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From The Socialist newspaper, 14 May 2008

North west shop stewards

Following a successful inaugural conference of the North West Shop Stewards Network (NWSSN) last month, the elected committee met for the first time on 10 May.

Dave Lunn, assistant secretary NWSSN, personal capacity

The committee elected officers, including four Socialist Party members, all of whom have a proven track record in organising disputes, to oversee the running of the committee between meetings.

The meeting discussed the public-sector strikes of 24 April. There were reports of real solidarity at grassroots level and an extremely positive response to the call for a one-day strike across the whole public sector.

It was noted that many young workers, in particular teachers, were taking strike action for the first time and even student teachers who weren't union members stayed away from work and attended rallies. There were further reports of other workers in dispute including Shelter workers and teachers at Withens School in Bolton who are taking action against academy status. What was apparent was the increased level of industrial militancy amongst workers in general.

Throughout the meeting, Socialist Party members made the point that for the network to have relevance, it must further engage in supporting struggle. The committee agreed to look into ways of being more inclusive and involve more women and black and Asian stewards. Also how to bring into the network new layers of migrant, casual and agency workers through campaigns and struggle. It was also agreed to publicise the abortion rights demo on 20 May.

The meeting discussed a report on anti fascist work around the recent local elections and Socialist Party members as well as others raised the need for a mass working class party to combat the threat of the far right by offering a genuine alternative to the three main parties.

One of the tasks for the NWSSN is now to build for the National Shop Stewards Network conference on 28 June. It is essential for as many grassroots stewards and activists as possible to attend this meeting and have a say in how the network develops.

In the longer term, a healthy and active grassroots trade union organisation in conjunction with a new mass workers' party can offer workers the best opportunity to fight back against both the employer and government.

The committee are due to meet again on 19 June.

  • 40 health workers from the north west lobbied MPs on 7 May, demanding the reinstatement of nurse Karen Reissman. Karen has been sacked for her role in fighting cuts to mental health care facilities in Manchester.
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    In The Socialist 14 May 2008:

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