Thursday, 5 March 2009

Retail and Distribution Activist no 16

Bulletin of Socialist Party members working in retail and distribution
February 2009

The campaign they tried to hide... and still 10,000 voted for Robbie

With the votes now counted, we can confirm that Robbie got a very respectable ten thousand members' votes for the position of President of Usdaw. That means a third of the votes for President of the fourth biggest union in the country!

Robbie was also reelected onto the Executive Council with nearly 500 more votes than the next person and despite a dramatic increase in the number of members standing for election in the south.

With a turnout of 9% and a muted campaign to say the least, it is hardly surprising that the incumbent President got re-elected, the New Labourite Jeff Broome, with the entire union machinery backing him. It is disgraceful that the election was hardly mentioned to the majority of members, no debates were allowed and the only available official election material for Robbie being the ballot paper itself. 10,000 leaflets were distributed by Socialist Party members and others on the left in Usdaw getting an overwhelmingly supportive response.

Robbie stood for President following her 40% vote in the General Secretary election over the summer. She has been standing on a platform of opposing any job losses in the retail sector and was the only person on the EC to raise the demand for nationalisation of Woolworths. While she was issuing press releases and contacting workers about the need to demand the companies open their books and show us where the money has gone, the Usdaw leaders were falling over themselves taking part in debates and interviews defending the job losses and arguing that nothing can be done other than spout praise on Brown's government (see John Gorle's interview with Paxman or Hannett's statements in Arena and Network).

Robbie's demands have been focusing on the urgent need for Usdaw to give retail workers a strategy to fight the barrage of job losses and the attacks on terms and conditions the bosses are trying to heap on the plate of workers. Retail is one of the main industries that have recently been in the firing line, bearing the brunt of the economic crisis the bankers and speculators got us into.

Robbie pledged to launch a campaign to raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour from 16 to retirement, which got an enthusiastic response from members struggling to make ends meet on the pittance we get.

Robbie says: 'What shop workers need isn't conciliation with New Labour and the bosses but a strong democratic fighting leadership. I will continue the struggle and now with a stronger left network of activists behind me we are heading for our most successful ADM for a long time. The voice of the members won't fall on deaf ears for much longer'

Usdaw Activist Public Meeting,

4th April, Exmouth Arms (near Euston station) 11am-3pm.

No announcement of the result on the website

Again we wonder why there is no mention of the President and EC election results on Usdaw’s website. Even the press release concerning the President’s result was not placed on the website. So as a service to Usdaw’s members that our union does not provide, the Activist publishes the results of the President and EC elections.



Votes Cast

Jeff Broome

19,962 (Elected)

Robina Segal


Executive Council

South Wales and Western


Votes Cast

Dennis Stinchcombe

Elected Unopposed

Barbara Wilson

Elected Unopposed

Eastern Division


Votes Cast

Allan Newanga


Sharon Newson


Sheila Thomas


Simon Vincent

1,901 (Elected)

Barbara Woodford

1,622 (Elected)

Midlands Division


Votes Cast

Maureen Bowman


Kevin Davies

1,287 (Elected)

Javid Iqbal


Barbara McAlister

1,846 (Elected)

Di Mitchell


Graham Parkin


David Stokes


North Eastern Division


Votes Cast

Peter Capper


Mike Dixon

2,522 (Elected)

Pat Fitsgerald

2,143 (Elected)

Scottish Division


Votes Cast

Susan Coutts

Elected Unopposed

Harry McAlister

Elected Unopposed

Southern Division


Votes Cast

Maria Aldred


John Barstow


Dennis Hart

1,069 (Elected)

Alan Higgins


Margaret Hughes


Peter Millward


Amy Murphy


Richard Mustonen-Smith


Su Patel


Bernadette Phillips


Robina Segal

1,502 (Elected)

North Western Division


Votes Cast

Ann Hickson

4,248 (Elected)

Jan Jervis

2,880 (Elected)

Julie Keenan


Joan Lyall


Tony Threlfall

3,832 (Elected)

Fight every job cut

Over the last year and since the launch of the Activist in November 2007, we have consistently pointed out that the policy of developing a partnership with the bosses would prove disastrous in an economic crisis. Our argument was that the tactic of acquiescence to the demands of the big retailers would lull our members into a false sense of security and prevent a united fight back.

Now when the announcement of redundancies is a daily occurrence, the response of Usdaw leaders is to issue a press release. These press releases contain nothing that would encourage our members there is a way of saving their jobs. Members are ‘left reeling’ or are ‘devastated’ at the news they are joining the dole queues.

Our members know the threats to their living standard. What members are asking is how is our Union going to stop this job massacre. A press release is not a strategy. This is a continuation of the partnership strategy but in an economic downturn has proved catastrophic.

Over the past few months thousands of jobs have been lost in retail. It is time to start the fight back. Every time we do nothing another boss will look at this weakness and say I will sack some more employees.

A coordinated response, including lobbies, demonstrations and even factory sit-ins, is necessary to involve our members and send a warning to the bosses that we fight every job loss.

Join the Fight to save the Post Office

The New Labour government has announced plans to part privatise the Post Office. In a recent survey, nine out of every 10 people oppose its privatisation.

The CWU, the post office workers’ union, has launched a campaign against the government's intention to privatise Royal Mail. They are calling for people to sign their petition opposing privatisation at:

More retail crisis

The Icelandic run Baugur retail empire is in deep crisis-brands include: House of Fraser- (62 shops, 6,500 staff),Iceland (667 shops 20,000 staff), Jane Norman (192 shops, 1,600 staff), Wyevale garden centres (122 shops, 4,100 staff) & other investments include; Debenhams, Karen Millen, Principles, Oasis, Warehouse, mapping & Webb, Goldsmiths, French connection. Where is the fight back from our union?

The crisis, women, pay and waiting lists

Even Jim Rogers co-founder of Quantum fund with financial guru George Soros, said “It’s quite simple the UK has nothing to sell” The City of London is finished, the financial centre of the world is moving east” and the latest official employment figures show that the number of women in fulltime employment fell by 53,000 compared with a fall of 36,000 for men. Women are losing jobs at twice the rate of men because men significantly outnumber women in the workforce but meanwhile the average contribution of female earnings to the family budget is rising at a far faster rate than for men. And lone parents now make up a quarter of all families-and 90% of lone parents are women. More women than ever are supporting families on their wages and council tenants face rent rises of an average 6.2% in next financial year. There are 4.5 million people on the housing waiting list.

Will ‘Welfare to work’ get work for unemployed?

The governments answer to the predicted rise in the long term unemployment is to finance privately run 'Welfare to work' programmes but even private industry are skeptical. The cost of the governments programme to get the long term unemployed back to work looks set to double and possibly triple as the numbers out of work for more than 12 months rocket.

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