Westex Carpet strike reaches two month mark

Westex carpet strikers outside the Cleckheaton factory

Members of Unite at the Westex Carpets factory in Cleckheaton are about to reach the two month mark in their ongoing dispute over pay. The strike began on November 20th after workers rejected a minimal pay rise which was then withdrawn by the company, which has since refused further dialogue.

Iain Dalton, West Yorkshire Socialist Party organiser

Dave, shop steward at the factory told us “The company are sourcing yarn from outside company’s to bypass a large part of the production process and have now started to employ staff to fill in the gaps left by the members on strike.

“This however has not diminished the resolve of the workers on strike and we remain absolute in our goal of seeking a fair and just pay increase.”

The wider trade union movement must be mobilised in support of the strikers. One way of increasing the profile of the dispute would be to organise a march and rally in support of them.

In the meantime, trade unionists should keep donations coming into the strike fund.

Account name – TGWU
Account number – 20175407
Sort code – 60/83/01
Reference – WESTEX STRIKE FUND

Westex Carpet Strikers still firm a week into indefinite strike

Workers at Westex carpets in Cleckheaton and Dewsbury are still standing form over a week into their strike over pay.

Iain Dalton, Socialist Party West Yorkshire Organiser

With the company have built up stocks in preparation for the strike then workers were prepared for a long dispute. However, the run to thre Christmas is also peak demand time for new carpets and with the spinning department fully out and a majority of the Dewsbury dyehouse out as well the strike will soon start to bite.

On the picket line workers were clear that this wasn’t just about the immediate issue of this year’s pay rise, but also fighting longer term for decent conditions and against the spread of casualised working.

Both Leeds and Huddersfield TUCs have offered support and a strike fund is being set up to help sustain the strike.

Please make donations from your union branch to the strike fund, details below

Account name – TGWU
Account number – 20175407
Sort code – 60/83/01
Reference – WESTEX STRIKE FUND

Bradford University UCU members strike over pensions, pay and workload

Bradford University UCU pickets – photo Amy Cousens

In an era where students are paying more money than ever, why can’t we get simply have the resources we need”. That was the feeling at the pickets at the University of Bradford today when Socialist Party and Socialist Student members visited and gave our solidarity.

Amy Cousens, Bradford Socialist Party

One UCU member, Anthony, discussed how the staff are regularly working 50+ hour weeks to get the workload done. University guidelines state that a dissertation should only take an hour to mark, but staff on the ground know that it takes far more time and input to decide on such an important grade that could effect someone’s future.

Fundamentally this is an issue that affects staff across the academic spectrum both academic and support staff in unison, however unison’s ballot earlier in the year failed to meet the threshold. Bradford made 200 support staff posts at risk of redundancy last year but action by Unison members managed to save a majority.

However, universities in a period of increased marketisation have shrunk their academic support staff, the weight then falling onto other support staff and academics.

One member spoke of how they had restructured a grade 5 academic support post, only to replace it with 2 part time grade 4posts, at 3 days each a week. So the savings were minimal yet it has caused academics to pick up more of the admin work.

Socialist Party and Socialist Students members visit UCU picket lines – photo Iain Dalton

Members are frustrated that those on the ground are not being consulted on what works in terms of managing workload and feel it’s far more efficient and ultimately cost effective to hire enough well paid staff, as this will reduce stress levels and improve a staff retention.

UCU members who know the money they are bringing into departments from their research and students attracted to their academic programmes, know that there is enough money to pay for the staff to reduce their workload and secure their pensions.

However, universities, in an increasing market of higher education, are acting like big businesses and cost cutting. Part of the reason behind this is the Tory higher education think tank plan, one of the things that came from this was a reduce in tuition costs but that the difference would not be made up by the government. Meaning that universities would be forced to compete for ‘business’ more than ever.

Corbyn and Labour should ensure that free education would come will a full funding promise from the government and that universities will not be left with funding gaps if they bring in less numbers if students.

Libraries & Museum strike still strong

Pickets at an entrance to Lister Park, within which lies Cartwright Hall – photo Iain Dalton

As the strike by Unite members in Bradford Council’s Libraries, Museums and Galleries service reached its 9th day, the strike hit a new milestone by successfully picketing out Cartwright Hall.

Bradford Socialist Party members

Whilst the strike has closed most of the city’s libraries when all-out action has taken place, this was the first time the strike had closed a museum, with other workers refusing to cross the picket line.

Public support for the strike was reflected in tea and coffee brought to strikers by supporters, whilst volunteers from a library which thre council had previously closed also joined the picket line.

These volunteers were under no illusion that they could provide the same service that fully trained librarians could, seeing their volunteering as the only alternative to the library remaining closed. But they also relied about expertise from the remaining council library staff and were fearful of the impacts further cuts across the council would have on them.

Given the savage cuts to library services across the district over the past decade then it’s no wonder that there is such support, which has also been reflected in stalls run by Socialist Party members in the city centre.

The next round of action, due to start on Monday 2nd December will see a full week of strike action taking place, bringing the total of strike days up to 14. Unite are also attempting to exert pressure on the council leadership through their group of councillors in the district.

Undoubtedly workers will be hoping this extension of the closures in this all out action force the council to back down. But the strike has already resulted in the strengthening of Unite amongst this section of workers with around 70% of the workforce now in the union and a new shop steward for Museum workers recently appointed.

Please continue to send messages of support and donations FAO Mark Martin to Winwaed House, 64-66 Crossgates Road, Leeds, LS15 7NN, cheques payable to Unite the Union.

Westex carpet workers indefinite strike over pay

Unite pickets outside Westex carpet factory in Cleckheaton – photo Iain Dalton

“They made £5million last year and the managers got a big bonuses and large company cars, so whereas thre reward for us” was what one striking Unite member at Westex Carpets told me on the picket line on Friday morning.

Iain Dalton, Socialist Party West Yorkshire organiser

Workers at Westex Carpets in Cleckheaton are taking indefinite strike action after rejecting a 2.2% pay rise offer which was then withdrawn by management.

The company was a longtime family-run firm, but went through a management buy-out around a decade ago and has recently been purchased by Victoria Carpets Group.

Whilst the company has made over £5m in pre-tax profits in both the last two years, some of the workers would be paid less than the minimum wage without earning production bonuses, and these have been eroded year on year as the minimum wage has increased.

Picketing is being organised by Unite the union members across all three shifts at the plant, including a well supported night shift picket.

Send messages of support to Kelvin.mawer@unitetheunion.org

Library & Museum Strikers Enter Third Round of Strike Action

Unite strikers picketing outside Keighley library- photo Iain Dalton

Library & museum workers in Bradford are holding firm as they entered their third round of action, beginning with library workers in Keighley taking strike action on Monday, building up to all workers in the service striking together on Thursday.

Iain Dalton, Socialist Party West Yorkshire Organiser

John Giles, Unite Rep in Bradford Libraries and museums said “The dispute is going fantastically well, we’ve had great support from members of the public.”

Despite just one library being on strike, the turnout on the picket line was similar to the second day of the strike when the whole service was on strike, with strikers joined by service users, Unite Community activists, and other library workers on their day off.

After the previous round of strike action, Unite met with the council, and whilst it hasn’t resolved all the issues in the dispute, it is clear that the strike have forced them to move. John explained “The councillors are now looking at putting more money in to the service, or cutting less. They’re looking at paying the rent on the city centre library from other sources, and they’ve put in an extra £300,000 that they hadn’t wanted to, as they had wanted to make these cuts in April! We also know from their own figures that there’s an underspend in the department of £200,000.”

“When people say there’s no money, it’s a lie, the money is there. We’ve shown that if we stand in solidarity together, we can make that argument, and money can be found to protect these services.”

“The council have tried over the years to make these cuts without letting people know what is actually going on.”

The council are finally consulting over the next few weeks over the cuts to library services, and although as John pointed out “…it’s heavily weighted towards reducing paid staff, its weighted towards volunteers, self-service machines, closing libraries and reducing opening hours,” Unite are appealing to Bradford residents to attend these consultations and demand a fully-funded library service.

In the meantime, the strike continues with strikes at Shipley and Baildon, and then the whole service striking this week, with further strike action planned for the week of Monday 2nd December if the council don’t meet the strikers demands.

The ongoing support for the strike by Socialist Party members in Bradford, holding stalls in the city centre to build support for the strike, and supporting picket lines and rallies was recognised in the sale of 6 copies of the Socialist on the picket line.

Bradford Library & Museum Strikers Stand Firm Against Cuts

Unite library and museum strikes outside Bradford City Hall

Around 50 Unite members across libraries and museums across Bradford have entered their second round of strike action, escalating from two to three days of action this week.

Bradford Socialist Party members

As well as rallying in the city centre, strikers have held rallies outside a number of local libraries linking up with concerned service users in places like Wibsey and Ilkley.

The services face £1.21m cuts in 2019/20 and a further £1.55m in 2020/21. There are already half day closures taking place at libraries at short notice due to staff shortages, further cuts will make the service even less sustainable. Both Bradford Industrial Museum and Bolling Hall Museums are already facing reduced openings.

In contrast to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn who tweeted in support of the strikes during the first two days of action, and Shipley Labour candidate Jo Pike who addressed strikers on Tuesday, Bradford Labour council leader Susan Hinchliffe dismissively walked past the strikers. As one of the placards outside of City Hall stated ‘Labour your leader supports us, won’t you?’

At the Keighley rally during the first two day strikes, Socialist Party West Yorkshire Organiser Iain Dalton called on Bradford Council to stop doing the dirty work of implementing the Tory cuts, and instead utilise the £165m the council has in usable reserves (£31m unallocated) to continue to fund the service.

Further four and five day strikes are planned to escalate the action, from 18-21 November and 2-6 December.

Please send messages of support and donations FAO Mark Martin to Winwaed House, 64-66 Crossgates Road, Leeds, LS15 7NN, cheques payable to Unite the Union.