Annual Report of Work 2003-4

Wolverhampton, Bilston & District Trades Union Council
 Secretary’s Annual Report of Work 2003-4

WB&D TUC was established in 1865, following a period of strife between workers, and employers who had attempted to thwart the organisation of labour. 
It is now the local arm of the TUC, with delegates from the local unions. 
The Trades Union Council is an organising body for local union campaigns and the link between unions and the communities that they are part of.
 PO Box 2917 Wolverhampton WV2 2YA   686613

WB&D TUC meets on the 3rd Thursday of each month (except August), 7.15pm, Civic Centre.  Entry through outside car park entrance.
All trade unionists are welcome to attend.
The EC meets on the 2nd Thursday of each month.
Outgoing  President   Marie Taylor  (CYWU)
Officers:  Vice-President  Rob Marris  (TGWU)
Secretary   Nick Kelleher  (UNISON)
Treasurer    John Grant  (NATFHE)
Minutes Secretary  Dave Joynson (UNISON)
Executive Committee: Satwant Sagoo, Paul Davis & Don Ash  all UNISON

TU Affiliations – 19 trade union branches affiliated to us with 11,600 affiliated members (similar to last year):
Amicus Craft 13/D, Amicus  0758, ASLEF, CWU (W.Midlands), CYWU, FBU, GMB 223 Rover, GMB X13, GPMU, NASUWT, NATFHE (Bilston), NATFHE (University), NATFHE (Wulfrun), NUT, POA, TGWU 5/748, TGWU 5/836, UNISON General, UNISON Healthcare.
Branches from ISTC, NULMW and UNISON failed to re-affiliate last year, but new GMB and NATFHE branches maintained our total affiliation.  There are still a number of local branches that do not affiliate which we must contact.

This year WB&D TUC affiliated to: Action for Southern Africa, Abortion Rights, Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, Cuba Solidarity, Justice for Colombia, Liberty, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, TU CND, TU Friends of Searchlight, TU Friends of Palestine, TU Pensioners Action Association, Unity Campaign Against Racism & Fascism, Walsall WEA, W.Mids County Association of TUCs, W.Mids Low Pay Unit, W.Mids CND, W’ton May Day Committee, W’ton Pensioners Convention.

Attendance at meetings averaged 13.9, up on the last two years.  The delegate:visitor ratio increased as the call for action in our last Annual Report was heeded and some new branches affiliated.  Branches still 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.  At the end of the year an application was made for a TUC grant to help us start recruiting Dudley area trade union branches at the request of the West Midlands County Association of Trade Union Councils, since Dudley TUC is now defunct.

A delegate was sent to the national Trades Union Councils’ Conference in Bradford and observers to the Women’s TUC, Black Workers’ TUC and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender TUC.  We also sent representatives to the West Midlands CATUC, some of whom also represented it at these conferences and the Midlands TUC.  We also had co-optees on W’ton City Council Scrutiny Panels.

Our meetings heard speakers on the following issues: domestic violence, victimised trade unionists, anti-war, anti-fascism, Nicaragua, Colombia, Mikey Powell campaign & sexual equality regulations as well as many workplace, conference and industrial reports.

The annual TUC Programme of Work for Trades Union Councils guides our activity.  Only through union strength can we win better rights at work and deliver a better quality of life for people throughout society.

Trades Union Councils are more important now than they have been for over a decade. With threats of racism and fascism, changes in the labour market and debates over the future of public services, the trade union voice in the community is as important as ever. The capacity of our trades council to provide a local response and to organise trade unionists into coalitions with other progressive forces is crucial.

People at work in the UK enjoy fewer rights than most people in the rest of Europe. But that doesn’t stop employers’ organisations from arguing for less ‘red tape’. What they really mean is there should be fewer rights for workers.  We owe it to the Holdens, Friction Dynamex and William Cook workers whom we have supported over recent years, to continue to campaign for protection from day one from unfair treatment or dismissal and the right to take industrial action, including solidarity action, without  breach of contract or dismissal.

The infamous PFI, where entire NHS services are built and run by big business, student top-up fees and Foundation Hospitals will continue to dog New Labour in the coming year.  The newly built publicly funded Heart & Lung Centre in Wolverhampton proves the lie that privatisation is the only option for the NHS.

The number of people claiming unemployment benefit in Wolverhampton increased over the last year to 6,295 (6.2%). The West Midlands rate increased to 5.8% but nationally it dropped to 2.4%.

The frustration of the hopes and aspirations of trade unionists on a whole range of issues has become more difficult to live with and the last year has seen a continued rise in the number of industrial unrest.

Workers’ Memorial Day

It was marked in Wolverhampton for the 12th year, held again in conjunction with the Black Country Urban Industrial Mission.  There were speeches, a service and 249 balloons were released in Queens’ Square to mark all those killed while working last year.  We got good TV, radio and press coverage and then further follow-up coverage later in the year.  The council lowered the Civic flags to half-mast. 

Corporate lobbying
Unions sponsored cards attached to the balloons, giving details of the year’s theme – Corporate Killing.  Within days there was a government announcement of forthcoming legislation and we received assurances from ministers and MPs.  However over the summer, the minister was changed and public services were rumoured to be exempted.  Finally, it was backdoor corporate lobbying that paid off, as when it came to the Queen’s speech there was nothing announced for the forthcoming Parliament.  For another year there will be meagre fines for the manslaughter of working people and company directors will continue to profit from their abuses of health and safety in the knowledge that they are still above the law.

Building work has finished and the Workers` Memorial Day Tree is again accessible and now with better access, next to the war memorial in St Peters Square. 
This year 28th April will be on a Wednesday.

Remember the Dead and Fight for the Living

Coventry TUC again organised a coach to the annual Tolpuddle march & festival, which they made available to our delegates. 
This year it will be Sunday 18th July .

Cuba Solidarity – the NUT has helped establish a Cuba Solidarity Group in the City this year, which has been promoted via our website.
01902 429591

Challenging racists and fascist organisations

Racism is an issue for all trade unionists as there are at least 350,000 black trade union members in Britain.  Trades Union Councils are committed to tackling racism and fascism in all its forms. We must play an active part in preventing the rise of the far right by supporting those communities being targeted and challenging the arguments of racist groups that attempt to intimidate and spread fear, particularly myths about asylum-seekers. We must recognise and tackle the social deprivation and unemployment which far-right organisations have exploited to increase racial hatred.

The Wolverhampton Race Equality Council was closed down earlier in the year after many years of service to the city.  We have been excluded from the initial consultation by the council who are seeking to establish something to replace it.

27th January 2001 was the first official national Holocaust Memorial Day.  In partnership with the City Council, we have organised a meeting for Tuesday 27th January 2004 at the Friends Meeting House to mark the day, and discuss responses to expected fascist activity, inviting trade union, community and religious groups.

Would your members like FREE ENTRY to a music festival?

Festival dates for 2004 – bar worker volunteers needed

London St Patrick’s Festival  (14th March)
Homelands all-nighter             (29th May)
Glastonbury            (24/27th June)
National Adventure Sports Show     (July)
Leeds          (27/29th August)
UK pop-shows                 (September)

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, flush toilets & secure camping

What is expected of you?

• work a 6 hour shift, each day of a festival
• pulling or serving pints, no experience needed
• hard work, reliability and a sense of humour
• if you offer to work, you must be available
• transport – if not, there’s usually space in a car
• you’ll also need a tent for the weekend festivals

-leaflets are NOW available from WB&DTUC for branches to distribute their members-

What’s it all for?   
Wolverhampton TUC gets £5.60/hour for each worker from the Workers’ Beer Company
(set up by Wandsworth & Battersea TUC).
We raised £2,000 this year making a total of over £10,000
 in the last five years.  This has allowed us to increase activity, spending it on solidarity to strikers, advertising, general recruitment campaigning and all the other events that we help organise such as May Day and hiring coaches to national demos.

Fire Fighters’ Dispute – the FBU’s campaign for fair pay continued throughout the year and was eventually settled only then for employers to renege.  New Labour sensing defeat did the old Tory anti-union trick of passing legislation imposing terms and conditions on the FBU’s members.

Our website has proved a great success and we now have about 400 hits each month, double this time last year.  It is kept fully updated and has been invaluable especially in regard to organising anti-war protests – stimulating many new contacts.  TU job adverts, all local activities and general union information are put on.  We encourage union branches to submit their forthcoming events and campaigns for posting on the site.
 “Trades councils, many of which have been stagnating in recent years, have found in the internet a possible means of revitalising themselves….But it is to the West Midlands that my unofficial award of trades councils internet champions must go. The region provides two fantastic but very different sites originating from Birmingham and Wolverhampton.  Birmingham’s front page is packed with news, information and hyperlink services. Wolves looks Spartan by comparison, but don’t be deceived. It is concise, direct and pretty comprehensive. “   Labour Research  Feb.’03

Much information is now sent out by email in addition to the monthly mailshot to delegates.  Contact with your email address to be added to our contact list.

 Palestine – A local group of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign was set up with the help of WB&D TUC and is working well and reports regularly to our delegates.
There is a huge media bias against the Palestinians and a huge misunderstanding amongst trade unionists and the public.  This is no different to the public perception at the time of Apartheid South Africa.  We shouldn’t forget the support by successive British governments of that vicious state, and their condemnations of Mandela and the ANC’s so-called terrorism. 
The group meets on the first Thursday of each month, 7.30pm Dudley Road Community Centre and can be contacted directly:
01902 450640  or

The Friction Dynamex victory declaration was perhaps premature. Despite winning one of Britain’s longest disputes at Employment Tribunal, the 86 TGWU workers may still lose everything.  Craig Smith the US owner, declared the car parts manufacturer bankrupt, split it into three, renamed it Dynamex Friction and reopened overnight at the Caernarfon factory.  The TGWU are still pursuing this loophole with the government. 
WB&D TUC has supported these strikers and a number of Wolverhampton trade unionists took part in demos in North Wales and visited the picket line which was maintained consistently for over 30 months, until days before Xmas when a vote was taken to end it.

TGWU workers were locked out during a week’s strike over proposed removal of statutory health & safety rights, cuts to holidays, ending of shift payments and 15% pay cut. The employer refused to negotiate and sacked them, despite New Labour’s 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.

AEEU/GMB dispute at William Cook
3 years ago, Wm. Cook Heavy Foundry castings plant in Sheffield, proposed pay cuts on top of 5 years of pay freeze and a previous £50/week cut.  Resulting in a 100% strike ballot.  Despite operating within the anti-trade union legislation, they were locked out and sacked before the 8 weeks protection granted under the law. 
We attended a demo in Sheffield in their support this summer prior to their E.T. victory.  On the last day possible, Cook appealed, but were refused.  Wm. Cook legal team appealed again and a hearing is expected May 2004. 

They are existing on £45 a week strike pay with little else.
‘William Cook Strike Fund’
c/o Eddie Grimes, 116 Richmond Park Crescent, Sheffield S13 8HG
They also request reports of their dispute be put in union newsletters.

May Day Festival, 1st May

WB&D TUC is part of the Wolverhampton May Day Committee.  Despite a last minute change of venue and election night, it again went well, attracting 200 people again.  Sponsored by UNISON West Midlands with a Jobs Not War theme. As well as our speakers, we were entertained by Indian dance displays, dohl players, live music and Front Line Radio sound system. There were stalls, menhdi, bouncy castle and an Asian buffet. We received radio and press coverage.  This year will be the Wolverhampton May Day Committee’s 10th year and a Saturday so a bigger event is planned.                      
More help will be needed so VOLUNTEER NOW.

• Peace

Internationalism is fundamental to trade unionism.  As we well know here, the views of working people are not necessarily those, which are represented by governments.  We have more in common with each other than we have differences.  The working classes all over the world have the same needs and wish to work, so that we can provide for ourselves and our families. The ruling classes’ agendas are often determined by their ability to bully and steal.
Last year’s Annual Report warned about the recklessness and dangers of Britain’s new foreign and military policy and the likelihood of a succession of wars to subjugate divergent political cultures. Previous military interventions, in the Balkans and Afghanistan, were bad enough, and it is likely that Britain committed war crimes in the Balkans, but there was a form of international consensus about the existence of a problem of some sort. To invade Iraq in opposition to the UN, however, was of a different dimension. 

The hypocrisy of our government’s never-now mentioned “ethical foreign policy” was demonstrated most obviously by the crocodile tears and mock outrage of the gassing of Kurds by the Ba’athists a decade too late.  Why did the passage of time make it all so imminent?  Well allegiances change, the Ba’athists fell out of favour with the US and thus UK, as control of oil became more essential.  Tony Blair and his ministers, none of whom had backed George Galloway or other progressives and those in the trade union movement who had highlighted and condemned these atrocities when they actually happened.

Once again our bourgeois democracy failed.  Despite massive constituency post-bags begging Labour MPs to oppose war, the thousands of demonstrations, meetings and protests, including the biggest gathering of people in the entire history of Britain, Blair forced MPs to choose him or war.  10,000 dead civilian men, women and children later, Blair still has his job.

Stop The War
We convened a local Stop The War group which has continued to meet and plan activity throughout the year.  We sent more coaches to demos than ever before, involving hundreds of new people.  Links were built with other groups and the Light House cinema, where we held film shows and meetings.  Without our organisational backing it is unlikely that such mobilisations would have been possible.  At the outbreak of war a thousand strong demo was led through the city by the trades council.  Interestingly, there were never any demonstrations in support of war, New Labour never had the balls to see how many people would have turned up.

No amount of spin has located any Weapons of Mass Destruction. The “justifications” were untrue, Iraq under Saddam Hussain was not demonstrably a threat to other nations. 

Civil Liberties
This so-called War Against Terrorism is also a War Against Civil Liberties.  The racist 2001 Terrorism Act is in force with 14 foreign residents of Britain languishing without charge and indefinitely in Belmarsh prison.   Nine Britons, three from Tipton, are being tortured in Camp Delta with nothing being done by their government about it.  The richest and most powerful country in the world is sticking two fingers up to human rights in defiance of all international law, holding and torturing 660 in Guantanamo Bay, and others in British-loaned Diego Garcia, Yemen, Jordan, Syria and Iraq.  The Red Cross and Amnesty were thrown out, no lawyers have access to these caged prisoners.  After 2 years no one has been charged as a terrorist or as anything else.  It seems, like the Nazis, the US government also has a racial theory of “unter-menschen”.

People in the rest of the world no longer admire the US and Britain or wish to emulate our “democracies”   –   now they just fear us.

Future – the TUC carried out research on trades council activity.  We already do much of the good practice identified and we are certainly in a much better state than most. The number of TUCs has halved in less than a decade and at the current rate of decline could disappear completely in the next.  County Associations of TUCs, in rural areas particularly, are having problems.  West Midlands CATUC is however doing better than most and links and activity are co-ordinated by it.
The TUC and Regional TUC are not helping as trades union councils are largely ignored by them.
Increased participation by trade union branches and delegates is of course the key.  Responsibility needs to be undertaken by more delegates.  This year has been one of our most active in recent times and we are one of the leading co-ordinators of political activity in the City.  Our potential is much bigger though and we must fulfil this role.
I don’t want to be the last Secretary of WB&D TUC.


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