Earlier this afternoon around 100 campaigners and trade union activists paid a fleeting visit to the headquarters of Samworth Brothers, a bullying penny-pinching company that was recently rated 7th in a list of Leicestershire’s top 200 companies.
A wide variety of representatives from different unions and organisations from around the country attended the protest to demand the reinstatement of sacked Bakers Union rep, Kumaran Bose.
Greetings of solidarity were brought by the National Shop Stewards Network, Leicester and Districts Trades Council, Unite the Union, Unite Community, the National Union of Teachers, GMB, Tamil Solidarity, the Socialist Party, Unite the Resistance, Socialist Workers Party, Momentum, Sheffield Disabled People Against Cuts, Chesterfield Trades Council and many other trade unionists, including the regional secretary of the East Midlands TUC and striking workers from Pennine Foods in Sheffield.
Notable absentees at this important event in the fight for workers’ rights were Leicester’s three Labour MPs, Jon Ashworth, Liz Kendall, and Keith Vaz. All three were invited to attend, and all gave their insincere apologies. The absent-three have also remained ominously silent over the just-announced vote of no confidence in the leader of the Labour Party.
A principled Labour MP would be using every opportunity to defend Jeremy Corbyn and to combat the coup that has been launched against him by the rightwing Blairites, who are sadly still dominant in the Parliamentary Labour Party. In stark contrast to Leicester’s weak-willed MPs, Labour MP for Leeds East, Richard Burgon, jumped on the train to speak in defence of Kumaran Bose as soon as he heard about the Samworth protest. His fighting speech couldn’t be further from the empty phraseology of Leicester’s three MPs. As he put it:
“I’ve come from Leeds today to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in solidarity with Kumaran, who, and let’s be clear about this, the fact that he has been sacked is a testimony to what an effective trade union rep that he has been. Because the fact that he recruited 50% of the workforce to the union has made them not like him, it’s the fact that he is putting forward the argument that the so-called living wage shouldn’t be made up by them taking away all the other rates that you’ve worked so hard for over the years, whether that be the preferential overtime rates, whether that be the preferential rates for anti-social hours.
“So I am proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder as a Labour MP, as a shadow minister under Jeremy Corbyn with Kumaran today, because whenever somebody stands up to the establishment, whether it be Kumaran here at Samworth Brothers standing up to the bosses here, or whether it be Jeremy Corbyn standing up to the economic and political establishment. What do you get from that? You get attacked. But these attacks should be viewed as a tribute to Kumaran, a tribute to the Bakers Union, and a tribute to Jeremy Corbyn as well. If they are not attacking you, then you know you are doing something wrong.
“And earlier on Ian [Hodson, Bakers Union President] mentioned an Early Day Motion in Parliament, in support, in solidarity with Kumaran, and I think it’s just common-sense to say that Labour MPs should be concentrating on supporting that motion in Parliament, that important motion, that motion of solidarity, not an indulgent, distracting, traitorous, treacherous motion to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn.
“What we want is the kind of Labour leader who will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with workers in struggle. I remember during the Junior Doctors strike, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, marching on the strike day through the streets of London with the Junior Doctors on strike, and I can tell you this, some Labour MPs were choking on their cornflakes when they heard that had happened. But that makes me pleased that Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell and others did the right thing. We want a Labour leader who’ll be backing the Bakers Union campaign for £10 an hour now as a starting point, as a real minimum wage, as a real living wage.”
Tragically it seems that Leicester’s three MPs, Ashworth, Kendall, and Vaz, struggle to find the energy to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the leader of their own Party, let alone with workers in struggle.
Richard Burgon however has laid down a test to our absent-three: will they use the coming week to vigorously campaign to support Corbyn, and use their time productively in vocally denouncing the “indulgent, distracting, traitorous, treacherous motion” to ditch Corbyn, and in then actively promoting the Parliamentary motion to show solidarity with a local unjustly sacked worker. As Mr Burgon wound up his speech he pointed out how some Labour MPs had…
“…forgotten who had elected them, forgetting who had put them in the position they were in, forgetting which group of people in society they are meant to serve. We are all about the 99.9%, that’s what we are about. So I am pleased to be here with Kumaran today, I’d like to thank Kumaran for his inspiration, and I’d to thank him for his example, and thank all of your for standing shoulder-to-shoulder with him.
“The demands are quite simple on this occasion. The demands are: reinstate Kumaran; recognise the Bakers Union; and pay a proper living wage, don’t try to screw the workers at this factory out of their wages!”