Tuesday, 15 December 2009

BA to take legal action over strike!

British Airways is to take legal action over the strike action of its workers. The very right to strike is being undermined by a bullish management who are refusing to negotiate.

After dismissing support for strike action, management at BA must have been shocked to see the results of the ballot, on an 80 per cent turnout, 92.5 per cent voted for 12 days of striking over Christmas.Tuesday's Morning Star editorial condenses the situation nicely(http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/news/content/view/full/84491)

BA will point to 'irregularities' in the ballot, due to the strict anti-union laws, that Thatcher brought in and New Labour refused to remove, going on strike now-a-days is no walk in the path. The sheer effort it takes to jump through all the bureaucratic hoops is designed in order to ensure that management can dismiss the legitimacy of a strike ballot. For instance, the union has to track down every member, find out where they work, who they are..... if just one person moved, or doesn't work there anymore, the ballot becomes void. It is absolutely crazy.

It is the Taff Vale of our generation. For those of you unfamilar with the case, in 1901, the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants went on strike in response to the unfair treatment of its members. When the Taff Vale Railway Company employed scabs to undermine the strike, some union members got carried away and committed minor acts of sabotage, such as greasing the rails and uncoupling the carriages. The Railway Company however, decided to sue to union for damages and won.

In 1901, my great-great-Grandfather, George Thaxton, was president of the union and was involved in the court case and the campaign to reverse the ruling. He lead a very interesting live. Born in Horsham St Faith, Norfolk, in 1852. His mother was a widow, so he went to work at 5 years old picking up stones from the fields. To demonstrate the rural surroundings he grew up in, as a teenager, he used to walk 14 miles in order to visit his girlfriend.

Due to the lack of opportunities in Norfolk, George Thaxton moved to Hunslet, in Leeds and, in his early twenties, become a goods guard. He was one of the initial agitators who established the Midlands Goods Guards association. This early pioneer of British trade unionism was recieved with a degree of scepticism, the men had to stand in the manager’s office and ask permission to form the union.

Like many working men of his time, George was self-educated, he went to a Quaker nightschool after he finished work, where he learnt to read and write. He was elected to the executive committee of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, 1887-1888, and then 1895-1901, and again in 1912. He was President from 1899-1901. In 1901, he participated in the Taff Vale court case and shortly after he visted, what must have appeared to be another planet back in those days, Australia, on a union delegation.

While he was President in 1899, a member from Doncaster proposed that the Trade Union Congress call a special conference to found a party to represent the working class. The Union remained one of the loudest voices for such a party.

George lived through some interesting times and he is an example of how the Labour movement can transform an ordinary working class man into a legend. He went on to became the first Labour alderman of Leeds city council, he was asked to become the Lord Mayor, but his wife was pregnant at the time and didn’t think she could perform of the role of being a mayor’s wife. He was also asked to stand for newly formed labour party in Northern Ireland, but he declined the offer.

The actions of the BA management are the culmination of long campaign to undermine trade union rights, looking at past struggles we see how these rights were not given to us, they were fought for and we need to fight to retain them.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Viva MAS!

With the news that President Evo Morales has won this latest election with a bigger majority than he got in 2005, will the advance of the left in Latin America ever stop?

Evo Morales has big plans for his second term. He is hoping to implement a new constitution and place the traditionally discriminated against indigenous people at the heart of Bolivia's government and society.

May President Morales use the profits made from his country's natural gas industry to build schools, hospitals and bring all the downtrodden of Boliva out of poverty.

Long live the Movement towards socialism!