In response to the pandemic, USDAW – the shop workers union – has closed down it’s democratic structures, cancelled all its conferences, meetings and schools, and sent everyone on release back to work.
It is precisely in crises that we need our unions to increase its activity and generate wider discussions across workplaces and companies.
While it may be a good idea to postpone our larger conferences, there is no reason at all why our branch meetings and educational discussions couldn’t happen online, and why, with appropriate PPE, reps on stand down couldn’t continue to provide support in their area.
Most worryingly of all, in Tesco at least, the monthly store rep team meetings, where we discuss what’s going on in our store and how to react, have been cancelled. There’s no obvious reason for this, especially seeing as we’re all working with each other anyway!
USDAW must rapidly find a way to reopen its branches and divisions for democratic discussion on how best to respond to this crisis.
Most reps I’ve spoken to understand this, with our group chats and Facebook groups more active than ever. But we can’t just allow this to be a discussion amongst ourselves on how best to implement the policies from our managers – we need to be talking with our colleagues in our store (particularly in the absence of larger meetings) and agreeing amongst ourselves what protections and policies we want to fight for.
Charlie is an USDAW Rep in a large format Tesco store in London