The occupation of the Gardner’s factory 40 years ago was an inspiration to many workplaces.
I had been the union convenor at Staffa Products in Leyton, east London, until a few months before the Gardner’s strike.
I argued to fight the redundancies we were faced with. At the shop floor meeting I and others lost the vote two to one. We had separated those for and against a fight into groups so that everyone could see who had voted to fight.
A year later, the closure of the factory was announced.
Most of the experienced shop stewards had been sacked in an earlier round of redundancies.
The new union committee decided to invite Tommy Macafee from the Gardner’s occupation.
As a result of Tommy’s inspirational description of the Gardner’s fight, the committee decided to occupy.
This time there was an overwhelming vote to fight and there was a three-week sit-in, which was forced out by a night-time raid by the police.
The strike went on for three more weeks.
The solidarity and organisation of the workers was fantastic.
And it broke down the barriers between the predominantly Asian night shift and the black and white workers on days.
Although the occupation and strike ultimately lost, it transformed the people involved.
As one machine shop worker said to me a few months later, “We should have taken them on the first time, we could have beaten them then.”
The management had spent tens of thousands of pounds on consultants advising how to break the union.
Now is always the best time to fight, don’t let the management get organised.
Thanks to Tommy, Mick and the rest at Gardner’s for the inspiration. Have a great reunion.
Watch out for Starmer
Labour leader Keir Starmer has mown one cyclist down, and he may be back for more.
Joking aside, the Labour leader was driving a SUV.
His chosen mode of transport shows his promises to take action on the climate crisis aren’t worth the bales of hemp they were written on.
Back during the Labour leadership campaign, he said the environmental crisis was the biggest challenge facing Britain.
Presumably that challenge didn’t extend to changing his personal behaviour and getting a less polluting vehicle to cart himself about in.
Or—perish the thought— getting a bicycle.
But, then again, you know what those awful north London drivers are like.
Students can fight
It’s ten years ago this month since the student tuition fees revolt.
It was a lesson about the kind of impact we can have.
It doesn’t surprise me that the National Union of Students isn’t doing anything about the coronavirus crisis—it had to be forced into action over tuition fees.
The current student rent strikes are a brilliant idea.
Going out in the open air to protest, like we did in 2010, would give confidence to others to fight.
Fight the Tories, don’t defend Labour right
Socialist Worker was absolutely right to say we shouldn’t trust Andy Burnham.
It was clear that socialists support his call for an extension to the Tories’ furlough scheme.
But it’s crucial that Socialist Worker retains an independent critique of reformist politics.
Burnham is not leading the fight—he has not called for protests since the Tories imposed the lockdown deal.
It’s more about his ambition inside Labour. Criticism of Corbyn, Labour and the limits of reformism proved vital.
So our starting point cannot be “we agree with Andy.” Huge anger at the Tories has to be channelled in the right direction.
Socialist Worker has clearly spelled out the kind of strategy and tactics needed to win support for the People Before Profit programme. We have to be clear about our position—unity in action is urgent
Pay and privatisation battles in health
I’m a healthcare assistant and the government cuts are making a huge difference to how we’re able to deal with Covid-19.
The government has gotten rid of the “safe staffing” levels on wards so things take longer to get done.
As a result, patients are in discomfort for longer than they should be and workers are run off their feet.
Alongside reinstating safe staffing levels, there needs to be a proper pay rise. The last one was a stitch up, and a 15 percent rise will make it easier to recruit and retain workers.
And any rise also needs to go to the outsourced workers who are the lowest paid—not just those directly employed by the NHS.
At the moment, any extra money in the health service ends up in the hands of the private sector.
This has to end and workers be brought back in-house.
It’s time for the unions to get involved and they have to agree on the amount.
The fight for better patient care and decent pay is still there to be won.
Pick ’n’ mix the facts
I don’t have much truck with the idea of “fake news”. But what is the state of British journalism these days?
The news that Woolworths was re-opening was picked up by the national press, even though it was completely false.
Boris book may be useful
I enjoyed your review of the Boris Johnson biography The Gambler.
Sounds like a book that will come in handy when the bog roll runs out again.
We need more protests
Good for the people protesting against the Tories’ job cuts and free school meal attacks, (Socialist Worker, 24 October).
It’s passionate action. If 14 million people who voted against the Tories took to the streets, imagine the change.
Blood is on Tories’ hands
Home Secretary Priti Patel insists she is “truly saddened to learn of the tragic loss of life” after four refugees died in the Channel.
The Tories have made a safe route into Britain near impossible for refugees.
They have waged a campaign of unremitting hostility against refugees.
Now they pretend to feel pity for them when they die as a direct consequence of Tory anti-refugee policies.
They have blood on their hands.
- We should stand in solidarity with refugees trying to come to Britain. Open the borders.