“Despite the incredible efforts of workers during the pandemic, several big employers are attempting to use this crisis to line their own pockets & attack the working conditions of their staff by undertaking the tactic of fire & rehire.”
As a society we have forgotten what collective action is. Decades of neoliberalism has embedded firmly in the consciousness of many the cult of the individual. From the 80s mantra of “Greed is good” to the current cult of positivity. The idea that only we are to blame for our material conditions and any problems we have with society are down to a failure, somehow, of character rather than an inbuilt inequality. So much so that when you talk of strikes to some people it triggers something in their mind. Suddenly they are hurtled back in time to the Winter of Discontent, the miners strikes and donkey jackets. For some the talk of industrial action to demand that a worker is paid fairly or somehow has a safe place to work for some is a slippery slope to USSR style Communism. Such is the extent of the control exerted over the media and over the wider culture of society by the few who serve to lose out if we win.
So what is to be done? That was the question we asked ourselves. How do we convince workers that there is still something worth fighting for. That is why we set up Strike Map UK. We believe this is the first attempt to map industrial action taking place in the UK. If you were to ask most people they perhaps wouldn’t even realise that there were workers on strike but in our first month we mapped over 30 actions taking place.
Since then the scope of our project has grown, we launched Strike Stories – a section of our website dedicated to showcasing the individual tales of workers on strike then we launched our own show Comrades where we invite trade unionists on to discuss why they are taking action. We’ve had some stories which are pretty hard to read, workers telling us about being forced to steal PPE in a global pandemic because their bosses won’t supply it. Other workers telling us how they don’t want to go on strike but they are being forced to due to the outrageous practices of their employers.
Our next step is to launch a new campaign. Despite the incredible efforts of workers during the pandemic, several big employers are attempting to use this crisis to line their own pockets and attack the working conditions of their staff by undertaking the tactic of fire and rehire. Fire and rehire is when an employer terminates existing contracts to rehire staff on new contracts with reduced terms and conditions of employment. A tactic already illegal in Spain and Ireland.
We will not standby whilst the impact of the pandemic is borne on the backs of working people.
As British Gas engineers continue action over 25 days and Manchester Bus workers start their action against fire and rehire, it is time for a united campaign of all trades unions, campaign groups, and progressive organisations to work together to harness the power of our communities, workplaces and Westminster to ban this practice.
The strike is just one part of the struggle but it is an important one. Rosa Luxemburg wrote that “the proletariat requires a high degree of political education, of class-consciousness and organisation. All these conditions cannot be fulfilled by pamphlets and leaflets, but only by the living political school, by the fight and in the fight.” we need to remind each other, we are many, they are few.
We are building a worker-powered movement, come join us here.
- By Henry Fowler and Robert Poole, Strike Map UK.