2019 national Trades Union Councils Conference
Starting on the Saturday conference seemed fairly well attended with more than a hundred delegates in attendance. We had opening remarks from Chair Roger Mckenzie and Bournemouth TUC Sec Neil Duncan talking about the low average pay and insecure jobs in the region contrasting with the high living costs of the south coast. Almost immediately a point of order was made to not waste time discussing motions when we were all clear it would pass. This point of order took more than 5 minutes to pass.
Next we had the TUC JCC Report in which the main issue discussed was a new customizable leaflet for TCs to use and that we can contact our JCC Rep to find out more. In the broken down regional sections of the report it was noticeable that Gemma Offland had not contacted WB&D TUC as the only mention of us was that we were one of many TCs to have had a Workers Memorial Event. Nothing of our pickets, May Day or anything else we have done. Walsall managed to get a photograph included but as far as I could tell they hadn’t sent any delegates.
Instead of listing each motion ill just talk about the ones that were most hotly debated and provide a copy of the motions booklet for anyone that wants to see it. All passed.
Young People and Unionisation – South Yorkshire CATUC
This mainly came down how to reach young people in the kind of workplaces they normally get stuck in, with particular focus on fast food outlets. Delegates from Sheffield spoke about how the TUC had hired a part time officer to directly intervene on behalf of the Bakers Union to work with Mcdonalds staff as well as Gregs, KFC etc.
TUC Young Workers Year – Essex CATUC
This was about involving young people in the culture of trade unionism. There was talk of having stalls at university fresher’s fairs to engage students. In Derby College students made a Mural for the Silk Mill festival. There was even one example of TU Reps doing classes in school promoting the need for unions.
Protecting Our Futures, Climate Change and Jobs – West Yorkshire CATUC
A motion discussing the radical importance of climate issues and how they can even be used to grow membership. What with climate activists and young people seeing this as a material issue they can directly effect. Promoting green reps, recycling, cutting down on paper and power use. There was one example of a H&S Rep calling for a walkout over environmental issues. The more people who are involved for green issues also raises our bargaining power on other things.
Amritsar / Jallianwala Massacre – Derbyshire CATUC
An impassioned debate with guest speakers from the campaign. They talked about the history and consequences of the massacre and compared the need for an apology to that of Bloody Sunday that was condemned by the Cameron government. Blair apologized for the Potato Famine proving that it isn’t too late. They also spoke of the need to teach this kind of colonial history in schools. Multicultural Britain had to speak about its worst mistakes.
Trades Council’ Participation in Congress – Somerset
In many ways this motion was the weekends main event. It called essentially for the recognition of Trades Councils at a TUC level demanding a Congress delegation of 9 instead of the 1 we currently have, a single seat on the TUC General council and for delegates to have the right to speak and vote on any motion. In the eyes of many this wasn’t far enough as it seems pointless to spend a weekend debating and passing more than 20 motions for only 1 to make it to TUC. Bizarrely 12 people voted against further representation. The arguments against could be mainly boiled down to not wanting to rock the boat and lose what we already had. The Motion passed and was then voted as the only motion to go forward to TUC Conference.
Speakers and Workshops
We had Mark Serwotka PCS Sec speaking about the UC strikes and the need to tackle the Anti Trade Union Act. As usual Mark gave a good speech but more interestingly we had a representative from Glasgow TUC speaking about the difference between how Trades Councils are represented at Scots TUC. They already have multiple delegates, seats on the TUC and trades councils can send motions directly to congress. She pointed out that they do all this and it somehow hasn’t you brought the world to an end. She also spoke about the centenary of the riots of George Square and the equal pay strike in Glasgow that saw the walkout of 8.5 thousand women.
I attended two workshops one on the Impact of UC on claimants and how to build local campaigns raising awareness, and one put on by Sheffield TUC about their Low Pay and Exploitation campaign. The first was interesting but didn’t offer too much but the second was very interesting. They went into detail about how and why they had hired a part time officer to work on behalf of the BU contacting fast food workers in the city. They spoke about how they raised the money and the research they did beforehand to work out if it would be worth it. I invited them to come and speak to Wolves TUC when they have an idea about whether or not it had worked.
Close and Conclusion
The conference came to a close on Sunday on honestly seemed like a positive experience all around. The opportunity to meet up with fellow activists from across the country was a welcome one. People asked after Nick and really wanted to engage about their own local campaigns. It’s a shame that almost nothing debated will go to any further body but hopefully we can work to change that.
Bob Simm, delegate WB&DTUC