Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/534/4147

From The Socialist newspaper, 21 May 2008

Reasons to be cheerful about the trade unions

Trade Unions have been reading their own obituaries since workers first combined. If you look hard enough you can occasionally find media reports that draw attention to the injustice and inequality at work but rarely will you find a report that commends a trade union for taking industrial action to redress the wrong.

Chris Baugh, Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) assistant general secretary, personal capacity

This is no surprise. Trade unions have encountered an industrial and ideological battering because they stood in the way of so-called free markets. The result is growing inequality, financial insecurity and the modern epidemic of work-related stress.

Union membership fell from a historical high point of over 12 million in the late 1970s to the current figure of just below seven million. Union density has remained strong in the public sector. But, reflecting the decline of traditional industries where unions were well organised, density has fallen in the private sector to 17%. This is cited as evidence of terminal trade union decline.

The pro-business and anti-union agenda of successive governments has undoubtedly reduced the power and influence of trade unions in the UK. However it would be wrong to accept the superficial analysis of most journalists and academics.

From a trade union perspective there are a number of reasons to be cheerful. Various official reports indicate that the decline in membership and collective bargaining coverage has largely been arrested. The International Labour Organisation points to rising trade union membership on a world scale.

The outcome of the bargaining process is not down to the force or logic of our argument alone. Leverage comes from strong organisation and a willingness to take action when the employer won't listen. A recent academic report pinpoints PCS and rail union RMT as particular examples of unions that have won new members and activists. They both have an elected leadership that is prepared to wage campaigns amongst its membership.

PCS faces the biggest attacks on members' conditions for decades. While we always need to make a sober assessment of the scale of the task in front of us it is sometimes easy to forget the important achievements of trade unionism in the UK.

Many of the major social advances for working-class people that the Conservatives and New Labour are both committed to dismantle, were the result of trade union struggle. UK unions have shown their resilience and at seven million-strong retain enormous latent power. The alliance of public-sector unions around pensions and the recent action of workers at the Grangemouth oil refinery are both expressions of this.

In the ten years of its existence, I would argue that one of the most significant achievements of PCS is to contribute in a small way to helping build confidence that trade unions can challenge the insidious idea that you can't make a difference.

Without in any way overstating our success, PCS members have shown it is possible to overcome the fatalism which has afflicted the trade union movement for too long. Building the confidence of trade unionists is key to challenging the neo-liberal consensus and posing a political alternative to an economic system that places profit above social need.

Taken from The Socialist PCS conference supplement.

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


In The Socialist 21 May 2008:

Step Up Fight Against Low Pay!

Force more u-turns out of this weak government


Housing crisis

Build Affordable Homes Now!


Socialist Party workplace news

Unison members say 'no' to witch hunt

Reasons to be cheerful about the trade unions

Public-sector workers say pay up!

National Shop Stewards Network second conference advert


Socialist Party campaigns

Give us back our Post Office!

Fightback saves Cardiff school

Southampton students: 'Don't gag us'

D-I-V-O-R-C-E

Glasgow: BNP not welcome here

100% rise for health bosses

Global food crisis

Them and Us: The great divide


Environment: Nuclear power

Nuclear industry's 'green' camouflage


London Olympics

London Olympics 2012: A great sporting occasion and a great profit-making opportunity


France 1968 - month of revolution

France 1968: Be realistic - demand the impossible!

International discussion on the way forward for socialists

Video: 'France 1968, month of revolution' London meeting

Campaign for a New Workers' Party conference


International socialist news and analysis

China: Earthquake disaster exposes regime's failings

Lebanon: Hezbollah routs pro-US Siniora government forces

Ireland: Vote no to Lisbon Treaty and EU militarisation!

France: Workers and youth resist Sarkozy's attacks


 

Home   |   The Socialist 21 May 2008   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Trade unions:

triangleConference on state spies: who's watching who?

triangleWaltham Forest Socialist Party: Black workers and the British trade unions

triangleThe Tories must be driven out

triangleLondon: TUC lobby & rally; and London march

triangleBristol's Labour mayor calls anti-austerity march - now stop making cuts!

Unions:

triangleRoyal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

triangleHundreds turn out for rally aimed at removing west Wales Tory MP

triangleTories scrap the NHS pay cap: now fight for real-terms pay rises!

triangleNasty party imploding...drive out the Tories

PCS:

triangleBalloting members on the pay cap

triangleWorkplace news in brief

triangleWho's watching who?: The fight for justice, trade union and democratic rights

RMT:

triangleRMT strikes against removal of train guards spreads

triangleGig economy exploiter Uber loses London licence

Public sector:

triangleUnite local government sector plans strike ballot

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

19/10/17

North West

Arriva North West bus drivers strike over pay

18/10/17

Democratic rights

Conference on state spies: who's watching who?

18/10/17

Leeds

Striking back against sackers' charter at Leeds Uni

18/10/17

Royal Mail

Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

18/10/17

PCS

Balloting members on the pay cap

18/10/17

Art

'Dazzling' Bad Art show points to socialist future

18/10/17

Council

Sheffield Labour council threatens peaceful protesters with prison

18/10/17

South West Wales

Hundreds turn out for rally aimed at removing west Wales Tory MP

18/10/17

NHS

Uprising to save the NHS!

18/10/17

Socialism

Can you donate to the Socialism 2017 appeal?

18/10/17

East London

No cuts - hands off King George A&E!

18/10/17

North London

North London hospital workers fight cuts and job losses

18/10/17

BAE

Nationalise to save jobs at BAE Systems

18/10/17

Schools

Schools "can't go any further" - stop the cuts: set deficit budgets now

18/10/17

Swansea

Socialist Students 'welcome' Hillary Clinton to Swansea

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...


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

triangle19 Oct Arriva North West bus drivers strike over pay

triangle18 Oct Russia, October 1917: When workers took power

triangle18 Oct Tories torn - bin them now

triangle18 Oct Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

triangle18 Oct Balloting members on the pay cap

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party imploding...drive out the Tories

More ...

triangle23 Oct Chesterfield Socialist Party: The continuing struggle for abortion rights

triangle24 Oct Liverpool Socialist Party: The October Russian Revolution 100 years ago to the day

triangle25 Oct Salford Socialist Party: The October 1917 Russian revolution

triangle25 Oct Swansea Socialist Party: Mother Jones - A US labour pioneer

More ...

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

Archive

Archives:

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