The 85th annual conference of Trade Union Councils

 

– WB&DTUC delegate report

  1. The conference (4/5 June 2016) was hosted by the oldest TUC in England and Wales, Sheffield TUC, a very active trades union council. Sheffield has a very attractive and vibrant town centre.

  2. I did not receive any delegate credentials and was not on the delegate list despite our delegate nomination and accepted TUCJCC nomination being sent together; I managed to sort this out but only on the day; it also happened to several other delegates.

  3. Between 40 and 50 trade union councils and 15 county associations of TUCs were represented at the conference. There are 150 trades union councils and 30 county associations.

  4. Motions put to the conference mostly came from County Associations and only a couple from individual trade union councils not covered by County Associations.

  5. Given the deadline for motions was 21st of March and county associations meet infrequently, motions to the conference would have originated last year approximately six months before the conference; so not topical. The preliminary agendas were only sent to county associations so I'm not quite sure how amendments were put from trades councils via county associations in such short time scales and given that the motions were not circulated.

  6. Motions were unable to set policy for the TUC and would not be considered unless they stay within existing TUC policy. So the point of motions to this conference is unclear.

  7. Several speakers complained about the bureaucracy and existence of county associations and in some areas they are acting virtually on the Internet and not meeting.

  8. An emergency motion criticising false allegations of antisemitism within the Labour Party and supporting boycotts and disinvestment against Israel was withdrawn. I spoke to the Greater Manchester County Association delegates who withdrew it and they said that the motion had not been fully circulated (so not passed at a meeting). There are no minutes for the West Midlands County Association to show where their motions or amendments came from. Givien these experiences, it is maybe unclear how democratic the conference really is.

     

  9. In the ballot for the West Midlands Trades Union Councils Joint Consultative Committee (TUCJCC) rep, Dorothy Heath from Walsall was re-elected with four trades councils voting for her, I had three votes and Jason Hill from North Staffs TUC had two votes; the same split as last year. This body is formed of regional reps and TUC General Council members.

  10. Matt Wrack the FBU General Secretary opened the conference on the gains of the labour movement in the fight against the trade union bill.

  11. A minute's silence was held for trade union council activists who died; Norman Brackenridge and Alan Millington were listed among those comrades in the report.

     

  12. The TUCJCC report included for the first time, reports from each regional representative of activity in their areas. Only the West Midlands TUCJCC rep failed to produce a report. When questioned she said she had sent it to the South-West's TUCJCC rep. When I asked him he said he had not been responsible for the compilation of the TUCJCC report which was the TUC's role. Given that at least several of the west midlands TUCs were not asked for any information as regards activity, it seems that she misled conference. In a subsequent panel discussion the TUCJCC reps gave verbal reports of activity in their regions. The West Midlands rep only mentioned quite limited activity in Walsall.

     

  13. A discussion report was tabled on research of the trades union council representation at regional TUCs. The information provided on the West Midlands needed correcting. Every region had different rules and arrangements and there was no consistency. It made reference to “the role of county associations in filtering and, some might say, restricting the rights of local trades union councils.” It concluded by saying that if local trades union councils are the voice of wotkers in the wider working-class community, then power, responsibility and democratic accountability should start and end there – with the trades union council. We need structures “best suited to attract new generations of working-class activists in the next decades of our 21st century”.

  14. Last year's delegate's report from the Trades Union Congress by the fraternal delegate, Darryl Cousins from Coventry was produced six months before, was only circulated at the conference. He said he was isolated not able to speak and not given any paperwork. After the successful motion passed last year, this year's fraternal delegate (Alec McFadden from Merseyside was elected) will be able to propose the Trades Union Councils conference motion which was selected, by ballot as the Welfare Charter motion.

     

  15. Orgreave Truth and Justice campaign speaker explained the campaign is seeking a public enquiry into the police on the back of the Hillsborough enquiry. The trial of 95 miners collapsed, yet corruption and assault by police had received no disciplinary or criminal charges.

  16. Carolyn Jones, Institute of Employment Rights said more days are lost at work by job related injury and sickness than by strikes.

  17. 25 motions were passed, though many were badly written and proposed no activity for trades union councils to undertake. Motions form the basis next year's Programme of Work for Trades Union Councils but it will be general TUC policy goals. I spoke on the Action for Rail campaign and encouraged trades union councils to get involved.

  18. A motion was passed from Staffordshire seeking support for next year's 175th anniversary the Longton strike and the Chartists.

  19. Greater Manchester's motion on Comined Authorities already called for their reform based on increased democratic particicipation and defence of public services. They will be holding a conference on 24th September to discuss experiences so far.

     

  20. West Midlands County Association put forward a strange motion, seemingly directed at Wolverhampton TUC restating rules that trades councils must affiliate to and play an active part in the work at the appropriate County Association but emphasising the rules should be adhered to and action to be taken under the new draft rules governing disputes between trade union councils. The new rules, which were not passed in fact give no mention to the existance of county associations and do not involve them in any disputes procedure or resolution. If sanction was sought it would be the derecognition of Wolverhampton TUC.

     

  21. Tom Mellish the TUC's officer responsible for trades union councils is retiring, no new officer has been appointed yet. A call was made for a dedicated officer.

  22. £328 was collected by delegates before industrial disputes of ongoing.

  23. On the Friday evening Sheffield TUC hosted a social which included the showing of Happy Lands, the BBC film about the 1926 general strike and the effects on a mining community near Fife led by communist trade unionists - well worth watching. http://thehappylands.com

N.Kelleher