The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 78/No. 27      July 28, 2014

On the Picket Line

UK glass workers fight for increase in pay
NEWCASTLE, England — Drivers passing by honked in support of the picket line outside Tyneside Safety Glass July 7 where more than 100 members of the Unite union are in the middle of a two-week strike over pay. The workers also held a one-week strike in mid-June.

The company, which makes glass for motor vehicles, is offering a 3 percent pay increase the first year and 2 percent each of the following two years. Initially the company demanded workers agree to work an extra 10 minutes a day to pay for any wage increase.

“I’ve been here 17 years and never had a pay increase in real terms,” said striker Neill Davis, a union representative in the factory.

“Agency workers are still working, they have been told that if they don’t show up, they would never be called up for work again,” he said, adding that some agency workers have donated to the strike fund.

“They want to manipulate us, they are stubborn and want to break the union because it is strong,” said Newrick Dawson on the picket line. He pointed to intimidation by bosses. “One lad here got sacked last week, because he moved his car without permission after a parking space freed up on site.”

While Militant correspondents were at the picket, union representatives from a local bakery and a college came to offer solidarity. Firemen on a passing fire brigade truck also honked in support.

— Hugo Wils and Dag Tirsén

New Zealand cleaners protest contracting out jobs
AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Cleaners at the exclusive Kings College boarding school here protested July 3, demanding “No to contracting out!” A dozen students came to the school gates to learn about their fight.

Currently 15 members of the Service and Food Workers Union work directly for Kings College, cleaning the housing facilities. Another eight classroom cleaners work for Professional Property and Cleaning Services, a cleaning contractor. School officials decided July 7 to transfer all cleaning jobs to Professional.

Mabel Dawson, who has worked at the school for 10 years, told the Militant that many of the cleaners work for both Kings College and Professional. “Workers for Professional are always having problems with their wages and conditions,” she said.

Last year the cleaners won a commitment from the school to increase their wages by $1 an hour to $18.50 (US$16.30) in June 2015.

While school officials say the workers will keep these pay rates, they won’t guarantee that their hours will be maintained when transferred. Workers at Professional are paid $14.25 an hour (US$12.50), Dawson said.

— Annalucia Vermunt

Court orders Sakuma Farms to rehire, house Wash. farmworkers
MT. VERNON, Wash. — Sakuma Brothers Farms, in the Skagit Valley here 75 miles north of Seattle where farmworkers went on strike last summer, must offer jobs to the former strikers this year, as well as housing for the workers and their families, according to a series of court decisions.

The Skagit Valley Herald reported that farm co-owner Steve Sakuma sent letters to more than 350 workers

telling them that they were not eligible for rehire because they had missed too much work last year. The company applied for H-2A visas to bring 428 temporary workers from Mexico to take their place. Union members charged this was retaliation for last year’s strikes.

In response, Familias Unidas members sent Sakuma Farms letters from 460 farmworkers stating that they were ready to work.

On May 27, the union won a court injunction ordering the company to rehire the former strikers. A few days later, Sakuma Farms announced it had withdrawn its application for H-2A workers.

In early June, Sakuma Farms agreed to pay $500,000 to berry pickers who say they were underpaid or denied rest breaks from October 2010 to December 2013. As part of the court-approved settlement the company also agreed in the future to provide workers who are paid piece rates accurate records of what they pick.

In a further blow to the bosses, Skagit County Superior Court Judge Susan Cook ruled June 26 that Sakuma Brothers can’t ban other family members from living with farmworkers in company-provided housing.

“The struggle began because of the conditions in the fields. We were working on our knees from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m., even if it was raining and our clothes were soaked,” Felimón Pineda, vice president of Familias Unidas, said in a June 28 interview to the Skagit Valley Community College radio station.

“We are fighting not just for us, but for our children. Some people tell me that their children are in school so they will never have to go into the fields,” he said. “But if everyone is a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher, who will bring in the harvest?”

“We won’t stop until we get a contract,” farmworker Benito Lopez told the radio station.

— Clay Dennison

Related articles:
Strike by parts workers shuts other factories in South Africa
Oppose boss assault on Long Island Rail Road workers!
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home