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Workers' Anger Begins To Show At TUC
THE DAILY reality of working-class life finally found its way onto the floor of this year's TUC - a body that had become increasingly remote from working class struggles in recent years.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow and civil service union PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka, not only showed the anger building up in Britain's workplaces but also demanded on behalf of those workers that the TUC should start leading with action not words.
In a rousing speech Bob Crow called for all anti-union laws to be repealed.
He argued that workers have to pay tax and national insurance from day one of work so why should they not have full workers' rights from day one?
He said that the task the TUC had before it was to raise people's consciousness about the role of the trade unions and how they could fight to improve working people's lives.
Far better to spend time at the TUC doing that he said than listening to a bosses' representative like Digby Jones of the CBI coming to the TUC and lecturing workers on how hard things are for the fat cats.
Mark Serwotka of the PCS made two telling speeches to the conference. On the issue of work-life balance he said that his union was demanding "an end to 'work till you drop' Britain".
And he said that the unions had to force New Labour to "stop listening to the CBI and Institute of Directors crying wolf and listen to the trade unions, workers and Labour's potential core supporters... we need action not words."
Even more important was the PCS intervention in a debate on pensions where the union's pushing had ensured that the composite motion on the issue included a commitment to a national demonstration and rally which could lead to a national day of action as part of a sustained campaign.
Mark Serwotka also argued that British unions should "link up with French, German, Italian, Austrian" and other European workers who were conducting a massive wave of struggle to defend pension rights across Europe.
He concluded by saying: "Some people say such action will let the Tories back in. It is not action by the unions which will do this but the failure of a Labour government to solve the fundamental problems of British workers.
"Millions of workers are seeing their futures and their contracts torn up before their eyes.
"We must take co-ordinated action to defend them."
Whilst little controversy appeared likely initially to surface on the agenda - all unions had agreed to support all 23 major composite resolutions - even on the first day there was a close vote where a number of unions challenged a TUC general council statement on the euro, which was narrowly carried.
In The Socialist 13 September 2003: