The London Anarchist Federation would like to make a statement of solidarity with sex workers. This comes following conversations at the Anarchist Bookfair with sex worker comrades who had felt let down by the level of solidarity they had received from other anarchists. We hope this statement will be a first step towards improving that situation, to encourage further acts of solidarity and relationship building from anarchists towards sex workers’ struggle.
Sex workers are workers. They are members of the working class. As class struggle anarchists, we stand in solidarity with all workers against their domination under capitalism. The call for sex workers to be seen as workers is echoed by global and local sex worker organisations such as the Global Network of Sexwork Projects and English Collective of Prostitutes.
As revolutionaries, we aim towards a world free from capitalism and the necessity to undertake work. At the same time, we must support workers in their struggle against their material conditions in the here and now. There will be no revolution without the building of networks of solidarity between the most oppressed in our society. We support sex workers in their resistance against poor working conditions, whilst also struggling for a world in which none of us will be coerced to sell our labour in order to survive.
We support the call of these organisations for sex work to be decriminalised. This involves the removal of sex work-specific laws and for it to be treated as any other work. This is distinct from both legalisation and the ‘Nordic model’ of client criminalisation. The latter both expand the state’s role in worker’s lives, and increase the marginalisation of those already most oppressed.
Decriminalisation also increases sex workers’ power to collectively self-organise, and makes it safer to be open about their work if they wish. Many people in the sex industry experience physical and psychological violence, such as rape and trafficking. Many will want to leave. Decriminalisation, by improving workers’ rights, makes it easier to find safety through working collectively, to report abuse, and to find support should they wish to leave.
Whilst we do not extend our support to bourgeois organisations such as Amnesty International – which are so often used as tools of imperialism – we nonetheless agree with their broad conclusion that decriminalisation improves sex workers’ rights and working conditions.
None of these models are perfect solutions, as attested by sex worker organisations themselves. But as anarchists we agree that there will be no emancipation for sex workers by increasing the state’s ability to harass, detain and deport them.
We would encourage other anarchists and anarchist organisations to make similar statements in support of sex workers, and to make efforts to build links with sex worker organisations to enable us to work together more effectively in future.
London Anarchist Federation
On 14th September 2012 28 workers including two union representatives were sacked from the Westbourne Park site of the Crossrail development in London. In addition 15 workers were laid off at the Chatham docks site of Crossrail.
The main contractor for the tunnelling operation is the Bam Ferrovial Kier (BFK) consortium. Because safety reps from the mechanical and engineering contractors EIS had raised concerns about health and safety they were removed from the site even though their contract was meant to last into 2013. Shortly after part of the tunnelling equipment collapsed at Westbourne Park.
Crossrail is the biggest construction project in Europe. It will not be completed until 2018. It is costing £18 billion, twice the cost of the Olympics. Tax avoidance is rampant among contractors building it
Pickets put up soon after turned away deliveries and on several occasions building workers have caused a traffic gridlock by blockading the major route of Oxford Street in central London. There were two quite well attended blacklist flashmob evening events – one outside the Crossrail BFK job at Tottenham Court Road Station and another of their’s adjacent to Liverpool Street station
The workers need to be reinstated. After an unofficial mass walk-out at Ratcliff-on- Soar power station involving 800 workers a sacked worker was reinstated.
BFK are trying to attack health and safety guarantees and at the same time make sure wages are kept down by stopping workers organising. The electrical engineer working for EIS was sacked because he took a photo of unsafe high voltage electrical cables.
BAM and Keir (part of the BFK Consortium) are part of the illegal blacklisting conspiracy in the Consulting Association that was exposed in 2009. This fight needs to be won. Maximum support is needed in beefing up the picket lines and the actions and providing financial support. This is an important struggle and needs the utmost solidarity.
On Wednesday 28th November members of the Industrial Workers of the World organised a lobby of the BMA Council to demand a London Living Wage for the IWW unionised cleaning staff of BMA House, London and for BMA Council delegates to support the cleaners demand for the London Living Wage of £8-55ph. The BMA outsources its cleaning contract to Interserve which pays the cleaners the minimum wage, currently £6-19 per hour.
The lobby was supported by Tower Hamlets BMA which sent a strong message of solidarity to the cleaners, had written to Mark Porter a prominent member of the BMA Council, and lobbied sympathetic Council members to table a motion. Pressure is mounting on the BMA
The cleaners and the IWW will make sure that pressure mounts until the cleaners get the London Living Wage.
Over 2000 bus drivers from nine garages across north London took 24 hour strike action from 3am Thursday 29 November 2012 following Arriva North’s decision not to award workers a percentage pay increase this year despite massive profits.
DB Group which owns Arriva PLC made a €853,665,000 in profit before tax in the half year to 30 June this year.
93 per cent of the drivers who took part in the ballot, voted for strike action. The drivers are already in the their second year of a pay freeze and from April next year the workers will enter a third year of pay freezes. Workers at the majority of London’s bus operators have received increases this year as have TfL (Transport for London) staff across London.
Arriva North, the biggest single operator in London, attempted to prevent the strike through court action but were forced to drop its case. One in 10 bus routes were effected with the strike hitting north London but also a number of routes into central London.
Further strikes are possible.
The strike actions called by the trade unions on March 28th in a supposed response to the attacks on pensions have moved from a “day of action” to a complete farce. The leaderships of UNISON and the GMB had already decided on 12th January to start negotiating with the government over pensions and soon other smaller unions like Prospect, ATL and NAHT swung in behind them. The union leaders are trying to make us believe that this is somehow different to the deal that the government was already pushing, when it was exactly the same thing.
Days of action in the last few months involved hundreds of thousands striking and marching. The proposed action on March 28th is now involving fewer and fewer unions and in the case of the National Union of Teachers will only be on a London rather than a national level. Likewise the University and College Union will not only be striking at a London level rather than the national level as previously decided but will only involve post-1992 universities (former polytechnics etc) and further education colleges. The Public and Commercial Services Union will not be striking at all, as its executive called off strike action despite 90.5% voting to reject the government’s offer and 72.1% voting to support a programme of further action with other unions – the highest vote for action the union has ever had. Similarly the Scottish teachers union EIS also called off strike action despite a 73.5 yes vote for action.
The action by the unions in Britain is echoed in the worthless days of actions called by union centrals throughout Europe which in fact demobilise and defuse the anger of workers against the bosses’ austerity programmes.
Increasingly we as workers have to look to our own grass roots organisation, controlled by ourselves and not involving those who would sabotage our struggles. The grassroots self-organisation of electricians, organising in spite of the UNITE leadership, delivered a victory. We have to find new ways of organising against the increasingly savage attacks by the boss class. We have to do that as a priority and as a matter of urgency. We cannot rely on the union leaderships to do this, we have to rely on ourselves.
Anarchist Federation (London)