I will write a more in-depth post later, especially after reading over the various press conferences and statements that should be flooding the various news media shortly.
However, I just wanted to make a quick post to state my full solidarity with the workers who have taken industrial action today.
I set out this lunchtime to collect signatures for the petition for a referendum on casino gambling, on the corner of Reid and Queen Street. However, shortly after starting there I got news that the workers were marching, and so I headed off along Reid Street and up to Union Street to join them.
I completely missed all the marches though. When I got there the first march was over, and I left apparently before the second march as I thought they were going in for a meeting and I had an errand to run, only to find out after that I’d missed the second march. Bad timing on my part.
As per the petition, very good reception, lots of signatures, and there were at least three others going around collecting signatures. I ran into the General Secretary of the BPSU who confirmed to me that in the BPSU’s view, any civil servant is free to sign the petition – he even went and said as such on the radio immediately after I spoke with him. And the BPSU is now also hosting petitions. All in all, I imagine we got well over 200 signatures there.
The Current Issue
While this current labour issue superficially about the bungled handling of redundancies, it is, as I understand it, much deeper than that.
Since the OBA came to power in the 2012 General Election, I think it’s fair to say (based on what I’ve been reading in the media and in communication with workplaces, both public sector and private) there has been an increasingly aggressive move by management and bosses to roll back workers rights and wages.
Quite frankly, there’s been a concerted effort to try and push back all the gains of the labour movement, pushing us back to the 1970s, if not further, in terms of workers rights (or, rather, lack thereof).
The bungled handling of the redundancies at Hamilton Princess really was just the proverbial ‘straw that broke the camels back’. The way the hotel handled it flew in contravention of the collective bargaining agreement, and while the Government has sent this to arbitration, unless the Hotel rescinds it’s redundancies of the workers in question, arbitration is itself redundant. For both parties to agree to arbitration requires both parties to go back to the status quo before the redundancies – which means the workers going back to work.
As said, to me this issue is only superficially about the redundancies at the hotel. This is much wider.
This is about fighting back against the aggressive and offensive actions of the bosses island wide who have sought to exploit the economic crisis to roll back workers rights.
This is about finally taking a stand against the capitalists and saying the working class has had enough – it’s time for a fight back.
With the OBA winning power in 2012 the working class lost access to the levers of state power.
As tenuous as it may have been under the PLP, it was still an organic link via the party. The OBA’s election emboldened the capitalists, especially the traditional capitalists, the old oligarchy, and particularly the more market fundamentalist wings of the capitalist class here.
The statements by various OBAers, including surrounding the SAGE commission (and especially since the Chamber of Commerce breakfast on Monday, the pre-budget one, which has to be seen as contributing to the current atmosphere of labour relations), has encourages the market fundamentalists and the offensive push by capital to roll back workers rights.
Critical, but full support
I remain in full support of any action taken by the working class, and any fightback against attempts to roll back workers rights.
Full support doesn’t always mean I fully agree with this or that tactic or strategy though.
I thought the unions made a strategic error in signing the memorandum of understanding with Government last year – I felt that they had underestimated their position of strength and should have pushed for concessions from the Government, including the introduction of minimum wage and relief from utilities and rent.
And there’s always the question of whether a strike, in the traditional sense, is always the right tactic, particularly as regards public transport.
I feel that a better tactic might be to ensure a full schedule, but not taking tokens or money – demonstrate to the people what an efficient public tranpsortation system can be, and don’t give the capitalists a stick to beat you with, by trying to drive a wedge between striking workers and those workers left marooned or stressed out about getting their children from school due to the buses and ferries not running.
Occupy the buses instead, and ensure solidarity across the different divisions of the working class, for example.
Full solidarity with the fightback!