"Philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point however is to change" - Karl Marx

This blog is my interpretation, I will do everything I can to change the world along those line

Monday, 7 September 2009

Uskmouth demo


Having been at the demonstration only a few hours ago my head is still spinning with all the events that happened. It was by far the best political event I have ever attended and I have been active in politics for the last 7 years! My report here for those reasons may become more of a ramble than a structred report.

The demonstration was called as there is a large amount of workers in the local area who are not being taken on at the site despite their being jobs available, the companies of course simply finding the cheapest labour possible to smash the proud history o the trade union movement in winning the pay and conditions they currently have. Instead choosing to bring in ununionised foreign labour on cheaper rates.

I left Cardiff to head to Uskmouth power station at 4.30 am this morning, upon arriving everyone gathered in a small car park just off the road that leads to the power station. About a hundred people congregated, this included construction workers from other sites, unemployed construction workers largley members of Unite and some from the GMB, young apprentices, unemployed youth, and members of other trade unions in other sectors such as the RMT, PCS and NUM. Of this 13 were members of the Socialist Party (many of whom Youth Fight for Jobs activists) and 2 were members of the Socialist Workers Party.

At around 6am everyone moved out of the car park and onto the road to form a blockade. The road was blocked in order to cause maximum disturbance at the site and to call on workers who have jobs on the site to take wildcat action today. There was a very militant mood at this point so much so that a potential scab was attacked physically by one protester. The protester was the restrained by others and explained that we were not at that stage as the worker had been turned away anyway. The cars and mini-buses began to queue up very quickly and soon it was impossible to see just how far! Members of Unite along with members of the Socialist Party walked along every car explaining to as many workers as possible the issues and requesting on them to either join the blockade or turn away, many workers did either one of those options. This continued for some time and we maintained the blockade until 8am.

The period of 2 hours we spent at the blockade there was a fraternal atmoshpere amongst all the comrades involved and discussions about the issues and the tactics and strategy flowed between many protesters. There was only 1 banner which had questionable content, it read 

'Gordon Brown REMEMBER YOUR PROMISE British workers on British Contracts' 

subsequently the discussion amongst some protesters did cover this area. A few of the unemployed workers I spoke to were very bitter and down trodden. They have seen their jobs and other dissappear and saw foreign workers as scabs. It was said that I live in a different world to them as I don't work in the industry. I agreed that to a certain extent it was true that I lived in 'a different world' but pointed out that I have been involved in the labour movement since I was 17 as a shop steward for a number of years and now as an unemployed 24 year old I face the prospect of a decade on the dole, so my world and the battles I face are very similiar which is why I was at the protest in the first place. I explained that although the concerns of the workers present was to secure jobs for themslves and their community the only way to do that was to understand why we are in the current situation. That foreign workers are being used because it is cheaper because of a century of trade union struggle in Britain we have won great victories which gives us the pay and conditions we currently have in national agreements. That the only way to secure a future for them and their children was to fight to organise foreign labour into the union.to be on the same pay and conditions as to cut across the race to the bottom. In general the discussions I and various other SP members had with protesters on this subject convinced themm of an internationalist approach. It must be noted however whilst all these discussions were taking place no members of the SWP intervened despite their heavy handed criticisms of the LOR strikes!

Whist at the blockade sky news did a series of interviews with protesters including a live interview with Newport Socialist Party member Mike John, that is really testament to the position of respect we have been able to build up at Uskmouth that the workers in struggle would be willing to put an SP member forward to speak on their behalf as Mike is not directly inolved in the struggle as he is not a construction worker!

We then decided to march from the blockade right up to the entrance of the site. This is where it  got really interesting for me because Youth Fight for Jobs were asked (and in some cases workers demanded) to head the march with our banner. This was a truly humbling experience, having been around and involved in the labour movement to understand the significance of YFJ's being asked to lead the march was a very proud moment for me personally but also for YFJ as a whole, something we did not nor ever will take for granted. It is something I will never forget.

But the fact that YFJ was at the front of the march had even wider ramifications than that! There were 2 banners of the demonstration, the YFJs banner calling for an end to cheap labour apprentencies and for a living wage and free education. The other banner being the one mentioned earlier calling for Britiish workers on British contracts. As we began the march the YFJ contingent lined up in the front line along with the other banner, but as we set off we purposely but subtley moved in front of the other banner without question, so that the slogan was only visible to the back of my head. This really is a microcosm of the whole campaign that when a serious alternative is posed to the status quo backward ideas in the labour movement will easily be sidelined.

We marched down to the entrance and then the police allowed slowly all the workers to go in which included both british workers and polish and german workers and maybe more nationalities. Chants of 'solidarity brother were shouted to polish workers in a basic appeal of solidarity mindful of language problems. There were again 1 or 2 questionable comments to foreign workers but this was by and large isolated. To the British workers chants of 'scabs' and many shouts such as 'take the day of, we are skint we have families to' and 'have a good day in work, but you will work on other jobs with us and we know who you are now'. Other workers who had jobs on the site turned away and refused to go in, from what I heard particularly scaffolders, and other workers consulted with Unite stewards whether they should go in or not on safety grounds and it was agreed that certain workers should.

During this time YFJ activists were engaged in discussions with many members of Unite, particularly around the role that we had played of organising a demo in the Rhonndda valleys which one of the Unite convenors had seen. It was agreed that YFJ would formally contact the Unite branch for a request to finance a coach to the November 28th demo and also to help build for it amongst Unite members.

 I had to leave at this point to return to Cardiff but it seemed to be winding down. This is definately not meant to be a complete account of events but simply what I saw at the time. It was definately something to be proud to be a part of and to be proud of the role of YFJ in the coming period.  Watch this space.

7 comments:

  1. sounds brilliant though i expect the capitalist press will attempt to play up the isolated events like the british jobs for bitish workrs. like with lor. still like with lor sounds like your on to a winner

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  2. yes they already have check out the bbc website!!!

    just makes it even more clear all the propaganda spread by the capitlaist media around LOR was all bullshit!

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  3. This is hugely signficant a trade union with over 1 million members organises a demonstration of construction workers.
    Youth fight for jobs of whom we were all outsiders were not just asked to lead the demo but workers were shouting at us to get to the front with our banner!
    I don't think it is possible to overestimate the significance of those events! We can not and have not taken this for granted and I think it is our duty to thank Unite for the honour we were given to lead that march.

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  4. below is a report by Michael Johnson.

    The Uskmouth Demo 07/09/2009

    Unemployed construction workers protested early this morning for their right to work at the Uskmouth power plant near Newport. Members of the Socialist Party including myself, several union representatives from Unite and GMB and a unite official were there to support them.




    We gathered near the site very early this morning and built up a decent sized picket that was able to block the road for a while to inconvenience the contractor, which is Siemens, and over the course of three hours a tailback of cars built up along the road.

    A contingent of police turned up, but there weren’t any major dramas, and several of us were eventually able to make an arrangement, and when we felt enough had been acheived, we moved closer to the entrance of the site, and although we couldn’t block it, we still had a very strong presence there, especially with the police formed up around the area. Several workers turned back as a result.



    The news reports are a bit ambiguous and vague, which is why I decided to write about the event here.

    What’s most important is that everyone knows why we were demonstrating, and why local workers are being excluded. Contractors, like Siemens, are using migrant labour to undermine the wages and working conditions for everyone. This happens on a number of sites in the UK. We’re campaigning for better conditions for everyone, both migrant and local, and it’s important for all workers to stand together, and not let anyone turn this into a race issue. We also encourage migrant workers to become unionised to be able to fight alongside local workers for better conditions. As one protester shouted: “Solidarity, Brothers!”



    What did Siemens have to say? A couple of people speaking on behalf of the contractor told reporters the demo was ‘inapropriate’, and claimed over 80% of its workforce was local and they welcomed job applications from local people.

    Firstly, a demo which was mostly facilitated by Unite and the Socialist Party shouldn’t easily be dismissed as inapropriate.

    Also, I’ve personally seen a large proportion of the workers being transported into the site by a local minibus firm, and it looked a lot like migrant labour being bussed in.



    A lot of very good statements were given, most of them left out of the news reports, such as the explanation of the agreements between the contractors and the unions which were being ignored by Siemens, the working conditions and the unemployment in the area.

    We were also reported as having ‘dispersed just after 9:00AM’. As I recall it, the dispersal was very gradual, and we were there for a bit longer than that.



    Result: Because I wasn’t involved in the campaign until early this morning, I can’t report on how exactly the demo was organised. I think it was down to the protesters being mostly from the same union, and the fact the Socialist Party, which has the experience of the recent Lindsey dispute, was involved.

    While the issue itself wasn’t accurately reported in the media, the demo at least got a bit of coverage. Thankfully, nothing in this demo that could be mistaken or used for nationalist stuff.

    It wasn’t 100% successful, but it put pressure on Siemens, and if we can get the migrant workers unionised, the contractors would then have to deal with a militant workforce.

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  5. Hey Glyn,

    As you asked, I'm reposting my questions here, so that you can better answer them. As such, can you please clarify the following sections of your post above (emphasis mine):

    "a potential scab was attacked physically by one protester [who] was the restrained by others and explained that we were not AT THAT STAGE..." - would it ever have been acceptable to physically attack that worker? Just because he wanted to work for the day? Surely not every strikebreaker is evil and in league with the capitalist elite?

    "Members of Unite along with members of the Socialist Party walked along every car explaining to as many workers as possible the issues and requesting on them to either join the blockade or turn away" - why? What's your problem with the workers? Isn't your complaint with the employers? So why weren't you letting the workers work for the day, if they so wanted? Is it their fault if their employers have bad hiring practices?

    If you want to be violent towards people (which I accept, in some circumstances, can be necessary and useful), attack the employers. They're the enemy, right? Not everyday working class employees?

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  6. thanks for the questiond Edward, This is a revolutionary blog but even right-wingers like yourself are abke to ask questions in order to be completely proved wrong and ignogrant of politics in general. I don't know why you would choose to do this but hey whatever floats your boat. I'm not gonna pass judgement on you.

    It was appropriate to attack the worker because he acceptable there was a blockade and didnt try and pass it, if a scab did try and pass a blockade the only way to do it would be to physically confront it such is the nature of a blockade, in such instances of course it would be totally correct to confront this attack and defend ourselves physically.

    Your second point failures all measures of logic but I will attempt to explain anyway. As I clearly stated the queues of cars were approahced, the issues explained and they were REQUESTED not to go into work, some on this basis refused to go to work others did scab. I really don't see what you point is?

    Glad to see you accept voilence is sometimes eccessary you would be a fool to think otherwise but once again I fail to see the point you are making at no point was any voilence used

    In future to save time maybe you should analyse things using the dialectical materialist method, failing that I will always be on hand to point out how silly you are

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  7. For all the bravado and mindless insults, you didn't actually answer my main points. Oh well. It was enjoyable anyway - I especially loved the part where you tried to call a liberal such as myself a "right-winger". And the part where you said: "I fail to see the point you are making at no point was any voilence used"...which is clearly not true, as contradicted by your original post. Someone DID attack a strikebreaker, and it was your comments on this attack that I was asking questions about. Do pardon me if a non-socialist is deeply concerned about people advocating the use of violence against innocent civilians.

    If all you wanted to say was: "We set up a blockade, so are entitled to beat up any random worker who tries to get through the blockade", then couldn't you have saved our time and said that on Facebook originally? Because that's pretty much most of what you were saying there.

    I'm glad to see, btw, that you (as a collective group of protesters) DIDN'T beat up every strikebreaker who tried to get through. Though reading your original post, that wasn't the impression you gave. You explicitly said that the only reason the first worker shouldn't have been physically attacked was because "the worker had been turned away anyway". Yet apparently you let other strikebreakers through without causing them (or threatening to cause them) any physical harm. You can see the apparent contradictions, I hope, between what you said in your first post and what you're saying now.

    So can you actually answer my question this time please, and clarify when it is or isn't acceptable to beat up a worker for the inexcusable crime of wanting to go to work?

    And try to lay off the personal insults, this time. It doesn't suit you.

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