The Socialist 10 December 2008 |
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Usdaw presidential election - support Robbie!
Shopworkers: serious fightback needed
After winning an excellent vote in the election for shopworkers' union Usdaw general secretary, Socialist Party member Robbie Segal is standing for president of Usdaw.
Robbie told the Socialist: "I feel honoured to accept the nomination to stand for president on behalf of members who want to change Usdaw into a union that fights for its members.
I will be a campaigning president. I will fight to protect members' jobs, and terms and conditions. I will argue for a national campaign to mobilise our membership to win a decent wage. I see it as my role to defend the democratic traditions of the union and put the members first."
Woolworths and MFI have called in the receivers and Dairy Farmers have declared mass redundancies. 100,000 retail jobs have vanished in the last year and at least another ten companies with 60,000 jobs are likely to go down the same road soon. Retail bosses are forecasting a "bloodbath" of job losses next year.
Usdaw's press release on Woolworths states they are: "Seeking urgent talks with the administrators" and "we will do everything we can to help communicate the situation to the staff... we will be doing everything we can to help them through this difficult time".
The union's press release on Dairy Farmers demanded: "An urgent meeting with the company in order that we can understand the business case behind this decision and to receive guarantees on jobs in the remaining localities."
These are platitudes rather than a strategy. Usdaw members are demanding that our union must start fighting back now.
New Labour can nationalise struggling banks but there is no mention of public ownership to save retail jobs. The current Usdaw leadership slavishly supports all things New Labour. This is the real weakness of our union's strategy.
General secretary John Hannett comments in the latest issue of Arena, Usdaw's magazine, that: "The distribution network of many big players is being overhauled." But what have the unions' leaders done? When members have been willing to fight, there has been no real struggle and the officials have argued for acceptance of changes for the worse. In the new distribution sites, new starters are employed on worse conditions than those on the older sites.
The situation is no better in the established distribution sites. There has been an acceptance of worse contracts for new starters. Having members on different contracts will mean that the management will try to divide and split the workforce when joint action is needed.
As the economic crisis continues, the bosses will implement permanent freezes on new recruits. This will force members to work harder, creating a stressful working environment.
Robbie argues that the only real way to solve the problems faced by retail workers is to take the major retail companies into public ownership.
She pledges to launch a mass campaign against job losses and for public ownership of Woolworths and any other company threatened with closure. Open the books and show us where the profits have gone. Vote Robbie for a fighting campaigning Usdaw.
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