USDAW members in Essex are in the middle of rolling strike action against the bullying tactics of Sainsbury’s bosses. With united action, this strike can win, setting an example for other unions to follow.
Sainsbury’s staff at a distribution centre in Essex are continuing their ongoing strike action against management attempts to impose a new sick-leave policy.
After years of negotiations aimed at reducing the current safeguards for staff when they are sick, Sainsbury’s management ordered each member of staff to sign a new contract. Every warehouse distribution employee signed it under threat of dismissal. Lots signed under protest, paving the way for industrial action in the form of strikes.
One-day rolling strikes have been going on now for a few months. This month, strikes were ramped up, marking the midway point of the agreed six-month period of strike action.
Members of USDAW – the UK’s biggest retail and distribution union – will be balloted again soon for a further six months of action. The union is particularly looking to hit the company during its very busy Christmas shopping season later this year.
It’s another day on strike for workers at @sainsburys Waltham Point Depot 24 hour stoppage due to imposed absence policy @UsdawUnion @UsdawCDivision @PaddyLillisGS @DaveMccrossen @DaveBlacklist @jeremycorbyn #ComeToTheTable #Strike pic.twitter.com/aQhqk6TllD
— Usdaw Eastern (@UsdawCDivision) August 25, 2019
Mood of confidence
Socialist Appeal supporters spoke with people on the picket. On the ground, union representatives remain steadfast. They are confident that their action will get the company to reverse the imposed sickness policy.
One representative stated how significant the strike action had been. Apparently Sainsbury’s hasn’t experienced a strike of its workers anywhere in the country since the 1970s.
It can be seen that support for the workers amongst the local community is high. There was a constant beeping of horns, for example, as passing drivers showed solidarity with the workers on the picket line. There was also a good natured atmosphere on the picket.
What is needed going forward is for unified action between the different unions that represent workers in the same workplace. All the truck drivers we saw, for example, drove through the picket line. Many of them were members of Unite the Union. This is despite Unite officials saying that they would support the strike by asking drivers not to cross picket lines.
Unity is strength. Without solidarity from other unions, there is a heightened risk that this strike will be broken. This is especially the case given that precarious agency workers – who make up a big chunk of the workforce – are in a difficult position to join in and take strike action.
This initiative by USDAW members and their representatives is a big achievement, setting an example for other unions to follow.
This recent strike activity follows on from similar action in other big supermarket companies. At Asda, for example, workers have responded to at attempt by managers to impose a harsh new contract.
At the Tesco distribution centre in Dagenham last year, meanwhile, workers also took strike – again, for the first time in several decades. This strike action was highly successful, with Tesco bosses giving into the workers’ demands after just the first wave of strikes.
All of these examples indicate the way forward. Organisation and action yields results. Militancy pays.
The next round of strikes at the Sainsbury’s distribution centre is set to take place in October at the same place: Waltham Point, Waltham Abbey.