Sunday, 30 January 2011

Egypt: The Workers' Voice


As the state of emergency in Tunisia bled (literally) into the fleeing of the ousted President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, it was quite clear that, there after, all expectation was of an impact on the largest of all Arab nations, Egypt.

I have the priviledged experience of meeting with and working alongside the Egyptian Centre for Workers' and Trade Union Services (CWTUS) (

Historically the Centre has operated as the quasi-official centre for independent trade unionism in a country where the official labour movement has traditionally been operated and run by the state.

The ITUC's 2010 Annual Survey of the Violation of Trade Union rights provides, as ever, a critically concise snapshot of the state of organised labour in a country under siege:

As you will see the Survey's report on Egypt charts the way in which the CWTUS has attempted to build an independent labour movement, albeit in the face of a vicious campaign of state-insprited brutality.

It is clear that as the regime of Hosni Mubarak desparately attempts to cling to power a variety of civil society organisations, including the CWTUS, are succesfullly mobilising thousands of protesters across Egypt.

The end game for the Mubarak regime is part testament to the resilience of many organisations like the CWTUS who have, despite the harsh realities of life under dictator, maintained their strength largely through the spirited resolve of the Egyptian working class.

I have maintained contact with the CWTUS and have followed closely the yearly waves of strike action that bursts through the constraints of the official labour movement. Although this has typically result in sackings, jailings and assault it has not diminished the willingness of Egyptians to engage in action that is deemed to, in part at least, challenge the authority of the state.

Clearly the next few days will be critical in determining Egypt's future. And in ensuring that the voice of the Egyptian worker is part of the next stage in dialogue the CWTUS will no doubt continue to play their essential role in building a free, independent labour movement.

I am sure that I speak for many in the UK trade union movement when I send the CWTUS a message of solidarity and strength for the period ahead.


Tuesday, 18 January 2011

And So I Stood: David Kitson (25.08.19 - 09.11.10)


For over 20 years I have kept and treasured a (now dog-eared) large poster which was printed to celebrate the release in 1984 from a South African prison of David Kitson ANC activist, SACP member and pivotal cadre member of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK, or Spear of the Nation) the armed wing of the ANC.

With David's death in Johannesburg before Christmas we should both mourn the sad loss of a true fighter in the South African liberation struggle, but also remember the acts of treachery and collusion that led to his political isolation when he moved from South Africa to London following his release.

As a student at Ruskin College in the 1980's I am my contemporaries knew of David's connections with Ruskin as a Ruskin student himself and then, disgracefully, in the way that he was mistreated by his own union (TASS a forerunner of MSF) which withdrew his union-funded opportunity to teach at Ruskin having been shunned by the ANC.

There are some wonderful tributes to David Kitson that do greater justice than I could in recording and celebrating his life. Please take the time to read these and please post comments when you have read these.



Friday, 14 January 2011

Thank you LabourStart!


Apologies for my late start to blogging in 2011. I have been heavily tied up with teaching since the start of the New Year and have just finished a great 3-day course with local reps of the Association of Educational Psychologists (AEP) in London.

To kick off 2011 I am using the LabouStart picture of 2010. The caption for the winning entry reads:

The 2010 Photo of the Year winner: Farmworkers early in the morning, waiting to start the Pilgrimage for Freedom, a 50 km march for migrant workers rights, from Leamington to Windsor Ontario on Thanksgiving 2010 .

Sticking with LabourStart I couldn't help but be overwhelmed by its range and shape of current industrial unrest across the globe. From protests in Tunisia to the on-going strike action in Cambodia LabourStart provides the global labour movement with an essential service - long may Eric Lee and his team of labour correspondents thrive to perform this function.

So, my first posting for 2011 is a short reminder to, as LabourStart suggests, make sure this site is the one where you start your day (

My very best wishes for 2011.