The Rising class struggle in Britain

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29/10/2019 by socialistfight

By Gerry Downing

The mainly Guajarati, Sri Lankan and Guan work force, many of whom are women who have worked at the plants for many years, only earn around the minimum wage (£8.21).

 Speakers at Brent TUC on 23/10/19:

A GMB Shop Steward, Bakkavor Meals, Park Royal: The GMB union was recognised in 2010. Current employers are terrible, previous owners were Greek and not so bad. Now an Icelandic group has taken over as part of a strategy to consolidate their empire. Getting elected was very difficult, but GMB officer Mick Dooley was very helpful. The staff were split into four categories, unskilled, semi-skilled, skilled and supervisory. Unskilled, who operated the production line, were paid the minimum wage (£8.21 an hr.) and the rest more in the three stages. The GMB had 950 members in three factories there and that constituted 45% of the workforce of over 2000.

Wembley Matters reported on 7 September:

“Following their rejection of two pay offers from Bakkavor, a major food manufacturer based in Park Royal, workers are taking part in an indicative ballot for future industrial action. It is the first time they have been asked to take strike action.

The mainly Guajarati, Sri Lankan and Guan work force, many of whom are women who have worked at the plants for many years, only earn around the minimum wage.

Bakkavor is a major employer in the area working from three sites, plus a warehouse and employ almost 4,000 workers. They make humous and (own brand) ready meals for the major supermarkets.

In the tradition of the Grunwick strikers this is an important struggle for migrant and female workers. The workers are unsure of their next steps and will be encouraged to vote for industrial action if local trade unionists and activists boost their confidence, telling them, ‘You can do this!’ Please support them if you can.” 

Their union, the GMB say:

“A fight here would send an important signal to all the low-waged migrant workers in London! Enough of poverty wages!”

On the ballot for strike action management went around with their own ballot box doing a ‘survey’ and this confused many workers who thought they had already voted when the union then balloted for strike. Bakkavor has many factories, including in Scotland but the local unions are not allowed to communicate with other factories. Result expected within a week. Members agreed to assist in whatever ways the union needed.

Here are the jobs available. Note the £8.21 – the bare minimum wage.

Kevin Carey CWU North/North West London Branch secretary reported that on a 75.9% turnout CWU members in Royal Mail Group, not including Parcelforce members, voted by 97.1 per cent for strike action.

Parcelforce members had to be balloted separately because of antiunion laws – one on controversial ‘TUPE’ proposals and the other on the rest of the issues in dispute.

And both of these returned massive ‘Yes’ votes as well – 94.7 per cent and 95 per cent. About 110,000 members were balloted. New CEO Rico Back plans to hive off Royal Mail’s parcels delivery wing Parcelforce as a separate limited company. Kevin explained that the attempts to split Parcelforce and to transfer its workers using the TUPE regulations were clearly an attempt to evade the commitments made by Royal Mail to the workforce under the Four Pillars Agreement early in 2018.

The big increase rise in online shopping and increase in parcel traffic have partly offset the long-term decline in letter-posting caused by changing communication habits as email and instant messaging become the norm.

Rico Back’s main strategy is to introduce a cheap labour workforce and to enhance shareholder dividends. And his own fortunes. He was given a £6 million golden hello to the job in June 2018 by Royal Mail’s Dutch subsidiary General Logistics Systems B.V. (GLS) and is on a salary of £3 million a year. Kevin reported that Royal Mail in the Isle of Man, which has a separate union agreement, had introduced 5-day delivery system. This could cost 20,000 jobs if introduced nation-wide.

The high turnout and huge yes vote were obtained through the use of social media, not only union top officials but very many local officials and reps had posted online videos urging their members to turn out and vote yes. Christmas would be targeted and there was no doubt that Rico back was up for a fight. In discussion members agreed to assist with attending picket lines etc.

Bernie D: reported on the College of North West London and the £50 million bridging loan from Brent Council in a joint deal with United Colleges, Quintain. which is owned by Dallas based property giant Lone Star, housing association Network Homes and Brent Council.

United Colleges is the organisation set up following the merger of the College of North West London and City of Westminster College in 2017. It is selling the Dudden Hill Lane site and its campus in Wembley Park Drive and will move students to a new £106m campus in Fulton Road in 2013, near Wembley park currently owned by Network Homes.

Quintain plans to develop “around one million square feet of office space and the delivery of more than 7,500 new homes at Wembley Park, of which over a third are affordable and the majority are for rent”.

Bernie reported that the University College Union (UCU) were determined to reverse all previous attacks on them and are preparing a new pay claim.

Brent Council leader Cllr Muhammed Butt said the “bridging loan” would “help safeguard the future of high quality further education in Brent”.

Three of the world’s biggest institutional investors have backed plans to build almost 5,000 homes in Wembley with an £800m loan, in one of the largest development financing deals since the recession.
Wells Fargo, AIG and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) have agreed to provide developer Quintain with the loan to fund the next phases of the giant project in north-west London, which has so far included the overhaul of the SSE Arena and a new designer outlet shopping area.

Report from the Telegraph. The working class and its housing needs do not get a look in.

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