Hull P&O protest. Photo: SP yorkshire
Hull P&O protest. Photo: SP yorkshire

Michael Whale, Hull Socialist Party

The Yorkshire and Humber regional TUC conference took place in Hull from 23-24 April. While the conference was a huge step forward after two years of Covid restrictions, muddled messages came from the regional executive.

On the one hand, conference correctly promoted the need to get organised and build the unions in light of the huge attacks on the cost of living. On the other hand, there was a huge emphasis on ‘partnership’ – working with private companies to get a fairer deal for workers.

This reached ridiculous levels when a session included a representative from Yorkshire Water on the panel. This privatised company made £142.2 million profit last year yet paid no corporation tax. The conference should have demanded the renationalisation of Yorkshire Water, and all of the privatised industries, not getting into bed with them.

The highlight of the conference was a rally in support of P&O workers. Gaz Jackson from the RMT highlighted the determination of the union to continue the struggle to get the sacked crew their jobs back. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady condemned the way that P&O bosses had behaved, but gave no real way forward.

In contrast, Socialist Party member Alex Hutchinson, representing Hull Trades Council, explained how millions of young people had been inspired by the leadership and socialist policies of Jeremy Corbyn. His defeat was a backward step, but in Hull the Trades Council has got young people organised through the ‘Engage for Change’ festival. The Unity Shop had also helped to activate a layer of workers who might not otherwise have been linked to the trade union movement.

One such person is Joyce Marshall. Joyce is a Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate in the local elections for West Carr ward in Bransholme, Hull. She declared herself “a virgin at this” as she made her first public speech at the regional TUC conference.

Joyce explained how she had never been a union member until she came into contact with the Unity Shop, which was founded by Hull Trades Council to promote solidarity not charity, and has provided food parcels during the pandemic. She explained people found themselves in need through no fault of their own, and that with the cost of living crisis it is only going to get worse.

Joyce declared: “Don’t let anyone push us around, enough is enough, we need to spread the word, making the unions bigger and stronger, together” to great applause.

Steve Scott from the National Education Union also made a good contribution to the rally, explaining how schools are underfunded and kids from working-class areas get a raw deal.

We sold 18 copies of the Socialist newspaper. Two people expressed a wish to discuss joining the Socialist Party.