Banner Theatre's NHS Free For All cabaret was an excellent performance but enjoyed by only 19 people, with myself and the treasurer being the only delegates there and there was no-one with any connection to the NHS. This was without a doubt the biggest failure since I became secretary. A loss of around £300 means that we are most unlikely ever to book Banner again for such an event and our attempts to promote political culture are over. Banner had been very keen for us to book them since no other union or group in Wolverhampton was booking them.
It has not only thrown into question the type of events that we are involved in the future but also my role as secretary. Too much organisation is falling onto myself to do and things don't seem to be working. Even when work outside the delegate meetings seems to work it is often due to the involvement of non-delegate trade unionists. Although widened involvement is of course one of the aims of our work, it is usually only due to the work of one or two delegates and not due to collective work. Our last meeting of the millennium is perhaps then an opportune time for us to review our work and plan how we are to remain active and relevant. I would urge delegates to think a little about our work, how the meetings are held and what we could do in the future. As has become the norm in recent years, food and drink will be provided at this meeting. A raffle may also be held to raise money for the Skychefs strikers.
Lufthansa Skychefs - DON'T FLY LUFTHANSA!
Two women strikers have accepted an invitation on the weekend of 18-19 December to come to Wolverhampton and will be visiting the local temples to gain support. If you know of a meeting that weekend at which it might be possible to invite them to speak then please contact Kamaljit (710801(work).
We hired a minibus to the TGWU organised solidarity conference in Hammersmith and took nine people, including just two delegates to the 600-strong rally. We then went onto Heathrow to a mass picket of several hundred and were well received.
NB. 2000 branch affiliations and officer and EC nominations have been sent to branch secretaries, so please raise the issue at your next branch meeting so that nominations are in time and so that I don't have to waste a lot of time chasing up branches. AGM will be Thursday 20th Jan.
Affiliated membership: 16,150
1999 affiliations: AEEU(Bilston 0095), ASLEF, CWU(W.Midlands), CYWU, FBU, GMB, GPMU(W.Midlands), ISTC(Monmore Tubes), MSF Craft 13/D, MSF 0558, NASUWT, NATFHE(Bilston), NATFHE(Wulfrun), NLBD, NULMW, NUT, POA, RMT, TGWU 5/748, TGWU 5/836, UNISON General, UNISON Health, UNISON Healthcare, USDAW
Affiliations for 2000: CWU(W.Mids&Worcs), FBU, MSF 558, UNISON Health - thanks for prompt response
Annual Report of Work 1998-1999
WB&DTUC Secretary's Annual Report of Work year ending 1998
A year ago New Labour was still in its honeymoon period. People were still thankful for the ending of Tory rule. As time has gone on though, we are still waiting for the kind of government intervention that will shift the balance of forces in favour of the working class which elected the government. Time after time policies resemble those we would have had under the Tories. Pay-back time has come for big business and for the CBI not for the unions who funded the victory and who have been telling their members not to rock the boat for so long. Yet union leaderships have often stopped well short of full-on criticism let alone confrontation with New Labour.
Many union conference discussions highlighted the public service cuts which have resulted from the push to meet the EU's convergence criteria. While workers have taken to the streets across europe protesting about their governments' austerity programmes making direct links with the drive towards euro introduction. Those links are only beginning to be made in Britain. The promise of an end to bad housing and poor health coupled with full employment, by Jaques Delors twelve years ago, wooed the TUC, but it certainly has not become the reality. The effects of a uniform interest rate across europe, controlled by unelected bankers in Frankfurt will worsen unemployment in many areas. The effect on our economy of handing its control to the Bank of England has been witnessed dramatically by workers at Rover and elsewhere.
The call for the repeal of the Tory anti-trade union laws was lost at TUC. The motion for repeal had been composited with a motion calling for non-compliance and as this did not fit in line with many unions' policy the motion fell.
The proposed Fairness at Work legislation throws up many positive opportunities for trade union but so much potential has been lost as the CBI was pandered to. The lack of recognition of union rights from day one and the 40% required for recognition ballots, with abstentions counted against and casual workers not included, demonstrates a fundamental weakness.
The principle of a national minimum wage has been won is now soon become a reality. Trade unions will have to take up the challenge of winning a living wage as the minimum. Already some employers, as the Tameside strikers well know of, have taken the opportunity of reducing wage levels to £3.60 per hour.
1998 saw two important anniversaries, 50 years of the NHS and 150 years for the Communist Manifesto.
The next 50 years for the NHS seems less assured though as it lurches from crisis to crisis, despite the swathes of accountants and administrators who seem unable to predict or prevent them. Unions for years have highlighted problems but have been ignored. The exodus of nurses from the profession is hardly a surprise after years of overwork, poor pay and arrogant management techniques exercised by Trusts.
The next 150 years of the Communist Manifesto's enduring analysis and relevance is however most certainly assured. There is as there has always been, a need to fight for a change in society which will give to us the fruits of our labour and to build a society based on true equality and justice.
24 trade union branches affiliated to us; this was slightly down on last year but we had 15,980 affiliated members, which was 2,500 up on 1997. There is still a huge potential for increasing our affiliation base particularly within the TGWU. There have also been some new affiliations to the TUC which we need to follow up locally. Delegates can assist by contacting unaffiliated branches which they have dealings with. A few branches have had problems with affiliating dues to funding not being forthcoming from regional offices.
Again we had improved participation, with an average attendance this year of 15.6 (1997:13.1, 1996:10.6, 1995:8.4, 1994:10.5. We are probably bucking the general trend of other trades councils around Britain albeit in modest terms so far.
This year we affiliated to: ACTSA, Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, CODIR, Columbus Anyanwu Anti-Deportation Campaign, Cuba Solidarity Campaign, Firmin Gnali Anti-Deportation Campaign, Liberty, National Abortion Campaign, Public Health Alliance, Republic, Stop Child Labour, TU CND, Walsall WEA, W.Mids County Association of Trade Union Councils, W.Mids Low Pay Unit, W'ton Liberty, W'ton Race Equality Council, W'ton Campaign Against Domestic Violence.
A delegate was sent to the national Trades Union Councils' Conference and an observer to the Women's TUC. We also sent representatives to the Race Equality Council, Town Centre Forum, Regenerating Wolverhampton, Workers Education Association, W'ton Anti-Gulf War Group, W'ton May Day Committee, W'ton MBC Education and Voluntary Sector sub-committees, W'ton Youth Affairs Accreditation Panel and the West Midlands CATUC.
Workers' Memorial Day April 28th
It was well attended again this year with representatives from the trades council, Indian Workers' Association, UNISON and the Workers' Relatives Support Group. Wreaths were laid at the Memorial Tree and the Industrial Chaplain held a short service. We at last got press coverage this year with two radio stations and a newspaper reporting it and our call for the banning of all asbestos was highlighted. This is a key time to highlight health ans safety issues and we should make the most of the opportunity.
We play a leading role in the May Day Committee which organises the event. The 4th annual celebration of International Workers' Day celebration turned out to be the biggest so far organised with upwards of 70 in attendance including a good turnout from Labour councillors. A dozen local labour movement stalls proved to be a good focal point and this side of the event will be developed. Our display of the History of May Day was displayed in the Central Library for a week.
The 1st May falls on a Saturday in 1999 and so an ambitious programme of political and cultural events is being organised. The Midlands TUC has agreed to sponsor the event.
Earlier in the year we set up the Wolverhampton Anti-Gulf War Group and then reactivated it later in the year as the US domestic crisis worsened and there became a need to deflect attention from what was going down at home. Bringing together various religious denominations to the group was not a problem but the various political groupings proved a little more tricky!
Speakers addressed council on a variety of issues over the year: asbestos, Health Action Zones, the role of the Black Workers TUC and internationally on Ireland, Chile and the Gulf as well as a number of strikers brought us news of their struggles and sought solidarity:
Anti-Union Laws conference
A conference on the anti-trade union laws was organised by us in conjunction with Birmingham and Coventry Trades Union Councils. In the end it was relatively successful though there was a poor turnout from us. Which way forward for our trades union councils was not entirely forthcoming from the conference, though the necessity for the repeal of the laws is clear to most. The laws were never intended for the benefit of the democracy of individual trades unionists, they were to give the employers a permanent hand of aces.
Tameside strikers - Nearly 200 UNISON residential home workers have been on strike since March after suffering massive cuts to their pay and conditions. Tameside Care which was set up by their council and shamefully is linked to several leading local Labour politicians sacked them all in June and replaced them all with scabs. Over £750 was raised from several meetings arranged when they came to address us.
Their strike office can be contacted on: tel 0161 308 2452 fax 0161 339 2571
Critchley Labels strikers are now into their 21st month of dispute and still strong. BT promised not to renew their contract with Critchley but have been continuing to delay that decision in the hope of a settlement or more likely in the hope of the strike collapsing. Increased support from the labour movement is the only thing that can cause this to be avoided. To contact, tel01495 220 597 or mobile 0410 151 176.
Liverpool Dockers - their heroic dispute was settled earlier this year. Over £1,750 was raised locally as a result of our initiatives.
Magnet Strikers - a settlement was reached, although their kitchens are still crap!
Morning Star - the six-week strike was victorious and the management was replaced by its readers at the AGMs. A relaunch later in the year greatly improved the paper though its position is still financially precarious.
Regular reports were given of the Essex FBU who scored another notable victory for the union movement, not by court room battles but by repeated strike action.
There was a number of motions debated this year. Motions calling for an end to war in the Gulf, in support of the Palestinian people and the Morning Star strikers, to repeal the anti-union laws and on the school meals campaign were all carried.
The TUC's programme of work for trades union councils, identifies that "the key issues facing the trade unions today and in the years ahead are to increase membership and to ensure that people at work are properly protected and represented." The TUC's JCC has identified our priority themes to be "recruitment and representation". While we would probably see representation as more of a role performed by our affiliated unions, recruitment is a priority which we have already set ourselves.
We constantly seek increased trade union affiliation to ourselves and this work must continue if we are to continue to build participation within our council.
No direct work on general recruitment to unions was carried out in 1998 but we did hold discussions at the end of the year with the Regional TUC to help us plan a general union recruitment campaign. We were successful in a TUC Development Grant application of £240 so this should help us set up materials for a stall over the coming year. It will also enable us to produce literature to help us promote ourselves which is key if we are to expand our affiliations and activity further.
Identified opportunities for stalls would be outside the Molineux, community festivals, student fresher fayres etc. giving out information about H&S or changes in the law. Also industrial parks which we could target alongside the general or engineering unions. We will need to time limit our action and monitor it.
Our first trades council fundraising team worked for Wandsworth & Battersea TUC's Workers' Beer Company, at the Temptation all nighter, New Year's Eve, in London £560 was raised, with half going to the Morning Star. There is certainly potential for £2,000 to be raised this year and this would represent a major funding injection for us, nearly doubling our current income and this would allow us to expand our current work.. It also has implications for drawing in many new people towards the trades council and if affiliated branches help promote it then it could result in increased involvement from their young members in particular.
Year after year the United Nations condemns the USA's blockade of Cuba, with ever increasing majorities. Only Israel now backs them against 157 world nations. Unfortunately the US only takes notice of UN votes when they coincide with their own foreign policy. The blockade has cost Cuba $800million in extra shipping and other costs in 1998, and over $60billion since the revolution.
A major appeal is being launched locally this year as a number of trade unions are combining to raise funds and donations of medical, educational, computing and other equipment to fill a ship. This will be the biggest campaign in Britain ever in what is the 40th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution.
Trade union issues will only feature in Millennium events if we organise them. We will need to decide if we wish to hold any special events linked to the Millennium as the TUC has given us information on grants that are available.
A few copies of George Barnsby's history of our trades council are still available from the secretary - now at the special price of £2.
Thanks to the executive committee and especially to Bro.Joynson for taking and typing minutes and for UNISON General and NUT for copying the mailings.
Nick Kelleher, outgoing Secretary, 9 Jan 1999
Report of Work 1997-1998
WB&DTUC Secretary's Report of Work year ending 1997
This time last year we were looking forward to the end of 18 years of viscous Tory government. A Tory government that took us to war twice, introduced some of the most draconian anti-trade union legislation in the world, decimated manufacturing industry and sold the industrial assets of the British people for a song, or more accurately, I should say, for some votes. They gave us the Poll Tax and us 14 million non-payers threw it back at them. Slowly but surely they began the dismantlement of the welfare state, something fought for by our class and which was born out of the devastation of war and afforded by previous governments who had less money but better priorities. They reversed the post war european trend of a narrowing gap between the rich and poor, re-introduced massive unemployment (and then got rid of it by counting it in a different way) and working class life expectancy has fallen in many parts of a country which owes its wealth to the continued exploitation of those people and of poorer countries all over the world.
After 8 months what have we got? The same anti-trade union legislation, student tuition fees, cuts in lone parent benefits and threats on the disabled, cutting of one of the lowest corporation taxes in europe and the refusal to tax the rich's incomes, continued decline of the industrial base and 521 jobs threatened by Wolverhampton's Labour Council! Not quite what we expected or deserve.
It's not all doom and gloom - we now have a government that should represent our class not theirs, one in which there are some principled MPs who take their views from those whom they represent and don't blindly follow a centralist dicktat.
Scottish and Welsh people will be able to start to take control of their own lives for the first time in centuries. Foreign policy has improved. I'm sorry, I can't think of much else! We do have lots of promises though - well not to many if you saw the manifesto!
We put in our submission to the Low Pay Commission and if a minimum wage of anything less than half male median earnings is suggested then we will have to campaign for it. The forthcoming white paper on trade union legislation will need our input.
When it comes down to it, our destiny is up to us. What gains the British people have made over the last few centuries weren't handed over on a silver platter, they were won by struggle and often the struggle of trades unionists.
Governments need pressure to change and that is what we must give New Labour.
What has the Trades Union Council been doing?
As planned in last year's report, we launched an affiliation campaign. This resulted in 27 branches affiliating, seven more than last year and more than the few years preceding despite branch mergers. We had 13,478 affiliated members, 1,000 down on 1996 (and 3,000 down on 1995). This probably due to a recalculation of UNISON membership, which has now increased again by 2,000 for 1998.
Most encouraging however has been the much increased participation, with an average attendance this year of 13.1 (1996:10.6, 1995:8.4, 1994:10.5
Wolverhampton Council Anti-Cuts Campaign
Trades Council took to the streets in the latter part of the year to petition against the proposed cuts. In the end over 10,000 signatures were collected though most of the credit goes to the workers from the elderly people's homes under threat.
A Joint Union Liaison Committee arose from discussion at a delegate meeting and this has been negotiating directly with council leaders.
The campaign is far from over yet though and unless the Labour government is feeling a little less New next year, there promises to be a similar battle.
Workers' Memorial Day April 28th
It was much better attended this year. Wreaths were laid at the Memorial Tree and the Industrial Chaplain held a short service. Dennis Turner and representatives from the other MPs and MEP were present alongside trades council delegates and the Workers' Relatives Support Group. The press again chose to ignore it.
We got the council to repair the vandalised plaque.
The 1st May celebration of International Workers' Day is now established as an annual event in Wolverhampton, with trades council delegates instrumental in it's organisation. The decision to continue marking the day itself proved correct despite the minor inconvenience of an election! Once again it attracted a good turnout.
A laminated display of the History of May Day was produced and was up in the Civic Centre for a week.
Euro March for Jobs and Welfare
When unemployed marchers passed though Wolves, we marched with them into and out of the town and they were put up for the night by Scotlands Community Centre. A public meeting was held as well as a Civic Reception.
26 months after being sacked morale is still high since their dispute is being sustained by trade unionists and working class people all over the world. They overwhelmingly rejected cash for their jobs as they are not prepared to sell them at any price. In their words "we remember the sacrifice of our forefathers who fought for their dignity in the docks in a harsh and brutal environment. We also know that workers in many other industries face short-term contracts, casual labour, deregulation and privatisation. That is one reason why we are so determined to succeed."
Birmingham TUC again organised several tours of the dockers in this region so we arranged a number of local meetings which resulted in donations in excess of £1,500. Particular mention should go to MSF 0558, FBU, NATFHE(Bilston) and UNISON General for their solidarity. FBU delegates are now regularly visiting the picket line and are able to take messages and donations with them. Dudley Dockers' Group is very active and inspired us to launch a symbolic petition of 500 signatures. Although these are starting to trickle in, we still need 400 by the 20th Feb.
We will continue with support and assistance for as long as it is needed and we would like to encourage all affiliated branches to do likewise.
Send cheques to "Merseyside Port Shop Stewards Committee" c/o 19 Scorton St, Liverpool L6 4AS.
Finally trade union rights were won back after 13 years of campaigning, albeit with a no-strike deal struck with the employer. Delegates took the banner to Cheltenham and the last march really was held this time, and then another was held to celebrate the victory!
The Holden's Bottling Plant TGWU dispute lasted from August 1996 to January 1997. We helped make the dispute and the strikers' call for a boycott of Holden's pubs and products become widely known in the movement as well as giving much physical assistance.
Ken Purchase MP became involved as a mediator and a financial settlement was eventually agreed by the strikers. Although it was by no means as successful as we had wished, in the end it was out of our hands and what they got was something that the campaign had won. The TGWU praised our support as being crucial.
1997 Year of Anti-Racism
We staged Banner Theatre's anti-racist play Redemption Song last April in conjunction with Heath Town Community Association. It was very successful with an audience of around 100. We roughly broke even for a change.
However two of Banner's actors are facing deportation to Sierra Leone where they could face death due to their trade union activities. We have been assisting the Firmin Gnali Support Group and more activity is expected over the next few months.
The campaign wants invites from branches for Firmin and Leon to speak, and is of course also in need of money for them. Dave Rogers 0121 356 1390
Bernard Manning - we helped organise a demonstration at short notice at the Molineux against the appearance of the racist Bernard Manning. Over 100 took part and we got extensive coverage on TV, radio and in the press.
Respect Festival - in conjunction with the CYWU and UNISON, we took two coaches down to London to this year's TUC anti-racist festival. It is hoped to repeat this in the coming year.
The CATUC's proposed anti-racist conference never materialised as didn't many of our planned events due to the lack of expected EU money.
Representatives of the 41 sacked MSF members visited us a couple of times and funds were raised. Coventry TUC helped run their campaign and a settlement was eventually reached and some jobs were offered back.
There has been a distinct lack of motions coming in from branches this year.
Motions calling for a ban on the sale of asbestos products and in support of Project Aerospace were passed and were then also carried by the County Association of TUCs. Incidentally our delegates are the best attendees of the West Midlands CATUC.
This year we affiliated to: Anti-Racist Alliance, Brazil Network, Walsall WEA, Cuba Solidarity, National Abortion Campaign, Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, CODIR, Public Health Alliance, W'ton Race Equality Council, W'ton Campaign Against Domestic Violence, TU CND, WM Low Pay Unit, Stop Child Labour.
Delegates or observers were sent to the National Trades Council Conference, Women's TUC, Black Workers' TUC and a TUC Recruitment and Organisation conference.
We plan to run a general union recruitment campaign over the coming year.
Copies of George Barnsby's history of our trades council are still available from the secretary - now at the special price of £2.
Thanks to the executive committee and especially to Bro.Joynson for taking and typing all minutes and the NUT and UNISON General for copying the mailings.
Nick Kelleher Secretary 9 Jan 1998
Annual Report of Work 1996-1997
Wolverhampton, Bilston & District Trades Union Council Secretary's Report of Work year ending 1996
I took over as secretary in March 1996 following on from Bro Scroop who had served Council for 8 years. I spent the first couple of months getting into the routine and setting up systems of work. Despite Bro Joynson taking and typing all minutes and the NUT copying the mailings (for free), it has proven a lot more work than I had imagined. It will be physically impossible for me to sustain this level of activity for a number of years alongside my political commitments and other TU work.
This year we had 20 affiliated branches with 14,741 affiliated members (although the total membership of those branches was over 24,000). This compares to 16,623 the previous year with 24 branches. We are launching an affiliation campaign.
The average delegate attendance this year was 8.9 (1995 8.4, 1994 10.5). We opened up several meetings when outside speakers were invited which increased attendance to an average of 10.6.
It has been quite a busy year with the public profile of Trades Council raised particularly in the second half of the year due to our work with the Liverpool Dockers and the Holden's Strikers.
Birmingham TUC has organised several tours of the dockers in this region and we invited the dockers to speak at our May meeting. Arising from this meeting a Dockers' Support Group was established. The group as such gained little support and so the work was done by the EC with support from the TGWU. A public meeting and a reception were held as well as arranging workplace collections and invites to union branch meetings. In total, around £850 was raised as a result of Trades Council's initiative. Since this dispute is still ongoing then I believe that a similar series of events should be organised in 1997.
Although the Holden's strikers were sacked last August, the first news of the dispute came to our delegates at the County Association of Trades Union Councils (CATUC) some time after. When the strikers came to speak to our November meeting they were in need of organisational help and a boost in morale. I think it is fair to say that we have helped them transform their campaign since then. Their dispute and call for a boycott of Holden's pubs and products has become widely known in the movement. Many speaking invites have been arranged and their Strike Fund has been boosted. Technical help has been given with leaflet production, press releases as well as assisting with their lobbying of pub customers and making visits to the picket line. We also helped them organise their successful Day of Action and were asked by the TGWU to lead the march. At present Ken Purchase MP is acting as mediator between Edwin Holden and the strikers.
We will need to sustain our level of activity over the coming months in order to keep the pressure on Holden (who is losing money hand over fist) and to help the strikers keep their morale high.
Workers' Memorial Day
Trades Council members along with the Workers' Relatives Support Group laid wreaths on April 28th at the Memorial Tree. We will be putting further pressure on the council to repair the vandalised plaque and to move the tree to a more prominent site.
The 1st May celebration of International Workers' Day is now established as an annual event in Wolverhampton, with Trades Council members instrumental in it's organisation. This year's celebration attracted a larger audience than the previous year and proved to be the biggest in the West Midlands.
A motion was passed earlier in the year which resulted in a successful conference organised by the CATUC in November on the Trade Union Movement under a Labour Government.
We held a very well supported public meeting on fluoride in our water supply which resulted in our policy opposing the further introduction of fluoride.
Other motions were passed on Palestine, the newspaper industry distribution crisis and traffic regulations.
The movement has had a number of minor victories this year in campaigns which we have been involved with recently:
Raghbir Singh, the Midlands journalist was released from prison.
The introduction of ID cards was scrapped.
The government voted against the US's illegal blockade of Cuba at the UN; we also arranged for materials to be sent to Cuba in the CSC's container.
Guns and flick-knives were banned from sale at Bilston market. We took up the issue after a report from Walsall TUC.
This year we affiliated to: Anti-Racist Alliance, Brazil Network, Walsall WEA, Cuba Solidarity, National Abortion Campaign, Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, El Salvador Solidarity, CODIR, W'ton Race Equality Council, W'ton Campaign Against Domestic Violence, TU CND, WM Low Pay Unit, Stop Child Labour.
Delegates or observers were sent to the National Trades Council Conference, Women's' TUC, Black Workers TUC, Campaign Against Euro-Federalism conferences and the Morning Stars' Press and Distribution conference.
We had no success in organising a coach to Tolpuddle since there was little response from our delegates and none from other trades councils
1997 Year of Anti-Racism
We were unsuccessful in our bid for EEC money for activities linked to the Euro Year of Anti-Racism but hope to maintain links which we made with community organisations when we stage Banner Theatre's anti-racist play Redemption Song on April 19th.
We will also be assisting with an anti-racist conference organised by the CATUC June 21st. outgoing Secretary Nick Kelleher 7 Jan 1997