WB&DTUC Secretary’s Annual Report of Work for year ending 2000
In his new year message, The TUC’s general secretary John Monks emphasised the related priorities of jobs and manufacturing. He pointed out that full employment is a realistic demand, not wishful thinking, though no Labour leader since the late John Smith has highlighted this crucial issue.
Official unemployment or claimant count which it is euphemistically and more accurately known as, stood at over 960,000 in Britain in November, down almost 140,000 on last year This 12% fall was not matched in the West Midlands where there was a 5% drop. In Wolverhampton, official unemployment is 6,758 down less than 2% in a year.
Reality is that there are 3 million people who are either not drawing benefits or have been shunted off the jobless roll by governmental tinkering over the years but who would welcome the offer of work. Job losses at Goodyear and the knock on effect that they will cause, can only further demonstrate the absolute need for the government to dramatically intervene in the economy and evolve a real strategy to bring about full employment. Manufacturing industry, the heart of our local economy, and so fundamental to the national economy, must be supported and redeveloped.
When Thatcher expressed her hatred of our class and our unions, by laying waste to much of Britain’s industrial heritage, the Tories claimed that manufacturing jobs would be replaced by service and finance jobs. Trade unionists defending manufacturing were accused of living in the past and of failing to appreciate the opportunities of a new post-industrial era. Yet hundreds of thousands of banking, insurance and other finance jobs have gone to the wall as mergers and takeovers have proliferated. Manufacturing has continued to slide partly as a result of a euro weak against the pound, dollar, yen and amongst a multitude of others, the Ugandan schilling and Russian rouble, and partly because of corporate decisions to relocate to other countries. Relocations have occurred due to the ease in Britain compared with other countries, employers can lay off workers and low wage, low cost economies especially in eastern europe.
In virtually every circumstance, our Labour government has floundered, offering tea, sympathy and advice on looking for new jobs, but accepting as given the right of transnational corporations to operate without constraint. They have restricted their intervention to slashing corporate tax to amongst the lowest in europe, rejecting any increase in the Tories’ kid-glove levels of income tax for the rich, cutting red-tape to attract overseas investment and remostrating how anti-union it is here. Bending over backwards for transnational corporations is no guarantee that they will honour their commitments or retain their investments stakes, as many countries could testify.
The government must insist on firms implementing personnel and union-recognition policies appropriate to the 21st century, but this need not mean incarcerating us in the eurozone. The EU favours putting corporate profitability before workers’ rights and encouraging company mergers that threaten jobs while creating EU-wide global competitors in various sectors. The battle for full employment begins here not in the secretive decision-making forums of europe.
21 trade union branches affiliated to us; (down on last year) with 12,289 affiliated members, (down on last year), : ASLEF, CWU(W.Midlands), CYWU, FBU, GMB(W70/Willenhall), GPMU, ISTC(Monmore Tubes), MSF Craft 13/D, MSF 0558, NASUWT, NATFHE(Bilston), NATFHE(Wulfrun), NULMW, NUT, POA, TGWU 5/748, TGWU 5/836, UNISON General, UNISON Health, UNISON Healthcare, USDAW.
Meetings averaged 16.4, the highest in recent years. This is very encouraging but there is still room for more delegates. The attendance is probably rising due to the number of visitors now attending, since we opened up meetings to all trade unionists as visitors. There is a huge potential for increasing our affiliation base particularly within the TGWU, whichb wasn’t tackled successfully by the EC last year. Recently all trade unions in the region were contacted to supply lists of local branches but few unions have so far responded and relatively few new branches have been identified. Delegates can assist by contacting unaffiliated branches with which they have dealings. We can supply speakers.
This year we affiliated to: ACTSA, Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, CODIR, Cuba Solidarity Campaign, Liberty, National Abortion Campaign, TU CND, Walsall WEA(H&S), W.Mids County Association of Trade Union Councils, W.Mids Low Pay Unit, W’ton Race Equality Council.
A delegate was sent to the national Trades Union Councils’ Conference and an observer to the Women’s TUC, Black Workers TUC and Lesbian & gay TUC
Motions – maybe a lack of activity in branches or perhaps oversight or ignorance of us, but only two motions were submitted by a branch in support of the US journalist on death-row Mumia Abu Jamal, and in support of the flood victims of Orissa, India.
Workers’ Memorial Day, April 28th . Workers’ Memorial Day – over 40 people attended the services, speeches and wreath-laying, double last year’s record attendance and we attracted press and radio reports before and after the day. The theme was young people’s H&S.
International Workers Day – as part of the Wolverhampton May Day Committee we took part in the organising for this year’s May Day Festival,held at Dunstall Community Centre. West Midlands UNISON sponsored the event, highlighting their Campaign for a Living Wage. It has continued to grow and the 6th year was again the biggest ever with up to 200 people attending. The stalls worked well again and publicity was pofessionally designed and printed. Attempts were made to further involve the Labour Party. £1000 was spent as the stops were pulled out for this year, so if this was not to be as good as it will get, then there will need to be a wider group of people on the Committee.
Some campaigning was done in support of the TGWU Lufthansa and the GMB Foframe strikes which were both settled after long and bitter disputes.
Music Festivals – for the second year we organised teams of young trade unionists to work on the bars at music festivals. We worked backstage at each festival this summer which reflects the Workers Beer Company’s confidence in our group and meant a more pleasuable time for us. We raised £2,100 at Homelands, Fleadh, Glastonbury, Leeds and new years eve festivals. Most of our 20 workers came from UNISON, though there were some from MSF and TGWU. Half of the monet raised goes on adverts or donations to the Morning Star and the rest equals the entire year’s TU affiliation fees. This has alleviated the need to raise affiliation fees and has allowed us to be more generous in our donations to strikers.
Publicity leaflets will be supplied in late March to branches for this year’s festivals. Widespread circulation could gain involvement from your younger members and as has happened this year, acted as a recruitment tool.
Press coverage – despite no Publicity Officer we have been in the press more than in recent years over May Day, Workers Memorial Day, Skychefs, Rover demo plus general quotes.
Other Speakers addressed council on a variety of issues over the year: Rover, Safe Britain’s Fishing campaign, Featherstone depleted-uranium fire, media liks, globalisation, Iraq, Future of WMBC. In addition there were reports from the World Solidarity Conference in Cuba, anti-sanctions on Iraq conferences and regular workplace reports.
Industrial disputes – the campaign to save Rover gave rise the biggest demonstration in Britain this year with many of our delegates amongst the 80,000 in Birmingham. The future of the Longbridge plant along with much of Britain’s remaining car industry remains in the balance.
The 600 UNISON Dudley Group of Hospitals strikers remain one of the largest groups involved in one of the longest running disputes in Britain today. They have been on strike seven times for up to three weeks at a time since last summer, against plans to transfer their jobs from the NHS to the private sector. 170 jobs are threatened under a PFI scheme that would also see the loss of 70 beds. Just beforeXmas the Government finally directly intervened but failed to guarantee the workers future in the NHS so they are fighting on. We need to expand the levels of our support as their campaign further intensifies.
Other work – the campaign to bring justice to the racist killers of Jason and Errol McGowan began to gain momentum with a big demo in Telford on the anniversary of Jason’s death. The police launched an investigation only to close it down again.
Wolverhampton Race Equality Council’s Diversity 2000 failed to come to fruition depite the efforts of our delegate to it.
One of our delegates begame support crew as an Bury TUC unemployed workers’ march came through our area. We linked the John O’Groats to Lands End marchers with visiting South African Trade Unionists who we were hosting.
An invitation to speak to a local school about trade unions, was taken up.
Work wil continue on the campaign to lift sanctions on Iraq and for an end to the continued bombing by Britain and the US ten years after their war against Iraq began. A constituency based petition in the run up to the election will be the initial focus.
The coming year
Continuing from our survey at the start of last year, we will continue to open up meetings and make them more accessible.
We could apply for a TUC Development Grant to set up a website. It would primarily be to post duplications of the mailings that we send out but could easily(?) be expanded into much more as Birmingham TUC has done.
Thanks to the executive committee for it’s work and to UNISON General for copying the mailings.
Good luck also goes to our President, Rob Marris, who was successful in becoming the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Wolverhampton South West. In a likely election year,with his abilities and a lot of hard work from him and some of us, he will keep Wolverhampton City Labour for years to come.
Nick Kelleher, outgoing Secretary, 9 Jan 2001