Addressing a fringe meeting organised by the BFAWU's Scarborough branch at the recent Young Labour Conference, Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn called on people to join and support the Fast-Food Rights global day of action which takes place on April 14th 2016.
In a wide ranging speech to an audience of more than 200, he praised the work of the BFAWU and the campaigns it has launched. Jeremy also spoke about the issues of mental health, with the need to end the stigma and give real support to people.
We thank Mr Corbyn for taking the time out of an undoubtedly busy schedule to speak to BFAWU members.
To watch a video of the speech, click here
BFAWU Greggs Representative, Executive Council Member and newly elected Full-Time Official for Region 5, Sarah Woolley reports from the Union's first ever Women's Forum, which took place at Whelley Labour Club, Wigan on February 27th 2016:
At our Annual Conference in June 2015, we recognised that female membership in the BFAWU had fallen by quite a significant amount. As I was the females’ Executive Council member at the time, I challenged branches to look inwardly at themselves in order to identify whether they were inclusive or perceived as a ‘boys only’ club. In addition to this, I 'put the feelers out' nationally around the regions in order to organise a Women’s Forum and on Saturday the 27th February, the BFAWU held its very first one in Wigan!
There was a fairly small group of us and we began the forum with an overview of discrimination issues and family friendly rights from Sadiq Vohra from Slater and Gordon Solicitors. He explained how complicated the new shared parental leave can be and how important it is to research every aspect of it before making any applications. But what resonated with me the most was when Sadiq spoke to us about harassment and explained that it is about how you feel. If you feel offended personally, no one can tell you that you don’t and that is what is important. As soon as you feel that way, it needs to be reported and all evidence collected immediately, as this strengthens cases.
We then looked at the courses that the BFAWU provide via the learning services and suggested developing a course based around keeping safe online, especially around social media sites. If you’re not careful, a whole world of information can be found out about you, as a few of our female activists found out when they were recently targeted by some very aggressive right wing groups.
We spoke in depth about the structural set up of the Trade Union Movement agreeing that in 2016, it is still very male orientated and even the strongest, loudest of women can easily be ‘drowned out’, which can severely affect confidence and actually put women off even attempting to become involved. This appears to be happening at all levels of the movement.
Women still hold the majority of the caring responsibilities at home; from looking after children to after they grow up and fly the nest before then in many cases, caring for ageing parents. This means that evening meetings may well be inaccessible and activism therefore takes a back step. We need to be aware of this as a movement and support women wanting to become active by making meetings more accessible for example; holding them in the morning or simply rotating the times/days.
Austerity hits women far harder than men and we suggested that as a Union, we should create more links with groups designed to support and help women through this, and even help develop them for the sake of our members.
As active women in our Union, we decided that we need to be the driving force of change. We need to work together, support each other and make our voice louder by way of our collectivism. By doing this I believe we can change the dynamic of the structure and make it a more balanced and equal one. We can no longer rely on others to do it for us!
The Bakers, Food and Allied Workers' Union opposes the expulsion of socialists from the Labour Party; including the eight comrades expelled because of their association with the socialist organisation, Workers' Liberty. We believe in a democratic party where there is unity in action, but freedom of opinion and reasoned debate about political differences.
Many Labour Party members also support distinct political groupings within the party - on the left (eg LRC, Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, Momentum); on the right (eg Labour First, Progress); and in between. That is a sign of a healthy internal life and of course, the party was founded by distinct socialist organisations (Independent Labour Party, Fabians, Social Democratic Federation) working with the unions.
We have the absurd situation where members who have been active in the party for many years are being expelled out of the blue, with little due process - and for no good reason.
The party needs much more transparent and accountable structures for deciding such questions - just as it needs more democratic structures generally.
We cannot help suspect that these expulsions were motivated by the frustrations of some who were not happy with the results of the leadership election. We call on them and everyone in the party to unite behind Jeremy Corbyn in order to build up our movement and take the struggle forward.
Ronnie Draper, BFAWU general secretary, said: "We need to unite the broadest forces in the party to build a stronger labour movement that can take on and defeat the Tories. That means Labour maintaining and strengthening a democratic culture where differences can be discussed in a comradely way while we unite in campaigning. That is why we are opposing the expulsion of these comrades and calling for them to be reversed."
'Stand Up To Racism' (Greater Manchester) have issued the following press statement:
GOVERNMENT MUST OPEN UK BORDERS TO REFUGEES LIVING IN THE CALAIS "JUNGLE"
- People from Manchester will join the national Stand Up To Racism delegation travelling to France on Sunday, December 13th
- Delegation will highlight conditions at the camp and refugees dying as a result of the harsh winter weather
- Local group to include a North West MEP, a Bury councillor, a representative from a Manchester Mosque, health workers, teachers and human rights activists
"EVERY NIGHT, SOMEONE IN A TENT ON THIS CAMP IS DYING" ... these are the words of a Sudanese refugee speaking on the phone to a Manchester human rights activist last night.
The man is living in the Calais camp known as "The Jungle" and, next Sunday morning, a delegation will leave Manchester for the French port to highlight the dangerous and squalid conditions in which refugees are still being forced to live. Now people are starting to die as winter brings other problems for refugees at the camp.
The North West group will be part of a national Stand Up To Racism delegation which is demanding that the UK government opens its borders to the refugees before there are more deaths in the camp this winter.
A North West Labour MEP will join a local councillor, health workers, teachers, religious and community leaders, and human rights activists as part of the region's delegation.
Bury councillor Tamoor Tariq, who is Lead Member for Community Safety and Deputy Cabinet Member for Health and Well-Being, said he was joining the delegation to learn first hand what is happening on the ground in the Calais camp. "I hope to work with colleagues to campaign and put further pressure on our government to take in refugees from Calais."
Also travelling from Manchester will be midwife and lecturer Sarah Davies, a member of the Royal College of Midwives and of the Universities and Colleges Union.
She said: "There are pregnant women, mothers and babies living in appalling, dangerous conditions in Calais without access to the maternity care they urgently need.
“It is simple human decency to ensure all pregnant women get access to maternity care - no matter which country they find themselves in. The RCM is appealing to all European countries to work together in a co-ordinated way on this.”
A Manchester Mosque will be represented on the delegation. Shujaat Hussain, treasurer of the UKIM Madina Masjid and Community Centre in Levenshulme, said they were going to France to assess the needs of the refugees and ways the Mosque can help.
He said: "From countries experiencing conflict, widespread violence and insecurity, huge numbers of migrants have opted to come to Europe to find a safer place.
“But they are stuck on the borders and forced to live in very unpleasant conditions. Efforts are being made to provide migrants with the necessary aid to survive in these conditions but the situation is getting worse day by day.”
Nick Wigmore, a national executive member of the National Union of Teachers, said many children and young people in the UK had shown concern about the escalating refugee crisis - in particular, the media images of young children suffering and dying in their attempts to flee from war zones.
He added: "We should thank those teachers who have already explored ways in which pupils, schools and our local communities can help.
“We must do as much as we can to provide not only warmth, food and shelter for refugees but also good education, health care and the opportunity for everyone to flourish within and contribute to our communities.”
Trade unionists supporting the delegation include Ian Hodson, President of the Bakers' Union. which has said it stands in solidarity with refugees in Calais. The union leader praised Stand Up To Racism's delegation and its call for the government to let people fleeing from war and death into the UK.
Ian said: "Britain has a proud tradition of reaching out and offering both support and a safe haven to people caught up in desperate and terrifying circumstances.
“No human being, uprooted and left homeless due to the ravages of war, should be left to undergo further uncertainty in a camp facing a severe winter - inevitably putting the lives of innocent men, women and children at risk.”
The Manchester-based Human Rights organisation RAPAR is sending two of its members, a refugee and a British citizen, to Calais.
A spokesperson for the organisation warned: "We are not prepared to sit back and accept the idea that nothing can be done to stop the Calais camp from existing.
"The 5,000 plus people at the camp are literally on the British border. They are women, children and men from many different war-torn countries and they are now at risk of death again - but this time from a combination of plummeting temperatures and unsanitary conditions.
"This delegation is spotlighting the situation and its solution. The British Government can take a simple step that will stop these deaths from occurring - by allowing people and their families to enter the UK and make their refugee claims in the country where they want to be."
Dr Rhetta Moran, RAPAR
On 25/11/15, Hovis made a company announcement, stating that they are to cease making bread at their Wigan site, with the proposed closure of the thirty sack bread plant. The BFAWU has entered in to a forty-five day consultation period, which began on 26/11/15. The company have put forward a business case which states that the current downturn in the bread market and a long term forecast of ‘no change’ has led to this decision. However, the site will continue to manufacture crumpets and be a distribution point for bread products made at other sites around the country.
This announcement came completely out of the blue, as we had only recently seen the seventeen sack plant closed and moth-balled in July of this year with the loss of forty jobs, following the consultation period. The Union believed that any further cuts to the operation would take place at other Hovis sites, as the Wigan bakery is the only one in the group to produce crumpets, and is conveniently located close to the motorway network, thus ensuring the freshness of products and efficient delivery. This announcement means that there will be a further loss of up to one-hundred and eleven positions across the site, covering management, production, technical services, engineering and administration staff.
As an ex-employee of the Hovis, Wigan site with twenty-two years of service, I have seen lots of changes over the years. I have also made many friends and have some great memories of my time there. However, there can be no doubt that incompetence, greed and a culture of confrontation at the top levels of management have contributed greatly to company’s current position. Hovis has been treated like a cash cow, with a revolving door policy in terms of owners, chief executives and managing directors, who have bled the business dry before walking away with golden handshakes as a reward for failure, leaving shop floor staff to bear the brunt of their lack of business nous.
I am of the opinion, that since the BFAWU’s historic victory against the company’s use of exploitative labour and zero hours contracts in 2013, the Wigan site has been targeted for a managed decline and a scaling back of jobs and skills, resembling nothing more that the business equivalent of a death of a thousand cuts, which I fear may lead to the eventual total closure of the bakery. This decision by the company will not only be devastating for our loyal, hard working BFAWU members at the site, it will have a detrimental effect on the local community, of which the bakery has been a central part going back generations; in many cases, employing fathers, sons, mothers and daughters.
As a Trade Union, we will be entering these consultations in a positive manner. Despite having very little to work with, we are hopeful that we can put forward counter-proposals, which may save a number of jobs. We would ask that the company be open-minded and willing to engage in ideas that might protect jobs, as well as the local economy and taxpayers, who will ultimately have to foot the bill in welfare support, should the company follow through with this potentially damaging decision.
Geoff Atkinson (BFAWU No.4 Regional Organising Secretary)
Tel: 07834930002 Email: email@example.com
Serving Up Change: The Fight For Workers' Rights will be a short documentary film exploring the exploitative reality of zero hours contracts for many young workers across the country, specifically in the UK fast food industry: an industry where workers are beginning to organise for the first time. It will be comprised of interviews with workers on zero hours contracts, animations and industry footage.
The film will also look to the recent struggle of fast food workers in the USA, who have been fighting for a $15 dollars an hour and Union rights. These workers have started to make real gains with their demands and we will explore how similar movements are now developing in the UK in the fast food industry.
Zero hours contracts disproportionately affect those aged under 25 and they are becoming particularly widespread in a number of industries. The film will document their experiences of work and life under these contracts.
The film will ultimately show how younger and vulnerable workers, such as those on zero hour contracts, can improve their working conditions by both organising in the workplace, and joining a Trade Union.
In the film:
As young workers who have experienced the unfair reality of low-paid, zero hours contracts first hand, we wanted to create a documentary exposing their supposed ‘flexibility’for the lie that it really is: naked exploitation.
The main objective of Serving Up Change: The Fight For Workers’Rights is to explore the real nature of working conditions for thousands of young workers on these contracts and to stress the importance of joining a Trade Union—and fighting back.
We want our film to be available as an educational resource for Trade Unions, activists and campaign groups to use in order to encourage young people, and vulnerable workers, to join a Trade Union.
Many young people are completely unaware of the role that Trade Unions play in improving rights and conditions in the workplace. TUC and STUC initiatives such as Unions into Schools are doing incredible work educating young people about the benefits of Union membership, and we want to help.
Young people represent the next generation of workers. By emphasising the integral role that Unions play in improving conditions and safeguarding employment rights, we hope to play our part in boosting the participation of under 25 year olds in Trade Unions across the country.
Who are we?
UniteFightFILM are a small group of young activists, Trade Unionists and filmmakers based in Glasgow, Scotland. We formed in June 2015, in response to the Tory government’s fresh attacks on Trade Unions and workers' rights.
Involved in community and workplace organising, and active in a number of Trade Unions (mainly the BFAWU), we were brought together by a mutual love of film as a medium to effect change. We are all volunteers, juggling day jobs and work on a not-for-profit basis.
We are approaching Trade Unions, campaigns and organisations to ask for any donations towards helping make our documentary a success. For a small, one-off donation we are happy to give Unions the right to use our film as an educational resource.
Getting young people active in organisations is an issue that affects every Trade Union and the Labour Movement as a whole.
The involvement of those under 25 is crucial to the long-term sustainability of workers’ organisations. Serving Up Change: The Fight For Workers’Rights is being made by young people, for young people, and we hope that it will help to improve the overall engagement of those under 25 with Trade Unions.
We need your help though. In a spirit of solidarity, we are asking Trade Unions to consider sparing a donation to help us create a resource that will hopefully encourage young and vulnerable workers to join a Union.
Whilst workers in your industry may not suffer from exploitative zero hours contracts currently, they are becoming increasingly widespread in many industries and represent a threat to your members’ rights that must be countered. Zero hours contracts not only exploit the most vulnerable workers in society, they also undermine the collective bargaining power Unions have spent a century developing.
Please consider donating to our project to encourage young people to join a Union: an injury to one, is an injury to all.
 Office for National Statistics press release, Sept 2015. http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lmac/contracts-with-no-guaranteed-hours/employee-contracts-that-do-not-guarantee-a-minimum-number-of-hours--2015-update-/index.html
The doors will open at 12.45pm - please take your seat by 1.15 pm. After 1.15, your ticket will not guarantee entry and there will also be registration on the day for non-advance ticket holders. So please arrive early to avoid disappointment.
The event will start promptly at 1.30pm.
1.30pm: “Fighting Austerity” chaired by Steve Gillan (TUCG Chair and POA). Speakers will include: Mick Cash (RMT), Kate Hudson (CND), Ellen Clifford (DPAC),Dave Ward (CWU), Shadia Edwards-Dashti (STWC), Ian Lawrence (NAPO)
2.30pm: Question and Answer session chaired by Christine Blower (NUT). Speakers: Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell MP and Yanis Varoufakis (ex-Finance Minister Syriza)
3.30pm “Building the Alternative” chaired by Bob Monks (URTU). Speakers will include: Mark Serwotka (PCS), Ian Hodson (BFAWU), Lindsey German (Peoples Assembly), Matt Wrack (FBU)
Questions for John McDonnell and Yanis Varoufakis
In the week before the Government’s Autumn Statement what would be Labour’s economic priorities if they were in power? What lessons should the Left learn from the experience of the Syriza in Greece? What are your questions for Yanis and John?
Send your questions in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org
We look forward to seeing you there,
The Trade Union Coordinating Group
In advance of the government’s Autumn Statement, the TUCG has organised a major event in the campaign against Austerity, with Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell MP and Yanis Varoufakis, academic and former Greek finance minister and speakers from unions and campaign organisations.
The event takes place from 1.30pm - 4.30pm on Saturday, November 21st at Methodist Central Hall; Westminster.
For more information about the event, click here
For the official flyer, click here
First of all, I would like to thank delegates from the BFAWU’s Annual Conference for electing me to attend the Labour Party Conference in Brighton. Although I was happy to be elected at the time, when Jeremy Corbyn was announced as the new leader on 12th September, I was ecstatic about representing our Union at the conference. The BFAWU was the first Union to publicly support Jeremy’s candidacy and in my opinion, his successful election signals a new era for the Labour Party.
I knew before I arrived in Brighton that this Conference was going to be different to the ones I had attended in the past, where the focus then appeared to be nothing much more than appealing to the centre. This year, the mood was different; you could sense an atmosphere of hope and genuine excitement at Labour’s fresh direction. There was no doubt that change was in the air. Taking a left-wing socialist stance didn’t leave you feeling marginalised, or on the fringes of the party as it had in the past. For once, we were no longer a minority. It was a genuine surprise to discover just how many people were of the same mind-set. Unsurprisingly, there are a few who aren’t happy with the direction that the party is going in, but the membership has spoken and Corbyn is the leader. People on all sides have to be mature enough to accept that it’s impossible to please all of the people, all of the time. However, for the good of the party and indeed, if Labour wants to stand a chance in 2020, it’s vital that all factions put aside petty personal differences, take part in debates in a constructive fashion and respect democracy. Any subversion or undermining of Jeremy’s leadership will play into the hands of the Tories and we can forget about winning in five years time.
For me as a delegate, there were four highlights of what was a great Conference. First of all, was shadow chancellor, John McDonnell’s speech on the Monday. I’ve seen John speak on numerous occasions at our Union’s Annual Conference, and he is both engaging and truthful in terms of how he approaches and discusses issues. I was initially concerned that he might have been forced to change his style in order to broaden his appeal within the party. However, those concerns were put to bed when he delivered his speech; it was classic John, just on a bigger stage. Finally, we had a shadow chancellor’s speech that I agreed wholeheartedly with rather than one that left me feeling dismayed. He talked about how Labour would live within its means and how the deficit can be reduced without the need for austerity. He argued that the Tories’ approach on the economy was ideologically driven and highlighted the irony of Tories criticising Jeremy’s idea of rail renationalisation whilst George Osbourne was prostituting himself to the Chinese, selling off just about every remaining British asset to the Chinese state bank.
The second highlight for me was the LRC (Labour Representation Committee) meeting, which I was honoured to be asked to speak at, alongside our National President and many other great speakers from the Labour Movement. This meeting is always my favourite to attend, as it’s full of like-minded people and of course, is chaired by John McDonnell. What surprised me this year was how many people were there. Normally, there’s just enough to fill the room but this year, it was packed with an overspill of people outside! I won’t lie, I was very nervous and that wasn’t made any easier when John appeared just before I was due to speak, which left me with the task of speaking after him which was pretty daunting! My nerves did get the better of me once or twice, but the people there were so lovely and encouraging, which was reassuring! I talked about our fast food campaign and why it’s important for young people to know about Trade Unions and engage with politics. I also spoke about how Jeremy has, and will regain the trust of a whole generation of young voters that the Lib Dems took for granted at the 2010 general election and then tried to exploit throughout their coalition with the Tories. Basically, my point was that if young people see you speaking up for them and putting their issues forward i.e. zero hour contracts and differentials in the minimum wage, then you will regain their trust not to mention, their votes come 2020.
Obviously, one of the main highlights of Conference had to be the leader’s speech. I was like a child at Christmas when Jeremy was elected and I knew that being a delegate; I would be guaranteed a seat in that hall for his first Conference speech as Labour leader. Contrary to mainstream media reports, he certainly didn’t disappoint. He talked about how disgraceful the media can be and his admiration at how Ed Miliband handled endless media attacks, particularly the Daily Mail’s disgusting story about his deceased father. Jeremy went on to discuss his opposition to the renewal of trident, austerity, kinder politics and the refugee crisis, along with how the Saudis have sentenced a young man to crucifixion as punishment for a protest he took part in whilst a teenager. However, one thing that stuck with me was the issue of mental health. I cannot tell you how great it is to see senior political figures taking this issue seriously. It is estimated that one in four people will have mental health issues at some point in their lives, and I’m not afraid of admitting that I’m one of those people. The more this subject is talked about, the more chance we have of helping people who are suffering and finally getting rid of unhelpful stigmas. Just because you can’t physically see it, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.
Predictably, the right wing media had a field day over both of the main Conference speeches. One of the criticisms was that he didn’t have enough policy. Corbyn’s only been the leader for a few weeks as I write this; give the man a chance! Another theme of the Tory press was that he was going to take us all back to the dark days of the 1970s. I can’t comment personally on that period, as I wasn’t yet born, but seen as 3.1 million families are set to lose £1000 per year and with over one million people visiting food banks in 2014-2015, this current decade seems to resemble something from Victorian times. Maybe a return to the 70s would represent some progress! The final highlight of the week was when our own Pauline McCarthy was elected to the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee. This is the first time that a BFAWU member has represented the Union on either the Labour Party or TUC National Committees, so it’s quite an achievement and a little bit of history in the making. This could also be further evidence that the party is taking a significant step to the left and socialism is taking over at long last. Congratulations Pauline, I’m sure you’ll do well!
Rachel Mullen (BFAWU Branch 529; Substitute Young EC Member)
On Monday, September 14th, the government’s anti-Trade Union Bill will get its second reading. The timing of this is not accidental, as it just happens to coincide with the TUC’s Annual Conference. The Tories have also given short notice of this reading in a blatant attempt to curtail any major public opposition.
With this bill, the Conservatives are once again treating working people as the ‘enemy within’, as it seeks to criminalise both workers and their Trade Union Representatives, who may feel that they have no other option but to take industrial action against their employer. No working person ever takes strike action lightly. It is a last resort taken when all other avenues of fair play have been exhausted. The Trade Union Bill will make sure that the basic human right of people to withdraw their labour is taken away. This legislation will basically turn the UK into nothing more than a pariah state that will offer less protection for its workers than any other civilised country in the world. It attacks the freedom of association and expression, along with the ability of any worker to improve pay and safety conditions in the workplace.
This typically ideological Tory bill is quite possibly the most draconian attack on not just the Labour and Trade Union Movement, but also civil and human rights in the UK. The government intends to remove any opposition to its policies and aims to be in a position whereby it can use the full force of the law to stop any form of counter-argument to its agenda of society’s total subservience to a small, but powerful elite.
If working people in this country want to continue to have the right to stand up against unscrupulous employers, to work in safety, to have better pay, holiday entitlement, redundancy pay, maternity leave without being dismissed and the right not to be sacked unfairly, then they need to come together now. Campaigns are springing up all over the country, including a demonstration at 6.00pm on Monday, September 14th at Westminster Green in London.
Make no mistake; David Cameron and his vindictive, uncaring government of ignorance, millionaires and self-interest has once again declared war on the working people of this country. Unless the Labour Movement is prepared to take direct action, then the hard-fought rights that many people have given their lives for, along with the memories of the Tolpuddle Martyrs and the Chartists will be lost. Forever.
Ian Hodson (BFAWU National President)