Archive for December, 2012

Robbie Segal

December 14, 2012 Leave a comment
Robbie Segal

Robbie Segal

It is with great sadness that we have to report the death of Robbie Segal. Robbie was a leading activist in the Socialist Party and a tireless fighter to democratise Usdaw.

In 2008, Robbie stood as a candidate for the post of general secretary and her fighting programme won over 40 percent of her vote. In her pamphlet on the election, she wrote, ‘Only a socialist society offers a solution to the blight we face at present.’ A belief that guided her actions throughout her life.

The Activist and the Socialist Party will publish a full obituary in the coming weeks on the life of our beloved comrade.

Activist pamphlet including many articles from Robbie's General Secretary campaign in 2008

Activist pamphlet including many articles from Robbie’s General Secretary campaign in 2008

A pamphlet with articles from Robbie’s camapign around the 2008 General Secretary campaign was produced earlier this year and is still available from the Activist, e-mail us at for more info

You can also watch a video of Robbie speaking at the Socialism 2008 event shortly after winning over 40% of the vote in the General Secretary election.

Doncaster drivers give Tesco & Stobarts a bloody nose and force a climbdown

December 14, 2012 1 comment
Tesco Drivers on Strike

Tesco Drivers on Strike

Taken from website of the National Shop Stewards Network. We will publish analysis of what this climbdown by Tesco/Stobarts means for USDAW members in Tesco in the near future

Doncaster ex-Tesco drivers, outsourced to and then sacked by Eddie Stobarts, today voted by 150-19 to accept an improved redundancy offer and end their strike.

This package, whilst still only £650 for each years service, was 50% better than that drivers had been notified of only a day earlier in their redundancy letters.

This climbdown by Stobarts/Tescos was forced on them by the most effective picketing that I have seen for years, which for 50 hours, round the clock, had lorries parked up unable to move, as many as 120 wagons at one point.

Such was the strikers’ sense of empowerment that yesterday one picket said “I don’t want this settling, I want to be doing this next week, Christmas week, and see how they (the bosses) like that.”

Unite national officer Adrian Jones said in the strike meeting that the drivers’ action had been “an inspiration”. He said that in the talks, Stobarts, an anti-union firm, had admitted that this was the first time they had ever been “hurt” by industrial action.

The union branch committee reluctantly recommended acceptance of the deal. They thought it was the best that could be got under the circumstances.  Even those that voted against did so more as a gesture of defiance than challenging the shop stewards who have shown real leadership.

This is because whilst the talks were going on yesterday, the pendulum swung away from the strikers on the picket line. Up to then, the police had been unusually accomodating, allowing pickets to stop lorries and talk to drivers for 5, 10, sometimes even 20 minutes or more, causing even more tail-backs. But around midday, more senior officers demanded a more robust attitude to limiting the picket numbers and together with Stobart and Tesco managers, more or less forced drivers through. This meant that by mid-afternoon the back-log of waggons had more or less been cleared.

So, you can’t call 183 redundancies and the redundancy package a victory, but the mood of the drivers at the mass meeting was one of pride that they had stood up to the biggest private sector employer in the country (Tesco) and the most notorious anti-union haulier (Stobarts), and given them both a bloody nose.

None of the drivers involved will ever forget the experience of the last three days and their action leaves an inspiring example that other drivers and workers will follow in the near future.

Striking drivers block Tesco Distribution Centre

December 10, 2012 1 comment
Striking Tesco drivers block the exit from the Doncaster depot

Striking Tesco drivers block the exit from the Doncaster depot

5 days into an all out strike by Tesco drivers operating out of the Doncaster Distribution Centre I was finally able to visit the picket lines and bring solidarity and support from those members of Usdaw who want to see a fighting union which stands up to Tesco and other bullying employers like the drivers are doing.

A Yorkshire Usdaw member

As the Activist and the Socialist newspaper have reported, this follows earlier strike days by the drivers who have been outsourced to Eddie Stobarts Ltd who now want to effectively sack them, only offering them jobs elsewhere in country on over £2 less an hour than they currently recieve. This agressive, race-to-the-bottom move will come as no suprise, especially USDAW members in Tesco stores, who have seen Tesco this year unilaterally ignore the so-called partnership agreement to impose increased retirement ages and changes to bonuses.

Striking Tesco drivers block the exit from the Doncaster depot

Striking Tesco drivers block the exit from the Doncaster depot

As it happened I picked a particularly interesting day to be there. Following a demonstration on Saturday through the town where afterwards strikers had blocked one of the entrances for around 45 minutes, they decided to up the ante and moved en masse into the both the entrance and exit from the depot, refusing to let lorries pass through. The result was perhaps 100 lorries parked up almost anywhere nearby possible whilst the police were called to try a negotiate getting some of them into the depot.

As the lorries came past we saw contracters coming in from as far away as Evesham, nailing the lie that Tesco and Stobarts have been spinning that the drivers were surplus to requirements, indeed Tesco and/or Stobarts must be spending a fortune on the dispute to break the union. The strikers attempted to discuss with all the drivers, managing to turn some succesfully away, whilst others were less friendly with one even hitting a picket. Some were even so hasty they went into the depot the wrong way, causing even further delays as they tried to manouvere themselves out of the way.

Police eventually turned up in numbers to make the pickets move to let lorries into the depot

Police eventually turned up in numbers to make the pickets move to let lorries into the depot

This action will have hit Tesco hard, reports from workers in the warehouse coming off shift at 2pm spoke of hardly having any pallets left in the warehouse. What a shame that Usdaws leadership, instead of taking effective action like this, instead seek negotiations that get nowhere and instead sell our terms and conditions down the river. Usdaw members in Tesco distribution, whether drivers or warehouse staff, should particular be asking such questions given the anger at this years ADM over this issue (see report in Activist 33).

As a member of Usdaw, I also asked what could be done to help build links between the drivers and Usdaw members working for Tesco, especially in stores. The drivers have received a number of solidarity messages from Usdaw reps that they are grateful for, but are especially keen for other Usdaw members in the area to come and join them picketing. The strikers are also drafting an appeal to Tesco store workers which the Activist will hopefully be able to publish soon.

Activist 38

December 6, 2012 Leave a comment

Includes articles of Doncaster Tesco drivers strike, Walmart Black Friday walkouts, ‘A Tale of Two Pay Negotiations’, Vion closures and letters