WB&DTUC Secretary’s Annual Report of Work for year ending 2001
2002 offers our labour movement the choice of peace and progress or war and reaction. George Bush has left us in no doubt about the priorities of the oligarchy that he represents by referring to the coming year as a “war year”. He rallied support with the ultimatum “you’re either with us or against us” and our government responded with a blank cheque for Washington’s declared war on terrorism. A selective war at that, since Miami hosts quite a collection of anti-Cuban terrorist groups assisted by the CIA, and US support for the state-sponsored terrorism of it’s Israeli ally.
Throughout Britain, the US and the EU, emergency “anti-terror” laws are eroding hard-won democratic rights and assisting far-right racist groups to portray asylum- seekers and ethnic minorities as a threat.
No financial restrictions are placed on the capacity of the top brass to send troops, planes and warships across the world to support war. Yet pensioners are told that the country can’t afford the level of state pension that was achievable half a century ago. We are told that NHS and education facilities can only be brought up to standard by private finance initiatives that siphon off public assets into private profit. Similarly for prisons, transport and local authority services, privateers will be making money out of public service. Yet the government has the ability to borrow cheaply through the issue of bonds to ensure sufficient investment capacity. Indeed union reports have shown that it could be cheaper for public services to borrow commercially than being forced into PFI deals. In the wake of Railtrack, who could ever again assume that the private sector can provide efficiency? Its only objective is to generate shareholder profit.
In his new year message, John Monks, General Secretary of the TUC called on the government to stop relying on “gimmicks and spin” and to improve Britain’s ailing public services in 2002. He accused ministers of lacking a coherent public services policy, instead oscillating between declarations of the need for more investment and announcements of more privatisation. He went on to predict that 2002 will be “a challenging year for the unions. There are good signs such as new recognition deals that show that unions can reach out to new workplaces, but continuing manufacturing job losses will hit membership.”
Manufacturing still accounts for a quarter of jobs in Wolverhampton, though those employed has fallen by 7% in the last 5 years. Service industries have increased and jobs in education and property have risen by over 50%. The finance sector and public administration have both had significant job losses. Unemployment has mirrored national trends, but rates are much higher than West Midland and national figures. Major job losses in companies that have been the mainstay of local manufacturing such as at Chubbs and Goodyear will not be replaced without a coherent government strategy to redevelop British manufacturing.
Affiliations – 21 trade union branches affiliated to us; (same as last year) with 12,672 affiliated members, (400 up on last year), CWU(W.Midlands), CYWU, FBU, GMB(W70/Willenhall), GPMU, ISTC (Wednesfield No.2), ISTC (Monmore Tubes), ISTC (Hall Palm), 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.
Meetings averaged 13.4 – this was down on last year. With some regular delegates unable to attend this year, we will need to look again at bringing in new delegates. There is still a huge potential for increasing our affiliation base particularly within the TGWU. Again I urge delegates can assist by contacting unaffiliated branches with which they have dealings .
This year we affiliated to: ACTSA, Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, Cuba Solidarity Campaign, Liberty, National Abortion Campaign, TU CND, TUIREC, Walsall WEA, W.Mids County Association of Trade Union Councils, W.Mids Low Pay Unit, W.Mids CND, W’ton Race Equality Council.
Delegates were sent to the national Trades Union Councils’ Conference, Sandwell Unity Conference Against Racism & Fascism, Cuba Solidarity TU conference and observers to the Women’s TUC, Black Workers’ TUC and Lesbian & Gay TUC. We also sent representatives to the Race Equality Council, W’ton May Day Committee and the West Midlands CATUC. We also had co-optees on W’ton City Council Scrutiny Panels.
Motions .were passed against the US/UK bombing of Afghanistan and against the anti-union laws. A motion was also passed in support of the Freedom & Justice for Samar & Jawad campaign on behalf of two Palestinians convicted in connection with the 1994 Israeli embassy bombing and denied the right to a fair trial.
Speakers addressed council on a variety of other issues over the year: Searchlight, the anti-fascist magazine, Zimbabwean TUs, against Afghanistani war, NHS anti-privatisation campaign, victimised shop stewards, campaign for repeal of anti-TU laws, history of our banner, Turkish political prisons and stress at work.
There were reports from the Lesbian & Gay TUC, Women’s TUC, Black Workers’ TUC and Trades Councils’ conferences as well as regular workplace reports.
We hosted a delegation of senior women trades unionists from Zimbabwe accompanied by their general secretary and assisted at 24hrs notice a group of 10 Turkish marchers on route from Liverpool to London, highlighting the plight of political prisoners in Turkey.
General Election – Our President Rob Marris is now Wolverhampton SW Labour MP and we again have a labour government. Prior to the election we held a meeting co-hosted with the AEEU and MSF branches, Labour, why a 2nd term?. As part of a worrying trend of increased fascist activity, the NF stood in W’ton SE and got over 550 votes seemingly without a leaflet drop or campaign, which makes their vote even worse. As they do, they have claimed to be standing again but there has been no activity. The BNP continue to cause trouble in neighbouring Tipton but attempts to whip-up race hatred, Oldham-style seems to have failed.
Workers Memorial Day 28th April. We had less than half of those who turned up last year, maybe because it was a Saturday. It did work very well though. We did three local radio stations about asbestos, this year’s theme. Flags were again flown at half mast, more speeches were made, a banner was made to publicise us and we even sung a song, though maybe this shouldn’t set a precedent!
Workers’ Memorial Day, will be on Sunday April 28th this year.]
Wolverhampton May Day Festival – we continued our 1st May rally and it was as big if not bigger than last year with over 200 adults and kids, despite not overwhelming support from delegates. Speeches, stalls, food and kids entertainment went down well though we did have trouble with some of the entertainment not turning up. We have developed publicity around the event to a limit now with the number of people involved in the organising. May Day and Workers’ Memorial Day are our main annual events. Being only a few days apart adds to organisational problems so we should take it upon all of ourselves to at least bring people and assist with publicity.
In October we filled a minibus down to the first national demonstration against the war on Afghanistan. Several thousand copies of a leaflet that we produced were distributed in the city centre. A public meeting was held with TU, Palestine Solidarity and CND speakers and although the turnout was small compared to other meetings held locally by TUCs, we got a write up in the Express&Star and a radio interview. Subsequently a coach was filled for the anti-war demo in November in conjunction with Wolverhampton Coalition Against the War who did the bulk of the work.
Morning Star – half of the music festival money we raised went on adverts for our meetings and for our book as well as on donations to the Morning Star, the daily paper of the labour movement.
Incidentally, the History of Wolverhampton & Bilston TUC is available from the Secretary £2.50 inc. p&p or at £1 for bulk orders.
Gujarat earthquake a committee was set up to raise £100,000 by the IWA, council, religious groups, Asian businesses and us. The target is well on the way to being reached but it will be a long term project.
Iraqi sanctions – some work towards ending them was attempted.
Dudley UNISON strike – we gave assistance as best we could until the jobs were finally privatised. Their action was the longest strike action in the history of the NHS and although they never achieved their objective undoubtedly their struggle has saved many other workers around Britain from being forced to undertake similar action, as many PFI deals have been quietly shelved.
Music Festivals – Wandsworth & Battersea TUC run the Workers’ Beer Company which is now a huge organisiation which co-promotes major music festivals. Bar workers are recruited by labour movement organisations and their wages are paid to their groups. The workers get free entry, some free food and beer and the clincher, hot showers and proper toilets! We have sent teams of young trades unionists and raised £2,275 this year at Resolution 2001, Homelands, Fleadh, Jam in the Park, National Adventure Sports and Leeds festivals. This is the third year that we have done these festivals and have now raised £6,670. This is now more than we receive in affiliations, previously our only income.
23 different people joined teams this year for us and with only a few being delegates, it shows the potential for getting new people involved in the trade union movement. MSF, T&G and UNISON were involved this year.
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.
Increased security – just after the AGM when Searchlight spoke, the Secretary suffered two arson attacks, hate mail and malicious calls. In a letter to the police, fascists claimed responsibility but as yet nobody has been caught. Security has been stepped up including the use of a PO Box for the trades council.
We have increased participation over recent years and along with Birmingham and Coventry TUCs are one of the most active in the West Midlands. However this year has been very much standing still and continuing with the usual sort of work that we have already been involved with. The TUCJCC’s main priority for the coming year for the work for trades councils is to assist in recruitment to unions. We will continue this by promoting trades unionism in our communities through the general work that we do but must we must be ready to work with unions in more direct work.
Thanks to the executive committee for it’s work and to UNISON General for copying the mailings.
Nick Kelleher, outgoing Secretary, 9 Jan 2002