Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/602/8390
London trade unionists meet to build workers' solidarity
At the instigation of the London Shop Stewards Network, an important meeting took place on 16 November. The London region of the rail transport workers' union, RMT, came together with the London region of the Communication Workers Union and the London and South East region of the civil service union, PCS, to discuss how to build solidarity for workers in struggle. The meeting was chaired by the Shop Stewards Network.
The meeting was also supported by the Greater London Association of Trades Councils and the Greater London region of the National Pensioners' Convention.
A resolution from the Shop Stewards Network was moved by Linda Taaffe to set up a permanent solidarity committee of London trade unions at regional level. This was agreed unanimously. The first step now is for the participating organisations to go back and discuss it at their regional bodies and win serious backing.
The aim is for a committee which can meet rapidly when disputes break out and, with the union in dispute in the leading role, decide what solidarity can be organised. The committee could call big public meetings, it could call demonstrations, and if necessary could call for support action.
Major battles will be necessary in the coming months - and especially after the general election - as public services are slashed and jobs and conditions sacrificed.
In all such battles solidarity between different groups of workers is essential. Every strike or campaign to defend one sector is in reality a defence of all our jobs and services. If any one group is victorious it will increase the confidence and the chance of victory for the rest.
Instead of leaving it to separate union branches and individuals, the establishment of a permanent solidarity committee, with representatives from London bodies of trade unions, is a serious step forward.
The meeting heard excellent explanations of the current situation in the postal dispute from Mark Palfrey and Martin Walsh, CWU London divisional reps.
Martin Walsh told the meeting that there are 400 offices with imposed changes, despite concessions in writing won by national strike action. Some of these are life-changing - taking thousands of pounds off pay and adding extra days' work. Up to 25% of the workforce had been moved in some areas. A climate of fear has been created, with increased workloads, but when the work is not completed a worker can lose a whole day's pay.
Mark Palfrey explained that so far the agreement reached with Royal Mail was not being accepted by London management. It looks like the employer is trying to isolate London workers. Against suggestions that the strike action should not have been called off, he explained: 'At some point you have to start talking, but if there continues to be no progress, the action will be back on.'
In The Socialist 18 November 2009:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party feature
Marxist analysis: history
Socialist Party election analysis
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
Workplace news and analysis