Argos Distrubution Workers Strike to Defend Job Security

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Unite pickets at Castleford Argos depot – photo Iain Dalton

Workers at four Argos distribution centres across the country, including the Castleford site, are taking 3 weeks of strike action to defend jobs and terms and conditions in the wake of the Sainsbury’s buying out Argos last year.

Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party

The action has been prompted by the company’s decision to close their Magna Park site and transfer workers to Kettering, around 30 miles away.

Workers are concerned that further re-organisation could be coming in the distribution network, and although they have redeployment clauses in their contracts, they are seeking agreement about reasonable distances workers could be expect to be redeployed. They are also seeking agreed relocation and redundacy packages for any transfer beyond an agreed reasonable distance.

For the first week, support has remained strong amongst the 100+ permanent workers at the Castleford site. Despite management attempts to get workers from a neighbouring DHL-run Argos warehouse to cover the strikers workers, workers at that site, members of Usdaw, have correctly refused to do so.

In Argos stores as well, organised by Usdaw, there has also been concern about what the merger with Sainsbury’s means for staff with Argos stores located in close proximity to Sainsbury’s.

In a retail distribution sector which increasingly is dominated by contractors such as Wincanton, DHL Eddie Stobart and others, defence of in-house distribution networks, where the actual employer can be more directly held to account is vital. This is why workers at the Argos site in Barton are also seeking to join the other four sites as part of the bargaining group.

A victory in this dispute is important to send a message to those in the distribution sector that workers will not be pushed around and provide a basis for a push to ensure that distrubution contractors are organised on the same terms and conditions of in-house staff, or ideally brought back in-house.

Please send messages of support to paulaur.good@blueyonder.co.uk. Strike fund donations should be made payable to Unite the Union and sent to Paula Hutchinson, 37 Camden Road, Airedale, Castleford, WF10 3LY

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Arriva Drivers Strike across West Yorkshire

Unite members picketing outside the Castleford depot - photo Iain Dalton

Unite members picketing outside the Castleford depot – photo Iain Dalton

Socialist Party members visited Unite picket lines at Wakefield, Castleford and Selby on Monday morning as workers for Arriva took strike action.

Not a single bus moved at Arriva’s Castleford depot as Unite members took part in a strike across the service in West Yorkshire. The 24-hour strike was taking place on both the issue of pay and driving hours, with Unite seeking a 20p an hour pay increase and a reduction in number of trips between breaks. A couple of young drivers talked of how they had to work for years before coming off the training rate. They also spoke of huge pressures on drivers over sick days, with many working while ill leading to more drivers coming down with illness and needing to take days off. The mood on the picket line was upbeat and determined. Yet despite the shutdown in the service, several workers felt they would need further action to force Arriva to meet their demands.

Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party

Fast Food Rights Tour of Shame in Wakefield

Fast Food Rights protesters at the Food Court in Trinity Walk

Fast Food Rights protesters at the Food Court in Trinity Walk

The drizzle didn’t dampen spirits outside the McDonald’s in Wakefield as 20 people showed up to support our demand for a £10 minimum wage, a wage to truly live on. Iain Dalton opened the Fast Food Rights protest by declaring our presence there part of the Youth Fight for Jobs campaign, backed by the Baker’s Union, aiming to empower workers and show the possibility of unionisation.

Sam Lynch, Wakefield Socialist Party

The manager in McDonald’s told us that they didn’t want to be seen siding with a political agenda when we spoke to them and offered a leaflet, yet the political agenda of McDonald’s is pretty clear; anti-union, low wages and low protection for workers and devastating ecological destruction – and at this store amounts to its closure in little over a month, showing the urgent need for trade union organisation in fast Food.

We moved from McDonald’s to a Flutterbye’s charity that has utilised the government’s forced labour workfare scheme; giving the organisation free labour just so people can get their unlivable benefits disguised as experience.

From this shop we moved on to Pound Bakery, then Thomas the Baker and then to Sports Direct and Subway to protest their exploitative use of zero-hours contracts, along the way our chant for a living wage now attracted some attention from the local YMCA, a couple of young workers chased after us to ask about the campaign. We rounded around, continuing the momentum and proceded to march into Trinity Walk to speak outside the Burger King and leaflet their workers.

Aftrwards, with brightening skies, we called an end to the demonstration and thanked the trade unionists, TUSC supporters and activists for coming out. The campaign will be sustained by more frequent demonstrations over the summer with the next one taking place in Leeds on June 26th at 4.30pm outside the McDonalds on Boar Lane.

500 March in Knottingley to Save Our Colleries

The Kellingley NUM banner near the front of the march

The Kellingley NUM banner near the front of the march, appropriately showing a banner struggling against capitalism (depicted as a snake)

Over 500 miners, their families and supporters marched through Knottingley, West Yorkshire to save the last three deep coal mines in England. Many local trade unionists came to support the miners, with the Yorkshire Shop Stewards Network & Wakefield NUT branch being prominent, and other groups joined the march such as the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign whilst Lesbians & Gays Support The Miners (known to many once more from the film Pride) brought their banner too.

John Gill,  Wakefield District Socialist Party

Political support came from all over Yorkshire, with TUSC and Socialist Party members from Leeds, Sheffield, Selby  as well as Wakefield and Pontefract. Leeds TUSC and Socialist Party activist Iain Dalton was interviewed on BBC Look North news (see below) giving a much better analysis of the situation in a few seconds than the Local MP Yvette Cooper did with ten times the airtime!

TUSC supporters from Wakefield & Selby on the march

TUSC supporters from Wakefield & Selby on the march

Kellingley, Hatfield and Thoresby collieries need urgent investment/state aid to allow them to continue production. Between 30-40% of England and Wales energy needs are still provided by coal and it makes no economic sense to close these three mines and import coal from across the world, especially now a new clean coal power station is being built less than 6 miles from Kellingley and only an hours rail journey away from the other two mines. £300million in investment could keep all three mines open, where there are 30 years worth of reserves to exploit, but the Con-dem government is dragging its feet on this matter.

Hatfield Main NUM banner on the march

Hatfield Main NUM banner on the march

After the march a rally was held at the Kellingley Social Club where 4 Labour MP’s spoke, Yvette Cooper, Shadow Cabinet member despite supporting the mines staying open gave no promises from Labour’s leadership to solve the problem if Labour form the next government and made a “British jobs for British workers” tinged with some anti-Russian rhetoric speech rather than arguing the economic and social cases for keeping the pits open.

Other Labour MPs Ian Lavery, Sian James and Dennis Skinner gave better cases and the solution of nationalisation was raised but none were able to give much hope except elect a Labour government in May and we will fight for the mines. One local man after the rally questioned whether he had been to a rally to save the mines or a Labour Party election rally!

Yorkshire Shop Stewards Network banner on the march

Yorkshire Shop Stewards Network banner on the march

Our leaflet explaining the need for a socialist energy policy with a publicly owned and democratically controlled energy system that can save the current jobs at the three mines was very well received (see copy below). Clean coal is much safer than the shale gas fracking and nuclear being proposed by the Tories and some Lib-Dems and even some Labour frontbenchers. Clean coal is a better stop-gap until enough investment allows renewable sources of energy to supply enough for people’s needs! Coal Not Dole!

Featherstone Massacre Commemorated

At James Gibbs and James Duggan's graves, commemorating the Featherstone Massacre

At James Gibbs and James Duggan’s graves, commemorating the Featherstone Massacre

Despite poor weather, over 25 people turned up to commemorate the 121st Anniversary of the Featherstone Massacre organised by the Wakefield Socialist History Group. Wakefield & Pontefract Socialist Party member, John Gill, recounted the fateful events when miners at Ackton Hall Colliery in Featherstone took six weeks of strike action in 1893, against their tyrannical employer, Samuel Cunliffe-Lister – the same person who owned the Manningham Mills in Bradford.

Iain Dalton

As workers succesfully blocked the moving of coal supplies on the 7th September, troops were called to ‘maintain order’. After clearing the site and reading the Riot Act, 16 men were wounded when the soldiers shot into the crowd with live amunition. Heavy rain stopped those gathered visiting the site of the massacre, although a dry spell allowed us to visit the graves of the two workers who died from their wounds, James Duggan and James Gibbs, where WSHG convener, Alan Stewart spoke briefly.

Instead, we were confined to the Bradley Arms, a local pub connected to the dispute, where ILP MP RB Cunninghame-Graham’s words from his visit in the aftermath of the shooting, ‘Revolutions are not made with rosewater’, adorn the fireplace.

The ILP made the case a cause celebré, with Keir Hardie visiting as well as Cunninghame-Graham. For those wanting to know the outcome of the ILP’s campaign for justice for those miners, then come and join next year’s (hopefully sunnier) commemoration or get a copy of the forthcoming pamphlet which John is writing about this struggle as well as the Kinsley Evictions, which also was pivotal for the development of the ILP in the area.

Yorks ambulance workers strike again

Unite pickets outside Wakefield Ambulance station

Unite pickets outside Wakefield Ambulance station

On 1 February, Unite members in the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust took part in a further 24-hour strike as part of their long-running dispute.

Iain Dalton

Unite members outside the Wakefield depot remained determined in their fight to force the Trust to re-recognise the union and stop the savage cuts which are currently taking place.

Meanwhile, more Unison members, frustrated at the union’s continued inaction in opposing the cuts, the latest being attacks on lunch breaks, are going over to Unite.

Terry Cunliffe, Unite regional officer, spoke to the Socialist:

“My understanding of Unison’s position is that for the last 12 months they have regionally supported Unite’s campaign for re-recognition.

“I have to say the local branch are not following that mandate and in fact have spoken openly, hostilely about the re-recognition of Unite.

“They don’t support us in the way that they promised at the TUC, the local branch activists are actively against our re-recognition.

“Unison have gone round the stations supporting the management plan, they have balloted their members and I have heard them, speaking about their ballot result. 70% of their members don’t agree with their branch position, rejecting the management proposal.

“As far as I am concerned, this completely vindicates the decision that we made to campaign and fight against these cuts.

“They are dangerous to patients and dangerous to our members, and Unison members feel the same. I’m hoping the Unison branch takes that mandate and joins the fight against these cuts.”

A further four-hour strike is taking place on 3 February to mark a year since the union was de-recognised by the former Trust chief executive.