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3 February 2021

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Usdaw Broad Left rally brings together those campaigning for a fighting union

  (Click to enlarge)

Joe Waters, Usdaw member and Gloucestershire Socialist Party

Members and supporters of the Usdaw Broad Left came together for a Zoom rally on 2 February in support of the Broad Left's candidates in the upcoming Usdaw shop and distribution workers' union elections for the executive committee (EC) and president.

Socialist Party member Amy Murphy, current president of Usdaw and the first speaker, gave an overview of the situation. She criticised the lack of support from the government, retail companies and the Usdaw leadership for workers during the pandemic and placed the blame on them for allowing retail workers to act as vectors of Covid-19 transmission in their own communities.

Amy proceeded to lay out a programme of action, supported by the Usdaw Broad Left, to improve conditions for workers and save jobs.

The necessity to move away from Usdaw's 'tripartite' approach of primarily seeking good relationships with companies, rather than fighting for the interests of workers, was raised by Amy and many others over the course of the meeting.

Martin Powell-Davis, a candidate for deputy general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU) and Socialist Party member, spoke next on the experience of teachers, who recently used collective action to force the closure of schools during the current wave of Covid-19 cases.

The importance of a fighting union leadership to lead workers into struggle against their bosses was referred to repeatedly, and Martin identified this as a vital component in the NEU's recent successes, leading NEU membership to grow as Usdaw's membership numbers continue to drop.

Next to speak was Brian, a former worker at Debenhams in Ireland.Brian was made redundant by the company last year and is now involved in protests to win fair treatment for the discarded workers.

At 300 days, the protest of Debenhams workers in Ireland is the longest in the history of the state. However, Brian relayed frustrations among the protesters that the Irish government, and even Mandate, the union representing these workers, had offered little support.

Ryan Aldred, candidate for Usdaw EC in the South Wales and Western division, and Socialist Party member, spoke last. He decried the treatment of workers, many now classed as 'essential', at a time when many big employers are taking increased profits, and while those workers whose employers weren't able to cash in on the pandemic are facing unemployment.

Ryan made it clear that, if elected, he would continue to stand alongside workers in their struggles against employers, and push for industrial action where companies continue to priorities the interests of their shareholders over the safety and living conditions of their staff.

The attempts of the Usdaw leadership to suppress the role of internal democracy in running the union were also condemned.

Following the main speakers, the rally moved on to contributions from other attendees, who largely expressed frustration with Usdaw for reasons ranging from lack of support over redundancies or mistreatment by companies, to repeated failures to advance rep training for certain members. Among those speaking was Lynn Goodwin, Usdaw EC candidate in the North-West.

All in all, the experiences shared by those at this rally pointed clearly to the need for a fighting leadership in Usdaw, willing to lead workers in collective action to secure decent pay and conditions, and to ensure that no company is able to sacrifice the health of their employees for profit during this pandemic or after.

In pursuit of this change of leadership, attendees were encouraged to vote for any Broad Left EC candidates in their region, and to vote for Andrea Watts, the Broad Left's candidate for union president.

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In The Socialist 3 February 2021:

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

Launching a political alternative to cuts, poverty and job losses

Why I am attending the TUSC local elections online conference

South Yorks TUSC ready for electoral fight

What we think

Workers' rights and safety: Trade union mobilisation could force more Tory U-turns


Socialist Students open letter to Rent Strike network

Children in care: Privatisation is not working

Multimillion-pound rental firm demands thousands from homeless asylum seeker

Covid outbreak at Kent asylum detention centre: Napier is not fit for purpose

New anti-protest law: State forces want more power to crush the protests that are coming

Workplace news

Usdaw conference stripped of democracy by leadership

Usdaw Broad Left rally brings together those campaigning for a fighting union

Strong union lead needed to stop DVLA Covid spread

HMRC: We demand a pay rise without cuts to terms and conditions

Workers fight British Gas 'fire-and-rehire' plans

Vote Steve Hedley for RMT general secretary

The NEU's 'big announcement' - lessons need to be learned

Yorkshire aerospace workers strike against pay disparity

Workplace news in brief

The Communist Manifesto

The Communist Manifesto - A guide to understanding society, and how to change it


1971: Rolls-Royce crisis - when the Tories nationalised in order to secure the interests of British capitalism

Readers' opinion

GameStop: Billionaires hurt at their own game

The Socialist Inbox

International news

Covid 'vaccine wars' underline failure of capitalist nation states to deal with the global pandemic

Campaigns news

New members meeting in the South West - preparing for the battles to come

Why I rejoined the Socialist Party

Help us raise the funds to fuel the working-class fightback

Save our square: we need social housing and public services

Stop Labour council's eviction of Stratford Circus arts centre


Home   |   The Socialist 3 February 2021   |   Join the Socialist Party

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Article dated 3 February 2021

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Protesting in  Leeds as part of  a Socialist Students day of action on the education funding crisis. 21st April 2021

Protesting in Leeds as part of a Socialist Students day of action on the education funding crisis. 21st April 2021

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