WorkersWildWest – Issue 6 / Free newspaper for Greenford, Park Royal, Southall, Heathrow / Nobody’s gonna save us, so let’s look out for each other!
We distribute 2,000 copies of WorkersWildWest at job centres, factories, warehouses and working class housing estates. Would be great if you could give us a hand – please get in touch: email@example.com
1. This mess we’re in – and is there a way out?
2. Grenfell Tower: No justice, no peace
3. West London Solidarity Network: Update
4. A never ending cycle – Working for Environmental Business Products in Park Royal
5. Heathrow: The Third Runway and Other Blackmails
6. Rebel City Updates
7. Majestic and Waitrose Warehouse Blues from Greenford
8. Report: Working at Noon Southall and Bakkavor Harrow Pizza factory
9. Many faces! – Snapshots from distributing WorkersWildWest
10. Westside Story – Krótka Historia Zachodniego Londynu (Polish)
1. This mess we’re in – and is there a way out?
Whether we like it or not, what happens on the other side of the globe affects us – even in remote places like Greenford or Southall. This happens in all sorts of ways. We have seen a ‘global financial crisis’, where the fact that poor Americans couldn’t pay their mortgages caused a domino effect that crippled the world economy. We have seen call centres closing in Sheffield and moving to Bombay. We see the global dimension of climate change where the more industrialised regions produce the most pollution and poorer countries suffer more of the consequences. We have seen a ‘global war on terror’, which caused a total mess in Iraq and the Middle East and has now led to the ‘refugee crisis’ right on our doorstep. It is easy to see how this worsening situation makes people feel worried and under attack…
With all this stuff going on around us, we start to realise that things are very connected and we start looking around for some answers. Some people think it is the American government that controls everything; others say it is the banks and this quickly leads to a Jewish conspiracy theory; others blame the internet or God’s will. But we think looking for answers in history is the most useful thing. We start by asking some basic questions: when did people in one part of the world become more dependent on, or more linked to, people in other parts of the world? When and how did this change take place?
Looking back into history can also help us to understand the general situation we are in. The daily grind seems natural to us, something that has always been this way and something that cannot be changed. We have to get up, go to work to get money to pay our bills. We have little say in this, all we can do is look for another job – if we can find one. Our only role is to make a cross on a ballot paper every four years or so, which doesn’t change much either…
In this series of articles we want to look at this system we’re living in. We will see that certain things that we take for granted or as unchangeable are actually pretty new – in most areas of the world they are less than 500 years old:
* to work for someone for money
* to be a ‘citizen’ of a nation
* to buy products, especially those made far away
Things were not necessarily better before. But they were definitely different. We can see that things changed. They changed not because of ‘natural progress’ or an ‘evil conspiracy’, but because of the struggle of people like us – the struggle against being exploited and oppressed. We have structured this series in this way:
Part 1: How did it all begin?
Part 2: What are the main features of the new social system?
Part 3: What happened in the last century?
Part 4: How do we see the situation today?
Part 5: Is there a way out?
We don’t write this as experts. We write it as workers in west London, who don’t just want to stare into the headlights of global events as victims. If we don’t question the system as it is, we will fight over the crumbs they throw at us. It will be dog-eat-dog. We write this for discussion with our neighbours and workmates. We might see things wrong, we don’t mind re-thinking stuff. Let us know what you think:
Back in the day…
Humans have been on this planet for around 1.5 million years and there has been interaction and migration across the continents. We want to focus on the very recent past, on the conditions from around 500 years ago. This is because we know more about it and because it can show us how much our life and society in general has changed in a relatively short period of time. If we – low-paid workers in 2017 – would have lived 500 years ago, our situation would have probably looked like this:
* we would have lived in a smaller village in the countryside
* we would have been either working as a serf for someone or as a poor peasant, who has to give part off their harvest to a landlord
* we would not have worked for a wage, but either paid in kind (food and stuff) or have had to sell a small share of our produce
* in many cases the local landlord would have had the right to decide about our personal life, such as marriage, and to punish us if he thought necessary
* we would not be able to just ‘change our job’ as we were tied to one landlord, either as servants or through debt
* the household would have been the centre not just of family life, but also of work
* the rich landlords would exploit us, but mainly in order to finance their better lifestyles, not in order to invest the money somewhere
* in most cases there was no central nation state, but smaller local states run by lords
* even language was still very local, e.g. 300 to 400 years ago people spoke 30 or more different local languages in France and people would have had difficulties understanding each other.
We had little chance to escape all this because we would either be punished or there were no alternative ‘jobs’ we could easily get. This whole situation was declared ‘the God-given natural order’ of things. Religion, through its Church/Temple and local priests backed up the lords to keep their own influential and wealthy position. So how could things change?
Since humans ruled over other humans and lived off the work of other humans there have been rebellions. Around 500 years ago we saw many uprisings of peasants and poor folk against the landlords – particularly after bad harvests. People saw that it was them who ploughed the fields and collected the harvest, so why would they need the lords? The lords saw that people believed less and less that the position of the lord was the ‘will of God’. They needed a new justification for their power and they called it ‘protection’. Only the lord and his armed men could protect the poor from other lords and their armed men, who might invade and loot the country. Lords started to increase taxation, in order to finance their local armies. They started to take common land away from the poor, in order to finance the increasing expenditures – in England they used the land to put sheep on it for wool production. This only intensified the rebellions and created civil war situations. At this point history came to a fundamental turning point: the lords were not able to maintain their rule over the poor, but would the poor be able to overthrow their power?
Here in Europe we saw three different outcomes of this peasant struggle, which decided the future of each region.
* In main parts of what is now Germany, Poland, large parts of eastern Europe and Russia the poor peasants and serfs and their rebellions were not strong enough. The poor remained largely without their own land and they were still tied to the personal rule of the landlords, backed by the state.
* In the area of France the revolutions, e.g. the big one in 1789, liberated the peasants from much of the personal oppression by the lords. Not only that, they were often able to either keep their land or get hold of land. This meant that most peasants, unless they were drafted into the army during war, could ‘work for themselves’ on their own land. In this way the relationship between rulers and ruled in both eastern Europe and in France, although very different in nature, remained fairly stable.
* Things were different in England. Here the poor were able to overthrow serfdom and personal slavery, but their struggle was not strong enough to keep their land like in France. More and more people were ‘free’, meaning they were not tied to a specific landlord, but they had no land and income. This meant that the social situation in England at the turn of the 17th century was the most explosive and unstable. The existence of a huge mass of free, but poor and hungry people was the main reason why a relatively small country like England became an expanding empire and the starting point of industrialisation.
A different type of system…
The peasant struggle against the rule of the lords changed the system fundamentally: serfs and poor peasants were robbed of their livelihood and turned into wage workers; small states turned into centralised nation states able to police the increasing mass of unruly poor; in order to control and integrate the new masses of wage workers the rulers had to constantly expand their economic and political power. A new system emerged based on global production and trade.
* People were now largely dependent not on a single lord, but on a job in order to earn money – we were free, but forced to sell our time and energy to the rich.
* The landlords themselves wanted to escape the direct and brutal relationship on the land, so they started to invest in trade and manufacturing – what they had robbed from the poor peasants they now invested into business to exploit the children of peasants.
* Given the enormous migration of poor people (so-called ‘vagabonds’) looking for income the state had to develop and centralise its administration: establishing workhouses; increasing expenditure on the police; shipping poor people to the new colonies etc.
* The rulers were not able to justify their rule either by God’s will nor by pure military power, but they had to pretend that they are the source of ‘social development’: as industrialists, as politicians, as scientists, as artists – and that the poor can ‘work their way up’.
* For the first time in history poor people would have the chance, at least in theory to change their class and become rich and powerful; this ‘freedom’ is a carrot and stick and the rulers became more and more skilled at using it for a new divide and rule: only poor men, not women were allowed to learn certain trades (or later, to vote and be voted for); in the new colonies black slaves remained slaves, whereas poor white folks could become ‘free men’ after a certain period of time etc.
In the history books we learn that ‘industrialisation’ was some kind of natural progress or that it came out of the heads of great inventors. Some clever guy all of a sudden thought about a steam engine and that changed the world and so on. If we look back in history we can see it is more complicated than that. The masses of poor people who had lost their land or freed themselves from the ties to their lord started working in the emerging industries. Most of these industries were so-called cottage industries, where people would work at home or in small workshops. They often worked as independent artisans, using their own tools, e.g. for spinning, weaving or wood work. They depended on the big business owners for the supply of raw material, such as wool. These early workers, many of them women, organised themselves. They went on strike if prices for their products dropped or if bread prices increased too much. They stopped working as soon as they had earned enough. Their rebellions were not scattered and isolated in the countryside like those of the peasants, but they came pretty close to the seats of power in urban areas. In 1848 Europe was on the brink of revolution and the artisans were at the centre of it.
Industrialisation: to break the power of the artisans…
Their increasing power as a class of workers was a threat to the profits of the new business owners. They had to break the main power that artisans had: their individual skills and control over their work. The first machines did exactly that: they copied the artisan’s physical movements and transferred it onto an apparatus, such as the weaving loom or the spinning machine. Major investment was necessary for engines to move these machines, while workers who operated them could be paid much less, given that they were unskilled. Some of the male artisans were bought over as supervisors, who made sure that the women and children who worked the machines did a good job. These first factories made dozens, if not hundreds of workers work together under the control of machines and foremen. They were way more productive than the cottage industry and the independent artisans died a rapid social death – becoming unemployed they were forced to become factory workers themselves. They lost the competition not only with the factories, but also with an increasingly global trade that they had no access to, e.g. in form of cotton, coming from the plantations based on slavery in the new colonies.
The enormous boost in productivity also meant that the market was more rapidly filled up with goods. The competition over markets became more fierce, not only within England, but more and more on a global level. The emerging industries demanded raw materials and later on markets to sell products to – from cotton cloth to opium. The state increased taxes in order to finance its fleets and armies. The combination of more peasants and poor country folks becoming uprooted, of expanding trade beyond small local areas and of the intensifying competition to grab new markets meant that states were forced to centralise their power. The nation states as we know them today emerged during this period between 1750 and 1850. By this time ‘money’ had become a seemingly independent power: most poor people, who had previously been paid in kind or consumed their own produce now fully depended on wages; lords had turned into ‘capitalists’, who needed money in order to invest in new machinery to keep up with their competitors; the state siphoned off more and more money in the form of taxes to finance a growing bureaucracy and professional army. Local lives of poor people became connected to the global situation: discovery of gold in Peru could result in a bread price increase in Silesia.
What started in England spread across the globe, sometimes in different ways, but mostly with the same result: peasants became workers and money became the new link between exploited and exploiters – with the state waiting in the background with real shackles, in case workers didn’t just accept their new ‘freedom’ as wage slaves. The struggle of poor countryside folks against exploitation and oppression has changed the system. The shackle that tied the poor to one individual exploiter has been broken. But the newly gained ‘freedom’ is superficial. The new shackle, in the form of money, forces the worker to sell themselves to various exploiters. Being poor they own nothing, but their heads and hands and souls. But they create the wealth which becomes the means of their exploitation: the new factory buildings, the new machines and the guns of the growing armies. Soon enough, workers became aware of this fact and that it could be turned around: if we produce everything, we might be able to change everything too…
In the next part we will look at how this new system which emerged after the 17th century functions – and more importantly – why it often does not function. We will try to understand why it regularly produces economic crises which threaten the lives of millions and, more often than not, lead to increasingly brutal wars.
2. Grenfell Tower: No justice, no peace
We all heard about the terrible fire in west London a few weeks ago. Looking up at the burnt-out shell where hundreds of people used to live is shocking, but what is more shocking is that it seemed inevitable that something like this was going to happen. A local organisation predicted such a disaster on their blog many months ago, because residents’ concerns about the refurbishment were continually ignored. It seems that cutting corners and doing the job as cheaply as possible was the priority, not peoples’ safety. It is a familiar story – not just with council housing, but the NHS, schools, railways…
A tragedy like this was possible because of a number of different trends came together:
*** A corrupt council who treated the poorer people in their borough with contempt.
It is the richest borough in the UK with the highest level of inequality. The council collected over £50 million in council housing rents but only spent £40 million on social housing. They bribed richer residents with a council tax refund before the election. They ignored residents who raised serious concerns about safety of the blocks.
*** Poorer residents not having enough power locally to change the council’s practices.
Most councillors go to their cosy council meetings and are cut off from local people. This probably explains why turnout is low for council elections. Individuals and local groups may kick up a fuss but have limited strength to really change the balance of power.
*** Privatisations, sub-contracting and lack of accountability.
The head of Kensington and Chelsea council just resigned because of his incompetence. Individuals should be sacked but the problem is bigger than just them. When you have a system where cutting costs is the priority because the state decides they don’t want to spend money on public services anymore, and you have competition laws where companies have to compete to win contracts, there is a race-to-the-bottom. Companies win contracts by making the cheapest bid. Things are done on the cheap. Lots of companies all working to their own rules, all with different staff, many on low pay, and complex contracting arrangements make it almost impossible to know exactly what is going on. And then when something bad happens, they can all blame someone else.
Lots of local people came together after the fire to help support each other. It was a great example of people power as they spontaneously stepped in to take over the relief effort when the state failed. This shows that when we have to, we can do a better job than those in power who supposedly know better. As it gets harder and harder for working class people to live safely, to access and provide free healthcare, to educate our children and have a good life, it is good to remember that the lessons of Grenfell apply to all of us. If we continue to leave it to others to do what is best for us, we pay for it with our own lives.
3. West London Solidarity Network: Update
You may have seen some posters around town about the West London Solidarity Network. We – a group of local, working class people – have come together to support each other against unfair treatment by bosses, bureaucrats, landlords and anyone else trying to take advantage of us. There is no money involved; we just hope that if you receive some support, in the future you do the same for someone else…
The idea behind it is basically that we cannot rely on the state to help us solve our problems when a lot of the problems are caused by them and their rules! It is a way to take some power for ourselves. We can get what we want without having to pay for a solicitor but we have to be prepared to act ourselves.
A recent case was B. He is from Senegal and in Spring 2017 he came to one of our monthly meetings in Greenford. This is his story:
B. is a catering worker from Senegal. He contacted us after he had been sacked by his company, where he had worked for over a year. His brother died and he had asked for one month unpaid holiday to cope with the bereavement. The company refused. The worker felt unwell and after consultation with his GP provided a sick note. The company reacted by sacking him, which aggravated the workers health condition. He lives in bed and breakfast accommodation with his wife and daughter, who suffers from sickle-cell disease and needs a lot of care. The company didn’t provide sick pay, so he only received the statutory sick pay of £17 a day.
The worker appealed against the dismissal and we accompanied him to the appeal hearing. Despite the fact that he was able to provide sick notes for the entire period of absence, the company upheld their decision to sack him. At this point the worker didn’t want his job back, given the stress that they had caused him. He demanded full payment for the entire period of sickness up to the appeal hearing date – which legally speaking, the company had no obligation to pay. We organised an action at his former workplace, a swanky start-up office space in Hayes. We came with a megaphone and some leaflets, informing the office workers about the practice of the catering company that served them their lunch. They called the cops but they said we could stay(!). Then the boss of the catering company who has sacked B. came and promised to pay if we end our demonstration. They have agreed to pay B. the money he wants.
If you have a similar problem, get in touch! Come to one of our monthly meetings:
Greenford Retail Park, McDonalds (First Monday of the month, 5-6pm)
Park Royal, Asda cafe (Third Monday of the month, 5-6pm)
Southall, Poornima Cafe (Fourth Monday of the month, 5-6pm)
4. A never ending cycle – Working for Environmental Business Products in Park Royal
The company I worked for is located in the heart of Park Royal. The company makes money by appealing to charities and exploiting mainly women workers. They re-fill and sell ink printer cartridges.
Initially the company contacted major UK charities, asking them to pass on envelopes to their members and donors, who were then requested to send their empty ink cartridges to the company. The company would re-fill the cartridges, sell them to major retailers, such as WHSmith, and donate a small share of the profit back to the charities. The company hired mainly female workers, most of them originally from Gujarat, who, initially with primitive tools, re-filled the ink cartridges on minimum wages. Free raw material and a charitable, ecological reputation – who wouldn’t think that this a great start-up idea, but the Queen herself, who gave the company founder the ‘Queen’s Award for Enterprise’ in 2004!
The company expanded, employing up to 250 people. During the busiest times we re-filled 15,000 cartridges a day. While the company clocked over £1 million profit per month, our wages did not increase. During the late 2000s the competition from re-filling factories based in China grew considerably. By that time the upper management had diverted a fair amount of business profits into real estate and kept the business ‘ticking over’ – the rounds of redundancies and spells of short-time work became more frequent. By the mid-2010s there were 150 people left in the ink department.
Cartridges, cartridges, cartridges…
Most of the work is very repetitive: filling washing machines with dirty cartridges – scraping off old labels – taking off caps – breaking inner plastic partitions with a chisel – refilling cartridges on mechanical pump-stations – testing them – re-labelling them – packaging them.
A work-step takes no longer than 10 – 20 seconds and this is repeated throughout the day. In the upstairs department the air is pretty humid, from all the washing [?] going on. Some of the machines are old or self-built and don’t seem to be safe. The targets can be arbitrary, with some jobs they are easier to hit, with other jobs it’s pretty stressful. When you operate the machines, the job can be lonely. Working in packaging you at least sit together with others and can chat – though management has said that no music is allowed.
Anger, anger, anger…
Most workers are still on minimum wages, whereas upper management arrives with all kind of splendid cars, from vintage Jaguars to Maserati SUVs. But not only are wages low – people are also sent home at short notice and unpaid when not needed – although they all have permanent contracts.
In early 2016 all workers on old contracts were called to sign a new contract allowing the company to announce short-time work without wage compensation with 24-hours prior notice. A bigger group of 20 to 30 workers refused to sign the new contracts. They were called into the canteen and told that even if they would not sign this wouldn’t make a difference. Six months previously, the main manager had promised that after the minimum wage increase in 2016 ‘the pay difference would be retained’, which would have meant a pay increase for the ‘senior workers’. But he went back on his word and announced the prospect of short-time work, plus redundancies for five workers in the goods-in department. During summer, short-time work people had to survive on less than £150 per week.
Even the pay for maintenance engineers is bad. They built many of the machines themselves – they are proper inventors – but they receive little in return. People are pissed off, but it seems difficult to stand up to the boss. He is English and has an award from the Queen – we are from Goa or Lithuania and our English ain’t that good. The engineers themselves might think: “those women scraping off labels might not deserve that much more anyway”, but without these women the cartridges would not be re-filled and without them the engineers would be pretty alone in front of management.
There is no union in this company. Most unions might only take membership dues and not do much more. Grassroots unions like the IWW or IWGB are led by workers, they might make a difference. The main thing will be: will we continue working for peanuts and allowing management to squeeze out the last bit before eventually closing the place down? Will we manage to get back some of the profits made in the past, now invested somewhere overseas?
If you need support from other workers, get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
5. Heathrow: The Third Runway and Other Blackmails…
The UK government recently decided to build another runway at Heathrow airport. This will add another 250,000 flights a year to the existing 470,000, make the already dangerous and illegal levels of local air pollution worse in the largely (migrant) working class areas around the airport, and destroy at least 800 homes.
It is no surprise that Heathrow-related businesses and most trade unions are in favour of building another runway, saying that the £18 billion plus investment will create between 50,000 and 110,000 jobs by 2030. But what kinds of jobs are they really talking about? Probably more low-paid ones…
Jobs vs. environment
The third runway plan is an example of the basic blackmail any worker is forced to accept in the current system: jobs vs. the environment. We depend on our job while our job contributes to the destruction of our planet. Already 9,500 people a year die in London because the air pollution is so bad. And the people who fly the most are not the poor people from different countries who go visit family back home once in a while but richer people going on business trips and weekend breaks. In the long-run, climate change will affect poorer people more because richer folks can protect themselves with their money.
How do we escape this ‘jobs vs. health and environment’ clash? Supposedly, we cannot have both. This is a rubbish choice. (This system seems to be full of bad choices like this!) Only by workers coming together and finding some power at work and in the community can we start to feel like we can actually change the situation for our benefit. We can try changing small but important things like: how many floors or toilets to clean? How many more months on agency contracts before getting a permanent job? How fast or slow do we want to work? Once we are stronger as workers we can start asking bigger questions: Who controls society? Why should we build infrastructure that harms us and our children? What are the alternatives?
This is tough, especially in workplaces in and around the airport. The government and police will come down hard on anything that affects big business and the economy, both of which rely heavily on functioning
airports. But this is also where our strength lies: we might be so-called ‘semi-skilled’ and low-paid, but without all of us, the airport would come to a standstill. The big bosses know this, which is why they try and divide the workforce in as may ways as possible, to try and stop workers from coming together. This is why there are so many agency workers, so many sub-contracted companies, so many different contracts within one workplace…
We all know the challenges, but it is not impossible. Lots of us remember the bitter strike at Gate Gourmet back in 2005, which ended in disaster for the workers. The results are clear: the defeat meant that Gate Gourmet workers now earn less in real terms than they did 20 years ago. British Airways staff walked out unoffically when management introduced swipe cards to monitor them more closely but their plan to strike was banned by the High Court in 2009 for causing too much disruption (which we guess was the point!) Their disputes remain confined to BA staff though. What would happen if cleaners supported them and vice versa?
In the long-run, not doing anything means things will only get worse. If workers did start coming together to discuss their collective situations and what they could do about it, other groups of workers, here and at other airports across the world, would sit up and take notice. Anything that started rumbling at Heathrow would have knock-on effects at other airports and workers there. So the potential for mass action and solidarity exists, even though it is not easy.
One small step towards this could be to build links with workers at other airports, who face similar worsening conditions. This happened in 2006 when Gate Gourmet workers who were on strike in Germany came to visit Gate Gourmet workers in Southall in 2006. There is a similar trend of restructuring, increasing competition, fuel costs and agency workers, and fewer workers doing more of a share of the work at Madrid and Frankfurt airport. We have some friends who work at these airports and they talk about the increasing pressures they face as baggage handlers and check-in staff. There have been lots of strikes by different groups of workers at Frankfurt airport, but all within the union rules. This has meant long running disputes and resentment building in other groups of workers who have to take up the slack.
How can we start building an international exchange with these workers?
Contact us and write a small report for this newspaper about your workplace for other workers to see and learn from.
Come see us on the fourth Monday of the month at Poornima cafe in Southall if you want to try and do something at your workplace. We will support you.
6. Rebel City Updates
*** Bakkavor Pay Update
The union at Bakkavor, GMB, have been in talks with Bakkavor management about a pay deal for a long time now. Christmas 2016 the union was making noise about getting £10/hr for us. But that must have been a typo, because now rumours are that factory operatives will get an extra 15p an hour, taking their hourly rate up to..wait for it…£7.65! GMB told workers that a final offer is on the table but, weeks later, they still haven’t told workers officially what it is! Unofficially, certain groups of ‘more skilled’ workers will get bigger increases and nobody will get any rise until October at the earliest. Classic divide and rule! They think they can buy off the red caps by giving them a bit more. Meanwhile, the production workers are still hanging around on peanuts wages. Let’s break it down: if we deduct the union fees of £13 a month, with this increase we’re talking about an extra £10 a month. What a joke! When they eventually get around to it, we will have a ballot.
Vote NO! And let’s be prepared to back this up with a one-week overtime strike! The union and company won’t give us more unless we are prepared to fight!
*** Gurnell Leisure Centre redevelopment: Update
Ealing Council wants to knock down Gurnell and build a fancy new leisure centre, financed by selling off the public land to a property developer to build flats only rich people can afford. Gurnell will close for 2 years. There is no social housing planned for the site. There is a ‘Save Gurnell’ campaign by local residents to get the council to rethink their plans. There is a petition for residents to sign and they will be putting in a submission to the Planning Committee. The campaign has asked for financial details of the deal to be made public but with no luck. Public money is being used and public land is being sold off – we have a right to know!
The campaign has been effective so far: the project has been delayed and the Council are only just getting around to putting in their planning application this Summer. So it’s not too late to stop this!
If you want to find out more or get involved message the ‘Gurnell Housing Campaign’ on Facebook!
*** Southall Job centre closure
The government has announced that it wants to close Southall job centre. This is part of a wider cuts agenda that is also targeting Hammersmith and more recently, Leytonstone job centres. Another five job centres in east London are also facing the axe.
Job seekers will be most affected: they will have to travel further to sign on. Ealing and Acton are the nearest alternatives, and they are not so near! The news was sudden and a public meeting was quickly arranged in February. There was a great fighting spirit amongst job centre workers and residents and they agreed to hold a demonstration outside the job centre at the end of March 2017. We are still awaiting the outcome.
Cuts like these are deliberately targeting the poorest people. And as such, we should fight to save it. However, we cannot close our eyes to the role of Job Centres and Job Centre staff within the working class: to discipline fellow workers and to screen them according to immigration status etc.
In order for workers and job seekers to come together and fight this closure, trust and assurances need to be made. It would be great if job centre workers could show their willingness to challenge the looming benefit cuts, sanctions and other oppressive measures against the poor.
Maybe there could be weekly meetings of the unemployed and Job Centre staff to discuss the situation either before work, during breaks or after work..? This might be necessary to build some trust amongst ourselves.
There is some precedence for this. In Brighton in the mid 1990’s, Job Centre staff went out on strike against the introduction of Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA). Militant Job Centre Workers and militant unemployed people came together to form the ‘Brighton against the JSA’ group. If Job Centre employees can be open about their commitment of not policing claimants, support from local Job Centre users would, no doubt, be more readily granted.
*** Not Tesco’s Finest Hour – Wage ‘increase’ at Greenford FC
Like 280,000 or so other hourly paid Tesco workers we in Greenford FC (online grocery shopping) also got a wage increase of 5.25% for the time from November 2017 to July 2018. That doesn’t sound too bad compared to the crappy increases around us. But that means pickers will just get above £8 p/h and delivery drivers just above £9. You have to pick and carry a lot of totes with water or 2l Strongbow bottles for your money! To make things worse, Tesco gives with one hand and takes with the other: Sunday and bank holiday pay has been cut from 1.5 to 1.25. Monthly wages are cut arbitrarily for ‘coming late’ or ‘leaving early’ – while Ocado workers get paid their full shift once their job is done. And taking into account that Tesco plans to finish off 1,100 call centre jobs in Cardiff and 1,200 office jobs in Hatfield, that means that over all the ‘wage increase’ is more of a wage cut. People are pissed off, but we are not organised enough on the ground to oppose the bad deal. People vote with their feet: during the two weeks before the wage ‘increase’ was announced over 30 Tesco delivery drivers left the job. We need to get our shit together!
** LSE Cleaners & HSBC Cleaners
The London School of Economics (LSE) is one of the world’s top universities. With its multimillion-pound annual budget, it can invite highly-paid speakers to talk about the world’s injustices,- but apparently all this talking does not help the management see the injustice when it’s right under its nose.
The functioning of a university does not only require well-paid professors and middle-class students: the offices, the lecture rooms, the canteen, the library, etc. have to be operated, maintained and cleaned on a daily basis. This invisible work is part of the collective work without which these institutions could not run at all.
But at the LSE, as in many other public institutions, the cleaners are not really part of the staff: cleaning was outsourced decades ago, so the cleaners do not benefit from the sick pay, maternity pay and pension scheme that the in-house staff is entitled to. Obviously, the cleaners, who are all from migrant or minority background, are being treated as second-class members of this work collective. For example, they can’t afford to be sick!
At some point, the cleaners had enough: they decided to organize and struggle for the same conditions as the in-house staff. They struggled for respect and equality. The university management reacted with contempt, bullying and harassment. But the cleaners, supported by the United Voices of the World union, and by some of the students and other groups in London, did not give up. After months of protests, occupations and seven days of strike, they won!
The same happened with cleaners at HSBC in Canary Wharf. Supported by cleaners union, CAIWU, they decided to go on strike to stop the job losses that management was trying to impose on them. But and didn’t even have to go on their planned strike because management caved in.
When low-wage workers come together and stop believing ‘nothing can change’, they can force their employers to take their needs into account because their work is needed!
7. Majestic and Waitrose Warehouse Blues from Greenford
This is based on my experience of working at Wincanton Waitrose and Majestic warehouse through Templine Agency in Greenford, close to Greenford tube station. It is a complex where Wincanton runs warehouses for different customers…
I liked the atmosphere at the Majestic wine warehouse, partly because you deal with wine, but there was also a bit less stress – and both men and women working together. There were about 20 blokes and 10 women…
In the Waitrose warehouse you have to pick boxes of booze with a LLOP fork-lift. Only blokes, and the atmosphere is worse. Management has stopped putting up sheets with individual pick-rates, but they remind us in the morning briefings that we should do at least 800 to 900 boxes a day. It also sucks that they sent you home earlier sometimes. People travel a long way, only to be sent home again after four hours. They sometimes cancel your shift two hours before work is supposed to start, by text message. They do this only to the temps, not the permanent staff. Half of the 40 or so workers are temps. Wages are low, so many guys work double-shifts (16 hours) if they get the chance. There are other things that suck big time:
* bag searches at the end of shift often take ages, you wait unpaid
* workers got no control over the radio station
* there was a time when the toilets had no seats but there are still no cups in the coffee machines!
* the canteen has as much comfort as a portacabin in Siberia
* in the morning people have to fight over the LLOPs and most of them are not in good shape
* the LLOP training day isn’t paid for.
Before Christmas 2016 some friends distributed leaflets, reminding workers that the year before, Templine used to pay attendance bonus in the run-up to Christmas – but this year they had stopped. Inside, we put up stickers, asking what happened to our bonus. Colleagues made jokey remarks to managers, asking about the bonus – but it seemed we didn’t have the guts to ask for it together. Most temp workers have started working recently, so they never got paid the bonus…But the permanent workers did get a kind of holiday pay bonus payout after the stickers were put up.
The union put up some notice about a pay increase in 2017, but again, it would need us doing shit together in order to get anything…nobody will do it for us!
If you are up for it, drop us a line: email@example.com
8. Report: Working at Noon Southall and Bakkavor Harrow Pizza factory
I needed a job quick, so I went down to Ironbridge, Southall and signed on with the temp agency called GI Group based in the Noon Kerry Foods factory. With them you can start today, but don’t ask about tomorrow. And don’t expect more than the minimum. They don’t give you permanent shifts, you have to phone in at 9:30 am or 4:30pm to ask if there is work the following day. If you slave real hard or the manager likes you, you might get a rota. During my first months I often got no more than three shifts a week. Sometimes they sent you home earlier, two, four hours – without pay…
Chow mein at Noon…
I worked at Line 1 for a while, the Chow Mein line. You have to clean the rims of plastic ready-meal packages real fast. Drives you nuts! Or you have to soften noodles that come out of the chiller. People are friendly, even if peoples’ English ain’t always that good. If you wouldn’t have your people, the job would turn you into a hardened noodle in no time. Then Line 4, chicken and rice, same thing really, just rice instead of noodles…
There aren’t many machines in that factory. We are cheap, so why invest in robots? So we do stupid work by hand. Some machines are around though, I worked at the rice shaker. Perhaps I wouldn’t introduce myself at a party like that: “Oh, so what do you do then?” – “Errr, I shake rice. Real cool vibrations, you know” – not a good chat-up line! It’s heavy work though, loading 100 kg of rice in there and then shaky, shaky. They then sent me to the duck slicer, without a health and safety induction. That thing cuts off your private parts in no time if you not careful!
Flying Pizzas in Harrow
One day GI Group called workers to come at 5am, they put them into two taxis and drove us to Bakkavor pizza factory in Harrow. Some guys refused outright and many people refused to go there again, given that it is quite far out from where they live. It’s good to see that people are not willing to take just any old crap from the company…
GI Group promised me a weekly rota at Bakkavor in Harrow and a better job in the prep room, a chilled sub-department, paid at £10.40 instead of £7.20. I shifted to Harrow and worked in the prep room for ten days, but surprise, surprise, they paid only £7.20. The regular rota also didn’t materialise. In Harrow I was put ‘on reserve’ several times, meaning that you have to turn up without a guaranteed shift. You wait and see if they need anyone. If they don’t, you go back home and GI Group pays for two hours. This sucks big time…
It also sucks that they pay people differently, though they do basically the same work. Temps and permanent women workers on the lines were paid the minimum of £7.50 at the time, while permanent male workers who supply the pizza lines get £10. Some guys have been working there for over half a year without getting a permanent job. Also permanent workers in the prep-department get more, £10.44. In this way they create enough divisions so that workers are not strong and united enough to demand £12 for all!
It’s pretty heavy work, making thousands of pizzas for the big supermarkets. Again, apart from the sausage cutter in assembly or the odd sauce squirter and there are only few machines. They still have the old Katie’s overalls hanging around, from the old company that was taken-over by Bakkavor. Some old workers hang-around inside the overalls, too. Gloves and ear-plugs are often missing – if we would stick to the rules and wait till we get new gloves or plugs the lines would stop. Or masks are missing, not good when you put dusty starch in the cheese grater. Some supervisors are bullies, they shout their nuts off. The main manager doesn’t want people to read leaflets about better wages and takes away leaflets from workers…
We should get in touch with the other Bakkavor factories and ready-meal factory workers in the area and build a forum to discuss and to take action. They squeeze us too much and they shouldn’t get away with it…
9. Many faces! – Snapshots from distributing WorkersWildWest
“If you don’t like it here, you are free to go and look for a different job”, is the usual boss’ bullshit talk. Yes, they are right, we are free to go, free to starve and free to sell ourselves to a different boss for similarly bad conditions. During the distribution of WorkersWildWest we have had short conversations with various workers. These snapshots show a bit of reality – we share similar problems wherever we work. They also show a potential – if workers from each company would come together, we could build a strong movement. Get in touch!
Cleaning worker, Heathrow: “They cut our team down from 9 to 7 members. But we have to cover the same area. The union lawyers can’t win against the bosses lawyers.”
Cleaning worker, Bakkavor, Park Royal: “We work night-shift, cleaning food-processing machines. These are heavy chemicals, some people collapsed in the past. It’s a bit like in Syria. Outside of London hygiene workers like us get over £10, here they think they can give us the minimum, because we are migrants.”
Gate Gourmet worker, Heathrow: “I have been working here for over 20 years. The target pressure is increasing, especially when they bring in agency workers who work fast and some don’t even take their break. The permanent workers have complained to HR, but the union does nothing. People have been working here for 20 years and are still on the minimum wage.”
IHSS worker, Park Royal: “We disinfect and clean hospital surgery instruments, as a subcontractor for the NHS. The work is quite dangerous, what with infections and all. Wages are low, starting at £8.23.”
McVities worker, Park Royal: “We make biscuits. The permanent workers are now on regular 12-hour shifts, 6am to 6pm. There is a union in the factory, but to be honest, I don’t know what it is called or what I pay my dues for.”
Sofology store worker, Brent Cross: “Management dishes out disciplinaries for minor issues, while at the same time they want to reduce store admin-staff from two full-time to one part-time position. People just walk out of the door, because the job sucks.”
Greencore worker, Park Royal: “We make sandwiches. Some have been temp workers (Prime Time) for over two years. They call you for work on the day, it’s zero-hours. It is pretty cold in the plant.”
Elior catering worker, Ealing College: “Management make you stay longer after your shift, but don’t pay you for the overtime. Workload is too high, lots of people come and go.”
Care worker, job centre in Southall: “I was sacked from my care job after working there for 3-4 years because my passport ran out. I am from Jamaica and I have indefinite leave to remain, but the agency were nervous about doing the proper checks after the law change that made them liable for fines. They said I need a new biometric passport, which is very expensive. So I lost the job, am now claiming benefits, and now it is difficult to save the money for the passport.”
Tesco delivery van driver, Greenford: “Wages are pretty low for drivers, not even £9 per hour. The personal shoppers doing the picking don’t even get £8. This is hard work, sometimes you have more than ten drops in four hours, weighing half a ton or more.”
Environmental Business Products worker, Park Royal: “During the summer they sent us on short-time work for two weeks. They made us sign a new contract that allows them to send us home unpaid. We are all ‘permanent’ workers, most of us have been here for more than 10 years. We re-fill ink cartridges. Many people didn’t sign the new contract. Management had to call for a meeting.”
Alpha LSG / Sky Chef worker, Southall: “We cater for major airlines. People are on all kind of contracts, company plays divide and rule. Most workers in the kitchen and loading are on the minimum wage. People come and go. For truck driving to the aeroplanes you get just above £10.”
Truck driver, Bakkavor warehouse, Park Royal: “I left the army after 12 years for health reasons. There I made up to £800 a week, now I am down to £350, doing loads of overtime. I drive from Yorkshire to London, supplying Bakkavor with potatoes, bring salad to a packaging plant, load cakes to take back up north. Wonder how long my back gonna last making these long trips.”
Kolak worker, Park Royal, close to North Circular: “It’s good what you are doing. Wages at Kolak are minimum, but the stress is maximum. We make crisps. Most of us are migrant workers and management thinks they can treat us like second-class citizens”.
Amey bin men, Greenford depot: “Since the introduction of the wheelie bins we come in 30 min early unpaid, in order to be able to finish our round. There are 2 loaders now, instead of 3. Recycling is all over the place and food waste contaminates most of it. Road sweeper drivers have now 6 beats, that is a significant increase in work load. In total there are only 100 people left at Amey. Hays agency workers have not been made permanent for 2 years.”
English Cheesecake Co. First Call agency worker, Brent Cross factory: “On my first day, I asked how the breaks worked. She told me: ‘You get a 30 minutes break after three hours and an extra 15 minute break when the supervisor tells you.’ But in reality, it did not work this way: the workers would wait forever until the supervisor would allow them to have their first break; you could wait up to four or five hours and I did not see anybody asking to go to the toilets before their first break. In the evening, we never knew when we would finish either: you would wait for the supervisor to tell you that you could go home, which could be two or three hours after the expected end of your shift. The overtime was paid but no one ever asked you if you wanted to do it.”
10. Westside Story – Krótka Historia Zachodniego Londynu
Stając obecnie przed podłymi warunkami pracy jak i warunkami życiowymi, wiele osób mówi, że nic nigdy się nie zmienia i nie można nic zmienić. Historia jednak pokazuje nam, że wiele rzeczy zmienia się i że klasa robotnicza, choć najczęściej zapomniana, doprowadza do tych zmian.
Po Pierwszej Wojnie Światowej – Przemysł i napływ robotników do zachodniego Londynu
Pierwszy większy skok w industrializacji zachodniego Londynu miało miejsce w latach dwudziestych XX wieku. W 1914 roku Park Royal był rejonem całkowicie wiejskim, a do 1929 roku funkcjonowało tam już 140 zakładów zatrudniających 14 tysięcy robotników. Największym zakładem był zbudowany w 1935 roku The Guinness Brewery. W Greenford, w roku 1936 przedsiębiorstwo J. Lyons & Co. Ltd. założyło swoja fabrykę zatrudniającą 3 tysiące robotników.
Pierwsi imigranccy robotnicy, którzy przybyli tu, aby wykonywać najpodlejsze zajecia, na przykład przy budowie drogi A40, byli imigrantami z Walii a później z Irlandii, uciekającymi przed biedą, która spowodowana była polityką wyzysku angielskiego rządu. Imigranci ci, którzy pomimo bycia białym i posługiwania się językiem angielskim, nie byli traktowani lepiej niż ich hinduscy lub karaibscy koledzy, którzy przybyli w latach sześćdziesiątych lub robotnicy z Europy wschodniej po 2000 roku. Cześć pracowników przeniosła się również ze slumsów wschodniego Londynu – w latach 1921-31 populacja Middlesex wzrosła o 31 procent, co było największym wzrostem ludności we wszystkich hrabstwach Anglii.
Pracownicy zaczęli organizować się dość wcześnie, zaczęły powstawać dziesiątki pracowniczych klubów samo edukacyjnych i filie związków zawodowych. Podczas strajku generalnego w 1926 roku około 50 tysięcy pracowników zebrało się w Ealing Common.
Globalny kryzys 1929 roku znacznie zwiększył bezrobocie w regionie. Niemogące zrzucić winy na „imigrantów” elity zaczęły szukać innych mniejszości, aby obarczyć ich winą. Tak na przykład w 1934 roku radni partii Pracy z Acton poparli plany urzędu miejskiego, aby zwalniać mężatki zatrudnione w sektorze publicznym (jeżeli ich mężowie posiadali pracę) a przyjmować bezrobotnych mężczyzn. Takie działania miały na celu odwrócenie uwagi pracowników od przyczyn kryzysu – produkcji dla zysków zamiast produkcji dla potrzeb. Później, szefowie i politycy wszystkich państw poprowadzili robotników ku masakrze drugiej wojny światowej.
Po Drugiej Wojnie Światowej – Przemysł rozrasta się i zatrudnia nowych pracowników z byłych kolonii (Karaiby, Indie)
W lata 50tych zachód Londynu był jednym z największych skupisk przemysłowych w Wielkiej Brytanii: piętrowe autobusy były budowane przez zakłady ABC w Southall i Park Royal. Przemysł stale rozrastał się w latach 60tych. Dla przykładu zatrudnienie w zakładach w Park Royal wzrosła z 14 tysięcy w roku 1930 do około 45 tysięcy w późnych latach 60tych obejmując 500 zakładów pracy.
Wielu z zatrudnionych tam pracowników było nowymi imigrantami z Karaibów (np. Jamajki) i Indii. Członkowie ich rodzin często byli żołnierzami armii brytyjskiej albo zostali dotknięci przez politykę kolonialną imperium brytyjskiego: od handlu niewolnikami, przez wyzysk na plantacjach, po politykę podatkową, która zrujnowała społeczności lokalnych chłopów i wytwórców, na przykład w Punjab w Indiach. Po drugiej wojnie światowej ci właśnie pracownicy mieli za zadanie rozwiązać problem braku siły roboczej w Wielkiej Brytanii i stać się słabo opłacanymi, z niepewnym prawem do pobytu, robotnikami zatrudnionymi w fabrykach, hutach i wykonujący takie zajęcia jak sprzątania czy prowadzenie autobusów. Home Office oceniło imigracje z byłych kolonii brytyjskich na około 472 tysiące osób w latach 1955-1962. Do roku 1970 półtora miliona imigrantów osiedliło się w Wielkiej Brytanii, z czego największą grupę stanowili Irlandczycy.
W wielu sektorach przemysłu pracownicy byli wynagradzani na akord (od ilości wykonanej pracy), w systemie, który pozwalał pracownikom na negocjacje grożąc przestojami w produkcji.
W latach 1952-62 przez Wielka Brytanie przetoczyła się fala strajków. Wiele z nich było krótkimi, nieoficjalnymi strajkami, często na lokalną skalę, powodowanymi niezadowoleniem z wysokości płac. Robotnicy byli w stanie wywalczyć podwyżki w latach sześćdziesiątych, pomimo fali „nowych imigrantów” przybywających z Jamajki i Punjabu, lub raczej dlatego, że ci pracownicy sprzeciwili się byciu traktowanym jako pracownicy gorszej kategorii i dołączyli do walki.
„Przyjechałem do Anglii (w 1966 roku) w poszukiwaniu lepszego życia i nowych doświadczeń. Po Manchester zamieszkałem w Luton i zacząłem pracować w fabryce Vauxhall na linii montażowej. Później zacząłem prace w firmie papierniczej John Dickenson w Watford. Po przeniesieniu się do Londynu zatrudniłem się jako operator maszyny w Perivale Gutermann. Była to fabryka produkująca jedwabne nici i większość pracowników pochodziła z Indii i Pakistanu. Przed 1969 rokiem w zakładach Perivale Gutermann nie było żadnego związku zawodowego i ludzie wspominają, że życie nie było łatwe w tym okresie. Pracowali wtedy po 12 godzin, 7 dni w tygodniu za 30 funtów tygodniowo. W końcu byliśmy w stanie ustanowić filie związku T&G i wywalczyć lepsze płace dla naszych towarzyszy.” Akbar Khan
Nowi imigranci musieli walczyć nie tylko z wyzyskiem pracodawców i dyskryminacja państwa, ale również z rasizmem lokalnych robotników. Od zamieszek w Notting Hill w 1958 roku do zamieszek w Southall w 1979, czarny i hinduski proletariat musiał organizować samoobronę przeciwko rasistowskiej przemocy. W Southall, w 1979, trzy lata po rasistowskim morderstwie Gurdip Singh Chaggar, roku rasistowski National Front próbował zorganizować spotkanie. Tysiące osób wyszło na ulice, aby zablokować faszystów, lecz zostali zaatakowani przez policje, w wyniku czego zginał jeden z protestujących. Kiedy mówi się o zamieszkach w Southall 1979 roku ludzie zapominają, że tego dnia około 20 tysięcy lokalnych robotników ogłosiło nieoficjalny strajk wspierać protesty. Zdawali sobie sprawę, że walka musi zostać wygrana tak samo na ulicach jak i w miejscach pracy.
Od lat sześćdziesiątych serie nieoficjalnych strajków, organizowanych głownie przez afro-karaibskich i azjatyckich robotników, wstrząsnęła fabrykami w Wielkiej Brytanii, stawiając czoła nie tylko zarządowi zakładów pracy, ale również władzom związków zawodowych. Zachodni Londyn był punktem zapalnym niezadowolenia imigrantów: Rockware Glass, Wolfs Rubber (Southall) w 1965 roku, Gutterman (Perivale), Chibnalls Bakery, Futters (Harlesden), Quaker Oats (Southall) i Chix (Slough) w 1979 roku.
Nieoficjalne wyjścia i/lub strajki w walce o równe warunki pracy nie były ograniczone do imigrantów, dla przykładu: rząd Edwarda Heatha zamrażając płace w 1972 roku spowodował okupacje w fabryce Hoovera (obecnie Tesco Perivale). Kobiety stanowiły prawie połowe wszystkich pracowników w zachodnio londyńskich fabrykach (takich jak EMI w Hayes czy Tetley Tea w Greenford). W 1976 roku jeden z największych strajków o równe place miał miejsce w fabryce Trico-Folberth w Brentford.
„Najlepiej płacącymi miejscami racy były fabryki. Wiec poszłam do Job Centre i tak pod koniec 1975 roku dostałam prace w Trico. Pracowałam nad ostrzami. Ostrzami i obudowami do wycieraczek samochodowych. To była dość duża fabryka, około 1600 osób. Nocna zmiana, która tam była, została zlikwidowana ze względu na problemy ekonomiczne w 1975 roku. Mężczyźni pracujący na tej zmianie, a było ich pięciu, zostali przeniesieni na dzienna zmianę, aby pracować razem z kobietami. Pod koniec 40-sto godzinnego tygodnia pracy mężczyźni, jeżeli byli tak samo wydajni jak kobiety, otrzymali 6-6.50 funta więcej niż kobiety za ta samą pracę. Tak się zaczęło!”
Kobiety rozpoczęły strajk, trwający 21 tygodni, organizowały demonstracje wokół fabryki jak i wewnątrz i w końcu wygrały walkę o równe płace.
W latach siedemdziesiątych robotnicy z całego świata – of fabryk samochodów w Detroit w 1973 roku do polskich stoczni w 1976 roku – pokazali, że mogą działać niezależnie. Pokazali również, że metoda „dziel i rządź” używana przez szefów, aby podzielić nas na białych/czarnych, mężczyzn/kobiety lub lokalnych/imigrantów może zostać pokonana dzięki i poprzez wspólnej walce. Poczucie solidarności między robotnikami wyparło mentalność wyścigu szczurów. Ta mentalność musiała zostać zniszczona i została. Stało się tak za sprawa kryzysu, zwolnień i zamykaniu fabryk w latach osiemdziesiątych. Zachodni Londyn stracił 22 tysiące przemysłowych miejsc pracy w latach 1979-1981, co stanowiło spadek o 17% w ciągu niespełna dwóch lat. Detroit zmienił się z miasta samochodów w wysypisko.
Dziś zamiast fabryk obróbki metalu mamy fabryki gotowych dań w Park Royal. Razem z nowymi imigrantami z Azji, imigranccy pracownicy z Europy wschodniej pracują tu razem za niskie płace. Tak jak w latach sześćdziesiątych wielu z nas dzieli razem mieszkania, ponieważ wysokość czynszu jest za duża przy naszych zarobkach. Jak w latach siedemdziesiątych imigranci są brutalnie atakowani za mówienie w obcym języku. Po Brexit podobne ataki były wymierzone w polską społeczność. W przeciwieństwie do lat sześćdziesiątych i siedemdziesiątych nowi imigranccy robotnicy nie wyrobili w sobie jeszcze przeświadczenia o słuszności walki o swoje prawa. Cały czas akceptujemy marne płace i szykany ze strony szefów i właścicieli domów. Znów znajdujemy się w globalnym kryzysie i klasa rządząca grozi nam wojną totalną.
Wracając do początku tego artykułu: czy to oznacza, że nic się nie zmieniło i nic nie można zmienić? My uważamy, że przykłady z historii dają dziś nowy potencjał:
W latach siedemdziesiątych rząd amerykański był w stanie powoływać do wojska młodych ludzi z biednych rodzin i wysyłać ich, aby zabijali i ginęli w Wietnamie. Protesty antywojenne, rebelia tak samo przez biednych w domu jaki i żołnierzy spowodowała kryzys machiny wojennej. Dziś mieliby problemy z mobilizacja ubogich na wojnę i musza korzystać z małych „profesjonalnych” armii.
Dzięki walkom lat sześćdziesiątych i siedemdziesiątych jesteśmy równi wobec innych robotników: nie ma prawa, które mówi nam, że nie możemy jeździć autobusami z powodu koloru naszej skory; nikt nie może płacić nam mniej z powodu naszej płci; wszystko to sprawia, że trudniej jest nas podzielić przez tych u władzy.
W latach siedemdziesiątych i osiemdziesiątych masy robotników w Polsce organizowały się w warunkach państwa policyjnego. Publikowali dziesiątki pomniejszych gazet, organizowali nielegalne strajki, ale w końcu zaufali „liderom” takim jak Wałęsa. Dziś robotnicy są o wiele bardziej krytyczni co do tak zwanych liderów. Od Brazylii, gdzie byli liderzy pracowników przemysłu metalowego zmienili się w skorumpowanych polityków, do Południowej Afryki, gdzie „partia wyzwolenia” ANC dziś wydaje rozkazy policji, aby strzelać do czarnych robotników. W ciągu ostatnich wydarzeń, od placu Tahrir w Kairze do niedawnego „Strajku Kobiet” w Polsce, nauczyliśmy się organizować bez liderów.
W latach osiemdziesiątych szefowie mogli grozić pracownikom, że przeniosą produkcję do Tajwanu, Korei Południowej lub Chin. Mówili, że „robotnicy pracują tam za pól darmo”. Dziś prawie żadne państwo nie doświadcza tak intensywnych walk o lepsze płace a różnica wynagrodzeń między Chinami a Europą znacznie się pomniejszyła. Szefostwo ma coraz mniej okazji, aby szantażować nas tym, że oddadzą nasze stanowiska „chłopom po drugiej stronie globu” – ponieważ ci chłopi są nowoczesnymi pracownikami.
Dziś warunki pracy są bardzo zbliżone do siebie na całym świecie. Oznacza to, że łatwiej jest wymieniać doświadczenia i koordynować walkę ponad granicami. Amazon chciał ukarać pracowników w Niemczech poprzez korzystanie z nowych magazynów w Polsce (Poznań) ale niektórzy pracownicy Amazona zorganizowali się i odmówili bycia użytymi jako tania kompetycja. Strajki kierowców UberEats i Deliveroo w Londynie otrzymali dużo uwagi i wsparcia of kierowców Deliveroo w Berlinie – przed media społecznościowe i internet.
Dziś wiele z nas ciągle pracuje 12 godzinne zmiany tak jak 150 lat wcześniej i zarabia mniej niż nasi rodzice w latach osiemdziesiątych – pomimo postępu technologicznego. Pomimo tego warunki, w których walczymy zmieniły się i jest łatwiej wyobrazić sobie i walczyć o świat, w którym życie i produkcja dóbr jest organizowana przez wszystkich dla wszystkich – nie przez giełdy i korporacyjne siedziby. Bez wojen, jedynie walka klas…