Friday, November 25, 2011

Bakers Union Betrays Strong Strike Mandate

Park are using new legislation to force down wages, conditions
Four weeks ago I wrote about the situation at Park Cakes - a baking company based in the northwest of England. I raised points about how the new, trade union-backed Agency Workers Regulations (AWR) were being used as a battering ram to enforce an "equality in misery" between permanent and temporary staff in workplaces. However, now the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) are on the verge of a sell-out, so the immediacy of the situation calls for critical analysis of the union bureaucracy.

The dispute is over the hiring of new permanent workers at a deliberately low levels of pay, on zero hour contracts and few benefits. Because of the AWR benchmark, hundreds of more experienced permanent workers believe that a similar attack on their and conditions is imminent.

On 14th October, BFAWU announced the result of two strike ballots. 79.25% were in favour at Bolton, and 72.2% and 67.8% alongside the two branches in Oldham. But as I described at the start of November:
"[...]BFAWU have been predictably reluctant to translate populist speechifying into action. At Saturday's meeting, union president Ian Hodson fumed that: "A clear message has been sent to the company, they are wrong, wrong, wrong and you are right, right, right. Right to take action, right to stand up and right to fight.” But Hodson is desperate to cut a sell-out deal with Park, which is evidenced by the fact it's taken him two weeks since the initial ballot to announce strike dates[...]"
At the Bolton meeting, BFAWU Regional Organising Secretary Geoff Atkinson told staff that the strike dates would be co-ordinated with Oldham. But in reality, the action was set for November 11, 14, 22 and November 30 in Bolton, and November 8-10 plus December 6-8 in Oldham.

Union fat cat Hodson is a favourite of the SWP
It is now clear that these dates were only ever pencilled in to the diaries of Hodson and Atkinson, because they called them off on 7th November - with one day to spare before the first scheduled stoppage in Oldham. No statement was made on the BFAWU website, and no such statement has been published to date. Instead, regional officer Roy Streeter told the Oldham Chronicle that the cancellations were good news, because "It shows both sides are willing to negotiate. Our general secretary contacted the company for a meeting on Friday and they agreed to look at the situation."

Apart from the slanderous email that went between Unite bureaucrats this summer, nothing could better illustrate the contempt in which relatively wealthy union officials hold ordinary, rank and file workers. For such bureaucrats, workers' concerns are an inconvenience, to be ignored, worn down by attrition, or negotiated away. They would much rather take their wages from the union dues, and sit around doing nothing for their money.

As one worker told the WSWS: "The union came around while we were working and told us the strikes were off. We didn’t have time to think about it. We voted to go on strike and we should have gone on strike. I can see where all this is going. We will all end up on the agency and on their pay."

Indeed, the only way to prevent such a dramatic setback is to bypass the union leadership, and bring-about true workplace democracy, with decisions over what industrial action to take being made by the people who stand to gain or lose from it. Meanwhile, the latest betrayal exposes the reactionary role played by the SWP amongst other fake left parties, since they promote Hodson as part of their sham 'Right to Work' campaign.
Post a Comment

Disqus for Infantile Disorder