Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 29 September 2010

What's the point of the unions?

Bob Crow, RMT general secretary, addresses National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) lobby of TUC conference in Manchester 2010, photo Suleyman Civi

Bob Crow, RMT general secretary, addresses National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) lobby of TUC conference in Manchester 2010, photo Suleyman Civi   (Click to enlarge)

Following the highest-profile TUC conference in almost a generation, the Dispatches programme: What's the point of the unions? promised to shine a light on trade unionism in 2010.

Greg Maughan, Leytonstone Socialist Party

The first section concentrated on RMT general secretary Bob Crow, who the tabloids are desperately trying to make into a demon figure. And the programme was designed to repeat this.

But for many workers fighting cuts, footage of Bob speaking is extremely positive. The solid strike action of RMT and TSSA members last month was given as an example of how the trade unions can have a massive impact when they take action.

The documentary points to the RMT tactic of balloting for action early, to have a mandate in negotiations. A representative from Transport for London criticises this, but the narrator is forced to admit: "Bob Crow's approach was highly effective in delivering results for his members."

Ex-Tory MP and rail operator Steve Norris commented on Bob Crow: "This is a guy who believes in this mission to destroy capitalism. If he thought he could, he'd bring the government down tomorrow." A lot of workers would agree with that.

Then the documentary went into the wages of some of the trade union general secretaries. Derek Simpson of Unite earns 200,000 a year. One TUC delegate expressed the opinion of many trade unionists when she said: "It's bad. It's the same as the greedy bankers. Sorry, but it is."

When the tabloids and the establishment media attack trade union representatives for the wages they're paid, it is done from the point of view of opposing collective action and supporting the current economic system.

But in the Socialist Party we believe that trade union members should have control over the election and pay of their representatives and fulltime officials. We stand for representatives to be on the same average pay as their members.

As well as making sure that people stay in touch with the workers they represent, this also closes down a common line of attack for the establishment.

Lastly, the documentary detailed how Unison failed its members on the 'equal pay' Single Status agreement and how 'no-win, no-fee' lawyers have taken up cases that the union rejected and won women workers thousands of pounds in compensation. The implication is that the trade unions have abandoned their members and that workers are better off taking individual action.

But the root of all this is the Unison leadership's acceptance of Single Status without mounting a campaign for extra funding from central government to raise women workers' wages.

The trade union movement is not one homogeneous body; there are many different facets to it. But the basic idea of collective action to defend our interests will come to the fore as workers feel the bite of the cuts. Through personal experience, many will draw the conclusion that the type of trade unionism outlined in the first third of this documentary is what we need.

The programme is interesting and worth a watch with a critical eye.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 29 September 2010:

Anti-cuts campaign

We need action against the cuts... and a socialist political alternative

Fight the cuts! - demonstrate on 23 October

Stop wholesale sell-off in Suffolk

Suffolk Unison member speaks

Councils must defy cuts

Children's homes: Bosses' 'Tribalism' defeated

Fighting to save our services

Service users defend Ealing health centres

Anti-cuts demonstrations planned so far

Socialist Party editorial

No 'lurch to the left' for Labour

Socialist Party news and analysis

Stop the NHS sell-off

Death at Kington Court community care centre shows "regime of neglect"

UN fails to meet development goals

Housing bosses' pay goes through the roof

Unison elections: Socialists stand for a fighting and democratic trade union

Socialist Students

Students: Why we must all protest!

Socialist Students: showing an alternative to cuts and fees

Defend students' democratic rights

Socialist Party feature

Britain on the brink

Socialist Party workplace news

What's the point of the unions?

South Wales: Fight for car workers' jobs

Ballot victory against social enterprise

Bosses try to rewrite history

Workplace news in brief

International socialist news and analysis

Right-wing government re-elected in Sweden

Is Ireland's economy going bust?

Socialist Party feature

Global AIDS crisis: Profits punish poor


Home   |   The Socialist 29 September 2010   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleAppeal from Iranian independent unions

triangleNewham academy strikes spread to Cumberland school

triangleSustained mass movement needed to stop Tories wrecking our NHS

triangleA world in crisis, ripe for revolution

triangleAfter the budget - unions must launch pay fight

Trade union:

triangleStrike wins biggest pay rise in ten years

triangle2018: more upheavals loom

triangleObituary: Derek Robinson, car workers' leader, 1927-2017

triangleNew play celebrates Grunwick strike


triangleRMT strikes against driver-only operation continue

triangleRMT rail members buoyed by coordinated action

triangleStrike against driver-only operation on five rail networks

Bob Crow:

triangleThe left unions and the Labour Party affiliation debate

triangleBob Crow's socialist legacy


triangleHackney school cleaners strike

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns



Sudan: Free Mohamed Satti



Women rally defiantly



Red Mary - a Force of Nature



Socialist Party women's meeting brings together members to share experiences



Packed Newham meeting against academies



Lobby pushes Liverpool council to oppose privatisation



Heating scandal on east London estate



Undercover policing legal challenge



No to the Woolwich monster block



Workplace news in brief



PCS union 2018 elections - nominate the left slate for a continued fighting leadership



Hackney school cleaners strike



RMT strikes against driver-only operation continue



Ferrybridge: Workers down tools over unpaid wages



We must fight all council cuts!

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle22 Jan Women rally defiantly

triangle22 Jan Red Mary - a Force of Nature

triangle17 Jan Corbyn's Labour needs 100% anti-cuts strategy and fight for democracy

triangle17 Jan NHS crisis: under pressure from all angles - end cuts and sell-offs!

triangle17 Jan We must fight all council cuts!

triangle16 Jan Home care workers to strike

triangle15 Jan Carillion crisis: Demand action to save jobs and services

More ...

triangle23 Jan Bristol North Socialist Party: 'You can't have capitalism without racism' - was Malcolm X correct?

triangle23 Jan Cardiff West Socialist Party: How the Poll Tax was beaten

triangle24 Jan Caerphilly Socialist Party: The Carillion scandal

triangle24 Jan Cardiff Central Socialist Party: Carillion collapse - Watershed moment for public services

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



January 2018






















Platform setting: = No platform choice