Wales TUC / TUC Cymru. Photo: Wales SP
Wales TUC / TUC Cymru. Photo: Wales SP

Socialist Party delegates

With a rebranding its name, on the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Wales Trades Union Congress (TUC), the 2024 biennial congress of ‘TUC Cymru’ in Llandudno was a refreshing and largely combative event, which took up the key issues facing the trade union movement in Wales.

A big factor in this changed mood, compared to the political and organisational shambles of the congress two years ago, was the presence of a whole new generation of younger delegates who have been through the experience of trade union struggle against the Tory government at Westminster and the Labour-led government in Wales.

A large majority of rostrum speakers, probably around 80%, introduced themselves as first-time delegates and first-time speakers. Their contributions reflected the impact of the crisis of capitalism on their members across both the public and private sectors, and their determination to improve their pay and living conditions under a soon-to-be Keir Starmer-led government in Westminster.

The interventions, programme and demands from Socialist Party members, who were delegates from trades councils, were enthusiastically applauded and were also reflected in the informal discussions, with 29 papers sold to delegates.

Tata Steel’s mass redundancy plans for its Port Talbot plant, and the crisis in the devolved public sector areas, dominated proceedings at congress.

As expected, there was total support and solidarity with the steelworker unions, whose members have voted to take industrial action to save jobs and retain primary steelmaking in Port Talbot.

There was, however, some disagreement over the continuing strategy of the Unite, Community and GMB union leaderships, of attempting to get Tata’s intransigent bosses to ‘come back to the table with a better alternative’ for the future of Port Talbot steelworks.

Swansea Trades Council highlighted that Tata, like all big corporations, always put the profits of their shareholders before the livelihoods of their workforce, families and communities!

Instead of spreading illusions and putting trust in Tata, who have consistently rejected all the steel unions’ alternative proposals, unions should be campaigning to demand that a Starmer government immediately nationalises Tata Steel, as the only guarantee of saving all the jobs and investing in a green transition that will keep the furnaces firing.

Unfortunately, the option of nationalisation was deemed too premature by the steel unions whilst negotiations with Tata were still deemed feasible. Swansea Trades Council’s motion was heavily defeated, apart from the support of a handful of the more militant trade unions and a number of the trades councils.

However, congress committed to giving full support to any industrial action that is necessary. The Wales TUC must now prepare its affiliates to deliver solidarity action in the most important industrial dispute in Wales since the 1984-85 miners’ strike.

Socialist Party members intervened strongly, with over 20 contributions from the rostrum, putting forward a clear class and socialist alternative to debates, ranging from our total opposition to the class collaboration policy of ‘social partnership’, to defending the public sector and fighting the Welsh government for passing on Tory cuts in health, education and local government.

Alongside the RMT rail union, our delegates also demanded that the Welsh government refuse, in action, to implement the anti-trade union minimum service levels legislation in our devolved sectors.

The announcement of a general election during congress was met with relief at the prospect of getting rid the Tories. But apart from the guest speaker – Welsh Labour’s controversial First Minister, Vaughan Gething – there was a large degree of scepticism that this business-friendly expected new Labour government will deliver what is needed for workers in Wales.

Undoubtedly, at this congress, the ground has been laid by a new, younger generation for a militant fightback!