Monday, 28 July 2008

Morrisons Pay Insult

Last week staff at Morrisons were voting over whether to accept a pay deal negotiated by the union. That is if they knew about the ballot at all. Okay so we had a poster in store saying there was a pay ballot, but if you have only started at the company within the last year (like majority of the staff, at least 5% of the staff are replenished each month) and you don’t know that much about unions you probably won’t realise you are of the people who has a vote. Even for someone who is slightly more clued up like myself, I had to wait until the day after to vote as the personnel office where the ballot box is was closed.

A Morrisons worker

The terms of the deal are even harder to find out. A conversation with our union rep led to me finding out that the deal would probably mean an increase of £5 a week in our pay with our wage going up to £6 an hour in February next year. Considering that most workers at Morrisons earn 4p above minimum wage, there perhaps is a sense of at least this is going in the right direction a bit. Later I found out more about the offer, but not from the union website which I looked at first and found absolutely nothing about the offer. Rather it was from an unofficial staff forum that I finally found out that with the deal pay will go up to £5.86 in October (when the minimum wage goes up to £5.73) and then £6 in February.
Whilst this increase means that we will be an extra 20p an hour above the minimum wage in February next year it still means our pay will be very low, far below the European Decency threshold which stands at £8 an hour. Furthermore, with inflation soaring this increase is likely to be swept away very quickly. Given the £612 million pre-tax profits Morrisons made last year, the surely much more could have been fought for?
The lacklustre approach of the union leadership in relation to this is indicative of a great number of other problems Morrisons workers face and the union fails to take action over. One of the biggest problems is understaffing which means that workers effectively have to do the jobs of two or more people, unsurprisingly this leads to accidents and taking short-cuts with health and safety. My department alone has at least one accident a day if not more!
John Hannett (USDAW General Secretary) gets £100,000 a year salary plus a free Jaguar – I wonder how closely he feels the pains that the members he is supposed to represent have to endure. What we need is a leadership prepared to fight, if they took the pitifully low wage we have to accept then their might be a fight for a minimum wage of £8 for all retail workers. Such a demand is in Robbie Segal’s programme as she stands against Hannett in the General Secreatry elections, which is why I shall be building her campaign in my store.

Appeal to Warehouse and Distribution Workers

What type of General Secretary do you want?

Have there been redundancies in your depot. Have you had your terms and conditions reduced? Are you working in a new depot where the terms and conditions are not the same as the established sites?

These attacks have been going on for years and the Usdaw leaders have done nothing to challenge them. Warehouse and distribution workers are among the most powerful in this country. We control the distribution of food in Britain. Why have we not used this power?

The problem rises from the acceptance of John Hannett of the Partnership strategy. To maintain the support of the Bosses, Usdaw’s leaders must deliver a passive workforce. Is this why there is no national coordinated resistance to the bosses’ attacks against us? As a union we must prepare to fight these attacks on our wages and conditions.

In his appeal for you to vote for him, John Hannett claims:

‘I’ve recently introduced a new Conference which was held for the first in June. This will now become an annual event and I will also work hard to ensure the Union meets the many challenges in the logistics sector.’

It was over 14 months after the proposition calling for a Conference was raised at the ADM. The Conference was at least three years too late. So why does he claim ‘I’ve recently introduced a new conference’. It was not his idea as he claims.

The proposition calling for the Distribution Conference stated:

This ADM calls upon the Executive Council to organise an Annual Distribution Conference.

This is in recognition of the need for a united defence of terms and conditions of employment in the distribution sector. These have already been seriously attacked in many areas. New distribution centres are being opened, for example with far worse terms and conditions than existing sites. Companies are even calling for us to accept new starters at existing depots on worse terms and conditions. Agreements which have been negotiated over many years are being torn up and redundancies are taking place. The list is endless.

Conference believes we need a National Distribution Conference so we can organise nationally and not be left to be picked off one by one by unscrupulous greedy employers in search of ever greater profits at the expense of our members’ living standards.

So we should ask John Hannett, ‘why did you take so long to organise the Conference?’ Could it be that it is being used as part of his general secretary election campaign.

We` also learn ‘it will now become an annual event’. Is an annual meeting enough to face the challenge in the logistics sector? What about the attacks and how do we organise a national fight back. These issues must be addressed urgently.

The above statement shows what type of general secretary you will get if you vote for John Hannett.

I believe that the Conference was a first step in organising the fight back. Usdaw needs to be a union based on the democratic participation of its membership. It is not just a question of listening but fighting on behalf of its members.

Distribution and Warehouse sites are now an important part of our Union. I believe that the present Area Organiser arrangements need changing. Over the last few years, there has been a reduction in the number of officials working in the Divisions. I will restore the numbers and in the Divisions with large numbers of warehouse and distribution members I will appoint a dedicated Area Organiser.

If you want to join the fight to change Usdaw then email me at: , visit my website

Distribution and Warehouse workers join the Activist Network

One of the outcomes of this election already has been the call by many logistic workers to establish a rank and file network. If you want your name to be added to the list and receive updates on events in our sector then send your email address to

A Tesco distribution worker

Monday, 21 July 2008

Good Luck Message From Australia

Dear Robbie

On behalf of UNITE in Australia, I would like to wish you all the best with your challenge to for the position of Usdaw General Secretary.
We stand by you as a fighting union who is also against unions cosying up to the big retail companies. We support your call for a decent living wage for retail workers, for union democracy and for union officials to be on workers' wages. As a union who has no relation to the Labor Party in Australia we also support your call for a new workers party.
Good luck in the election and we look forward to building stronger international links with Usdaw when you are the General Secretary of that union.

Yours in unity

Anthony Main
UNITE Secretary

Friday, 11 July 2008

Protest at abuse of democracy in Usdaw general secretary election

Press statement – July 2008 Robbie Segal, a candidate in the election for Usdaw’s general secretary protests at the unfair and undemocratic nature of the running of the branch nomination process for Usdaw’s general secretary election.

The circular informing branches of the general secretary election contained an inaccurate endorsement for the incumbent General Secretary any other candidates in the nomination process had no method of informing the branches they were standing.Robbie states ‘With this blatantly unfair and undemocratic abuse of the election process, how can one candidate have their name circulated to the branches while all other candidates have no way of obtaining the branch secretary’s name or address? Furthermore, the union refuses to circulate any details of other candidates to union branches.

This shows how John Hannett is frightened of an open and inclusive debate on his reign as general secretary. I call on Usdaw members to support the reform of the election process and help strengthen democracy in Usdaw.’Robbie Segal protests at the use of Usdaw’s resources to support John Hannett’s bid for re-election as general secretary.

The deputy general secretary is coordinating the campaign nationally.
In the seven Usdaw Divisions the campaign is being coordinated by senior officials.
In one of the Divisions, the Divisional Officer wrote to all Area Organisers stating that they had to report to him every Friday on the progress of John Hannett’s campaign.
Area Organisers are being used as campaigners for John Hannett and have dropped off John Hannett leaflets to branches and at workplaces.
At one London branch meeting held on Tuesday 9 July, it was attended by three Area Organisers, including an Eastern Division Area Organiser who represents the North East of England division on Usdaw’s Executive Council.
Robbie asks, ‘Is this a sensible use of Usdaw official’s time? Especially since the number of Full Time Officials working in the divisions has declined while the membership has increased’According to the 2003 Annual Report, there were 331,972 industrial members and they were serviced by 118 officers. In the last Annual Report 2007, there were 356,046 industrial members and they were serviced by 114 officials.Robbie Segal said “I challenge John Hannett to disclose the number of visits he has made to workplaces in June and intends to make in July this year compared to his visits last year (2007).”Robbie states, ‘The visits that have been arranged up and down the country are part of his electioneering campaign. I ask John Hannett to tell me how many visits he has made. I believe that Usdaw members have the right to know how their general secretary spends his time and our money.’

For information on Robbie’s campaign visit or ring 07776 195 563.

Monday, 7 July 2008

A Report From USDAW Distribution Conference

I would like to thank Robbie Segal and anyone else that was instrumental in organising this long overdue conference specifically designed for the Distribution sector of the union.
The conference went well with lots of good feedback and ideas on how to progress and I look forward to further such conferences.

I believe the Distribution sector is a completely different animal to retail,with totally different needs when it comes to support from our union, and I will give just a few examples.

In retail, take Tesco for example their terms and conditions are negotiated at a national level by an USDAW national officer, in distribution we negotiate our own locally and only involve our national officer if agreement cannot be reached., therefore I believe we should be training our full time convenors in distribution in the art of negotiations,

In Sainsbury distribution centres we have an agreement that the union will spend time with new starters during their induction with a recommendation from the company that they join,my point being that whilst I understand that new members are the lifeblood of our union,we already have this important task covered and enjoy membership in excess of 90%,
I think the limited time spent when new stewards go on their introduction courses would be greatly enhanced by such exercises as role play in representing members in a disciplinary situation,health and safety regulations,and employment law rather than the present, recruitment,recruitment,recruitment, and on this point I think that as much effort should be placed on retaining current members as we do recruiting new ones, and we will only be able to do this by giving them the support and value they are seeking from well trained representatives.

I also believe that some guidance should be given from the union as to agreements we should be seeking,an example of such is a model of an enhanced redundancy package, easier to get an agreement during times when the company do not believe they will ever make redundancies yet almost impossible if redundancies becomes a reality.

I hope now that we will go forward with a true recognition as to the needs of the distribution sector and not be looked upon as the poor cousins in a retail union, which has been the perception for too long amongst many of our members.

Jon Harriss (Convenor Sainsbury`s Distribution Depot Waltham Point) C28

New video interview on Robbie’s website

Robbie’s website has been updated. See Robbie’s 6 minute interview were she expands on her programme, Visit

Thursday, 3 July 2008


Can you help with the distribution of our leaflets to stores, distribution centres and factories?
If you can then please email me at

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Campaign to organise migrant workers

Today workers from all over the world play an important role in retail, warehouse and distribution, and food manufacture. Many international trade unionists are playing a crucial role in our union but we still have the task of ensuring that all migrant workers are part of our movement.
How do we recruit migrant workers into the trade unions? Their recruitment is one of the major challenges facing the trade unions today. If outside of the trade unions, the 5.4% of all UK employees who are migrant workers are a gift to the employers to lower wages and conditions of all workers.
Usdaw recognises that employers are using ‘migrant workers as a cheap labour option’ and that ‘agencies often undercut the permanent workforce by compelling temporary agency workers to work for lower pay, terms and conditions.’
There are over two and half million retail workers not in unions, so for the unions to gain the confidence of low paid workers and migrant workers then there must be a serious commitment to winning decent wages. The unions should launch an extensive campaign of agitation to win retail workers to possible strike action and to ensure the bosses know the unions are really serious this time about fighting for a decent wage.
The companies we work for can afford it. Tesco has just announced $2.85 billion profit last year. And this just four years after breaking through the £2 billion barrier and eight years after reaching £1 billion profit. Yet, our members earn little more than the £5.52 minimum wage -. The starting salary with Tesco is £5.92.
Three of the four largest unions Usdaw, GMB and Unite (TGWU) all have agreements with the big four retailers. They should organise a joint national campaign to increase the wages for all retail workers. This method will show we fight for all workers including migrant workers.
These low wages has been accepted by our union for far too long. Join Usdaw and join the struggle for a £8 per hour minimum.
Vote Robbie Segal for General Secretary.

John Hannett and his pledges for Usdaw

An interview with Robbie Segal (candidate for Usdaw General Secretary) asking her to comment on the pledges made by John Hannett, her challenger for the general secretary’s post.

Listen to members and reps and act on what you tell us.

Robbie: Our members are demanding that we do something about their pay. Most of us exist on wages little higher than the government’s minimum, so if John listens why does he not launch a campaign for a decent wage. The members want and are demanding he acts on this one issue. This is the most important issue facing the majority of our members but John refuses to campaign on this matter.

Win for our members through strong and effective bargaining with employers.

Robbie: There is one major problem with Usdaw’s bargaining strategy – it‘s in a straightjacket of its own making – and that is Social Partnership. Usdaw can never use its power because it would expose the bankruptcy of partnership to the companies we are trying to organise.
John is very proud of his slogan to Win for our Members but this is based on the servicing model. My strategy is to organise so the members can win for themselves.

Be innovative with new initiatives such as Academy2, the Organising Awards, the Legal Plus helpline and the new Warehouse and Distribution Conference.

Robbie: I wonder how many of these initiatives were delayed as part of the John’s election campaign: Academy2 was discussed 2 years ago and the motion calling for the establishment of a warehouse and distribution conference was passed 14 months ago. Both of these have been only recently implemented. The changes to Legal Plus have clearly been driven by the solicitors because their business was declining. I believe the money spent on the Organising Awards could be put to better use, say by introducing scholarships to develop our activists.

Be the campaigning union with strong campaigns on Freedom From Fear, Parents and Carers, the National Minimum Wage, Lifelong Learning and Pensions.

Robbie: These campaigns have been important in putting the union on the map but our image is so low they never get the wider coverage they deserve. One of the general secretary’s roles must be to promote the union in the media and I believe this is the weak part of the present leadership campaigning strategy

Promote equality especially the need to ensure that employers adopt family friendly policies that mean flexibility is for our members’ benefits and not just employers.

Robbie: What has John done to promote equality in Usdaw? The top of the union is dominated by men. Fifty eight percent of the union are women and many of these are part time. Yet part timers cannot apply for position of officials in the Divisions. I will investigate and implement a method where part timers can apply for officer jobs in Usdaw.

Strongly lobby Government on issues that our members tell us are important – for example the recent impact of the abolition of the 10 pence tax rate.

Robbie: Usdaw has been one of the major backers of New Labour and all its reforms. Usdaw has offered no resistance to the continuous attacks against workers. As the fourth biggest union we should be opposing the attacks on education and the NHS. I would like the union to campaign on wider issues such as an emergency council house building programme to solve the crisis in the housing market.

Interviewer: Is there anything else you like to add about John Hannett’s pledges?

Robbie: Arising from this election, the key point missing from John’s pledges is respect for the members and the union. By the method he has organised this election, he has shown a complete disregard for the democratic traditions of the trade union movement. The election item appeared on the EC agenda as any other business. This never allowed the EC to reflect on such a serious matter. His appeal for nominations, a glossy printed leaflet, was out within days of the meeting, so there was time to have the election as a proper agenda item. Further, he insisted the election be conducted over the summer when we are likely to get a low turnout. Are these the actions of a confident general secretary?

Letter of Support

This is a letter we have recently received of support for Robbie. We republish it here anonymised.

I am the branch chairperson and senior rep. I write this letter today to appeal to all Usdaw union members to support Robbie in her bid to become General Secretary (GS) in the upcoming election. It is a rather lengthy letter but should take no more than five mins of your time to read.
I have been a member of Usdaw now for 15 Yrs and a rep for the past 12 of those years. I have no doubt in my mind after attending Usdaw’s recruiting academy, in 2005, of the way that this union works.
The rest of this letter is my opinion only and cannot be read as fact.
I believe that any notion of democracy in the truest sense of the word is now taking a back seat to a mild authoritarian stance with regard to the way that serving staff employed by the union are being pressured into supporting the present GS at the forth coming election.
I also believe that it is now time for serving staff to make up their minds and decide whether they joined the union to support its members or joined to make a career of off the back of members. This union, any union , should always be a machine that is put in place to truly support the lowest paid and most disadvantaged people in society. I’m afraid that I no longer believe that this union fully appreciates this point.
I’m not writing this letter with any sense of satisfaction, nor am I writing it for my fifth teen mins of fame. In fact I write with a sense of reluctance because I know that the up and coming debates at future conferences are going to be controversial and heated.
But these debates have to be had. They also have to be had in an atmosphere where people of all walks of life, including union officials, can feel comfortable to say what they want without fear of recrimination, and with a sense of constructiveness rather than tearing ourselves as a union apart, then we would be a union with true democracy.
I also believe that the leadership in this union are now far too comfortable with this right wing so called Labour Government. This union prides itself on being a campaigning union but the campaigns we run excluding the Freedom from Fear Campaign are all a little tame. Not one of them is going to upset this Govt.
We should be campaigning for:
· Inexpensive quality housing
· A decent living wage for all
· A reduction in working hours
· Abolition of draconian anti trade union laws
· Free higher education for all
· Abandonment of the two tier private / national health care system
· Improvement in employment laws.
These are in my opinion truly the sorts of campaigns this union should be running. These are the questions we should be putting to this Govt.
Whilst in Folkestone on the weekend of 21st of June 2008 attending our Summer Div Conference we had the opportunity to put questions to the GS and Deputy General Secretary (DGS). My question was as follows:
When will this union start to campaign for a decent living wage of £ 8.00ph for all of its 370,000 low paid members? This question I asked knowing full well that the decency threshold as defined by the E.U is £ 8.00 ph.
I am sorry to say that I got the very answer that I expected, that is to say that under the Tories we didn’t have a national minimum wage (NMW). This of course is true but two wrongs don’t make a right and £ 5.52 ph for a 22yr old is definitely wrong. I was also told that it was very easy for people campaigning to pluck figures out of the air.
I found the answer to be a little patronising and said as much to the DGS afterwards. This is not a figure plucked from the air but the E.U’s own decency threshold.
Of course the real worry in the answer is the unspoken truth, which is to say that this union at the moment will not take to Govt the issue of poverty pay.
I could go on but feel that anyone who reads this will have an idea of the way I feel and the point I am trying to make. I write this letter of my own accord without anyone asking me to do so and I write it because I truly believe that if we don’t stand up to be counted now my children and possibly their children will have to have these or worse arguments in their adult life.
I personally find it hard to understand why our leaders in the union have trouble understanding what it is that we are asking for.