Kevin's Blog

Now and then we hear complaints from some of our members that it is too difficult to organise in the hotel sector in London. Every now and then we should remind them that in comparison to some of our Sisters and Brothers in other countries we have it easy. I visited a hotel today which is at the centre of an organising battle being fought by FSPM, our sister union, in Indonesia. The management not only introduced a union busting strategy but brought trumped up criminal charges against some of our activists which resulted them being sentenced to 4 months in jail. The union has initiated an appeal against the sentences and has reported the company to the ILO. The chair woman of the union was one of those charged and sentenced. This sister is a widow with two dependent children. Thus far her union activism has cost her job and loss of income, health insurance cover for her and her children and the threat of 4 months in prison ... and we think organising in London is challenging! Our Sister understands that if she is to achieve social and economic justice and a future for her children that she has to fight for it because she knows that if you fight you can win but if you don’t fight you will lose. Her union is 100% behind her and besides the legal action on their members’ behalf they continue to put pressure on the company.
I also met the union members at a super luxury resort hotel, with some of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen, where the charges start at 900 US Dollars and go up to 2100 USD per night. This is in a region of the country where the princely sum of 75 USD is the monthly minimum wage. They built their union membership up to 81% and won recognition. At a meeting they asked me to tell them what they should do to win better terms and conditions. Besides being humbled by a group of workers who had secured recognition asking me for advice I told them what we have discussed many times at our Branch. That is simply; maintain solidarity, keep good communications with the members, discuss and agree your goals, keep building power in the workplace, defend every victory and most of all, no one outside of the workplace can win power for them, they have to do it for themselves. Nothing worth fighting for comes easy. The organising message is universal. Some might say that I should have used the opportunity to make a rousing speech full of imagery and rhetoric. But that kind of oratory is transient whereas the truth is constant and being honest about the challenges of organising is central to winning. They were a great bunch of workers and I feel sure that with the continued support of the FSPM and the IUF they and all the other members here in Indonesia will steadily grow in power and win the changes they are looking for. The lesson for us in London is that if our Brothers and Sisters can organise in much harsher conditions here then we should use their example to spur ourselves on and renew our efforts.
“If not us ... who? If not now ... when?