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Linking the struggles together
The National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) fringe meeting at the TUC met at the same time and in the same hotel as the Labour Representation Committee's "Saving Labour Party Conference" meeting.
But the impossibility of saving democracy in the Labour Party and its conference is partially responsible for the emergence of the NSSN in the first place.
The 50 people at the NSSN meeting heard both rail union RMT general secretary Bob Crow and prison officers' (POA) leader Brian Caton stress the growing divide between the ranks of the trade unions and the various layers in their hierarchy.
Brain Caton explained how the POA's strong grassroots structures had organised their recent strike action.
He said that prison bosses had lost the faith and goodwill of the workforce through years of staff cuts and deteriorating conditions. All it took was the union to pick up the phone for the membership to respond to the call.
Bob Crow was understandably fuming for being kicked off the TUC general council. He asked the meeting what his crimes were. Was it organising one of the most successful strikes in London for a decade? The RMT had hit big business in the belly of the beast.
They were doing what all unions should be doing - defending pay, conditions and pensions, particularly in the newly privatised sections of the public sector.
Rob Williams, convenor of the Visteon plant in Swansea and Chris Baugh, PCS assistant general secretary and Dave Chapple from the CWU illustrated the fight that is taking place in the workplace.
The message given was strong structures on the ground and militant fighters at the top are required right across the trade union movement.
The NSSN is an acknow-ledgement that activists exist and fightbacks are taking place but a network is necessary to link those struggles together, with the understanding that the big three political parties have nothing to offer us.
They have all lined up to support privatisation. So the struggle is left to the activists, community campaigners and trade unionists to defend the public sector.
Linda Taaffe explained from the chair that a round of regional events will be organised to start putting flesh on the bones of the NSSN's structure.
In The Socialist 20 September 2007:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party news
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party review
Workplace news and analysis