WB&DTUC President's Report
The President's report tends to focus on the political situation of the previous year whilst the secretary will report on the many and varied meetings, activities and campaigns of the Trades Union Council
In previous years at our AGM we have discussed the desperate situation faced by working people. The situation now is way beyond desperate and people are just not surviving. It is not uncommon to see regularly people forced to sleep and live on our streets across the UK and in Wolverhampton in freezing temperatures and all weathers. People are forced to beg for food to survive. I was approached last week by a young man who had been sleeping in the shop doorways at the Avion centre. He’d recently been in hospital with Pneumonia and as he explained his circumstance and experience to me clutching just a blanket worn thin, it left me worried and emotional. Raw and Angry. Cuts to public services, to Local Government and to the NHS mean people are falling through the cracks. Unemployment, Benefit sanctions, Bedroom tax, and lack of social housing, mean people are not surviving.
Those workers in employment don’t have it easy either.
Poor terms and conditions,
low wages ( less than the living wage),
Part time jobs,
Zero hours contracts,
job promotion to cuts in Salary (new job title, more work and responsibility but lower pay),
caps on sick pay,
Management of attendance procedures with dismissal outcomes (sacked for being ill),
car park charges,
These attacks are what workers are dealing with on a daily basis. The reality is that workers standard of living is falling in UK. Workers often can not earn a living wage. Their wages are not enough to feed their family and they have to resort to the indignity of relying on charitable food banks for support. Trussell Trust foodbank use remains at a record high with over one million three-day emergency food supplies given to people in crisis in 2015/16. New University of Hull data mapping shows a correlation between foodbank use and areas with high numbers of people who are in skilled manual work or unable to work due to long term illness or disability. The data emphasises that foodbank usage remain due to benefit problems and low income. How dare the Tories suggest foodbank usage is a lifestyle choice. SO out of touch.
The opposite extreme of this, and the real insult, is the Wealthy continue to benefit from Austerity. We are not all in this together. In my report in Jan 15, I quoted the statistic that the richest 85 people in the world have as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population. That statistic in Jan 17 is now the richest 62 people in the world own as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population, according to Oxfam.
Though the Conservatives came to power in the last General Election (in 2015) with 36.9% of the vote. They have only a 12 seat majority, and in 2016 they are clearly split over the EU question and moribund with little legislation or decision making taking place. It is worth remembering that Labour polled 30.4% of the vote, UKIP 12.6% and Lib Dems only 7.9%.
The Referendum that took place in 2016 resulted in a decision to leave the EU, as well as swift exits by Cameron and Osbourne. Trade Unions struggled with this issue as membership in the largest Unions was pretty evenly split on the subject. Theresa May helpfully clarified that “Brexit means Brexit” and left everyone even more confused. Threats abound as to the outcome of the result bringing economic devastation, plague and pestilence, which has not happened so far. Uncertainty seems to be the biggest economic fear factor. Our concern as Trade Unionists, it seems to me is that we will end up with the worst possible outcome –some are suggesting ending Britain’s membership of the EU, ending what little protection there was for workers from the Union whilst still remaining linked to the Single Market in some form.
More uncertainty is faced across the globe with the election of Trump to be inaugurated into office of the President of USA this week. As a woman and as a human being I am alarmed that a person with such an attitude and with such a behavioural track record towards women, could be seen as a suitable president. His policies are uncertain and inconsistent. Even the markets were unimpressed by his speech earlier this week, taking a dive when he opened his mouth. We understand his theme for his inaugural speech will be unity in the USA, - America First. Sends a chill down your spine! We are told his speech will be short and he wrote it himself!
This year, following the referendum, Labour MP’s forced a Leadership election and instead of making political gain when the Conservatives were weakest, internal focus was the outcome. It provided an opportunity for the Conservative Government to restructure and move on whilst Labour focused on the Leadership election. Theresa May claimed she was the Prime Minister of working people but her actions and policies indicate the opposite. Corbyn’s re-election with an increased vote was a clear vote against Austerity and the Neo-Liberal Agenda
Finally, I can only repeat what I have said in previous years, as it remains more true than ever before. Wolverhampton, Bilston and District Trades Council has continued to be one of the best, well organised Trades councils in the country - mainly due to the dedication of the best secretary in the movement. We have to pay tribute to Nick, whose contribution is invaluable and means we are able to continue with, well run website and social media campaigns, regular meetings, high quality speakers and interesting debates, all in a comradely spirit as well having a robust programme of activity and campaigning in the community. Last Year we all thoroughly enjoyed the love unions campaign and are looking forward to repeating this again in 2017, bigger and better and even more fun.
Again I urge, delegates need to take their role very seriously too. We need to stand together and ensure that we make the extra effort to get to meetings, bring a colleague, report back from the meetings to branches and enlist support for the campaigns. This is VITAL going forward if we are to achieve change for a more equal society.
Marie Taylor Jan 2017