In response to the way globalisation affects road transport workers the T&G in the UK and Ireland is launching a pilot project to recruit non-English speaking international drivers, whose pay and conditions are inferior to both EU and UK wages and conditions.
International drivers working for such firms as Willi Betz earn less than £100 a week, live two to a cab the size of a prison cell and are normally expected to be away from home for up to 3 months at a time. German based Willi Betz owns over 5,000 trucks and semi-trailers, (each truck and semi-trailer costs about £120,000 to put on the road).
Drivers come from Bulgaria, Rumania, Russia and other former Eastern Block countries. Willi Betz is only one of the firms that undercut EU firms who pay EU standard wages and conditions. Turkish and Moroccan hauliers use low wage labour to undercut EU wage rates.
As trades unionists we totally and unconditionally oppose any suggestion of a racist or national chauvinist approach in defence of our jobs, conditions and pay. Neither do we for a minute believe that building a trade wall around either the UK or the EU will be in our interests as workers.
Our strategy is based on trade union principles of solidarity, which are part of our proud trade union history. We aim to recruit these super-exploited drivers into our union and struggle with the drivers in order to express solidarity in any fight they have to improve their pay and conditions. If we can help them to get the same pay and conditions as ourselves then it will not matter at all what race or nationality the driver is.
Modern capitalism uses small manufacturing units in a variety of countries and transports part finished products for use in large assembly plants. Capitalists switch production from one component manufacturer to another, country to country in order to drive down wages. Road transport is both affected by and integral to this capitalist strategy of attempting to pit worker against worker to maximise their profits.
They, the capitalists have an international perspective, we must have an international perspective of trade union solidarity to fight them and defend our interests as workers.
This international recruiting initiative was started by Socialist Appeal supporters in 1/888 (Road Transport Commercials) Branch of the T&G. We have produced T&G recruiting leaflets in Bulgarian, Russian, Turkish and Serbo-Croat.
The T&G nationally has formed a sub-committee of Transport Sector, convened by Ron Webb (National Transport Secretary) and Chaired by Jimmy Hill (Chair of national RTC of the T&G). The pilot project will involve a T&G bus being at Thurrock Services (from first exit North of the Dartford River Crossing on the M25), on Sunday 23rd November from 10.00am to hand out leaflets and publicise T&G membership. Foreign language translators will be on hand to discuss and debate with the Bulgarian, Russian, Turkish and other drivers who park in the Moto Services over the weekend.
This is a pilot project as part of an ongoing campaign to build on trade union traditions of international support and solidarity to all working people. Only in this way can we, as trade unionists, defend our own pay, jobs and conditions of work.
'Workers of All Countries Unite' is not an empty slogan, it is the only practical way that we can build our trade union movement at the same time as building for a socialist future.