Wolverhampton, Bilston & District Trades Union Council
Secretary’s Annual Report of Work 2005-6
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.
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.
PO Box 2917 Wolverhampton WV2 2YA (01902)686613
This report is an adaptation of the full TUC Programme of Work for Trades Union Councils 2005/6 (which is downloadable from our website). It highlights what we have done in the last year and what we could realistically do in the forthcoming year.
Programme of Work for Trades Union Councils
Trades union councils represent an important form of union organisation: local trade union branches acting together in pursuit of a common agenda within the community.
Crucial to this is identifying issues on which unions and other organisations share a common agenda – an agenda based on the pursuit of social justice. Only through union strength can we win rights at work and deliver a better quality of life for people throughout society.
11th annual Wolverhampton May Day Festival, sponsored by FBU & UNISON West Midlands, with Pensions Campaign theme. It brought together activists and local people with another good turnout again on 1st May. Over the last decade the event has been built from nothing into a major part of the Wolverhampton calendar. Rodney Bickerstaffe was our main speaker, and we were entertained by socialist poetry & a choir, dhols, live music and sound system. There were stalls, menhdi, bouncy castle and an Asian buffet. We received radio and press coverage.
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 More help is needed so VOLUNTEER NOW. The WB&D TUC website has a downloadable document written by the Committee, explaining how to run a May Day event. This year’s event will be on Monday May 1st. 2006.
We also held a successful public meeting on Iraq, the Way Forward and produced it as a DVD.
People at work in the UK enjoy fewer rights than most people in the rest of Europe. Trades union councils should campaign for the repeal of the anti-trade union laws:
• campaign for improved rights for temporary and agency workers
• support campaigns to end the UK opt out of the Working Time Directive, which limits working hours for most people to an average of 48 hours a week. Four million in the UK work more than 48 hours a week on average – 700,000 more than in 1992 when there was no long hours protection. One in three of those who have signed an opt-out say they were given no choice
• work with unions locally to ensure that employers have proper policies for supporting workers suffering from domestic violence
• work with local unions to initiate and support high-profile campaigns to target employers for recruitment campaigns & rebuild union membership, especially among younger workers
• support through their unions workers who are struggling for union recognition,
• initiate local campaigns, using Know Your Rights Line publicity
• organise meetings on issues e.g. ‘ bullying at work’ or ‘right to strike’
We have set up an Employment Advisory Service sub-committee, which is currently looking into the feasibility of setting up a local Trade Union Centre or an Employment Rights Service.
Workers’ Memorial Day Speeches made & wreaths were laid by FBU, UNISON, TGWU and WB&DTUC. Industrial Chaplain, gave a service of remembrance to Remember the Dead, & Fight for the Living. Civic flags were flown at half mast. 30 people braved the rain, among them representing trade unions, safety campaign & religious groups as well as civic leaders, Labour candidates and Labour councillors.
We will organise a lunchtime event in Wolverhampton for the 15th year, on Friday 28th April 2006.
This year’s theme is: Union Workplaces are Safer Workplaces.
Remember the Dead and Fight for the Living!
The TUC is committed to tackling racism in all its forms and the social deprivation and unemployment. Far-right organisations have exploited the increased alienation of workers to increase racial hatred. Trades Union Councils support those communities being targeted, and challenge the arguments of racist groups that attempt to intimidate and spread fear.
• work with trade unions within the region to help challenge racism within the workplace. Could include strategies to reach out to young people, working with groups such as Kick Racism out of Football.
• tackle racist graffiti by campaigning for its removal and provide practical support for minority ethnic communities to expose racist groups and counter racist attacks.
• monitor the media for appearances by fascists and watch out for the circulation of racist propaganda.
• co-operate with students’ unions/community groups to increase voter registration. (SWest Labour Party do it now).
WB&DTUC has an anti-racist sub-committee to co-ordinate our work. During the General Election campaign we distributed several thousand Searchlight anti-BNP newspapers in SWest Wolverhampton, the only area where they stood. They had one of the lowest percentage votes in the West Midlands.
We are in contact with other local groups in the Black Country and publicise activity. Any fascist activity is reported, although they have no local organisation, despite attempts it seems.
Last year’s report mentioned that another year gone and still consultants are being paid to look at what could replace the closed-down Wolverhampton Race Equality Council. 2005 was the planned date by which a replacement agency should be set up, it has not happened.
Holocaust Memorial Day – after organising last year’s event with the council we managed to hand over the organisation to them – with the result of a less political event, but it represented a broad range of faiths. Oldham TUC Secretary had charges dropped after a campaign, when he was arrested at their HMD, when BNP disrupted it.
Mayoral HMDay wreath-laying 11am
St Peters Sq Friday 27th January ‘06
Protecting Migrant Workers
Many people arriving in the UK are unaware of their rights. Trades union councils should:
• work with community groups and unions to ensure that health and safety legislation is understood by migrant workers and complied with in their work environment
• identify people with language skills who can help to talk to migrant workers
• organise advice surgeries for migrant workers
We have been assisting the Rahimi Family Must Stay Campaign, organising within the trade union movement locally to help this locally based family who organised workers in Iran and face dire consequences if they are deported.
All public services should be publicly owned. The transfer of services from the public sector to the private sector affects pension rights and this has been a campaigning issue. Trades union councils should:
• work to ensure public sector workers are valued for the service they provide. Attacks on national bargaining should be opposed.
• support public service unions and local communities in their efforts to secure increased public investment, direct public service provision and democratic accountability in planning and delivering local services
A major national strike was called off prior to the general election when concessions were won, but the government started backtracking soon after. A meeting was held between a number of local union branches on pensions with Rob Marris MP and we are charged with organising future campaigning.
Trades Union Council Organisation
• boost affiliations as a top priority
• seek access to schools through local union branches
• seek to have an input into trade union rep training so that the role and value of trade union councils can be explained
• We need to apply for the £250 TUC Development Grants for activities developed in line with this programme, rather than just rely on our own fundraising to pay for our work.
We took part in Midlands TUC consultation; changes re TUCs to be decided
This year our meetings heard speakers on: Pensions, Regional TUC consultation, New Cross Hospital, Fair Trade, Make Poverty History, Equality Bill, Organising Workers in Iran, Palestine, Cuba, Banana Link campaign, Black Country Women Chainmakers as well as many other workplace, conference and industrial reports.
TU Affiliations – 17 union branches affiliated to WB&D TUC. 13,600 affiliated trade unionists (one less branch than ‘04 but more members):
Amicus-GPM, Amicus 13/D Craft, Amicus 0758, ASLEF, Community (Hall Palm), CWU (W.Mids & Worcs.), CYWU, FBU, GMB X13, NASUWT, NATFHE(Wulfrun), NUT, TGWU 5/748, TGWU 5/836, UNISON General, UNISON Health(unpaid), UNISON PCT
There are still a number of local branches that do not affiliate. Increasing our affiliation base is a key to increased activity and effectiveness for our campaigns. The incoming Executive Committee must again look at this.
Outgoing President Marie Taylor (CYWU)
Officers: Vice-President Dave Cole (NUT)
Secretary Nick Kelleher (UNISON)
Treasurer John Grant (NATFHE)
Minutes Secretary Marion Halfpenny (NUT)
other Executive Committee members: Satwant Sagoo, Paul Davis & Don Ash (all UNISON)
This year WB&D TUC affiliated to: Action for Southern Africa, Abortion Rights, Black Country Against the Nazis, Broken Rainbow, Committee for Human Rights in Grenada, Cuba Solidarity, Liberty, Rahimi Family Must stay Campaign, TU CND, TU Friends of Palestine, TU Friends of Searchlight, Venezuela Solidarity, Voice of the Unions, Walsall WEA H&S Newsletter, W.Mids County Association of TUCs, Working Class Movement Library, W’ton Cuba Solidarity, W’ton May Day Committee, W’ton Pensioners Convention.
A delegate was sent to the national Trades Union Councils’ Conference in Liverpool and observers to the Women’s TUC, Black Workers’ TUC and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender TUC. We are one of the few trades councils that send observers. We also sent representatives to the West Midlands County Association of TUCs and have co-optees on W’ton City Council Scrutiny Panels.
Attendance at meetings averaged 12.3 (it was 11.4 last year). 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.
Wolverhampton Palestine Solidarity Campaign organises regular events,
but is in need of some extra members.
01902 450640 or c/o WB&DTUC.
Wolverhampton Cuba Solidarity – the Group has managed to hold a number of successful events, details on:
WB&DTUC website, 01902 429591 or firstname.lastname@example.org
WB&D TUC President’s Report – January 2006
In my final report as President I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the work of the Trades Union Council consider the challenges and direction for the future.
It has been an honour to serve as the President of the Wolverhampton, Bilston and District Trades Union Council, especially as I understand that I am the first woman in its 140-year history to do so. During this period, the Trades Union Council has received praise from the West Midlands TUC Regional Secretary Roger McKenzie when he stated that Wolverhampton was the most active Trades Council in the country. This compliment should not induce complacency but inspire us all to be more effective in the work that we do in facing the issues of the future.
Yet, I feel it is important for the vitality of any organisation to have new input to support the development of any organisation. I feel organisations eventually stagnate if they are not open to new ideas. For this reason I am not seeking re- election after three years as President. However, I do intend to continue to be actively involved in the varied work of WB&DTUC.
I believe that the political climate indicates that an active and effective trades council will be crucial to support the struggle of workers and communities to improve, employment rights, working conditions and standards of living for all. Trades Unions working together in the Trades Union Councils will always be more effective. Wolverhampton and Bilston has a particularly good track record in taking a lead in tackling issues – local, national and international. We should continue open discussion, considering the perspectives of other trades unionists that has been a vital element of every Trades Union Council meeting. We should continue to take action to support struggles of other workers as we have done over previous years.
On the domestic front a number of battles are looming. Trade Unions and Workers will need to defend pension rights not just of current workers with existing contractual obligations but also to defend the rights of future workers in the same jobs to ensure their right to parity and to ensure all workers can expect a decent standard of living in their old age. I believe those workers who wish to retire at a reasonable age should be able to enjoy retirement in good health to see out their years with financial security.
I fear we will face further attacks to the public sector affecting the terms and conditions of those employed in it as well as those citizens who will receive poorer services as a result. These attacks will come from the new Tory leader hoping to score a few quick hits as well as, disappointingly, from the Labour Government. We need to continue to fight the mantra “private good – public bad”. We should aspire to well funded and resourced effective public services. Some politicians often talk of public sector workers as if they were outside the communities where they work and negate their point of view forgetting that they are also recipients of services, council taxpayers and voters. We need to continue to challenge this perspective.
The Trades Union Council has already earmarked time to focus on the issues raised by government proposals for changes to the education system and Unity will be necessary to protect education staff terms and conditions and to protect the principles that many hold dear, especially those of us who have benefited from a comprehensive education system.
It is imperative that we continue the work that the Trades Union Council has carried out consistently over the years in challenging racism in our community. We have worked closely with Searchlight and carried out informed strategic campaigns to ensure fascists and racism are kept well out of Wolverhampton. We initiated the annual Holocaust Memorial event that continues in the city with input from various religious groups, community organisations as well as input from the City Council. I feel strongly that we should continue to challenge the intolerance and bigotry wherever it appears linking closely to the work of searchlight.
We have been active in various equalities campaigns. We have been the only Trades Union Council to send a delegate to all the TUC equalities conferences and we have taken reports at our meetings and followed up the action points that delegates have brought back. We receive regular information and updates from delegates.
International issues have also been on the agenda. The Trades Union Council coordinated the ‘Stop The War’ campaign in Wolverhampton and continues to support and promote activities and events of the national campaign. In addition Wolverhampton Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, Wolverhampton Cuba Solidarity Campaign and the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign have been well supported by the Trades Union Council and by members working together from various Trades Unions.
I believe we should aim high, take inspiration from the Trades Union Council project viewed by some of us in Bradford and actively consider the development of a trade union centre in Wolverhampton to promote and support trade unions in the area. I believe this could be a real possibility in the coming few years.
Good administration and communication are significant to the efficiency of any organisation. I believe Wolverhampton Trades Union Council thrives due to the dedication and effectiveness of Nick Kelleher. I have to pay tribute to Nick, who relentlessly deals with the hard work of the correspondence, communication and coordination of the work of the Trades Union Council as well as playing a significant role in fundraising through the workers beer company. We are lucky to have him. It is important to recognise his hard work and to support him so that all of us contribute to carrying out the functions of an active Trades Union Council.
Thanks should also go to Marion for taking on the role of Assistant Secretary taking the minutes and recording all the decisions of the meetings for posterity.
Organisationally, the changes that trades unions have been facing in membership and mergers have resulted in changes to affiliations to Trades Union Councils. It is important that all trade union branches affiliate – in line with TUC policy – and that delegates attend Trades Union Council meetings to ensure the effectiveness of the organisation and networking of all trade unions in the area.
It has been a privilege to serve as president. I would like to thank all members for their support. I have made many new friends and I look forward to continuing to play an active role in future campaigns and activities.
Marie J. Taylor, CYWU
FREE music festival ENTRY for trade unionists
We raised £1,900 this year making a total of over £14,000 raised in the last seven 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. 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 at Glastonbury and other 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 etc
2006 bar worker volunteers needed for:
National Adventure Sports Show (July)
Leeds (August bank holiday weekend)
What do you get? What’s expected of you?
free entry to a festival (worth £100+) no experience needed
free meal & 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 you’ll also need a tent for weekend festivals
hot showers, flush toilets transport is sorted out between us
subsidised bar, open until you drop! – if you offer to work, you must be available
Contact WB&D TUC for leaflets to distribute your union members.
WB&D TUC meets on the
3rd Thursday of each month
7.15pm, Civic Centre (except August).
2nd Thursday is Executive.
Entry through outside car park entrance.
All trade unionists are welcome to attend