Why you should come to NSSN conference
Rob Williams , national chair, NSSN
The National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) Conference is always a vital forum for trade unionists. This year’s conference is being held on Zoom on Saturday 4 July. It provides an opportunity to come together to discuss our experiences during these crisis-ridden times, and forge a strategy that protects our safety in the workplace, and defends our jobs and income.
During the Covid-19 pandemic many workers in the UK have realised the importance of the unions. Even before lockdown, an annual net increase in membership of 91,000 was reported. Although this might appear minimal, it marked a reversal of the continuous downward trend over decades.
But coronavirus has made workers see that when their health and livelihoods are at stake the protection from being organised collectively in a union is essential. Many unions have already seen significant rises in membership.
But at the same time, many union leaders succumbed to the idea of ‘national unity’ with the employers and the Tory government. This saw some unions defer pay claims and call off disputes in the ‘national interest’.
But the bosses and Boris Johnson only know their class interest. This has defined the slowness of the government’s response in moving to lockdown, which undoubtedly cost tens of thousands of lives, and the reckless opening of lockdown – all in the interests of protecting profit at the expense of workers’ safety.
This has provoked another, more positive, development – union action, often from the rank and file. Health workers forced hospital management to supply necessary PPE. Postal workers in a whole number of offices took unofficial action to protect their safety. Moe, a Socialist Party member on London buses, led a successful campaign that resulted in the front doors being closed after over 30 drivers died of the virus.
Teachers and education staff have been responsible for the biggest government retreat over the premature wider opening of schools. This saw an explosion in union activity, mainly online because of restrictions. But the National Education Union organised a massive virtual meeting of over 15,000 members! It reports hundreds of new union reps and has recruited over 20,000 new members.
There are massive challenges ahead for workers, particularly as economic crisis unfolds. We are already seeing mass redundancies and closures threatened. But if unions give a fighting lead, they can become the focal point again for struggle.
- NSSN conference 2020: Saturday 4 July, 11am to 2pm
- To attend, email your name and union to [email protected], and we’ll send back instructions with a secure log-in link