest Morrisons pay deal is amid controversy and arguably caused more headaches for rank and file shop stewards than the 2016 Pay Deal which saw the removal of Sunday premiums.

There is a general feeling among reps along the front line, that this could be the most controversial and talked about pay deal among the Morrisons membership of the past twenty years.

So why so much unrest?

Perhaps it is Morrisons clear attempts to undermine Usdaw. So was the introduction of the new sevice reward scheme (commonly known as the Christmas bonus) and removal of the old one part of the pay deal? Or as the company claim was going to happen anyway so the deal is simply for the 30 pence increase to the base rate (taking it up to £9 per hour).

What is clear is that Morrisons gift for timing is not only clearly undermining the recognised trade union, but it has angered long serving Usdaw members within Morrisons.

The equal frustration is over the clear lack of strong statements from the National negotiating team of reps, headed up by Usdaw’s National Officer Joanne McGuinness. All reps have simply been told, the union do not support nor recommend refusing the pay deal. We are simply told this is the best deal that could be reached.

But this poses questions as well. If this deal were too be rejected, will members be balloted for industrial action? Will it go to arbitration?

Arbitration would be far from ideal. Given the lack of tradition of strike action in UK retail, then serious preparations would need to be made to mobilise the workforce if strike action was necessary to win a decent pay offer.

What is clear that Usdaw needs to make bigger noises to involve the membership in important pay deals. The Morrisons current pay deal presents the ideal opportunity to show strength to our membership before the likes of Tesco’s, Coop and Sainsbury’s follow suit and erode more terms and conditions. Like many reps up and down the country I will be urging my members to reject this offer.

A Broad Left member in Morrisons

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Stop and Shop workers strike in the US

stopandshop

Stop and Shop workers on strike

On the 11 April, workers in Stop and Shop across New England, which has around 31,000 employees, walked out to take long awaited strike action over a series of attacks by the company.

Iain Dalton, Usdaw Broad Left Chair

The attacks come in the form of the latest round of union contract (pay, terms and conditions) negotiations, where the company had attempted to cap shopfloor wages, hike healthcare costs by up to 500%, replace the current pension with an inferior 401k, remove a week’s paid holiday, eliminate time and a half payments on sundays and institute a wage cap for employees. All this whilst parent company Ahold Delhaize earned $2billion in profits in 2018!

As pointed out in the video message by Usdaw President Amy Murphy (see here – https://www.facebook.com/1549827718591114/posts/2253451768228702/), some of these attacks will sound familiar to Usdaw members as they are similar to what workers in many of the UK’s retail companies have faced in the era of austerity, our employers trying to improve their profits by squeezing our standard of living and working conditions.

Once again, the fantastic response by UFCW members turning out en masse outside their stores shows, like with Tesco and Lloyds Pharmacy strikes in Ireland and the Lidl strike in Belgium that retail workers can and will strike to defend and improve their conditions if a lead is given. As in other dispute, a key part of this has been building confidence of members to strike, by engaging with customers about the issues behind the dispute, including rallies outside stores.

However, as seen in online comments on union social media by Stop and Shop workers, there clearly has been some frustration by workers over how long it has taken from the strike ballot to start the action (around a month). Throughout the dispute the UFCW should be calling mass meetings of its members across the five branches involved to discuss out the strategy of how to win the strike. Electing a strike committee from such meetings, which could regularly report back on the progress of the dispute, could also help draw in members energised by the strike to play a more active role in winning the dispute and building the union going forward.

Wider support will be crucial to sustaining the strike to force the company to seriously negotiate. Organising mass rallies outside stores, but also hardship funds will help support workers in maintaining the strike and boost morale. Usdaw’s Executive Council to should contact the UFCW offering whatever help and support it can to ensure the strike defeats Stop and Shop management’s attacks.

Please sign the petition in support of their demands here – http://www.ufcw.org/supportstopandshopworkers
Like, share and send messages of support on their facebook page here – https://www.facebook.com/supportstopandshopworkers/

You can read updates about the dispute including an interview with a Stop and Shop worker from the Socialist Alternative website here – https://www.socialistalternative.org

FOUR MEMBERS OF THE ‘USDAW GROUP OF MPS’ QUIT LABOUR IN ANTI-CORBYN SPLIT – CORBYN MUST LAUNCH STRUGGLE TO KICK OUT BLAIRITES AND FIGHT FOR SOCIALIST POLICIES

February 20, 2019 Leave a comment

Since this article was originally written an 8th Labour MP, Joan Ryan, has quit to join the ‘Independent Group’. She is yet another member of the Usdaw group of MPs.

Many Usdaw members will have been unsurprised to see the long-awaited split of some Blairite MPs away from the Labour Party finally manifest itself as the Independent Group in parliament of 7 MPs.

These MPs have been firmly hostile to the leadership of Labour by Jeremy Corbyn, and his radical manifesto in 2017, that put forward many of the demands that trade unionists have been making for including a £10 an hour minimum wage, renationalisation of the railways, a mass council house building programme and more.

Corbyn’s repeated victories have been followed with a strengthening of the left on Usdaw’s EC and the beginnings of a more combative policy to fight for our members interests.

Instead these Blairites wish to take us back to the past with neoliberal policies and support for austerity, as expressed in their statement of their views

“Britain works best as a diverse, mixed social market economy, in which well-regulated private enterprise can reward aspiration and drive economic progress and where government has the responsibility to ensure the sound stewardship of taxpayers’ money and a stable, fair and balanced economy”

If these MPs had remained within the Labour Party they would have continued to fight for such positions and sabotage a Corbyn-led government from implementing its programme.

Therefore it was entirely correct for those on the left within Usdaw to have argued at the 2017 ADM for support for mandatory reselection so that such MPs could have been challenged by the members rather than being able to leave on their own terms.

The seven are far from the only Labour MPs who share their views, with the majority of Blairite MPs still being of the opinion that it is better to attack Corbyn from within the Labour Party. And while they remain, Usdaw’s socialist president Amy Murphy has been recently expelled from Labour!

Usdaw members will be alarmed that three of the new Independent Group are members of Usdaw’s parliamentary group, Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey, the latter being the former Secretary of the group.

Usdaw should immediately withdraw any financial or other support from these MPs. But it also raises questions about why the Usdaw group of MPs includes people who are so clearly hostile to policies passed by our ADM.

Corbyn should withdraw the whip from any MP who helps to prop up the Tories.

These events make even clearer that what is needed to consolidate the victory of Corbyn in two leadership elections is the refounding of the Labour Party, restoring a socialist clause in its constitution and the collective rights of trade unions and opening it’s doors to all groups who wish to join

Usdaw Activist 79

January 28, 2019 Leave a comment

Includes articles on John Lewis, Bank Holidays, Irish Tesco Strike and John Hannett’s retirement

Solidarity with Striking Tesco Workers in Ireland

December 21, 2018 Leave a comment

Irish Tesco workers were back out on strike in December, against the effective derecognition of their trade union. Mandate members in Sligo have so far taken two days of strike action, with another two to follow on the 21st and 22nd December, being joined by Tesco workers in Carrick-on-Shannon on the 22nd.

70 workers joined the first day of the strike in Sligo, a process that evolved from a collective greivance lodged in April 2017. After Tesco management repeatedly ignored this, eventually Mandate balloted workers with 97% voting for strike action on an 85% turnout!
This dispute, like the previous strike wave in Tesco in 2017, is a resounding rejection of the idea that retail workers will not respond to calls for strike action. Clearly workers in Sligo have shown their determination not to be walked over by management.

The Activist sends its full support to Tesco workers taking strike action in Sligo and Carrick-on-Shannon.

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