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From The Socialist newspaper, 25 October 2017

Shop stewards solidarity meeting brings together workers in struggle

NSSN solidarity meeting in Birmingham 21 October 2017, photo NSSN

NSSN solidarity meeting in Birmingham 21 October 2017, photo NSSN   (Click to enlarge)

Clive Walder, NSSN steering committee

If the TUC won't coordinate disputes and put pressure on the bosses then we will. That was the message from the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) solidarity meeting held in Birmingham on 21 October.

Around 80 trade unionists met to build solidarity and strengthen existing networks to support the growing number of long-running and bitter disputes that have taken place such as the Birmingham bin workers, British Airways cabin crew, Barts health workers and the Mears housing workers in Manchester.

The meeting opened with Rob Williams, chair of the NSSN, giving an overview of the industrial situation and stressing that the mood of workers is changing in that they are fed up with never-ending austerity that produces no economic improvement.

Unions are being forced to reflect that pressure and where unions are providing leadership, workers will respond with action. Rob stressed that we have an incredibly weak Tory government that could be overthrown by concerted industrial action. There is no shortage of potential disputes to coordinate - the TUC itself should be organising that.

Darren Glebocki from the postal executive of the Communication Workers Union reported that, though postal workers were livid at the blatant interference of the courts in preventing the two-day strike taking place, they are still determined to see the back of Royal Mail's attacks on pensions and job security.

He said that they may have won an injunction but that the union still had a 90% vote for industrial action which meant big problems for Royal Mail. The terms of the injunction mean that strike action may take place in six to eight weeks, possibly just before Christmas.

Bin workers

Howard Beckett, Unite assistant general secretary, paid tribute to the resolve of the Birmingham bin workers and was confident that the interim injunction preventing redundancies taking place will be upheld at the full court hearing on 27 November. He stressed that the chief executive of Birmingham council was in effect appointed by the Tory government and said: "The council couldn't give a monkey's about safety. This was about downgrading workers' jobs."

Birmingham bin workers convenor Richard Beddows also spoke and from the floor Ted Woodley mentioned that Socialist Party members had been on the picket line virtually every day of the dispute and produced eleven bulletins and are now producing bulletins for the postal workers.

Katrine Williams from the PCS executive spoke about their consultative ballot over action to secure a pay rise of more than 1%.

Jane Nellist from the newly formed National Education Union, spoke about the issues affecting teachers such as pay and workloads and the need for a national ballot.

Annette, a Unite rep from Rolls-Royce in Derby, gave an emotional speech about the campaign to save the Derby Womens' Centre from closure by a Labour council with millions in usable reserves.

In closing the meeting Linda Taaffe, NSSN secretary, reiterated the point that the TUC should be encouraging and coordinating these disputes and that we shouldn't need the NSSN because the TUC should be the NSSN.

But if they won't, we will.

Discussions include: 'Workers v bosses: Who will win the low pay war??'

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