Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/594/8175
TUC congress: anger on the fringes, inaction at the top
FOLLOWING THIS year's important industrial movements, it might have been hoped that the TUC conference would launch an offensive to defend jobs, pay and conditions. Sadly, this was not the case at this largely right-wing gathering.
Unite assistant general secretary Len McCluskey commented that actions like Lindsey, Linamar and Visteon were worth 1,000 motions. Vestas workers got a marvellous standing ovation during climate change secretary Ed Miliband's speech. But any attempts to force action against the Labour government were opposed.
An NUT motion calling for "a national demonstration, and, as appropriate... industrial action" against unemployment prior to the general election was defeated. Most resolutions were composited to the lowest common denominator to allow for 'unity'.
At times, the anger of most workers nationally was expressed on the conference floor including against the anti-trade union laws.
Action against the laws which New Labour has failed to change in over 12 years of government will inevitably be raised again next year. Future governments will probably try to back a brutal cuts agenda with attempts to limit the right to strike in essential services.
The elephant in the room all week was the question of political representation of the working class. Labour Party-affiliated trade unions have given £100 million to Labour in 12 years - for what?
In the conference itself, a CWU resolution calling for "a conference of all [TUC] affiliated unions to consider how to achieve effective political representation for our members" was defeated. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said it was a motion for a new political party, even though the resolution made no mention of this. CWU members and other trade unionists will draw their own conclusions!
New workers' party
This lack of representation for workers came up often in fringe meetings. Up to 100 people crowded into the RMT-organised fringe meeting "Respect the Irish 'No' vote - Reject the Lisbon Treaty" and heard Socialist Party MEP Joe Higgins denounce the "arms merchants and big business moguls" directing the EU and its neoliberal laws.
Joe called for a new workers' party and a socialist alternative. Bob Crow said: "I have more in common with the striking Dublin port workers or a Chinese labourer [than with the British bosses]".
Socialist Party members held a successful meeting addressed by PCS vice-president John McInally, Vestas workers and Liverpool 47 councillor Tony Mulhearn. This enthusiastic meeting outlined a real way forward for the unions, and delegates and visitors pledged and donated over £500 to the party's fighting fund.
In The Socialist 23 September 2009:
War and occupation
Postal workers strike
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reviews