Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/26118

Posted on 11 September 2017 at 15:36 GMT

Birmingham bin worker Richie addressing the NSSN rally, 10.9.17

Birmingham bin worker Richie addressing the NSSN rally, 10.9.17   (Click to enlarge)

NSSN lobby of the TUC 2017: rank-and-file solidarity to smash the pay cap

Andy Beadle

The National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) rally in Brighton on 10 September was the most inspiring yet! The rally is now a regular feature at - and generally stands in stark contrast to - the TUC annual congress which it is timed to coincide with.

We saw a mix of fighting trade union leaders and workers currently active in workplace disputes. The TUC is always busy with its reports of mistreatment of workers and trade union members. The rally demanded action: it's time for change.

Janice Godrich, president of the PCS civil servants' union, opened the meeting and explained: "The NSSN has played a tremendous role supporting workers in dispute: holding rallies, lobbies; speaking up for the rank and file."

NSSN rally 10.9.17, photo by Neil Cafferky

NSSN rally 10.9.17, photo by Neil Cafferky   (Click to enlarge)

Steve Gillan, general secretary of the POA prison officers' and allied workers' union, described the "absolute misery on prisoners and staff," particularly physical attacks. "Disturbances on a weekly and monthly basis" resulting from overcrowding and government cuts. He spoke of the obstacles made by the government to try to stop union action.

Steve's main point was to: "Smash the pay cap. Public and private sector workers must get beyond-inflation pay rises... Any trade unionists who take action: I will not repudiate that action. This government is weak, make no mistake about it. Together and only together, we can win this battle."

Before NSSN chair Rob Williams spoke, Janice announced the arrival of the striking bin workers from Birmingham and the room rose in ovation (collecting tins went round for them too).

Rob Williams speaking, NSSN rally 10.9.17

Rob Williams speaking, NSSN rally 10.9.17   (Click to enlarge)

Rob explained: "The NSSN was initiated by the late, great Bob Crow eleven years ago" and made a series of important points. "Theresa May said there's no magic money tree. But they found 1 billion to do a dodgy deal with the DUP. Where's the magic money tree for the nurses?"

He warned of the damage Birmingham's Labour council could do to Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity message with its attacks on the bin workers, 'behaving more like Willie Walsh than Jeremy Corbyn', and the importance of the national Labour leadership pledging the removal of strike-breaking councillors. But he said to Corbyn and John McDonnell: "You have put nationalisation back on the agenda."

Rob said Corbyn's "promise to abolish student fees led to a 'youthquake' in the general election campaign. "Speaking of cuts in living standards," he added, "it is necessary to get back the 20% lost over the last seven years. This TUC must be a council of war."

NSSN thanked

Unite the Union general secretary Len McCluskey told the meeting: "Thank you for the work that you do. In Unite and every other union, the shop steward is the face that members see." Len also expressed his personal thanks to Peter Taaffe, general secretary of the Socialist Party. He added, "if working people have confidence, anything is possible."

Len McCluskey speaking, NSSN rally 10.9.17, photo by Neil Cafferky

Len McCluskey speaking, NSSN rally 10.9.17, photo by Neil Cafferky   (Click to enlarge)

"Unite have set up a 36 million strike fund... to tell bosses if they think they can starve our members back to work they had better think again." Len supported the bin workers and attacked Birmingham council, saying: "Some councillors don't have any backbone."

He continued: "Unite is proud to be a fighting-back union, afraid of no one... That is why we removed the rule from our rule book preventing illegal industrial action. If bosses want to push us outside the law, so be it." He ended: "It is possible to achieve a better world for our class and our people."

John McDonnell, Labour shadow chancellor, addressed his opening remarks to the bin strikers. "I do not see your strike as a strike against Labour: it is a strike against austerity." He called on Birmingham council to change its stance. "We want negotiations to resolve this dispute." Unfortunately, he did not call for the removal of the Labour councillors implementing austerity.

John, however, declared: "The role of a Labour MP isn't just to be in parliament, it is to be on the picket line." He supported various strikers at the rally and promised: "When we get into power we will restore trade union rights to the POA." He spoke of the "multi-millionaires on the front benches of this Tory government."

John McDonnell speaking, NSSN rally 10.9.17, photo by Neil Cafferky

John McDonnell speaking, NSSN rally 10.9.17, photo by Neil Cafferky   (Click to enlarge)

John listed further commitments: "We will scrap the pay cap... a real living wage of 10 an hour when Labour is elected... In the first hundred days of Labour government we'll scrap the Trade Union Act of the Tories."

He concluded: "We cannot tolerate a society which has such great inequalities in wealth and income... We want a society for the many, not the few; a society with respect for trade union rights."

Mark Serwotka speaking, NSSN rally 10.9.17, photo Neil Cafferky

Mark Serwotka speaking, NSSN rally 10.9.17, photo Neil Cafferky

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka pledged PCS support to all workers in dispute. Between 9 October and 6 November, every PCS worker in the public sector is to be balloted, in a consultative ballot, on their support for action against the pay cap. Mark called for coordinated action with other unions. "There should be no deserving and undeserving workers. Each and every one of us deserves a pay rise... there should be a minimum 5% pay rise for everyone across the board."

Sean Hoyle, president of the RMT transport union, continued on the same theme: "RMT will fight the removal of every safety-critical guard on every train... Transport should be run by the people, for the people - whether you're a bus driver, train driver or a guard."

Sean Hoyle speaking, NSSN rally 10.9.17

Sean Hoyle speaking, NSSN rally 10.9.17   (Click to enlarge)

He asked the TUC: "Which side are you on?" "Year after year" the TUC passes resolutions but "nothing happens. If you don't organise action, we will". Sean called for all progressive trade unions to stand together and coordinate action. "Every trade unionist should want to bring down this trade union-hating Tory government."

Sean went on to comment on Labour councils implementing cuts. "Whether it is Tory or Labour austerity it doesn't hurt any less... we have a socialist-led Labour Party but it is still no good if Labour councils are carrying out Tory austerity."

He reported on the removal of the guards by Merseyrail, a Labour transport authority, and concluded: "If councillors don't know what colour their rosette is, they need to leave" and make room for those who are prepared to fight.

Richie Beddows, convenor of Unite Birmingham bin workers, got the biggest cheers and they all got another standing ovation. Richie too stressed safety: "113 workers have to keep an eye on the rear of the vehicle, which CCTV can't replace." The council wanted to downgrade the job. "The 113 face a choice... the only real option is to stand and fight. We will take it all the way." He finished: "Enough is enough. Labour councillors fulfil your mandate and say no to austerity."

Ronnie Draper, general secretary the BFAWU bakers' union, came to the platform with Lewis Baker, a McDonalds striker from Crayford. Some young workers are on just 4.05 an hour.

Many other speakers

No less important but so numerous were other speakers involved in strikes and struggle who addressed the rally. Solidarity with such workers is the whole purpose of the NSSN. Yet here we can only list them and refer readers to reports in the Socialist and on the Socialist Party website.

Amy Murphy speaking, NSSN rally 10.9.17, photo by Neil Cafferky

Amy Murphy speaking, NSSN rally 10.9.17, photo by Neil Cafferky   (Click to enlarge)

Terry Pullinger, deputy general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, spoke for Royal Mail workers.

Amy Murphy, a Tesco worker on the executive committee of shopworkers' union Usdaw, spoke in a personal capacity.

Zim spoke for Unite on the BA mixed fleet cabin crew dispute.

Len Hockey is Unite leader of the striking Barts hospital workers in east London. He explained how the Barts strike had brought together longstanding trade unionists alongside recent employees, many of whom were migrant workers. The strike was currently suspended pending talks, but solidarity, action and campaigning had already won results including the introduction of the London living wage and workers on zero-hour contracts being given permanent, regular work.

Moe, a Unite bus workers' leader, spoke of their rally later in the week. Moe expressed solidarity with the striking McDonalds workers as he used to do that job himself.

Sean McGovern, an executive committee member of Unite, spoke of the campaign of Disabled People Against Cuts.

Linda Taaffe, secretary of the NSSN, appealed for union branches to help fund NSSN.

Finally, Hugo Pierre, an EC member of Unison (speaking in a personal capacity) contrasted the anti-union actions of Birmingham councillors with the historic part played by Liverpool councillors in the 1980s who defended working class people. Hugo questioned what these people were doing in the Labour Party. He explained the important role of the NSSN in encouraging groups of workers to carry on until they win: "Solidarity works!"


This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 11 September 2017 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

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






Related links:

NSSN:

triangleNSSN meeting brings together workers in struggle

triangleBirmingham: NSSN Solidarity Forum

triangleFood processing workers vote for action against miserly bosses

triangleTUC supports Birmingham bin workers

triangleStrike together for better pay

TUC:

triangleRoyal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

triangleUnite local government sector plans strike ballot

triangleTories torn - bin them now

triangleCWU fights court attempt to stop national strike

Workers:

triangleVirgin train workers vote for strike action over pay

triangleVirgin train workers ballot for strike action

triangleTories on the brink - kick them out!

Union:

triangleHuge support for strikes of bus drivers and train guards

triangleFight to keep guards on trains continues despite setback Aslef deal

Labour:

triangleCorbyn must challenge pro-gentrification council leader or others will

Austerity:

triangleIs cuts-making Preston 'beating Tory austerity'?

RMT:

triangleStrikers picket the South Western Railway network

POA:

triangleThe left unions and the Labour Party affiliation debate

John McDonnell:

triangleThe end of the Tories?

BFAWU:

triangleTories weak: time for the TUC to act

Anti-austerity:

triangleTories u-turn on social housing benefit cap and borrowing to build

Mark Serwotka:

triangleEscalate summer strike wave into coordinated action to defeat the pay cap

National Shop Stewards Network:

triangleMixed-fleet workers show strikes get results

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis

15/11/17

Prisons

4,800 young people hurt after officers 'restrain' them

15/11/17

Preston

Is cuts-making Preston 'beating Tory austerity'?

15/11/17

Housing

No more excuses: fit sprinklers now!

15/11/17

What we saw

What we saw

15/11/17

Energy

We're freezing: reverse cuts to boiler replacement schemes!

15/11/17

Tories

Tories on the brink - kick them out!

14/11/17

Socialist

Socialism 2017: Organising to fight back

8/11/17

What we saw

What we saw

8/11/17

Child poverty

Child poverty set to hit 5.2m - unions and Corbyn must act now

8/11/17

Young people

We can win the vote at 16!

8/11/17

Women

Bosses say 217 years to close pay gap - workers' struggle can close it now!

8/11/17

Women

Westminster sexual harassment scandal

8/11/17

Students

Walk out against tuition fees on Budget Day!

8/11/17

Tax

PFI privateers dodge tax

7/11/17

Tax

'Paradise' for billionaires - austerity for us

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...


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

triangle15 Nov March for free education! We demand a future!

triangle15 Nov Tories on the brink - kick them out!

Socialism 2017

triangle14 Nov Socialism 2017: Organising to fight back

triangle13 Nov Strike wave continues with 49 walkout days by housing workers

triangle10 Nov US: Historic vote for Ginger Jentzen campaign in Minneapolis

triangle10 Nov Strikers picket the South Western Railway network

triangle10 Nov Europe in crisis, revolutionary winds in Catalonia

More ...

triangle20 Nov Birmingham Central Socialist Party: How can socialists support upcoming strikes?

triangle21 Nov Cardiff Socialist Students: Socialism and the struggle for LGBT rights

triangle21 Nov Birmingham South East Socialist Party: NHS in Meltdown - What can be done?

triangle21 Nov Sheffield North Socialist Party: The causes of capitalist crisis

More ...

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

Archive

Archives:

November 2017

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2