Friday, 30 August 2013

A Great Day for Organised Labour


Just about back from leave, but extremely happy to report that on Saturday I had the great pleasure of welcoming Alex Gordon (ex-President of the RMT) to Ruskin College to award the MA ILTUS 2010-12 cohort their MA certificates at a truly glorious graduation ceremony. This was the first MA group that I had overseen in my role as MA programme co-ordinator and so it was a particularly rewarding for me.

Alex Gordon kicks off the MA ILTUS graduation event with a rousing
speech underlining Ruskin's tradition of radical labour education.
As you can imagine the graduates celebrated in true labour movement style ending the evening dancing to the Pete Fryer band at the Florence Park Community Centre in Oxford. Pete is a long-standing UNISON activist and was very happy to announce our celebrations to the assembled locals.
Here are a few pictures - and in the next post a comment on a particularly nasty development, brought to us by the Coalition on the day before Parliament disbanded for the Summer recess and surely to become a major battle for the UK trade union movement and a wider body of campaigning and civil society organisations.

Don't we all scrub up well?!

In Solidarity


Saturday, 10 August 2013

Hope for the Future


Just a brief post before I sign off for a couple of weeks for a holiday with my family. Very happy to stay in the Uk to support the economy, although will be doing the usual and asking bar/hotel staff how they are employed and if they've heard of a union. Although the replies/discussion is not often what I want to hear the many young people (and usually it is younger workers employed seasonally) I speak to yearn for better work and standards.

It is for these reasons that I remain ever optimistic of a future for organised labour and so want to leave readers with a good news story, as there are always plenty if you look.

And so over in the US we have been witnessing the rise of strike action, and other forms of mobilisation, on the part of fastfood workers - and as ever, from a UK perspective it if a form of action well worth observing and analysing for lessons to be learnt.

One of these is how much easier it is in the UK for pro-labour coalition bodies to emerge to develop and sustain such campaigns. Although we are witnessing this more in the UK now (witness London Citizens, People's Assembly etc) the US has a history of spontaniety and vibrance that we would do well to embrace and replicate.

Jobs with Justice ( is a relatively new coalition of organisations with a strict focus on justice for workers, and they have grown rapdily on the back of a series of successes aross the UK - follow the link to read more.

There is a detaield news report on the fastfood action and the role of JWJ, and other organisations here:

As we approach in the UK the 30th anniversary of the miners' strike it is important that we look widely and broadly for the means to recapture a means to pursue a concerted, direct response to a Conservative government in power hell bent again on destroying the culture, spirit and institutions of the working class. The lessons are in the UK, but they are being played out elsewhere also.

In Solidarity


Saturday, 3 August 2013

Distressed Jeans by Distressed Workers


This shocking new video on the production of distressed jeans has been created via a collaboration between War on Want, SACOM and the Clean Clothes Campaign.

Although the video is backed by a detailed report ( the visualisation of the dehumanising and literally toxic working conditions do justice to creating a vivid, tangible sense of the economic and biological hazards to workers in this industry.

As the research, Breathless for Blue Jeans, confirms although the chemical practice of creating jeans with the distressed look is accepted as posing significant health hazards, the process has now gone underground:

The research reveals that workers are at high risk of contracting silicosis, a deadly lung disease, while blasting abrasive sand on to denim under high pressure. Employees work in sandblasting units for up to 15 hours a day, with little or no protection. The sandblasting process is fast and cheap, and can increase product value tenfold. Although sandblasting has been banned by major brands, the practice continues behind closed doors, or through subcontracting to less traceable or illegal factories, workers commented.

Despite an awareness of the clandestine nature of this, it does not stop retailers from purchasing the garments.

Justin Jin / Panos Pictures
What's needed therefore is a profiling of this research, and the video, to raise awareness on the part of consumers and to make demands of retailers that they use their financial power to force manufacturers to eliminate the hazards in the process and improve terms and conditions.

Follow-up on this item read the research and raise this issue within your trade union as a way to support this critically important new campaign.

In Solidarity