Fighting for employee rights is the height of fashion

As part of union action to highlight concerns, two models dressed in high fashion clothes crafted out of packaging materials parade outside the main entrance of Somerset House. Credit: Alastair Fyfe

The Communication Workers Union is helping to hold logistics giant Deutsche Post DHL to account. While the company paraded its wares at London Fashion Week today, unions challenged it over its ongoing abuse of employees’ rights.


DHL is a major sponsor of London Fashion Week and provides logistics for the high-profile annual event. However, its treatment of staff is less than glamorous, argues CWU, UNI Global Union and the ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation), which are fighting for DHL workers’ rights.


CWU is deeply concerned over the way the company behaves in some of the countries in which it operates.   In Turkey, for example, DHL has sacked over 20 workers after they opted to join a trade union.   A case against the company is currently open with the German government.   In recent years DHL has used lie detectors against workers in Colombia, Panama and South Africa.   It has used agency workers in the UK, Malaysia, Indonesia and India to do the same work as permanent employees but with lower wages and no job security.   One of its companies was fined after using students, who thought they were travelling to the USA on a cultural exchange to staff a factory.


CWU General Secretary, Billy Hayes, commented: “DHL is a leading global post and logistics company and should be setting high standards in all it does. As a key sponsor of London Fashion Week it basks in the glamorous flashlights of catwalk fashion and celebrity beauty, yet the way it treats many of its staff is ugly. The company’s public image does not match the reality experienced by its workforce and we urge it to have a makeover to improve employee rights.”


Philip Jennings, UNI Global Union General Secretary stated: “An ethical and sustainable fashion industry must include all parts of the supply chain.   DHL as part of that supply chain, needs to clean up its act and respect workers rights in Turkey and around the world”.


Ingo Marowsky, ITF Global Head – Supply Chain and Logistics added:  “While DHL struts its stuff on the world fashion stage, we will be making sure the darker side of its operation is on parade too.”


Union busting is alive and kicking

CWU reps

LAST week, telecoms firm Virgin Media announced the result of its ‘referendum’ on union recognition for its engineers, members of CWU and BECTU. The ’result’ – if we can call it that as there were no independent scrutineers – was a slim majority in favour of dropping union recognition; 52% to 48% against.


The ‘result’ came as no surprise to us at CWU. It was in many ways a foregone conclusion with the referendum used to create a semblance of credibility for what the company wanted. There was no level playing field. We were told of the company’s intentions when their letters to staff were already in the post, giving us just two working days until it opened. Oh, and they included people not covered by recognition agreements in the voting pool, perhaps to dilute the pro-union vote.


Virgin Media bombarded its staff with company propaganda in letters, emails and website messages, at compulsory briefings with company directors and even phonecalls from managers to employees who had not yet voted. How did they know? Was this not an anonymous process? And if managers knew who had voted, did they also know which way they voted? These were some of the concerns being passed to us by employees. The company did allow us a short statement on their intranet (described as ‘very difficult to find’ by one employee). We’re told that managers are receiving a break-down of the voting results to see who got the ‘right’ result for the company. What they will do with the information is anyone’s guess. Read More…

CWU bites back

5,000 postal workers suffer dog attacks each year. Credit:

THE union representing postal workers in the UK has welcomed a report that provides hope to workers who live in fear of being attacked by dangerous dogs.


The publication of the Langley Report today is warmly welcomed by the Communication Workers Union which says it is “the catalyst needed to bring action and change” and calls again for the UK’s failing dogs laws to be overhauled without further delay.


CWU general secretary Billy Hayes said: “We congratulate Sir Gordon Langley on his excellent inquiry and report which strongly calls on government to change the UK’s failing dogs laws. It is the catalyst needed to bring action and change within Royal Mail where up to 5,000 postal workers suffer dog attacks each year. Read More…

New Zealand shows how community unionism can bring us together

Together LogoI don’t think that anyone who heard Helen Kelly, President of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions speak at the TUC recently could have failed to be impressed. There was a great freshness and directness about her delivery and, of course, it’s great to see another national centre being lead by a woman. But it was the subject of her presentation – on the NZCTU’s “Together” programme that really set me thinking.


This is a different take on the “community-based” trade unionism championed not just by Unite and Community but also unions like my own CWU, who have always looked to support members and their families at home as well as work, and often when they are out of work as well as employed. Read More…

Bloggers United Could Help Strengthen Our Democracy and Marginalise Our Opponents

UnionHome is great, but surely it is long overdue? Why haven’t trade union websites, predicated on user-generated content, found a niche in cyberspace until now?


I can only speak from my personal experiences as an administrator for We deal with the day-to-day challenges of promoting a safe space within which union activists, especially young union activists, can debate issues of importance to them within the requirement of respecting the integrity of the union’s democratic decision-making process.


In doing so, we have to accommodate some uncomfortable encounters with user-generated material from the union’s recent history. For example, there are well-established (not by us) online fora for employees of the companies where we organise and in the past the content has frequently been unpleasant. Generally speaking the standards that were reflected there would not be those that we wish the union nationally to be associated with.


So, how is it that CWU’s youth section has been able to establish and sustain (for over 4 years now) it’s own website as one which prides itself on user-generated content, especially when the parent main website,, does not have discussion forums or threads?

Read More…

Unions are Political – Let’s Make the Most of It

ConferenceLabour Party Conference is a good time to reflect on the explicitly political nature of some of the CWU’s campaigning work.


I believe trade unions are inevitably political. The CWU is often explicitly so.  Any group of 205,000 workers and their families acting in a combined, collective way must have an impact on social and economic policy.  Especially when more than half of them work in a public sector body the government wants to sell off.


So even  though the  legislation  to  privatise has been  passed, we  continue to  work  hard on the regulatory structures,  to protect the  “Universal Service Obligation” which  we believe is very much under threat.  We also continue to press for the utilisation and development of the Post Office as a vehicle for   delivery of key services – hence our campaign with others for a Post Bank. Every  failure to  utilise this already  existing, publicly  funded  network (such as switching  the contract  for  benefit  payments (the so-called “Green Giros” ) to  a commercial company) demonstrates to us the ideological and hostile character of the government’s intentions.

Read More…