Thursday, March 29, 2007

Report of the Isreali Workers Advice Center visit to Britain (March 2007)

Swindon TUC was pleased to help to facilitate a visit to Britain by the Israeli Workers Advice Center. The purpose of the visit was twofold:

To provide WAC with the opportunity of acquainting the British unions with their work organising workers, campaigning against the discrimination which Arab Israelis suffer in Israel, and against the closure which denies the right of Palestinians from the occupied territories to work in Israel.

To learn about the work of British unions and the struggles they are involved in.

To that end they were able to meet with:

FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack and other national officers, including the union's international officer Dean Mills.
RMT General Secretary Bob Crow, President John Leach and members of the Council of Executives.
The TUC's International Officer Owen Tudor.
The GMB's international officer Joni McDougall.
Officers from UNISON's international department, Nick Siegler and Nick Crook.
John McDonnell MP, secretary of a number of union Parliamentary Groups.
South West TUC Secretary Nigel Costley.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign's Trade Union Officer Bernard Regan.

In addition they visited Camden UNISON, the GMB's Swindon office to learn about the union's migrant worker organising, and were able to speak to Bristol TUC and a special meeting organised by Oxford TUC.

The RMT was good enough to provide accomodation in London for the delegation which comprised Assaf Adiv (National Coordinator), Khitam Na'amneh (Women's Organiser) and Roni Ben Efrat (International Relations).

The visit succeeded in making WAC's activities more widely known and opening up a dialogue with British unions, with a view to developing fraternal relations. In particular the meetings with the TUC and the national unions mean that WAC is recognised as a legitimate element in the equation of the Palestinian and Israeli workers movement.

A number of offers were made such as a two page spread in the RMT members' paper, RMT News, regular exchange of reports, which will be followed up.

Any trade union delegation visiting Israel and Palestine has an open invitation to meet with WAC.

The officially recognised union federation in Israel is the Histadrut. WAC organises outside this framework, in part because its activities were initially concentrated on the Arab/Palestinian Israeli population, which is not generally organised by the Histadrut. WAC concentrates its efforts on the massive task of organising amongst the 70% of workers who are unorganised. As an organisation comprised of Jews and Arabs, working together as equals, it also seeks to organise workers regardless of their race, nationality or religion.

For instance, it organises staff of Israeli Educational TV who are employed on a 'temporary' basis in order to deny them the rights of permanent employees. Most of these are Jewish workers. (See )

WAC originated, as the name suggests, as an advice and support centre helping workers who had no voice in Histadrut to deal with problems in the workplace (or the unemployment offices). However, it moved on to tackling collective issues. In the context of the Israeli situation one of its key tasks was to fight for jobs for Arab Israeli citizens, firstly in the building industry (many workers had been driven out of the industry by conscious government policy of important cheaper foreign labour under conditions of super-exploitation) and latterly in Agriculture. WAC had to tackle the racism and prejudice according to which Arab workers are 'lazy' or uninterested in gaining jobs.

Consequently WAC is a hybrid type of organisation, an NGO, but one with the aspiration to build an independent trade union movement, albeit it under very difficult conditions.Whilst there are other NGOs doing good work in supporting oppressed workers, and the unemployed, campaigning for rights etc, WAC is unique insofar as it brings together Arabs and Jews with the perspective of building an independent workers' movement and a radical trade union which sees itself as part of the struggle of the working class internationally, challenging 'globalisation'.

It's opposition to the oppression of the 20% of the Israeli population which is Arab/Palestinian, makes it difficult to build support amongst the Jewish population, at least without a break with the Zionist outlook which sees Israel as 'a state of the Jews'. Nevertheless its work shows the practical possibility of building a movement which unites Jews and Arabs.

For more information on WAC visit its web site at:

You can receive WAC's bi-monthly English language newsletter by emailing

The Israeli English language magazine Challenge, which is devoted to examining the Israel/Palestine conflict, has regular reports on the activities of WAC:

Whilst the delegation was in Britain, The Mall, a short (12 minute) DVD about ‘Illegal’ Palestinian workers squatting in an unfinished Mall in Tel Aviv and searching for work on a daily basis, was shown at an International Documentary Film Festival in Oxford. The DVD was made by Video 48, which works with WAC (see ).

Also available are:

A Job To Win – a film about WAC’s campaign to get Arab Israelis back into the construction industry.
The Mission - a film of a visit by a European Trade Union delegation to Israel and the West Bank organised by WAC.
Breaking Walls – a film about a mural painted by US artist Mike Alewitz in an Arab Israeli village, Dani Ben Simhon who gave up a potentially lucrative art career to devote his efforts to organising for WAC, and Musav Salameh, a building worker, who is kept apart from his parents in the West Bank by Israel's separation wall.

Our thanks to those who helped with the visit and to the following organisations for their financial support which made the trip possible:

Bracknell Amicus
Bridgwater TUC
Bristol RMT
Oxford TUC
Socialist Unity Network
Swindon TUC
Waterloo RMT
Wiltshire & Swindon GMB

Martin Wicks
Secretary Swindon TUC

Monday, March 26, 2007

East London Mental Health Ballot Result Report

courtesy of Labournet 25/03/07

In response to the consultation paper the branch stewards committee agreed to hold workplace ballots at our 5 main hospital sites. (This Trust has 54 designated community sites) with a membership of 700 across all. The Branch committee made no recommendation on the pay offer and simply put the questions to the membership.

We publicized the ballot through the Trust intranet, email, and via word of mouth via the stewards network across the organization.

The membership responded and we issued 304 ballot papers - 300 were valid returns.
The workplace ballot proved to be very popular and we were able to recruit a large number of new members as a direct result of the ballot. The RMS now has over 700 members allocated to this branch, a significant increase!

The figures produced a 90% rejection of the pay award and in support of industrial action.

1. Do you wish to accept or reject the 2. 5% pay increase as awarded by the Pay Review Body?

2. Do you wish to accept or reject the Government’s staged pay award for nurses, other health professionals and NHS staff not covered by the Review Body

3. Would you consider taking industrial action, including strike action in support of an increased pay deal?
Would support industrial Action272
Would not support industrial action24

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Union to move towards balloting signallers throughout Britain

RMT SIGNALLERS working for Network Rail in Scotland have demonstrated their anger over the company's failure to implement their 35-hour week agreement with a "rock-solid" strike, RMT said today.

As more than 400 signallers and supervisory staff stopped work at noon today at the start of a 48-hour strike, the union warned Network Rail that the union's executive would next week put in place plans for a ballot of signallers across Britain

"Reports from RMT organisers and reps across Scotland tell us that our members' strike is absolutely rock-solid," RMT general secretary Bob Crow said today.

"Network Rail should understand that our members are determined to achieve the 35-hour week we agreed to last July, and it is the company that holds a very simple solution in its hands.

"The few trains that have run in Scotland today have done so with the help of inadequatetly trained managers, some of whom have been shipped in from as far afield as Lincolnshire and Kent and put in charge of signal boxes with just a few hours' training

"Rather than risking lives by putting scab managers in charge of signal boxes the company should be concentrating its efforts on implementing the agreement we reached with them eight months ago.

"Network Rail now has the choice of engaging constructively with us to resolve this dispute or facing a ballot of our signalling members throughout Britain," Bob Crow said.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Appeal Court Rules Firefighters Cannot Be Forced To Attend 999 Medical Emergencies On Behalf of the Ambulance Service
FBU Press Release
28 February 2007

An appeal brought by two fire authorities seeking to force firefighters to answer 999 medical emergencies on behalf of the ambulance service has been dismissed by the Court of Appeal in London today.

The Fire Brigades Union welcomed the decision and were awarded their legal costs.The legal case focused on whether firefighters could be required under their contracts of employment to participate in so-called “co-responder” calls. It follows the attempted introduction of co-responder schemes at Retford Fire Station in Nottinghamshire and Grantham Fire Station in Lincolnshire.

Fire crews at Retford had 10% of their pay cut for over a year by local managers trying to force them to attend very serious medical emergencies on behalf of the ambulance service. Local managers had never tried to reach an agreement on the changes.In both areas fire crews are sent to the highest category of medical emergencies on behalf of the local ambulance service. The arrival of fire crews ‘stops the clock’ and counts in the official NHS ambulance response statistics as if a proper ambulance paramedic has arrived.

FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack: “We welcome the ruling but are dismayed that senior fire service managers have thrown council tax money away on legal fees and court costs. These two fire authorities tried to impose these schemes without agreement, with no national discussions, with no proper procedures and with no UK wide standards. Our repeated calls for dialogue and discussion at national level have been constantly ignored.

Fire crews are not going to give away their employment rights. And they’re not going to let anyone take them away either.

Large numbers of firefighters do not even have their basic first aid certificates up to date. Fire crews know nothing of diagnosis, medical protocols or how to ensure there is no cross-infection with bugs such as MRSA.

Against a background of cuts and increased responsibilities fire and rescue services are struggling to provide time and resources maintain our members’ fire service skills never mind being forced into providing an ambulance service. Enthusiastic firefighters with basic first aid skills are not the sort of response the public expect when they dial 999 and ask for an emergency ambulance.

NHS targets for ambulance arrival times allow the very basic first aid provided under these schemes to count as if an ambulance paramedic has arrived. There is no target for the ambulance to arrive which can mean a worse service is covered up by misleading response statistics suggesting the opposite.