Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 15 March 2012

Socialist Party Congress report: Trade unions and workplaces

Preparing for the struggles ahead

At the Socialist Party's national congress on 10-12 March, the discussion on developments in the trade unions was introduced by Rob Williams. He proposed, and it was unanimously agreed, to send messages of support to the Remploy workers facing a battle to keep their factories open and to the MMP packaging workers in Bootle who are also fighting redundancies foisted on them by a vicious employer.

The conference erupted in cheers as delegates agreed to send congratulations to the construction workers who have defeated the big construction companies' attempts to slash their wages and working conditions.

Rob graphically set out what workers are facing in the age of austerity. In the public sector, especially in local government, the Con-Dems have been able to push through cuts, a pay freeze, redundancies and privatisation - impossible without the collusion of Labour councillors and often a defeatist role played by trade union bureaucrats.

But the anger and frustration about all these attacks has been concentrated on the pensions dispute. That battle, and the willingness to fight of public sector workers, has had an affect on the private sector by legitimising struggle again. There has been a rash of disputes, notably those reported on in the Socialist, such as Unilever, Wincanton and the Stagecoach bus drivers.

The correct tactics and strategy being adopted by the leadership of the civil service union PCS, which includes Socialist Party members, has been important. The Left Unity conference on 7 January played a vital role in keeping united national action on the agenda.

The pensions struggle is continuing, with the planned strike on 28 March - and it could reignite. But whatever happens it has helped to reinvigorate the fighting spirit within the trade unions and it has paved the way for the battles to come, including over the NHS.

The construction workers' battle showed the complexities within the trade union movement - the need to go through the official union bodies as well as organising rank and file action. The trade union officials involved were largely weighed down by past setbacks and the bold and imaginative methods used by the rank and file were essential in igniting and spreading the dispute. But the employers only backed down after there was an official strike ballot.

Through all of these disputes the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) has played an increasingly important role and the conference on 9 June should further develop its significance as a fighting organisation for active trade unionists.

The discussion ranged across many unions and workplaces, delegates explaining how future battles will emerge. In education for example, school teachers are taking action against privatisation and cuts, as well as pensions, the action taken by the NUT having an influence on the other teaching unions.

Affiliation to the Labour Party was another theme, with a member of Unison pointing out how the confidence in Labour has been severely dented after all the cuts being implemented by Labour councils. Only one third of Unison members were paying into the affiliated political fund anyway.

The long-running witch-hunt against Socialist Party members in Unison is an indication of the fear the union leadership has of the arguments for a fighting democratic union. And the repeated failure of the witch-hunters to win the arguments at employment tribunals is an indication of their political weakness.

Several delegates mentioned the importance of selling the Socialist in workplaces. Many workers will take out subscriptions to the paper, especially if the content is used to develop workplace discussion groups and some will be convinced to join the Socialist Party by what they read.

The lively and interesting discussion and the summing up by Jane James, from the executive committee, really underlined the important positions many Socialist Party members have in the trade unions and the necessity of continuing the preparation for the forthcoming battles.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation


Your message: 


In The Socialist 15 March 2012:

Socialist Party news and analysis

Resist Cameron's cold cruelty

Fight the cuts - for a workers' alternative

Fight back against attacks on pensions

Those fracking Tories

Them & Us

Socialist Party workplace news

Construction workers fight on

Workplace news in brief

International socialist news and analysis

Widespread fraud alleged as Putin wins presidential poll

Kazakhstan: Oilworkers' lawyer freed from prison

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

National demo needed to save our NHS

Liberals' 'democratic' conference

Fighting Con-Dem attacks on education

14 March - Socialist Students get a response

Housing crisis in London

Library cash goes to supermarket bosses

Coventry: Fight for a socialist alternative

May Day greetings

Socialist Party congress

Socialist Party Congress 10-12 March 2012

World developments show - capitalism is crisis

Trade unions and workplaces

Britain: working class begins to 'rise like lions'

Building the Socialist Party: 'year of the branch'

Young, socialist and proud to be!

Reviews & readers' comments

'Westenders' - omnibus edition

The best of 'literary fiction'


Home   |   The Socialist 15 March 2012   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   PDF  

Related links:

Socialist Party:

triangleGrimsby Socialist Party: Solidarity with refugees - Oppose racism

triangleWhy we joined the Socialist Party

triangleHackney & Islington Socialist Party: Covid - A young workers' charter

triangleHackney & Islington Socialist Party: The Marikana massacre in South Africa

triangleHackney & Islington Socialist Party: Marxism and Philosophy


triangleLobbying for a lead from the TUC

triangleTUSC to stand in elections again against pro-austerity politicians

triangleA critical election for Unison general secretary

triangleReinstate Richie Venton


triangleTesting shambles: unions must fight back

triangleJobs, training, pay, we want a future!

triangleUS presidential election nominees Howie Hawkins & Angela Walker talk with CWI media next Sunday, 27 Sept, 3pm. Facebook: socialistworld Youtube: cwimedia

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis



Extend eviction ban! Cap rents! Build council homes!



Testing shambles: unions must fight back



Covid and the campuses



North East lockdown: simmering anger at Tory incompetence



Fund NHS and pay rise now



Tory Covid chaos



'FinCEN Files' expose rampant financial corruption: nationalise the banks!



News in brief



Johnson's schools social-distancing lie



Britain's fragile Covid equilibrium is coming to an end



NHS workers: "We deserve a fair wage" - 15% now!



Capitalist profit and the race to develop a vaccine



Covid and the third sector: for public planning, not charity stopgaps



Under the microscope



'Covid marshalls' must be accountable to communities

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041



Alphabetical listing

September 2020

August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020