Archive for November, 2012

Vion – Proof We Need A Fighting Leadership.

November 26, 2012 Leave a comment

There has been a huge decimation of Scottish food manufacturing this autumn, and Usdaw members have borne the brunt.

A Scottish USDAW member

Both the Halls of Broxburn factory in West Lothian and the Freshlink foods factory in Shettleston have closed with the loss of over 1,850 jobs within a matter of months.

On the 16th of October the news section of the USDAW website reported – ‘Usdaw bitterly disappointed as no credible buyers found for Hall’s’. The factory was closing after a 90 day consultation period between the parent company Vion, Usdaw and the Scottish government, sealing the fate of 1,700 manufacturing jobs.

What wasn’t reported was that during this 90 day process, the Area Organiser concerned wanted to take a delegation of workers over to the Netherlands to protest at Vion’s head office. This would have enabled these workers to have their demands heard by the remote management who are making decisions that are affecting thousands of members’ lives. The response from the bureaucrats at head office was that since Usdaw represents members in other subsidiaries of this company then they shouldn’t go over and rock the boat.

Then on 19th of November the same section of the website reported –

‘Dutch food manufacturer Vion has announced its intention to sell all of its UK food businesses, creating uncertainty for 13,000 employees who work at the company’s 38 UK sites.’

Now that Vion are withdrawing from the UK and there is no boat to rock, whoever held back these workers should hang their heads in shame. Members are being prevented from organising to protect their jobs in order to protect agreements with employers who are only interested in a subdued workforce. The whole approach under John Hannett, of protecting agreements and hoping things will get better under Labour is a dead end. We as members have to claim back our union from the bureaucracy, and demand that this whole fiasco be investigated and the facts be fully reported to the membership.


Activist supports sacked Tesco drivers

November 9, 2012 Leave a comment

A photo from the picket lines

In one of the biggest disputes involving Tesco workers in the last decade, 182 drivers went on strike for three days on the 31st of October following a successful and well-supported strike on the 9th. Calously in the run-up to Christmas, also the busiest time of the year for Tesco stores, the drivers were handed 90 day notices of redundancy. The distribution contract was transferred over to Eddie Stobbart Ltd in August with the loss of the workers’ pension schemes and other benefits.

To add insult to injury they then handed out the notices with no guarantee of re-employement at the end. The new contracts will have them working on £2.50 less an hour. A strike ballot was called and 91.7% of the Unite-organised drivers voted to come out. The naked greed of Tesco has yet again been laid bare. With their £3.8 billion profit last year, similar profits registered throughout the recession and with top executives on £1.6million each, Tesco has clearly done a back-room deal with Eddie Stobbart’s to tear up the TUPE agreement thereby attempting to leave their loyal workforce on the scrap-heap.

The local support of the strikers and the disruption caused through the Yorkshire and Humbershide region during this strike has shown the potential to make ESL back down. It was clear that despite their claims they don’t have the spare capacity within their existing workforce to carry out the deliveries performed by the Tesco drivers. This was evident by the fact that they had to employ a scab firm, Taylors, during the strike.

Usdaw members will have been watching this dispute closely, with similar crimes taking place within distribution for decades. Unite has so far played a decent role in backing their drivers and certainly John Hannett and his cronies can take a leaf out of their book when it comes to defending his own members. Usdaw members are just as angry about the cuts and pay-caps as Unite members, we need to force our leadership to stand firm and defend retail and distribution workers nation-wide.

The Activist calls on Usdaw members to raise the strike in their Usdaw branch meetings. We call on members to support the drivers by sending messages of support to Trevor Cheetham c/o (Send copies to

There have been a number of protests outside Tesco stores taking place and we call for branches to organise similar support. There was also a protest in Westminster on the 31st and more last week. The National Shop Stewards Network, which the Activist supports, took part. Unite will provide leaflets and placards to anyone wishing to organise a protest outside their local Tesco, email Paul Davies ( – Unite Sector National Organiser) with details of which Tesco you intend to protest outside, how many you expect there and include your mobile number. Also let the Activist know so we can report on your protest.