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From The Socialist newspaper, 6 September 2003

TUC conference: Opportunities for the Left

THIS YEAR'S TUC conference is the first for a number of years where the Left has a good chance of making its mark in a big way and the resolutions on the agenda reflect this.

Bill Mullins, Socialist Party industrial organiser

There is an edge to the resolutions from those unions who have seen a change in leadership and a move away from the class collaborationist 'partnership' with the employers.

The TUC conference has generally tried to fudge over issues that were too critical of Blair and New Labour. But this year's agenda makes this more difficult.

The issues touched on range from the rise of the BNP (12 resolutions and amendments are devoted to this and the demonisation of asylum seekers) to the increasing anger felt by millions of workers about what is happening to their pensions.

The Left-led Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has an amendment to resolution 72 on pensions from the First Division Association (see right).

In an amendment to resolution 36 on public service reform, PCS also calls for the TUC to organise a conference: "of trade union executives to plan a campaign to achieve conference policy".

This is an attempt to give some teeth to the campaign against privatisation, rather than yet just another meeting of general secretaries.

It should really be a conference open to shop stewards and others on the front line fighting privatisation but it seems even this amendment is being opposed by the right-wing!

Probably one of the biggest issues facing workers is the question of 'life/work balance'. The pressures put on workers by the bosses' "work till you drop" philosophy has never been greater.

The PCS seeks to give a lead on this. It calls in resolution 35 for a 35-hour week, proper child care provision, paid holidays in line with the best European practices and a number of other measures.

Resolution 37 also from the PCS, calls for the TUC to oppose the attempts by the government to break up national pay bargaining in the public sector (as revealed by Gordon Brown in his budget speech earlier this year) and stop the fragmentation of public-sector pay arrangements for the government's own employees.

Foundation Hospitals

Transport union TGWU raises the issue of foundation hospitals and trusts in resolution 39, as does UNISON in resolution 40. But neither resolution calls for concrete action.

This further move in the sell-off of the NHS requires organised opposition by the main unions. It should not be left to the privatised contract workers to fight against privatisation.

A contentious resolution (45) on teachers' workloads has been tabled by the right-wing teachers union, NASUWT.

It praises the agreement to allow teaching assistants to take on some of the teacher's classroom role.

It is part of the plan by New Labour to reduce teachers from 400,000 to 250,000. Activists from the other main teachers' union NUT rightly call this "getting teachers on the cheap".

Even though UNISON has an amendment to this which calls for the "re-grading of support staff" this is a long way from ensuring that only properly qualified and properly paid teachers teach in schools.

On the rise of the BNP, all the resolutions point out the tremendous dangers to the working class and trade union rights if the fascist and racist BNP gain power.

The lecturers' union NATFHE in resolution 20 calls for the TUC to organise "a major national event in northern England" as part of the unions' opposition to the BNP.

ASLEF, in resolution 21, calls for the repeal of sections of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act which makes illegal the expulsion from the unions of known fascists.

Workers' rights

The section on workers' rights is once again heavily supported with resolutions from many unions. The RMT (resolution 4)) notes existing TUC policy to repeal all the anti-union laws and condemns the government's review as a "failure".

The NUJ (resolution 5) calls for the right to take secondary action in strikes, as does the GPMU (resolution 1).

The RMT also calls for the TUC to organise a mass demo next May Day for rights at work.

The TGWU in an amendment to resolution 1 calls for the removal of the right of companies to sack workers after eight weeks of a legal strike and other resolutions condemn New Labour's failure to allow workers' rights in companies with less than 21 workers.

The TUC promises to be somewhat different this year. The role of the 'awkward squad' will make the headlines, much to the chagrin of the government and the right-wing in the unions.

TUC: Socialist Party public meeting. Tuesday 9 September, 7pm.
The Brighton Hotel, 145 Kings Road (seafront), Brighton.

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

In The Socialist 6 September 2003:

Teach Blair A Lesson Build a new workers' party

Blair's head still spinning

Fight low pay, job cuts and privatisation in Royal Mail

Death and destruction in Iraq

Stop SATs: Unions must take action

How to beat top-up fees

Asylum seekers: Blunkett's harsh policies ignore reality

Daggers drawn in the BNP

Understanding Marxism - a guide to action

Will new IVF proposals end the postcode lottery?

London blackout: Chaos shows up failure to invest

TUC conference: Opportunities for the Left

Civil service union challenges New Labour's pension pans

Are the unions on a collision course with Blair and the bosses?

Royal Mail's spin doctor

Strike action on the increase

Israel/Palestine: Ceasefire collapses as Sharon targets Palestinian leaders

Italy - a 'hot autumn' awaits Berlusconi

Build a movement against the occupation of Iraq

Iraq: Can the occupation be stopped?


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