Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Jayaben Desai: Death of a valiant fighter for justice

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Jayaben Desai, whose refusal to obey a management instruction to stay on and work overtime after another worker had been sacked for not fulfilling his quota, started the famous Grunwick strike, died just before Christmas. She was 77.

I have written elsewhere on this blog LINK how this strike in Dollis Hill, in the heart of Brent, was a significant milestone in the history of trade union struggle in the UK - and one that should feature when local schools devise their programmes for Black History Month

As someone who attended the pickets I well remember her inspiring presence in front of the Grunwick gates. This was a fight against exploitation based on race, class and gender and challenged the trade union movement's neglect of immigrant and women workers.

Here is Jayaben's own account of the working conditions at Grunwick:

"On two sides there are glass cabins for the management so that they can watch you as well. He is English. He moves around and keeps an eye. You have to put up your hand and ask even to go to the toilet. If someone is sick, say a woman has a period or something, they wouldn’t allow her home without a doctor’s certificate, and if someone’s child was sick and they had to take it to the clinic or hospital they would say “Why are you going, ask someone else from your family to go”…

Even pregnant women who wanted to go to the clinic were told “you must arrange to go at the weekend.” On the rare occasions when a woman did go during working hours she would be warned that that was the last time. Everyone would be paid a different wage so no one knew what anyone else was getting. And to force people to work they would make them fill in a job sheet saying how many films they had booked in. If someone did a large number they would bring the job sheet around and show the others and say “She has done so many, you also must.”

And here is a quote about George Ward, the boss, that sums up her strength:

He would come to the picket line and try to mock us and insult us. One day he said “Mrs Desai, you can’t win in a sari, I want to see you in a mini.” I said “Mrs Gandhi, she wears a sari and she is ruling a vast country.”… On my second encounter with Ward he said “Mrs Desai, I’ll tell the whole Patel community that you are a loose woman.” I said “I am here with this placard! Look! I am showing all England that you are a bad man. You are going to tell only the Patel community but I am going to tell all of England.”

Quotes from Amrit Wilson, Finding A Voice: Asian Women in Britain

Jayaben's funeral will be at Golders Green Crematorium at 11am on December 31st. Her husband would like people to attend if they are able.

From Posted by Martin Francis at 3:27 PM

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Oldham east and Saddleworth Parliamentary by-election campaign - help needed -please circulate

Subject: Oldham east and Saddleworth Parliamentary by-election campaign - help needed -please circulate

As you may know the polling date for this high profile Parliamentary by-election is Thursday January 13th which leaves the Green Party with very little time to campaign, so we desperately need all the help that we can get.

Green Party Candidate Peter Allen and team will be leafleting on the following dates:

Tuesday 21/12/10, Thursday 23/12/10, Tuesday 28/12/10, Thursday 30/12/10

We will be Meeting each day at 10.00 am outside Glodwick Health Centre, 137 Glodwick Road, Oldham, OL4 1YN, we will be leafleting until 14.00 pm.

For further details, directions or if you are available to leaflet on other dates please contact:

 Ian Barker Tel 0161 637 7543 Mobile 07540652752
 Nigel Rolland Tel 0161 339 3979 Mobile 07709056079

Further dates are planned from 03/01/11 in Saddleworth, details to be agreed.

For any Green Party members who are able to come and help from other regions, there will be overnight accommodation available by  arrangement if required

SEE GREEN LEFT statement of support for Peter Allen on GL blog  and website

Thursday, 9 December 2010

The Trade off By Noel Lynch (originally in Green World autumn 2010)

So Ed Miliband won the battle of the brothers and has been installed as leader of the Labour party. Congratulations to him. We can only hope that he will help take Labour in a more progressive direction and promote positive policies to reduce carbon emissions and tackle inequality.

While you may feel that the leadership contest did not generate much insight into important areas of policy it did, at least, reveal how many ordinary people are accidentally financing the Labour party.

Most trade union funds are spent representing members and furthering their interests. Green party policy is wholly supporting of the role trade unions play. It is also an important principle that trade unions are free to finance general political activity to support campaigning for workers’ rights and greater equality. However trade union members should decide for themselves whether they pay money to the Labour party.

Many Green party members and supporters will have been amongst the millions of people issued a ballot for the Labour party leadership election. While I am sure that most would have resisted the temptation to influence the internal affairs of another party (particularly as most ballot forms required a declaration of support for Labour party aims and objectives – whatever they happen to be today – for the vote to be valid) the very fact that a ballot paper was sent indicates that the addressee was directly or indirectly financing the Labour party.

Did you receive a ballot paper? Did you know that you were funding the Labour party? A little background will help explain the situation and how you can opt out of financing your political opponents.

Most ballots issued to non-Labour party members were issued by trade unions. The link between trade unions and the Labour party is historic and remains deep-rooted. Today fifteen major national unions are affiliated to the Labour party (many trade unions have never been affiliated and more recently the RMT was expelled and the FBU disaffiliated).

Ballot papers were only distributed to members of affiliated trades unions who pay the “political levy”. This is the part of the membership subscription that goes towards the political fund. It is the political fund that is used to finance the Labour party, so receipt of a leadership ballot is a sign that you are contributing to the Labour party’s coffers.

The principle of trade union financing of the Labour party relies on inertia (or, if you prefer the language of the policy wonks who contested the Labour leadership: nudge theory). Members are opted into paying the levy and are largely ignorant of the fact that they are doing so. Events like a leadership election serve as a useful reminder of the fact. If you received a ballot paper you should consider whether you should opt out of paying the levy. Now is also a good time to raise the issue with friends or family members who may not have known they are funding Labour.

Opting out of paying the political levy could not be simpler. Many unions will provide a form for members to fill out for this purpose but it is enough to write to your union along the following lines: "I give notice that I object to contributing to the Labour Party through the Political Fund of the Union, and am in consequence exempt, in the manner provided for by Chapter VI of Part 1 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, from contributing to any political fund that donates to the Labour party."

Trade unions perform a vital function in society and are a progressive force. Trade union links with the Green party are increasing all the time: trade unions are training a generation of workplace environmental reps; trade union leaders have addressed Green party conferences; the FBU donated to the Green party; Caroline Lucas is vice-chair of the PCS parliamentary group. There is an active trade union group in the Green party that you can join if you are interested in workers’ rights*. Opting out of paying a political levy is not an anti-union gesture; it is a step towards realigning the interests of trade unions towards the real interests of their members.


Noel Lynch is Coordinator of the London Federation of Green Parties and founder (with Danny Bates) of the Green Party Trade Union Group.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

St Andrews occupation freezes under repression!

St Andrews students are suffering from severe repression as officials and the police lay siege to their occuptation of the university.

In a pathetic and inhuman act the heating was turned off leaving the students inside facing obscene conditions in order to continue their protest as outside temperatures dropped below -5C last night. Police have also stopped freedom of movement meaning that the students have been denied access to food and other amenities. The students inside are said to be dealing with
the repression and keeping their spirits up. The university is now coming under mounting pressure from people acting in solidarity by sending messages to the principal's office complaining about this repression.

Turn up the heat on the University principles office by emailing them to complain about its awful treatment of students.

Currently there is a media black out on coverage of the student protests by corporate media in order to starve the movement of publicity. Now it seems universitys have taken to trying to starve and freeze students as well. Please get the word out and take whatever action you can.

We will not tolerate £9,000 tuition fees!
We will not tolerate repression and inhuman treatment!
We will not tolerate being condemed to an age of austerity!

St Andrews occupation can be contacted on 07824566976

Comments and updates can go on indymedia.

Monday, 6 December 2010

GPTU applauds the nationwide wave of student protests

GPTU statement issued by P.Murry (GPTU Secretary) drafted by Spin Pitman

The GPTU applauds the nationwide wave of student protests in response to the government assault on education funding. As of Monday 6th December 21 universities were under occupation alongside regular organised marches in many towns.

Higher education is currently faced with total budget cuts of 45% with up to 80% being taken out of block teaching grants. This is accompanied by increased marketisation of the HE system due to the move towards differential fees between universities and courses, leading to institutional competition based on cost, rather than academic excellence.

Fees are also set to rise by up to three times the current level to £9000. Many students who would have been applying to university in 2012, when the reforms are due to come in, are already being put off and considering looking for employment instead.

The abolition of EMA will result in fewer students from disadvantaged backgrounds accessing further education, directly impacting the diversity of university applicants and resulting in more people seeking employment at age 16.

The house of commons is set to vote on the proposals this Thursday (9th December) with further mass demonstrations planned across the country.

The momentum shown by the student movement over the last month is commendable and acts as inspiration to the wider trades union movement. Coalitions are starting to form between the two groups with the actions taken also garnering wide public support. Maintaining this energy will be vital if the devastating impact of the cuts is going to be fully minimised.


The Edinburgh uni occupation has compiled a fully updated list of ongoing occupations here:

Saturday, 4 December 2010

LSE Occupied!

LSE Occupied!
Students go into Occupation after 400-attend Emergency Union General Meeting

2nd December 2010

Charlotte Gerada, Ashok Kumar
General Secretary Education Officer
LSE Students' Union LSE Students' Union
Ph: 07971395413 Ph: 07799793618

Over 120 Students have gone into occupation of the LSE. This began at 2pm today and has been entirely peaceful. We understand that these students have occupied the Vera Anstey in the Old Building - purposefully not disrupting any students, teaching or learning within the School. Students are demanding that Howard Davies write a joint open letter with the LSE Students Union and the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU).

Ashok Kumar, LSE Students' Union Education Officer said, "We have been trying to get Howard Davies to write a more powerful statement for a while now. Less than a month ago we asked that he write a strongly worded letter at the Union General Meeting, but he refused claiming to have done 'all that was in his power'. We know this isn't the case, its now or never - and when our university is losing nearly 100% of its teaching grant, the fact that Howard has barely lifted a finger to protest is a unacceptable."

Hero Austin, LSE Students' Union Community and Welfare Officer "The occupations taking place around the country have been at a mass scale. These aren't a few activists demonstrating, but hundreds of students who have marched, demonstrated and recognised the power of direct action." The occupation comes less than a week after students at the LSE staged a sit-in at the constituent offices of Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey), protested outside of a Nick Clegg lecture at Kings Place, and demonstrating on the streets of London on November 24th.

Voting is now underway across the entire student body of LSE about whether the Students' Union should directly support occupations like this or not. You can vote at We would ask the School directly liaise with those students in occupation about their demands until the Students' Union position is decided by our members. The results of this will be known shortly after 5pm on Friday 3 December.

The LSE occupation comes after over 25 universities around the country went into occupation on the 24th of November demonstration. Students at the LSE have one demand; that the university director, Howard Davies, co-draft an open letter to the government with the Students' Union.

Friday, 3 December 2010

University of London Union and UCU London Region have called a demonstration on Thursday 9th December, the day Parliament debates the raising of the cap on tuition fees, to add support to the mass lobby of Parliament called by UCU and NUS.

Add your name to the statement by emailing…spread this out widely
Our students are fighting to defend education for all- join them.

University of London Union and UCU London Region have called a demonstration on Thursday 9th December, the day Parliament debates the raising of the cap on tuition fees, to add support to the mass lobby of Parliament called by UCU and NUS.

The student movement has inspired all those who wish to defend education for all. If the Coalition government get away with raising tuition fees and cutting EMA it will deny access to Further and Higher Education making it the preserve of the very wealthy.

By taking to the streets in their tens of thousands, students have broken the idea that cuts are inevitable. They have exposed the government as weak and demonstrated that they can be stopped from wrecking people lives.

As student placards have stated: “We did not cause this crisis - why should we pay for it?”
We are calling upon the trades union movement and community organisations across London to come and join the students fighting for all of our futures.

Please email to add your name

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Coalition of Resistance Conference:London 27 November 2010: Opening Plenary

Part of Opening plenary Introduction by Andrew Burgin

Claire Solomon (UCL NUS), Paul Mackney (ex NATHE, CALL)

Rachel Newton (People’s Charter), Jean Lambert MEP

John McDonnell MP, Mark Serwotka (PCS).

Len McCluskey (UNITE), Christian Mahieux (Solidaires unions, France).

Lindsey German CoR, Ken Loach, Bob Crow (RMT)

More video clips of the Conference posted on the Green Left Blog