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6 September 2007

TUC conference 2007

Resolutions need to lead to action

The annual Trades Union Congress (TUC) takes place on 10-13 September, against a background of increasing attacks on workers' pay and conditions but also a willingness of some unions to take action in defence of jobs and for decent pay.

Jane James

The action of postal workers, prison officers and national government workers in the PCS, as well as the Metronet workers on London Underground, demonstrates that trade union members are prepared to take strike action if necessary.

The TUC brings together the trade unions under one all-Britain umbrella but in general it has woefully lagged behind events. The majority of its leadership act more as a hindrance than a help to workers entering struggle.

Gordon Brown will speak to the conference, no doubt keen to enlist the support of the unions, both in cash and votes, in what could be an imminent general election. He has made it clear that public-sector workers must accept a below-inflation 2% pay limit, but he must be worried about public-sector strikes.

On the congress agenda, the socialist-led PCS union, that has already had two days of national strike action, calls for co-ordinated action by public-sector unions against the government's 2% pay freeze. The resolution calls on the TUC to: "convene an immediate meeting of interested unions to discuss coordinated industrial action".

Many resolutions appeal to the Labour government to pass legislation to resist attacks on pay, jobs and conditions. The RMT rail union resolution however clearly calls for the repeal of the anti-trade union laws and for the: "government to ensure the incorporation of all International Labour Organisation conventions into any new Bill of Rights" while calling for support for the Trade Union Rights and Freedom Bill.

Written before the prison officers' walkout, the Prison Officers Association (POA) resolution calls for trade union rights for prison officers and notes "the continued attacks made by the prison service and government against the union... particularly by the use of court action and the threat of imprisonment against POA officials".

Many of the resolutions, while not proposing action to address problems, do highlight the refusal of the government to redress the grievances of ordinary workers and their unions. For example, Usdaw calls on the government to increase the minimum wage enforcement budget. On agency workers, Unite "condemns the government opposition" to a bill to protect them. And the CWU condemns the government for blocking the EU Draft Agency Workers' Directive which it had supported under the Warwick Agreement.

Unite also states: "the politics of the global market reflects a one-party system concerned with the interests only of its own corporate class... the collective trade union movement remains the only credible alternative".

Yet pleas to protect UK manufacturing to save jobs are made to a Labour government which fully backs the interests of the global market and the capitalist class. Community describes the continued demise of UK manufacturing. Yet none of these resolutions call for manufacturing plants to be brought into public ownership when faced with job losses or closure.

While Connect highlights the aggressiveness of private equity firms, they call on this government of big business to monitor and rein them in.

The Labour government both under Blair and Brown has clearly shown that it is on the side of big business. They have not repealed the anti-trade union laws and have no intention of doing so. It is no accident that unions not linked to the Labour Party, such as the PCS and RMT, have taken action in defence of their members and other unions need to follow suit.

The fringe meeting called by the National Shop Stewards' Network is an important opportunity to discuss how this fightback can be organised.




http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/3091