[Fwd: FBU strike support & Scottish Socialist Party]

Stewart Sinclair stewsinc at eol.ca
Fri Nov 29 13:52:48 MST 2002


>Date: Wed, 27 Nov 2002 20:36:10 -0500
>From: Ernie & Jess <mackenzie.tate at sympatico.ca>
>Subject: [Fwd: Fw: SSP & FBU strike - report document]
>
>Hello:
>
>       I'm forwarding some information on the SSP and the Fire Brigade
>Union's strike in Scotland.
>Hope you find it of interest.  Some people, to whom I sent earlier
>material, wrote me that the information arrived in a garbled form -- if
>this is the case this time, let me know and I'll send it in another
>format.
>
>
>just in case i didn't send this previously
>----- Original Message -----
>From: <mailto:ssp.glasgow at btconnect.com>Scottish Socialist Party Glasgow
>Office
>To: <mailto:brownalanj at hotmail.com>alan brown
>Sent: Tuesday, November 19, 2002 4:47 PM
>Subject: SSP & FBU strike - report document
>
>  Dear comrade
>Attached below is the Report I did for Sunday's National Council - which
>was passed without opposition after a long discussion and an amendment was
>defeated.
>It should act as guidance to your SSP branch activity in and around the
>FBU strike. Please circulate it around members.
>Yours  in solidarity,
>Richie Venton
>
>
>
>
>
>
>NC Agenda Items 3a and 4b
>
>REPORT ON SSP & FBU STRIKE ACTIVITY
>
>Richie Venton
>
>
>
>The FBU strike is probably the most significant industrial conflict since
>the miners' defeat 17 years ago. It is the first of any lengthy duration
>on an all-Britain scale. It has been consciously prepared for by the New
>Labour government, who were rumoured last year to be planning to provoke a
>public sector strike in order to smash it. They have intervened at several
>stages, moving from provocation to partial retreat and a PR exercise to
>further provocation. The government’s actions have had the effect of
>further politicising the FBU membership and made it easier for the SSP to
>get a positive response from the firefighters.
>
>
>
>The FBU for its part has built up a magnificent head of steam, with
>preparatory demos and a very determined membership.
>
>
>
>Blair has faced a profound dilemma. To concede to FBU pay demands would
>open the floodgates, especially in the public sector, just as the 1978
>victory presaged the 1978-9 Winter of Discontent amongst the lowest paid.
>To confront such a popular and organised workforce risks a serious loss of
>support for New Labour amongst the wider trade union movement and working
>class. But he has plumped for the option of imitating Thatcher, seeking to
>make the FBU his miners strike and Falklands war wrapped up as one -
>whipping up the 'threat of terrorism' atmosphere as he prepares for war on
>Iraq, trying to associate the FBU with a threat to the nation. It is not
>excluded that the government will use extraordinary measures to outlaw
>emergency service strikes; it's purely a government judgement of whether
>that would only inflame further and wider industrial upheaval.
>
>
>
>The strikes are gaining massive public sympathy, in part because of the
>service the firefighters provide to society, but also because their
>militant stance inspires the confidence of much lower-paid workers who
>feel at last somebody is fighting back. This is especially so in the
>public sector. Of course the media's/ government’s constant repetition of
>the 40% figure, as opposed to £30,000, will have an impact on some layers
>of society, especially if the conflict is protracted. But the government
>is equally liable to add to the support in society if they make
>provocative moves, such as seizure of the fire tenders by the army
>crossing picket lines. At the very least that would deepen the resolve of
>the FBU ranks. It would also raise wider issues, including the dangers to
>health and safety to the public and to soldiers - and would allow the SSP
>to raise the issue of trade unionisation of the army.
>
>
>
>The Bain Report's assault on the shift system, working hours and its
>underlying agenda of cuts, station closures, job losses and privatisation
>had the effect of galvanising any waverers who had emerged during the
>strike postponements. It has taken the dispute beyond pay to these other
>questions, making FBU members all the more determined to fight against any
>strings being attached to an eventual pay offer.
>
>
>
>This strike is in some ways the most severe test of the SSP to date. In
>this trial of strength between the FBU and the government, media and
>ruling class, we need to demonstrate in action our determination and
>ability to throw forces behind the FBU. Our fundamental tasks are
>two-fold: to build practical solidarity in unison with others, and to
>build the authority, influence and membership of the SSP itself.
>
>
>
>Key to how we proceed is the nature of union we are dealing with. This is
>not UNISON, whose leadership routinely abandon strikers - or who are in an
>unholy alliance with the Scottish executive and Trust management, aided by
>the media, in their ruthless attempts to vilify, isolate and crush the
>current North Glasgow A&C strike, in order to crush the branch and its
>socialist leadership.
>
>
>
>The FBU is left-led, with a leader held in the highest esteem amongst the
>overwhelming mass of the membership. Whilst the SSP should NEVER suspend
>its critical faculties towards ANY union leadership - and we have had the
>courage to differ with Andy Gilchrist and Scottish FBU lefts on the
>political fund before now, for example - the immediate tasks of the SSP do
>NOT include the building of a left opposition to the FBU leadership.
>Rather we need to earn our spurs in the eyes of the FBU membership (and
>thereby also a wider section of trade unionists) by our steadfast support
>for them, our practical solidarity work and our wider political, socialist
>alternative to New Labour's privatisation and poverty pay agenda.
>
>
>
>In Scotland we are uniquely positioned in several respects.
>
>
>
>The SNP will make sympathetic noises, but will probably move to the
>industrial equivalent of their support for an UN-sponsored war on Iraq. As
>an all-class alliance, with faces pointing both ways, they will especially
>try to square the circle if the strike is prolonged and embittered. It
>would be no surprise if they advocated arbitration, trying to straddle the
>polarisation between those urban centres that support the FBU and more
>conservative rural areas. We would then be even more decisively seen as
>the ONLY party on the side of the FBU.
>
>
>
>We have all the advantages of one socialist party - in contrast to the
>disruptive, confusing competition between almost identical socialist
>banners presented to strikers in Scotland in the past and currently in
>England and Wales.
>
>
>
>We have an incredible authority with the FBU leadership in Scotland. This
>is not just the product of our skilful approach in recent weeks and
>months, but goes back to the days of the Scottish Socialist Alliance and
>beyond. Our relationship with the Scottish FBU reminds me of the situation
>many of us enjoyed towards the Liverpoool dockers or Glaciers occupation -
>except that this is a national union, not a couple of TGWU or AMICUS branches.
>
>
>
>We have been able to meet and discuss with the Scottish FBU leadership;
>agree the SSP's solidarity role; have one of them attend our SSP
>Industrial Committee; get our concrete written proposals (SEE ATTACHED
>BELOW) circulated, discussed and unanimously agreed at the Scottish Strike
>Committee; earlier this week again meet with them to suggest a national
>demo for the second phase of strikes - which they have agreed and called
>on Sat 23rd at 1pm in St Enoch's Square, Glasgow. They have specifically
>asked the SSP to build this in the workplaces, recognising our base on the
>ground.
>
>
>
>I cannot recall a national strike where the ranks are so warm and open to
>our party, especially at such an early stage. Tommy was invited to address
>the Strathclyde mass meeting in September. Pickets openly comment "You're
>the only party supporting us", "I'm never voting Labour again", etc.
>Leaders declare "I don't know if we'll be affiliated to Labour next year"
>(incidentally a vindication of the position we have as SSP policy on the
>affiliation question) and they publicly praise the SSP branches for being
>on their picket lines this week. All that and more within the first 24
>hours of strike experience!
>
>
>
>The SSP's Bulletin Firefighters Voice has been warmly received - first in
>early September, then at the period of strike suspensions, especially at
>the giant rallies of about 700 in Edinburgh and 1800-2000 in Glasgow.
>Strikers frequently thanked us for our support.
>
>
>
>If the strike drags out - which I feel is likely, given what the
>government has staked on it and the FBU membership's temper on pay, cuts
>and privatisation - these political processes will deepen and clarify.
>
>
>
>We have already recruited a handful of key activists. I would appeal to
>all regions and branches to keep me informed of the names of any recruits,
>as I hope to fit in meetings/discussions with SSP members in the FBU,
>involving them in our tactical decisions and production of the
>Firefighters Voice and obviously the SSV itself.
>
>
>
>The fundamentals of our intervention are mostly outlined in the letter we
>sent to the Scottish FBU (ATTACHED BELOW). But to recap, I would appeal to
>all members and branches to commit to these main tasks:
>
>
>
>·         SSP branches attach themselves to regular, daily picket line
>visits at their local station(s).
>
>
>
>·         all trade unionists in the SSP to invite FBU speakers to
>workplaces and union meetings, organizing gate collections, levies,
>donations etc
>
>
>
>·         invite FBU speakers to SSP branch-based meetings
>
>
>
>·         Initiate Firefighters Support Meetings/Groups on a city wide
>basis and in bigger conurbations, to coordinate the speaking invitations
>and collections - these to be done in full collaboration with the FBU, as
>agreed at Scottish level.
>
>
>
>·         hold SSP support rallies/public meetings in cities/towns to
>directly, openly use the SSP's authority to build support for the FBU and
>engage with strikers on our wider socialist case.
>
>
>
>·         build for the national rally/demo on 23rd Nov in Glasgow - on
>the streets and at workplaces - preferably alongside strikers
>
>
>
>·         above all we need all SSP branches and members to assist in a
>unified intervention, taking full advantage of the fact we have one
>socialist party in Scotland, using the Scottish Socialist Voice and SSP
>Firefighters Voice to openly, honestly project our party's support and
>viewpoint on the strike, deepening our identity in the eyes of strikers
>and their supporters.
>
>
>
>
>
>With common effort, we are positioned to substantially influence the
>outcome of a strike that could be a major turning point in developments in
>the working class, and in the process greatly enhance the standing of the
>SSP as a growing party of the working class.
>
>
>
>..............................................
>TO SCOTTISH FBU
>from RICHIE VENTON, SSP national industrial organiser
>
>AN OFFER OF SOLIDARITY ACTION
>
>Dear brothers and sisters,
>I am writing to formally declare the solidarity of Scottish Socialist
>Party for your £30,000 claim and against the privatisation of the service,
>and to offer some concrete steps we are more than willing to take to help
>convince the wider working class of your case, provided you think they are
>useful ideas.
>
>* We have lodged another motion in the Scottish parliament through Tommy
>Sheridan calling on it to support your claim (in addition to the one
>submitted on 19 August)
>* We have carried interviews and articles publicising your case in our
>weekly paper Scottish Socialist Voice, which is sold in about 2,000 shops
>as well as in workplaces and on the streets of numerous Scottish towns and
>cities - hopefully this supplements your own efforts as a union.
>* We have asked SSP members to write letters of support into the local
>papers across Scotland.
>* I have circulated all our SSP branches asking them to invite FBU
>speakers to branch meetings, and more particularly to inclde an FBU
>speaker on the platform of a round of public meetings we plan across
>Scotland over the next 5 or 6 weeks on the theme of 'Wage war on poverty -
>scrap the council tax'
>* We will readily hand out FBU leaflets at our weekly SSP stalls across
>Scotland, if you think that is helpful.
>* I have also asked SSP branches to send messages of support to boost the
>morale of your membership,  and to seek the same from the large range of
>stewards committees, union branches and national union committees which we
>have SSP members involved in. The same goes for community groups we have
>members in. I am sure you would agree a major contribution we could help
>make is in the propaganda battle you face.
>* Assuming you accept this, we will maximise the invitations for an FBU
>speaker to union branches, stewards committees, community groups, etc, so
>as to counter the lies and half-truths in the media. Personally I think
>this is a vital part of the immediate campaign.
>* If you find it agreeable, and you reach the stage where you agree it is
>necessary, we will gladly offer local SSP branch members' help alongside
>firefighters in your street collections.
>* As soon as you produce supplies of collection sheets/letters we will
>gladly ask union branches and stewards committees we have members and
>sympathisers in to use these - and to ask for regular workplace collections.
>* We plan to widely circulate FBU and PCS guidelines on the issue of risk
>assessment in workplaces, to encourage this safety issue to be used as
>another presure point on the employers and government.
>* We will help initiate city-wide support meetings/ support groups to
>bring together ordinary trade unionists, union activists, union leaders,
>people of no party and all parties, anyone willing to help coordinate
>practical steps to win support for you in the workplaces of Scotland -
>provided you agree this is helpful.
>
>Like all of you, we obviously hope the massive success of your campaign so
>far means strike action will not be necessary to win a victory on pay and
>thereby boost the fighting morale of millions of the lowest paid. But we
>are offering the solidarity of our party and whatever unions we can
>influenece on the basis that nothing is ever gifted to working people.
>
>Good luck in your battle for professional pay rates for professional workers.
>Let me know of your decisions and response to the offers listed above.
>
>Yours in solidarity,
>Richie Venton, SSP national industrial organiser
>28.10.02
>


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