WB&D TUC Secretary’s Annual Report of Work for year ending 2002
The past 12 months have seen growing op¬position in the labour movement to the pro-¬business project of the new Labour clique. Over a million British workers have been forced to take strike action in defence of their pay and conditions over the last few months.
The stunning victory of Amicus-AEEU left candidate Derek Simpson followed the elec¬tion or re-election of principled leftwin¬gers to a number of key positions, including Paul Mackney (NATFHE), Jeremy Dear (NUJ), Bob Crow (RMT), Mark Serwotka (PCS) and Tony Wood¬ley(T&G). These victories confirmed a trend al¬ready apparent in the election of Mick Rix (ASLEF), Dave Prentis (UNI¬SON), Steve Kemp (NUM), Brian Caton (POA) and Andy Gilchrist (FBU). The reasons for each of these electoral choices was twofold – growing support for the labour movement’s socialist ten¬dency and reaffirmation of the need to put the interests of union members ahead of blind loyalty to the Labour leadership. This does not mean that the unions are hostile to the Labour government, but it suggests that, if the boat needs to be rocked to ensure that the demands of un¬ion members and broader sections of the people are addressed, then rocked it will be.
Often trade unionists have to be content with small victories and whilst such take place, we must not indulge ourselves in pretence whilst many industries are being destroyed in order to create greater profits in other lands by the use of suppressed cheap labour.
The current demand for a war with Iraq by both the American President and the Prime Minister could cost all dear. Not only will it result in the further death of civilians, it will be in a country that was destroyed in the Gulf War and has been bombed by ours and US forces for the last decade. Sanctions on Iraq have killed over 500,000 children according to the UN and must be lifted.
A solution for the Palestinian people is the answer for peace in the Middle East and would create some sense of stability in the world. It will not be achieved by going to war.
Far from demonstrating a commitment to an even-handed approach, the US has even vetoed a resolution condemning Israel for the death of UN personnel by Israeli weapons!
These are indeed dangerous times.
A balance sheet at the end of 2002 forces the reluctant conclusion that there is greater danger, instability and loss of life from armed conflicts already happening and likely to happen, than a year ago.
This time last year, we witnessed US triumphalism about Afghanistan, yet, 8,000 deaths later, there is still serious instabil¬ity and the knock-on effect of that war and a further war against Iraq are immense.
In Britain, it will result in the transfer of resources from essential public services and indeed the provision of existing and future workers pensions and standard of living.
The World Trade Organisation continues to make ever more restrictive demands upon all nations it infiltrates. The results of which can be seen in many developing countries, which seek financial assistance only to find they are caught in a web of ever increasing debt, resulting in a total economic breakdown; Argentina being a recent victim.
We still have the slow but sure increase of poverty amongst the jobless. Our older population who for years received low wages to the extent they were never in the position of acquiring a decent pension scheme or be allowed to be included in a company pension scheme, now depend upon SERPS which this government wishes to dispense with. Government refusal to countenance re¬-establishment of the link between earnings and the state pension has been mirrored by private firms’ decisions to close final-sal¬ary occupational pension schemes. Trade unions have already begun resisting, but this is likely to remain a key campaign.
It has not been a good year for civil liberties or community relations. New anti-terrorist legislation allows for indefinite imprisonment of foreign nationals by the Home Secretary and in the north of England fascist councillors were elected.
But there are grounds for hope. The anti-war movement is the biggest that the world has seen and the great feature of all of this protest, is that it is positive.
The links are being made between econo¬mic injustice, environmental degradation and just peace.
Attendance at Meetings averaged 11.6, which was down from 13.4 last year. The number of delegates attending has dropped even further, with an increase in non-delegate trade unionists, attending as observers, masking an even worse problem.
Branches need to attract new names to be put forward as delegates. There is still a huge potential for increasing our affiliation base and delegates can assist by contacting unaffiliated branches with which they have dealings.
A message from the TUC General Secretary:
‘‘Britain’s unions have their best opportunity in a generation to grow once again. New rights at work are giving people a new confidence to demand dignity and respect at work. TRADES UNION COUNCILS can help promote the union message where it matters most – at the grass roots, in the community, in the workplace.
By bringing trade unionists together, campaigning around local concerns and building up new alliances, Trades Union Councils can play a crucial role in helping unions reach out to new members.
I URGE UNION BRANCHES TO AFFILIATE TO THEIR LOCAL TRADES UNION COUNCIL and to get involved in its activity.’’
This year we affiliated to: ACTSA, Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, Cuba Solidarity Campaign, Liberty, National Abortion Campaign, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Sandwell Unity Campaign Against Racism & Fascism, TU CND, TU Friends of Searchlight, TU Friends of Palestine, Walsall WEA, W.Mids County Association of Trade Union Councils, W.Mids Low Pay Unit, W.Mids CND, W’ton Race Equality Council.
Affiliations – 20 trade union branches affiliated to us (slightly down on last year) with 11,915 affiliated members, ASLEF, CWU(W.Midlands), CYWU, FBU, GPMU, ISTC (Monmore Tubes), ISTC (Hall Palm), MSF Craft 13/D, MSF 0558, NASUWT, NATFHE(Wulfrun), NLBD, NULMW, NUT, POA, TGWU 5/748, TGWU 5/836, UNISON General, UNISON Healthcare, UNISON S.Staffs.
Delegates were sent to the national Trades Union Councils’ 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 war and in support of the FBU’s pay claim.
WB&D TUC meets on the 3rd Thursday of each month (except August), 7.15pm, Committee Room 2, Civic Centre.
Any trade unionist is welcome to attend. We have a guest speaker at 8pm.
There were reports from the Lesbian & Gay TUC, Women’s TUC, Black Workers’ TUC and Trades Councils’ conferences as well as regular workplace reports.
Workers’ Memorial Day
Held again in conjunction with the Black Country Urban Industrial Mission, we had our biggest turnout ever in the 11 years that we have commemorated Workers’ Memorial Day, with 50 people in attendance.
The theme was Occupational Health schemes.
Speeches were made, there was a service, wreaths were laid at the tree and the council lowered the Civic’s flags to half-mast.
Later in the year we succeeded in halting the move of the Tree during building works and although it will be inaccessible this year we will still hold a memorial meeting in the Civic Plaza on Monday 28th April 2003 to Remember the Dead and Fight for the Living. The theme will highlight corporate killing.
May Day Festival – this was the 8th year that WB&D TUC has been involved with the Wolverhampton May Day Committee. It again went very well with over 200 people again supporting the event. As well as our speakers, we had entertainment from Idsall School steel band, Gujarati Association dance group and Front Line Radio sound system played. There was mehendi, face painting, bouncy castle and an Asian buffet.
£117 was raised for Friction Dynamics and £117 for the Gujarat Earthquake Appeal.
Would any of you members like FREE ENTRY to a music festival in summer 2003?
WB&D TUC will organise bar teams for Glastonbury, God’s Kitchen, Fleadh, Leeds, New Year’s Eve and more.
What do you get?
• free entry to a festival (worth up to £100)
• free meal and 2 pints each day
• free festival T-shirt
• subsidised bar, open until you drop
• hot showers and flush toilets
• secure camping
What is expected of you?
• to work 5-6 hour shifts each day of a festival on a bar,
pulling or serving pints, no experience needed
• hard work, reliability and a sense of humour
• if you offer to work, you must definitely be available
• transport – if not, there’s usually space in a car
• you’ll also need a tent for the weekend festivals
What’s it all for? Wolverhampton TUC gets £5.60/hour for each worker from the Workers’ Beer Company.
We raised £1,660 this year making a total of £8,000 in the last four years, which has allowed us to increase our activity.
This extra money is spent on solidarity to strikers, advertising, general recruitment campaigning and other events that
we help organise such as May Day. This year we have been able to hire 3 coaches to national demos.
Palestine & Iraq
WB&D TUC is assisting the setting up of a local group of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. The group can be contacted directly
01902 450640 or by email on email@example.com
A number of local activities took place this year and more are planned:
Nov & Dec regular stalls and leafleting took place in the city and at the university as well as Boycott Israeli Goods action.
October Day of Action – leafleting in Queens Square. We also travelled over to West Bromwich to demonstrate against Geoff Hoon, Minister of Defence, responsible for arms exports to Israel.
September – we hired a coach for Don’t Attack Iraq, Justice for Palestine demo – 400,000 were part of history on the biggest demo for decades.
Two other coaches also went from the Wolverhampton mosques and 102 coaches went from Birmingham.
Wolverhampton TUC joined with local mosques to mark the 20th anniversary of the Shabra & Shatilla massacres. Letters to MPs were signed on an information stall in the city, followed by a public meeting at Dunstall Community Centre of 90, which far exceeded expectations.
May – we organised a coach to the 50,000 strong Justice for Palestine demo in London.
Don’t Attack Iraq national demo London
Saturday 15th February 2003
WB&D TUC has booked a coach
Departs Faulkland Street 8-45am
£8 waged £3 unwaged
book early as previous coach was full
TGWU Friction Dynamics Victory!
WB&D TUC has been supporting the dispute since two strikers spoke at our meeting, and about a dozen Wolverhampton trade unionists took part in their North Wales demonstration in June and also made regular visits to the picket line until the dispute was won.
Employment Tribunals have finished and the 86 sacked TGWU Friction Dynamics strikers won one of Britain’s longest disputes. The report with details of the decision is awaited.
For 18 months workers fought the lockout at car parts manufacturer Friction Dynamics in Caernarfon, North Wales. TGWU workers voted 91% for a week’s strike over proposed removal of statutory health & safety rights, cuts to holidays, ending of shift payments and a 15% pay cut.
After the strike there was a lockout and untrained workers were brought in to work with the asbestos used in manufacture. After 8 weeks of stalemate the workforce was sacked.
They were sacked under Labour’s new employment legislation, which was meant to give workers 8 weeks of protection while in dispute.
The strike received tremendous support from people and even businesses in the area. The picket outside the factory had an almost constant stream of cars and lorries going past honking their horns.
AEEU/GMB William Cooks of Sheffield Foundry
We hosted two sacked strikers from the William Cook Foundry, Sheffield dispute, after local Landrover workers had visited the picket line. It is an official Amicus-AEEU and GMB dispute although most members are Amicus-AEEU. The dispute is now nearing 2 years old, while strikers still wait for their Employment Tribunals, due in February.
Background: January 2001, William Cook Heavy Foundry castings plant in Sheffield, proposed new terms and conditions, and a further pay cut on top of 5 years of pay freeze and a £50/week cut already accepted. In March, new contracts arrived through the post, along with a letter placing the men on notice of dismissal if the contracts were not signed.
The resulting strike ballot was 100% for action, and they went out for a one-day official strike. The next day, they discovered they were locked out, their jobs had been advertised and scabs were being hired. The workers were invited, but declined to sign a contract repudiating industrial action.
They’re still out, and over 90 – including colleagues from another foundry – were dismissed.
Despite the unions operating within the anti-trade union legislation, they were locked out, a day into their strike over massive pay cuts, and then sacked before the 8 weeks protection granted under the Employment Relations Act (1999).
Although they are in similar circumstances to the TGWU Friction Dynamics strikers who were sacked at about the same time, they have received virtually no publicity locally or nationally. They are existing on £45 a week strike pay with little else.
Delegates requested that an appeal to our branches to make donations to their strike fund:
‘William Cook Strike Fund’ c/o Eddie Grimes, 116 Richmond Park Crescent, Sheffield S13 8HG
and to also request that where possible, articles be put in union magazines or newsletters highlighting the dispute.
£600 has been donated locally as a result of this appeal so far.
Fire Fighters’ Dispute
There have been regular reports of this dispute at our meetings.
WB&D TUC’s benefit night featuring Banner Theatre, just before Xmas raised only £100, due to a low turnout. Luckily local trade union branches have donated around £4,000.
A coach, sponsored by UNISON, went from Wolverhampton to support the FBU’s 20,000 strong national demo in London in December.
Please visit picket lines set up at each of the Wolverhampton & Bilston fire stations during any future strikes and given assistance in campaigning.
Donations can be made to FBU’s ‘West Midlands Hardship Fund’
c/o WB&D TUC, PO Box 2917, Wolverhampton WV2 2YA
Coventry TUC organised a coach to the annual Tolpuddle march & festival, which they made available to our delegates. This year we will again be able to attend on their coach, Sunday 20th July 2003.
We obtained a TUC grant, which was used to launch our website in June and have had about 200 hits a month since. It has proved useful for promotion of WB&D TUC, and if we are able to maintain it will prove a very valuable tool for future activity. Visit us at www.wolvestuc.org.uk
All correspondence and our latest campaigning information is now also available by email. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your email address to be added to our contact list.
The TUC’s annual Programme of Work for Trades Union Councils guides our activity.
We will continue the work that we have done this year countering fascist organisations and assisting Searchlight. Delegates assisted in anti-fascist campaigns in Dudley, and in Telford and Stoke at the request of their trades union councils.
We need to continue to raise the issue of trade union rights. The anti-trade union laws must be repealed and replaced with a Workers’ Charter of Rights so that we are at least on the same playing field as the employers.
Another priority for the work for trades union 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 be prepared to work with unions in more direct recruitment campaigns.
Thanks to the Executive Committee for it’s work and to UNISON General for copying the mailings.
Nick Kelleher, outgoing Secretary, 8th Jan 2003