Some good news to start the decade this January.
“Low-paid porters, cleaners and, catering staff employed by Sodexo at North Devon Hospital Trust in Barnstaple hold a rally to celebrate their successful organising and strike action to win a fair deal on pay, terms and conditions” – Unison TV.
Following two days of strike action, 200 UNISON members working for Sodexo in North Devon NHS Trust, have won their bid for better pay and improved terms, in line with a national agreement set out in October 2006. Sodexo and the local health trust had held back on implementing the agreement for three years.
According to Unison: “The deal will cover staff working as cleaners, cooks and porters, some of the lowest paid staff working for contractors in the public sector. They will receive a lump sum of up to £3,600, as well as a salary increase from 1 January, 2010, and other benefits including sick pay.”
For too long the unions have been in retreat while the working class gets ripped off, services get cut and the rich get richer. (Unfortunately it must be said that UNISON itself has often punched well below its weight, as its leaders moved too close to new Labour, stifled action and even witchunted its own solid activists to pursue this political agenda). Nevertheless, the working class and the unions must stick together in the tough times ahead, and try to turn this situation around.
Fortunately, UNISON are now taking the splendid example of the victory of the North Devon Hospital strikers against Sodexo and are seeking to generalise it, to spread the method of organising. The story has pride of place on their website, as does the video shown above. From the other video’s on the UNISON TV website it appears as if Unison are taking the task of grassroots organising seriously. The video selection even include the take home message of Michael Crosby, the Australian trades union organiser (now based in Europe) and his ‘change to win’ agenda of creating high density networks of trained organisers on the ground, able to deliver some clear victories in certain key areas. Unison are also focusing on organising the workers in three multinational companies (Compass, Aramark and Sodexo) that are colonising and privatising the NHS, schools and other public services. Hopefully this sees the emergence of a new style of pro-active and aggressive union organising that we will need in these lands as capital attempts to make the working class pay for the crisis through massive cuts in jobs , conditions and services.
We also need more video activism and video news online like this, – i.e. well made, graphic little films on youtube that tell the story from the working class point of view. Its good to see Unison and other unions begin to use this medium, as the left should do generally. Spread the word!