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.

Liverpool Dockers
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.

Holden’s Strikers
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.

May Day
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.

Other Successes
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

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