Annual Report of Work 2004-5

Wolverhampton, Bilston & District Trades Union Council
Secretary’s Annual Report of Work 2004-5

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 (01902)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.
Outgoing President   Marie Taylor (CYWU)
Officers:   Vice-President  Paul Kalinauekas (Amicus)
  Secretary   Nick Kelleher  (UNISON)
  Treasurer    John Grant  (NATFHE)
  Minutes Secretary – vacant 
Other Executive Committee members:
 Satwant Sagoo, Paul Davis & Don Ash – all UNISON

TU Affiliations – 18 trade union branches affiliated to us with 13,238 affiliated members (one less branch than ‘03 but more members):

Amicus Bilston,  Amicus 13/D Craft,  Amicus 0758,  ASLEF,
CWU (W.Mids&Worcs.),  CYWU,  FBU,  GMB (B’ham General),
GPMU,  ISTC (Hall Palm),  NASUWT,  NATFHE (University),  NULMW,  NUT,  TGWU 5/748,  TGWU 5/836,  UNISON General,  UNISON Primary Care Trust.
Branches from NATFHE & POA failed to re-affiliate last year. 
There are still a number of local branches that do not affiliate which we must contact.
AEEU and MSF merged last year and this year the GPMU also joined Amicus and the NULMW joined the TGWU.  ISTC became Community.

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, Free Samar and Jawad campaign, TU CND, TU Friends of Searchlight, TU Friends of Palestine, TU Pensioners Action Association, Unite Against Fascism, Unity Campaign Against Racism & Fascism, Venezuela Solidarity, Walsall WEA, W.Mids County Association of TUCs, W.Mids CND, W.Mids Low Pay Unit, W.Mids Support Group for Iraqi Trade Unions, W’ton May Day Committee, W’ton Pensioners Convention.

A delegate was sent to the national Trades Union Councils’ Conference in Birmingham and observers to the Women’s TUC, Black Workers’ TUC and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender TUC.  Only a few trades councils send observers to the TUC conferences and our delegate was the only one to attend the LGBT conference. We also sent representatives to the West Midlands CATUC, some of whom also represented it at these conferences and at the Midlands TUC.  We also have co-optees on W’ton City Council Scrutiny Panels. 
Challenging the myths
around asylum

Trades Union Councils are committed to tackling racism and fascism in all its forms. We must continue to 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.

Government ministers, especially past Home Secretaries Jack Straw and David Blunkett, should be ashamed of their role in turning people in Britain against immigrants.  They have pandered to the bigotry of big business media in portraying refugees and economic migrants as sources of benefit fraud, crime, insecurity and terrorism. As their Tory predecessors such as Michael Howard did, they incite hostility to incomers while attempting to assure minorities that their “firm” or “tough” curbs on immigration are the guarantee of better race relations in Britain.
The opposite is the case, as recent data on the police targeting of young Asians, especially Muslims and Sikhs, for stop-and-search operations illustrates. Instead of improving relations between communities on the basis of mutual respect and solidarity, the government is making them worse. With an increasingly elderly population, Britain needs immigration of economically active workers who will pay taxes and fund future pensions.

Support for illegal wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq has exacerbated tension within and against particular communities, especially when people from those countries come here to escape the consequences of the wars waged against their homeland.

It is inevitable that people who see no future but violence, unemployment and poverty at home – conditions worsened by wars of aggression – will search for security and a living overseas. This is not abnormal. British people have done the same for hundreds of years, and are settling or retiring in large numbers to France, Spain, Portugal, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa etc etc..

But the British government wants to have it both ways – generating hostility to unskilled or untrained workers while welcoming professional staff with open arms.

African countries such as Mozambique, Ghana and Tanzania have seen half of their doctors, nurses, teachers, IT staff and other qualified people creamed off by north America and western Europe, including Britain. Britain’s hospitals are full of medical staff deliberately enticed from South Africa with the encouragement of ministers who trumpet their earlier stances in support of those battling against apartheid. Their previous espousal of a measure of socialist principle has given way to an addiction to the philosophy of greed inherent in capitalism and an unethical determination to exploit the wretched of the Earth both economically and politically to secure their seats at the rich men’s table.

While Cuba, a poor developing country, offers free medical training to citizens of other developing countries so that, on qualifying, they can return to contribute to their homeland’s upliftment, the advanced capitalist world offers exploitation in place of solidarity.
In partnership with the City Council & Inter-Faith Group, WB&D TUC organised a very successful meeting for Holocaust Memorial Day, 27th January to mark the day, and discuss responses to expected fascist activity, involving trade union, community and religious groups. 
Speakers and poetry written especially for the evening. People signed up to help with the anti-fascist election campaign.  The HMD Memorial Day Statement of Commitment was signed by over 75 organisations and individuals.  We mounted an information display in the Civic Centre for 3 weeks.  There was a response from the appeal to schools – poems from Kings school were displayed at the Civic and pictures from the Girls High at the Light House.  Coverage on Radio Wolf.  The Council has organised a wreath-laying ceremony for HMDay, 11am St Peters Square, Thursday 27th January 2005, followed by soup & rolls.

Workers’ Memorial Day was marked in Wolverhampton for the 13th year, held again in conjunction with the Black Country Urban Industrial Mission.  There were speeches, a service and wreath-laying. The council lowered the Civic flags to half-mast.  Trade unions and Labour MPs’ trade union group have lobbied heavily for a law on corporate killing to punish companies for fatal accidents.  Tony Blair will break Labour’s manifesto promise again, if as expected no law is in place before the next general election.  The government first promised to bring in a law seven years ago following failed prosecutions of companies after train crashes and other accidents.
We will organise a lunchtime event in Wolverhampton Thursday 28th April 2005.  Remember the Dead and Fight for the Living!

Pensions have gone from being a subject that was calculated to make most audiences nod off to being, possibly, the single issue most likely to rouse working people’s anger.  Worryingly, for the Labour government in an election year, it is also an issue on which it has failed dismally so far.
Chancellor Gordon Brown has consistently rejected calls to honour the pledges that Labour gave when in opposition to restore the link between the state pension and average earnings.
He has lectured working people on the need to make their own pension arrangements, citing occupational, private and stakeholder pensions, but there have been huge problems associated with all of these.
Occupational pensions have been regarded by many workers as money in the bank, but a number of high-profile bankruptcies, with a consequent devaluation of the occupational scheme rewards, have shaken this confidence.
And the government’s initiative to subsidise schemes that go pear-shaped is, it is generally recognised, under-funded to the extent that any large-scale pensions disaster would clean out the scheme.
Private pensions too are not so fondly regarded as they were in the past, as a result of both mis-selling by substantial sections of the financial services industry and changes in the law regarding tax relief.
And the problem with stakeholder pensions is that, without any employer contribution, these are little more than pay-as-you-earn savings schemes.
Not only has the government failed by omission on these pension categories but it is failing more spectacularly on its attitude to its own employees.
While MPs and top judges are pampered over pensions, with nothing allowed to stand in the way of a well-provided-for retirement, the government is determined to end final-salary pension schemes and raise retirement ages from 60 to 65 for generally low-paid civil and public servants.
People decide to take jobs in the public service in the knowledge that their essential posts may be poorly rewarded during their working lives but do provide reasonable retirement benefits, including the right to draw a pension at age 60. The government doesn’t have the right to unilaterally impose new arrangements on its employees.
There can be no reason for raising the retirement age for civil servants from 60 to 65 than saving money for a few years and reneging on commitments that the government made to its employees when they first took their jobs on, in many cases some 30-plus years ago.
The anger expressed by civil and public servants and by their trade unions is likely to result in strike action this year, unless the government sees sense.
A survey conducted by Amicus indicated that 77% of people thought that the government was not doing enough to protect people’s pensions. Half of them said that the way the government deals with the issue would affect the way they vote in the next general election.
If the government holds fast to its private-is-best approach on pensions and knuckles under to CBI scare stories warning against compulsory employers’
contributions to workers’ pensions, it will be shooting itself in the foot. Rather than trying to force private enterprise to behave as responsibly as the public sector, it appears to be attempting to drive terms and conditions in the public sector down to the lowest common denominator of the private sector. If it succeeds in this, the pension prospects for everyone, not only public employees, will be damaged in the process.
It is obscene that a Labour government should be attempting to drive this downward spiral and Civil Service unions must be supported by unions in the private sector to see that it does not succeed. launched in June 2002, our website has now achieved 10,000 hits, averaging 300-400 hits each month.  It is kept fully updated and has been invaluable especially in regard to organising public activity and stimulating 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. Much information is now sent out by email in addition to the monthly delegate mailing.
Email to be added to our contact list.

ALMO – ballot was announced day before it started, yet achieved a 40% turnout with 80% in favour.  The council housing workforce will be transferred to an Arms Length Management Organisation in April.  £42million was offered after ballot from government, not the £287million that had been the key vote-winner stated by the council.  This money will only materialise however if a 2-star rating is achieved, which did not happen again this year.  MPs’ opposed council.  Under TUPE there is no long term guarantee of terms or conditions.  Pension to remain in Super-Annuation scheme but hours of work to increase.

Wolverhampton Palestine Solidarity Campaign meets regularly but is in need of some extra members. 01902 450640  or or c/o WB&DTUC.

Wolverhampton Cuba Solidarity – the Group has had difficulty attracting attendance this year, but has managed to hold a number of successful events, details on our website or 01902 429591  or

Peace   Why does our government spend billions on war? 
The Indian Ocean earthquake must put world priorities in perspective even for the likes of Blair and Bush.  The aid they initially offerred was less than the cost of a single plane used to bomb civilians in Iraq. Enviromental disasters will not just stop, natural or as a result of capitalist exploitation, they are set to increase.  New Labour made pledges to half world poverty, bring water supplies to all and end diseases, for which the technology if not the will, has been available for many years.
Ever since US President George W Bush prematurely announced the end of the illegal and amoral war Iraq war, things have got worse.
First, soldiers on both sides of the war have continued to die and hostilities continue and increase with every passing day. Just as in Vietnam, despite their overwhelming military superiority, the US and its allies have no way of subduing the continuing resistance to their invasion and it doesn’t look like they ever will.   The peace movement itself, that massive movement which, for some unknown reason, Prime Minister Tony Blair and his ilk chose to ignore, even after the biggest demonstrations in Britain’s political history, has again been proven right.
Kofi Annan declares that the war was not legal and what happens? The US starts manoeuvring to get rid of him. The UN itself is now the target of the US leadership. France became overnight a nation of cheese-eating surrender-monkeys – although quite what that description has to do with a nation that argued long and honourably against an illegal war escapes almost everybody not brainwashed by the excesses of Fox News.
A war for oil? Nonsense, said Mr Blair, it’s a war against a nation that ignored UN resolutions. But then, when the UN chose not to go along tamely with the Blair-Bush axis, it became a war against a nation threatening the world with weapons of mass destruction. However, when it became clear that Iraq didn’t have any, it became a war to free Iraq from Saddam Hussein – although it would now seem that the Iraqis like the rule of invading armies even less than they liked rule by Saddam Hussein.
The state of poor, occupied and dominated Afghanistan should give us all an object lesson in what happens to countries who are invaded by the US to implement “democracy.” Russia now groans under the burden of that country’s burgeoning heroin trade, with millions of Russian citizens addicted.
Democracy cannot be built by or under the yoke of imperialism or occupation by thieves and murderers, which amounts to the same thing. It is a lesson that we should all take to heart.

Another year gone and still consultants are being paid to look at what could replace the closed-down Wolverhampton Race Equality Council.  September 2005 is the planned date by which a replacement agency should be set up.
Amicus/GMB dispute at William Cook
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 – resulted 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.  Now after a 4th Christmas in dispute, they are still maintaining a daytime picket line.  They had two meetings with Wm. Cooks in September. Their offers to buy us off were rejected.  Appeal Court hearing January 2005.  If by any chance they lose, its back to a new employment tribunal in Sheffield. They fully expect the Appeal Court to uphold the original decision and find that they were unfairly dismissed. They are existing on £45 a week strike pay with little else.
‘William Cook Hardship Fund’  c/o Eddie Grimes, 116 Richmond Park Crescent, Sheffield S13 8HG

10th annual Wolverhampton May Day Festival,
1st May – a good turnout over the afternoon.  Sponsored by UNISON West Midlands, with twin themes of anti-fascism & dispelling myths of asylum.
As well as our speakers, we were entertained by children’s dance displays, socialist poetry, Kurdish dancing, live music and sound system. There were stalls, menhdi, bouncy castle and an Asian buffet. We received radio and press coverage.  This year’s event will be on Sunday May 1st.                     
Over the last decade the event has been built from nothing into a major part of the Wolverhampton calendar.  WB&D TUC is part of the Wolverhampton May Day Committee, but the organisation of last year’s event was left to just a couple of people.   Unfortunately this year, Kamaljit Singh, one of the founders of the May Day Committee, and friend of the trades council, died.

More help is needed so VOLUNTEER NOW.  The WB&D TUC website has a downloadable document written by the Committee this year, explaining how to run a May Day event on a shoe-string.

The Executive Committee meets on the 2nd Thursday of each month.
FREE music festival ENTRY for trade unionists

Wolverhampton TUC gets £5.90/hour for each worker from the Workers’ Beer Company (set up by Wandsworth & Battersea TUC) by sending teams to work on the bars and enjoy Homelands, Glastonbury and Leeds festivals. This has allowed us to increase activity, spending it on solidarity to strikers, advertising and all the other events that we help organise such as May Day and hiring coaches to national demos.  .  We again raised almost over £2,000 this year making a total of over £12,000 raised in the last six years.  This is over 300 hours of voluntary work for our TUC mainly by non-delegates.  Half goes to WB&DTUC and half to the Morning Star – this doubles our annual affiliation income.  We had trouble at the Homelands festival when several new people caused problems and were not asked again.   We are not receiving enough interest from members of our affiliated trade unions and are having to rely on other volunteers with less recommendation.  This could have jeopardised our fund-raising efforts.  If there is a repeat, then we will not be able to work for WBC again, so this year’s call for good reliable trade unionists for the coming year’s festivals is even more important.

2005 festivals  – bar worker volunteers needed for:
Homelands all-nighter (28th May)  National Adventure Sports Show
Glastonbury (23-26th June)   Leeds   (26-28th August)

What do you get?    What’s expected of you?
free entry to a festival (worth £100+)      no experience needed work a 6 hour shift, each day of a festival
free meal and 2 pints each day  pulling or serving pints 6 hours/day 
free festival T-shirt  hard work, reliability and a sense of humour
secure camping if you offer to work, you must be available
hot showers, flush toilets transport – if not, there’s usually space in a car
subsidised bar, open until you drop you’ll also need a tent for weekend festivals

Contact WB&D TUC for leaflets to distribute your members.

Roger McKenzie, a former member of Walsall TUC has taken over from Christine Wood as Secretary of the Midlands TUC.  At the TUC Raj Jethwa has moved on and has been replaced by Sean Bamford as the Trades Union Councils Liaison Officer.  With new officers in charge, there is opportunity to develop even better relationships and roles for TUCs.
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 less active than the high achieved largely around anti-war activity.  WB&D TUC has however played a leading role in the anti-fascist campaign locally and there are no political parties or groups taking any lead in building local activity. 





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