Bulletin of Socialist Party members working in retail and distribution
New Year Greetings From Robbie (Robina) Segal (Usdaw President Candidate)
Dear Sisters and Brothers
Unfortunately, 2009 will be one of the hardest years faced by retail workers for decades. During my campaign for Usdaw’s general secretary, I said that what was at stake was the future direction of the union. My socialist message received 40% of the vote. If the election had taken place today, I am sure the bankruptcy of the present leadership’s policies - as shown by their response to the economic crisis - would have given me even more votes.
My warning that there needed to be a change of attitude because the union would not be ready to face the challenges of the impending economic crisis has proven correct. It is clear from recent reports that two of the major UK banks came within hours of collapse and New Labour came to their rescue and the tax payer paid the bill. Our members have contributed millions to save the banks and yet when our jobs are threatened there is no help for us.
What is needed is a militant programme of action which includes: demonstrations, lobbying the government, occupations of the stores and workplaces, and the nationalisation of the major retailers. The trade unions have been silent, Usdaw must demand at the TUC that a progamme of coordinated action be planned which must include one day stoppages.
John Hannett and the policies of Usdaw leaders’ have been tested with their response to the Woolworth closure. They have failed.
I ask you to help mobilise your members in the President and EC elections to ensure they vote for candidates who want change. Have a good new year but let us make 2009 the year that Usdaw starts the fight back.
Robbie (Robina) Segal
The slaughter of retail jobs
We reported in the last issue of the Activist of the slaughter of retail jobs and unfortunately it has been proven correct. Woolworth is now gone and so as many other high street names and thousands of jobs will be lost in the coming months. Already in the days following Christmas the following have announced problems: Whittard, tea sellers; UCS, fashion; Zavvi, music; Olan Mills, the photo shop; and Adams, the children’s clothing retailer. How many more jobs will be lost before our leader start the fight back?
Understanding the recession
The Activist welcomes the decision of the Union to try and come to grips with a strategy to fight the recession. At the officials’ jamboree, in Alton Towers at the beginning of the New Year, there is a session on the recession. We have to ask will it establish the fighting programme that is clearly needed by our Union. The key is to understand the nature of the crisis. The Activist argues that it is a crisis of capitalism. And without a understanding of capitalism then there can be no real strategy to defeat the onslaught of the bosses.
Increase the minimum wage
The British Chamber of Commerce, the bosses’ organistion, has demanded that there should be no increase in the national minimum wage in 2009. They argue that any increase would undermine jobs and lead to unemployment. They stated:
"We're not opposed to the minimum wage going up when employment is high and the economy is doing well, but when jobs are being lost daily and a recession is in full swing, it makes no sense to increase it," said director general David Frost. "Most businesses are prioritising survival at the moment. A rise in the minimum wage would not help firms hold on to staff and would simply add to unemployment."
This is a declaration of war against the low-paid workers. The words should act as a warning for our negotiators; the bosses will want us to pay for their crisis. Our members are paid little more than pence above the minimum wage and, therefore, what is needed is a coordinated programme of action. Why not increase the minimum wage to give us workers the extra money we need to spend to make ends meet and at the same time put back into the economy?
The Activist pointed out months ago that the economic crisis, which had been caused by the wealthy and their capitalist system, that the bosses would demand the low-paid workers to pay. This is why the trade unions should be raising the need to change the political system. If capitalism is failing then we should be demanding a socialist system. Socialism would defend the rights of the majority rather than keeping a few fat cats in luxury. For a full analysis of the current economic and political crisis then check out www.socialistparty.org.uk
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