Monday, November 09, 2009

Workers' Fightback: Union tops sabotage posties and firefighters/Austria university occupations

The postal strike was sabotaged by the leadership of the Communication Workers Union last Thursday, when chief negotiators called off two scheduled days of all out action following eleventh hour talks, and left their dues payers in dark about the sell-out being prepared in their name.

The inevitable betrayal came at talks brokered by Trades Union Congress boss Brendan Barber. Like CWU general secretary Billy Hayes, Barber's privileges depend on forcing through bargains that enormously favour big business and the government, at a time when all major parties are backing massive cuts in public spending, to cover the gambling debts of the financial elite. For this reason, they fear nothing more than rank-and-file workers building up momentum and solidarity. This is especially true given a BBC poll, which showed widespread support for the posties, despite the mainsteam media propaganda going decidedly against them.

The bureaucrats have guaranteed Royal Mail there will be no more strikes until Christmas, and so are essentially offering their services as industrial police to ensure this happens. The executive includes Socialist Workers Party member Jane Loftus, but she also voted to accept this interim deal, effectively selling her comrades down the river for a seat at the top table.

So what now? An article in The Commune suggests that:
"In the next two months, things could go one of three ways. The workers may be sold out passively, rank and file pressure may generate further official action, or spreading unofficial action may develop. It is in the grasp of workers to avoid the first possibility, and maximise the chances of the other two being effective. CWU members should push inside the union for the action to be resumed, insisting on the most democratic forms of rank and file control. But they cannot rely on this strategy being successful. Therefore, they should also be prepared, should it be necessary, to take, support and spread unofficial action, from office to office, from one end of the country to the other."
The 'I Support The Postal Workers' Facebook group is here.

The problem facing unionised workers in all industries is a structural one; union leaders have different interests to rank and filers, and so must try to further those interests by making backroom deals with those who propose cuts to jobs, wages and conditions. In a further example of this, Sheffield Fire Brigades Union officials also capitulated to management just hours before a strike was due to begin over shift patterns.

The 'Support the South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Operational Fire Fighters' group is here.

Finally, following the California university occupations a month ago, students in Austria are building a much larger movement against poor conditions, and the so-called 'Bologna process', which is aimed at the standardisation of university cuts across Europe. As well as protest marches around the country, Vienna students have now occupied the Audimax central lecture hall for two weeks. There have also been occupations at Heidelberg and Münster. According to the WSWS:
"The students’ demands include the abolition of tuition fees, the lifting of entrance restrictions at universities and colleges of further education, more rights for students to influence what happens in higher education, better equipment in all educational establishments, as well as the provision of sufficient and well-paid teaching staff."
"It is necessary to discuss and develop a political perspective that wages a struggle against the capitalist social order. It is necessary to do the very thing that the ruling class fears most: to orient the protests to the working class."
The 'In Solidarity with the occupations in Austria for Free Education!' Facebook group is here.
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