Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 7 June 2003

'Awkward Squad' Gains Another Member

TONY WOODLEY'S victory as general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) is a big defeat for Tony Blair and the Blairites in the trade unions.

Blair's preferred candidate, Jack Dromey, was heavily defeated - which confirms that anyone seen to have the Prime Minister's backing in union elections can kiss goodbye to their chances of getting elected.

Woodley's victory, coupled with his public statements, will raise expectations amongst workers everywhere and not just amongst TGWU members, that some union leaders are prepared not just to talk radical but to put their promises into action.

Woodley says that he will, as general secretary, campaign for an increase in the national minimum wage which he declares as poverty pay. He has said that his priority is the repeal of the anti-union laws which "tie one hand behind our backs" when fighting the employers.

And, he told The Independent: "No other country outlaws solidarity action, places so many obstacles in the way of lawful industrial action, or makes trade union recognition almost a privilege instead of a right".

Fighting unions

In a phrase that will resonate with many, he says that: "There is no guarantee that if you fight for your rights you will win but if you don't then you never will".

He rejects the idea that the way to build the unions is just by offering better services (a method used unsuccessfully by the right-wing). This is borne out by the growth in trade unions like the RMT and the NUT who have been in battles with the employers.

But he also points out that the battle to win concessions for his members is not down purely to the industrial front - it will take politics as well.

He has promised to let the TGWU conference decide on whether the union should support the euro or not "because of the political issues involved".

Another commitment he makes is opposing the so-called partnership deals between the unions and the bosses - a much-loved issue for the TUC.

His attitude to New Labour is summed up by his promise to organise a 'council of war' with other Left leaders to produce a united front against New Labour. If nothing comes of that, then his plan B is withdrawing financial support from constituencies where Labour MPs are opposed to TGWU policies.

Poor reward

UNFORTUNATELY TONY Woodley says that the campaign to break the link between Labour and the unions is a right-wing agenda. We do not believe that this is the case at all.

How will the success of "bringing Labour back into the Party" be measured? Will it be when the anti-union laws are repealed by a Labour government or when the minimum wage is raised substantially?

What will be the line in the sand which says the campaign to win Labour back to its roots has failed?

The TGWU gives 1 million every year to the Labour Party. The unions as whole have paid a colossal 250 million in the last 25 years. What have they got in return?

Unfortunately precious little. On the contrary, working people have faced a diet of cuts, privatisation and the obscenity of the PFI as well as New Labour keeping intact Thatcher's vicious anti union laws.

It will be nigh-on impossible for Woodley to convince his members, never mind anyone else, to rejoin a Labour Party with the Blairites still firmly in control.

Trade unionists are voting with their feet and leaving the Labour Party in droves. The socialist believes that he, along with most of the trade unions' new Left leaders, is mistaken on this vital issue. And bitter historical experience will only underline that this is the case.

What did the Labour Party do for the sacked Liverpool dockers? What has the Labour government done for the Friction Dynamics workers in north Wales, 300 of whom were sacked three years ago after organising a legal ballot and strike action.

This futile attempt will come to nothing. Nevertheless Woodley's election marks a new situation with the unions and their historic link with the Labour Party, at the same time as Blair is looking more vulnerable than ever.

The election of left trade union leaders, the so called "awkward squad", is an indication of the changes taking place on the shop floor and in the unions. However this new leadership is yet to be tested by events, but Woodley's victory is another nail in the coffin of New Labour and its supporters in the trade unions.

Now for a Left executive

TONY WOODLEY'S decisive victory over the other three candidates was a real kick in the teeth for the national full-time officials.

Teresa MacKay, chair of RAAW [agricultural] national trade group

Woodley had 66,958 votes. Yet the regional secretaries had made it clear they would not back him. The regional barons' preferred candidate, Barry Camfield, was trounced into third place with just 28,346. Jack Dromey, No 10's favourite candidate, got 45,136 votes.

Throughout both elections Tony Woodley emphasised the need to reclaim the union for its members. For too long control freakery has ruled but if he is to be able to deliver he will need a general executive council that will work with him instead of the right-wing clique dominating it.

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

In The Socialist 7 June 2003:

Exposed - Blair's Weapons Of Mass Deception

Firefighters' Battle For A Living Wage And To Save The Fire Service

Government buries fire safety report

Left moves by lecturers' union

No To Poverty Pay In The NHS

Lincolnshire health workers' pay battle

France: Millions On Strike

France: Millions Strike Against The Raffarin Government

Peru: Two Million workers and peasants strike against Toledo

G8 at Evian: Multinationals 'United' In Exploitation?

Northern Ireland: Socialist To Lead Biggest Union

How Imperialism Impoverishes Africa

'Awkward Squad' Gains Another Member

Bosses To Blame For Sackings

"Who Can Blame Them?"


Home   |   The Socialist 7 June 2003   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:

Tony Woodley:

triangleShould The Unions Campaign To "Reclaim The Labour Party"?

triangle2008 Trades Union Congress: Pressure from below begins to show


triangleCorbyn's Labour needs 100% anti-cuts strategy and fight for democracy

triangleWe must fight all council cuts!

trianglePacked Newham meeting against academies

triangleNo to the Woolwich monster block


triangleAppeal from Iranian independent unions

triangleNewham academy strikes spread to Cumberland school

triangleSustained mass movement needed to stop Tories wrecking our NHS


trianglePoverty, repression and fightback on the docks

triangleReview: 'On the Track' by Bill Mullins

Labour Party:

triangleTotnes MP uses coffin controversy to distract from brutal NHS cuts

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns



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!


Socialist Party

Southern Socialist Party conference



Home care workers to strike


Waltham Forest

Outrage against 'monster block' plan

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

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

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

triangle12 Jan Outrage against 'monster block' plan

triangle12 Jan Mini-strike wave continues and intensifies

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