Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Rank & File demo gets the goods at Unite offices in Newcastle?

An Electrician & Unite member writes about this morning's demonstration outside the Unite offices in Newcastle: At 7:30 a.m. this morning, about 12 of us demonstrated at the Unite offices in Newcastle. Shortly after we started on the megaphones Tim Bush, a Unite official, came out to speak to us.

We told him we wanted printing of our leaflets done, we want union offices used as resource centres where people can meet and plan actions. We want phone and email, we want transport to places of actions. We want up to date contact lists of all construction workers. We want to see that Unite officials are on our side.

Tim Bush said the union could not be seen to back or organise any form of unofficial demonstrations calling for strike action or any other unlawful actions. We understood and agreed that the union had to protect itself, but there were lots of things it could do anonymously in the background.

One such thing we said could be for the union to hire a mini bus to go to various actions. Tim Bush attacked us for cancelling the bus Unite officials had organised to go to London on the 9th November. The official union bus was to get to London for 11 a.m. to hear speeches from the union full time officials. We had to remind Tim Bush that we organised our own transport to get to London for the 7 a.m. demonstration at the Pinnacle because the union had refused to do what we wanted.

We then wanted to know about using the union offices as a resource centre where we could have meetings and do printing. He wasn't hostile to these suggestions, but he said printing leaflets could be problematical, he had to discuss what we wanted with "others". So we then invited ourselves inside the union offices for tea and coffee. We went to the top floor into a wonderful sort of canteen with settees and armchairs and all mod cons. Ideal for what we wanted as a place to meet other activists. Tim wasn't too sure about this because he said the room was used by staff who operated the union national computer system.

After a fairly friendly, certainly not antagonistic, meeting we agreed to send him our list of proposals that we would like the union to agree to.

These are the brief notes made of what we would like from the union the full list or any amendments would be made after talking to people on Teeside after the demonstration at Conoco:

1 Printing & communication resources
2 Meeting room
3 Minibus
4 Meetings with recallable Rank & File delegates
5 An unofficial presence of unite officials on demos/pickets
6 A continuing updated list of new construction sites and date when they start
7 A national demonstration to be called on Teeside at say Conoco, Corus or Heerema
8 Provide up to date contact lists of ALL construction workers

One thing that came out of the meeting was that the union had to appeal to members and to those who were not members that the union was on their side, it was not remote and that it would defend their jobs, their wages and their terms and conditions.

Also a VERY big thank you for the Unite members and all the others who turned out. None of us were particularly happy about taking part in a public demonstration against our union but we all felt that it had been a worthwhile exercise. We also hoped there would be no need for it to be repeated.

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