Midlands NSSN: Building the rank and file fightback

Dave Gorton, Unite LE/372 branch (personal capacity)

“It ain’t getting any easier for the working class,” said Kev Greenway in closing the 2015 National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) Midlands conference.

Kev, a former PCS civil service union national executive member, detailed the government’s union busting attempts to smash the PCS, and was defiant they wouldn’t succeed.

National Union of Teachers national executive member Jane Nellist opened the conference reminding delegates of the incredible impact the NSSN has made in arguing for united coordinated action across unions. As many speakers echoed, the tasks ahead remained – to build a new layer of fighting shop stewards.

Fire Brigades Union member Dave Pitt welcomed such conferences as an opportunity for activists to bounce ideas off each other. Dave’s call for a political direction for the unions was another recurring theme.

Billy Hayes, Communication Workers Union (CWU) general secretary, was warmly welcomed. He condemned Labour’s austerity-lite as “not sufficient”. Billy congratulated the work of the NSSN to which the CWU is affiliated.

Billy answered a delegate’s question about whether the CWU would ever break with Labour with “never say never” but the electoral system in the UK was a complicating factor. “In Ireland, it would be a completely different situation.”

Helen Pattison from Youth Fight for Jobs highlighted the campaigning work for a £10-an-hour minimum wage alongside the BFAWU bakers’ union. Young people are not prepared to stomach another decade of austerity and no hope; they will fight back and the unions need to be involved.

There were delegates from eight unions present and they also heard NSSN chair, Rob Williams, predicting a period of incredible volatility opening up after the elections.

  • Get the National Shop Stewards Network bulletin – sign up at: bit.ly/16sZJxm
  • Come to the NSSN national conference: Saturday 4 July, Conway Hall, Holborn, London WC1R 4RL. Put the date in your diary now! Speakers include PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka www.shopstewards.net