Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 8 September 2000

French Lesson to TUC

AS DELEGATES to the Trades Union Congress prepare to go to this year's conference, a leader of the French fishermen's blockade reportedly said: "If we don't take this action, people will walk over us - but we cannot allow this to happen. The English do not strike any more because they are cowards." What is the truth about British workers' willingness to strike?

Bill Mullins, Socialist Party Industrial Organiser

The British right-wing union leadership try to convince the bosses to do business with them through so-called partnership agreements. At the same time the union leaders are racing each other to use the new trade union recognition laws to get into unorganised workplaces.

There has been some increase in union membership but the overall growth in membership of TUC-affiliated unions is only creeping ahead to around 29% of the total workforce.

The real growth in union membership is not through new laws but when there is action. In one local government branch of public-sector union UNISON, over 500 workers were recruited in the run-up to the first national strike of Scottish council workers since 1988.

Union-organised workplaces have significantly better conditions than unorganised ones. 63% of organised work places get 25 or more days holidays per year compared to only 32% of unorganised ones.

Organised workplaces have half the occupational health problems of the unorganised. Unions also act to bring down pay differences between men and women and black and white workers.

Though actual disputes still remain at a low level compared to previous decades, there has been a doubling of strike ballots from May 1999 to May 2000.

Peugeot workers in Coventry show the increasing number of trade union members who are critical of the 'do nothing' union leaders and are prepared to do something about it. (see below)

This is an indication of how union leaders who have the same outlook and ideology as the Blairites, will increasingly come under pressure from the rank and file.

Conference agenda

THE TUC agenda is usually a pale reflection of the temper and mood of the organised working class in Britain.

Most resolutions are drawn up by the union leaders. But they do occaisionally cover some of the key issues facing workers, such as a decent minimum wage.

The TUC are calling for the minimum wage to be uprated to 5 an hour. But they are so frightened of upsetting their relationship with New Labour that they say this should only happen next autumn 'around 4.50 to 5 per hour'. By then inflation will mean 4.50 per hour would not be much more than the present rate of 3.70.

UNISON calls for the minimum wage to be uprated to 5 an hour and an end to the discrimination against young people. But even this is amended by the shop workers' union, USDAW who call for the level to be set at 'between 4.50 to 5 per hour', half male median earnings.

The minimum wage debate is due whilst Gordon Brown is waiting in the wings to speak. No doubt he will argue that a 5 minimum wage will 'damage industry' and admonish the TUC as irresponsible. He will make no mention of the obscene salaries, share options and tax write-offs that the bosses of British industry pay themselves.

Many of the resolutions welcome the new union recognition laws but no union calls directly for the repeal and defiance of the existing anti-union laws brought in by the Tories and enthusiastically adopted by Labour. Employers are busily consulting their lawyers and professional union busters to find loopholes in the recognition laws. These laws also give the perfect excuse to the right-wing union leadership not to do anything 'illegal'.

They have condemned the Left for using the official Certification Officer for challenging the witch-hunts in unions like UNISON and civil service union PCS. A resolution from the Musicians' Union calls for this part of the legislation to be removed but it does not mention what should be done with the rest of the anti-union laws. This is no accident.

The right-wing have ruthlessly used their control of the apparatus and financial resources of the unions to witch-hunt the left. UNISON's leadership have engaged expensive barristers to attack the left in the union.

The same thing has happened in the CPSA, now the PCS. Right-wing mavericks have used the Certification Officer but the majority of appeals have come from the Left, when they have faced discriminatory and arbitrary interpretations of the union rule books by national leaderships.

Whilst the TUC takes place in Glasgow, 80,000 Scottish local government workers are due to take their second wave of strike action over wages.

This is the real movement of the organised working class which will affect the future outlook and activities of the trade union movement as a whole.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 8 September 2000:

Labour Let Rich Run Riot

Defend the right to Asylum

Defend Glenn Kelly

The Police's racist agenda

Labour's new threat to campaigners

Michael Davis, of the M25 Three, speaks to The Socialist

Mobilising to stop Nazi terror in Germany

French Lesson to TUC

Peugeot workers say: "Reclaim the union"

Scottish council workers' strike


Home   |   The Socialist 8 September 2000   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleCardiff East Socialist Party: We're all under attack - TUC call a general strike

triangleNHS: use the 3 February protests as a launch pad for a mass movement

trianglePCS executive agrees next steps in pay campaign

triangleLondon: National TUC march and rally

triangleNSSN pre-TUC rally


triangleSchool strikes against academy management

triangleUCU strike: staff and students unite to continue pensions fight after magnificent 14 days of action

triangleWest Virginia teachers' strike victory

triangleSpain: millions on streets against sexism and capitalist oppression

Minimum wage:

triangleSainsbury's raise really a cut: fight for 10 with no strings!

triangleLeaked pay deal: fight for a genuine pay rise

triangleCardiff West Socialist Party: The campaign for a 10 an hour minimum wage


triangleNHS pay: Reject the Tories' divide and rule offer

triangleWorkplace news in brief

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis



For a fighting, democratic Labour Party



Social media - the potential and the limits



NHS pay: Reject the Tories' divide and rule offer



Jeremy Corbyn and Brexit



Passing the council cuts test


Them & Us

Them & us



Cuts harm kids' health



The Blairites are NHS privatisers - to save it means sacking them



Hands off free school meals!



Russia, spies and nerve agents



Zero new homes 'affordable' in Blairite Manchester



Spring Statement 2018: Tory austerity staggers on despite economic and political weakness


What we saw

What we saw



Sainsbury's raise really a cut: fight for 10 with no strings!



Profits up Wages down

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: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0191 421 6230

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551



Alphabetical listing

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018