While the mainstream media has mainly presented the current wildcat strikes in the UK as a nationalist phenomena, concentrating on the slogan ‘British jobs for British workers,’ they have seemed to largely ignore what the workers themselves have been saying.
For example one of the Lindsey Oil Strike refinery unofficial elected strike committee leaders wrote on UK Indymedia ‘The workers of LOR, Conoco and Easington did not take strike action against immigrant workers. Our action is rightly aimed against company bosses who attempt to play off one nationality of worker against the other and undermine the NAECI agreement. THE B.N.P. SHOULD TAKE HEED, U.K. CONTRUCTION WORKERS WILL NOT TOLERATE ‘ANOTHER RACIST ATTEMPT’ TO SEVER FRATERNAL RELATIONS WITH WORKERS FROM OTHER NATIONS’
Similarly Unite, the union which has underpinned much of the action has been issuing posters procaliming ‘Its TOTAL discrimination by a greedy corporation. Workers of all countries Unite.’ Hardly akin to any nationalism I’ve ever known.
Here’s an example of the BBC deliberately misrepresenting the opinions of the strikers last week. On the more heavily watched news at 10, an interview is spliced so that a statement about the difficulty of integrating with workers who are housed in temporary accomodation and privately bused in to work appears to be outright xenephobia. By quoting the worker out of context the BBC continue the wrongful portrayal of the workers as right wing nationalists. the 2 different versions can be viewed at the following link http://www.vimeo.com/3065190
BBC News at 10
Reporter… “beneath the anger ministers fear lies straightforward xenophobia”
Striker… “These portugese and Ities, we can’t work alongside of them”
Same Striker… “These portugese and Ities, we can’t work alongside of them, they’re segregated, and coming in in full companies”
Finally… Here’s an online petition for the upcoming trade union congress, it can be signed at http://www.petitiononline.com/jobs0209/ looking through the signatories you’ll see that this has support from many of the unions which the mainstream media is accusing of xenophobia and BNP stlye politics.
‘An injury to one is an injury to all – unite to save jobs.
Thousands of construction workers have been out on unofficial strike at major sites across Britain. As the jobs slaughter continues many working people are rightly worried for the future. The behaviour of the sub-contracting bosses, in housing Italian workers separately, adds to this fear and division.
Across the whole of Europe, including Britain, thousands of jobs are being lost every day with no end in sight. Governments have handed hundreds of billions of pounds to the bankers but have told working people that they must pay the price for the crisis. But there is resistance. Last week a million French workers were out on strike against Nicolas Sarkozy’s “reforms”, Greek workers and farmers have been fighting to defend their livelihoods, in Ireland 400 workers are occupying Waterford Glass. In all of these examples of a fightback, the anger needs to be focused on those responsible -the employers and bankers out to protect their profits, and their allies in government.
We oppose the spread of neoliberalism across Europe, and support the unity of all workers to defend jobs and living standards, equal pay, binding national agreements negotiated by trade unions, and equal legal status for all, regardless of nationality. We oppose the ‘contracting out’ and privatisation system that uses competition to drive down wages and conditions.
We can sense the mood for a fightback in Britain. However, the slogan “British jobs for British workers” that has come to prominence around the dispute can only lead to deep divisions inside working class communities. The slogan, coined by Gordon Brown in his 2007 speech to Labour’s conference, is being taking up by the right wing press and the Nazi BNP. These are forces that have always been bitterly hostile to the trade union movement.
That is why, while supporting action to defend jobs, we believe that the action has to be directed against the employers and the contracting firms, not against migrant workers. We congratulate those strikers who ejected the BNP from the picket line at Immingham, and we urge other strikers to do the same. We support the demands of the Lindsey Oil Refinery strike committee.
We need a massive drive to unionise all workers, and a campaign to defend all jobs and create new ones. Every worker will benefit from a campaign to unionise overseas workers in order to prevent employers from using them as a weapon against fellow workers. Most importantly, we have to have unity if we are to fight back against the effects of the most severe economic crisis since the 1930s. “British jobs for British workers” is a slogan that focuses on what divides working people not what can unite them.
Every worker is facing the same horrors in the face of recession. We can’t let ourselves be divided. We should fight for well-paid jobs with decent conditions for all.
• The march for workers’ rights, and for global and environmental justice on 28 March in London on the eve of the G20 summit. This protest is supported by some 40 organisations including trade unions, the TUC, and campaigning groups. It is a protest against the neo-liberal policies that have encouraged ‘contracting out’ and competitive wage cutting.
• The protest called by Stop the War, CND and others on 2 April at the G20 summit itself.
In conclusion then, despite the attempts of the mainstream press to purvey these strikes as a right wing, nationalist phemonenon, it is clear from looking at the material published using alternative forms of new media such as Indymedia, blogs and online petitions, that this is far from true. This does however emphasize the importance of alternative media in allowing subaltern groups a channel for communications which bypasses the business funded and owned mass media, and allows these groups to directly communicate their message to a broad audience.