Wolverhampton, Bilston & District Trades Union Council
Secretary’s 2020 Report of Work + Plan of Action for 2021
More than 75,000 people have died from Covid in the last year in the UK. We are now in another peak maybe worse than the first. Partial vaccines are being promised for us but lack of international co-operation and protection of intellectual property rights will deny billions of people in poorer countries a vaccine. Already, 1.85million people have died and 85million have caught Covid worldwide.
Our record is one of the worst when you compare to the rest of the world; this must be seen as a failing of our government.
The threat of a future pandemic was known but ignored. Government rules and advice have been late, vague and confusing. The lack of PPE and protection of care home residents, failure of track and trace app have made our situation worse.
Little seems to have been learnt from China, Vietnam, New Zealand, Australia etc; whilst populations in US, Brazil and Sweden have suffered, as their governments have ignored scientific consensus.
The hypocrisy of ministers who stood and clapped during the first lockdown, but have gone on to deny public-sector workers the pay rise they need and deserve, will not be forgotten, but neither will the lesson of the lockdown itself: that it is the nurses, care workers, cleaners, transport workers, postal and comms workers, refuse workers, couriers, shop staff and others whose labour keeps our country running, even when it is often the worst paid. The case for a new deal for workers has never been stronger.
Communications have changed, priorities have changed. Climate disasters have continued; economies will have to change.
Wolverhampton & Bilston TUC in 2021
7,000 more people in Wolverhampton are now claiming unemployment related benefits than at the start of the pandemic; the total is currently 17,000, or over 10% of working age adults here.
Our Annual General Meeting is Thursday 21st January 2021 with speaker Patrick Vernon
We have began a plan for research into Wolverhampton/Bilston/Staffordshire links to slave owners paid state compensation at abolition; funded so far by a UNITE WM/6150 donation and TUC Development Fund grant, we’ll need another £1,000 to go ahead.
We will continue our campaign regarding Stop & Search and the use of Police Body Worn video.
Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty comes into force on 22nd Jan, the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons with the ultimate goal being their total elimination, now 50 countries have signed, but not the UK so far. If it signed it would provide a time-bound framework for negotiations leading to the verified and irreversible elimination of its nuclear weapons programme.
Shrewsbury 24 Court of Appeal case is listed for early February
Delegate meetings (3rd Thurs of month) and events are likely to continue to be virtual.
Wolverhampton Workers’ Memorial Day:12.30pm Wed 28th April
Wolverhampton Workers’ Day Saturday 1st May
UNISON Sandwell Leisure Trust dispute https://wolvestuc.org.uk/unison-sandwell-leisure-trust-dispute
UNISON Heartlands hospital Porters’ dispute https://www.facebook.com/unisonheartlandsporters/
TUCJCC Programme of Work for trades union councils 2021
Solidarity with strikes and other union campaigns
Campaigning on local issues
scrap Universal Credit
job losses due to Covid
low pay, zero hours contracts etc.
standing up to racism and fascism – defending migrants and asylum seekers
Peace and international solidarity
It’s time for a Green New Deal to invest in sustainable growth and create a million climate jobs
Holding the Government to account for their handling of the pandemic
Campaigning for a better, fairer future – we are not going back to how things were
Trade unions proved themselves – we need new rights and freedoms
Black Lives Matter
Don’t make Workers Pay for the Crisis! No to austerity
Invest in our public services
Wolverhampton & Bilston TUC in 2020
Our meetings averaged 15 attendees over the year, lower than previous year but a good turnout given circumstances; over 40% being women, a significant rise and likely due to to more accessible meetings online.
13 local branches that affiliated in 2020, covering 11,945 members, a slight increase on last year: ASLEF, Community W’ton Craft (now closed), CWU, GMB X13, Musicians’ Union, NEU, PCS Associates, RMT, UCU University, UNISON City of Wolverhampton, UNISON Sandwell, UNISON Staffordshire, UNITE WM6150
We ended our PO Box which we had used for 19 years for security, since our funds have run down, due to continued campaigning but no more income from festivals and some loss of affiliation fees. A donation at the end of the year from UNITE WM/6150 covered some of the shortfall and provided a laptop for our President to chair our online meetings.
There were 9,000 page views from UK in 2020 on www.wolvestuc.org.uk and posts on our Facebook page had a total reach of 6,500.
January 2020- Mohinder Singh, Indian Workers’ Association spoke against India’s anti-muslim laws and the Citizenship Amendment Act, at our AGM. By the end of the year, a farmer’s movement blockaded New Delhi and staged rallies tens of thousands strong in every state against the bid to marketise Indian agriculture, drop price controls and allow transnational corporations to move in. The country witnessed the biggest general strike in history in November.
February – TUC ♥Unions week: we showed the TUC Education Video How to have an organising conversation explaining latest ways to approach workers to recruit and organise.
Along with volunteers from UNITE, UCU, UNISON, FBU, PCS, GMB and South West CLP we took to the streets in Wednesfield, Bilston and Wolverhampton markets to give out flowers and union recruitment material having conversations with 300 people for what we did not know would be the last time for the year.
Wolverhampton Tinplate Workers’ union, latterly the Wolverhampton Craft branch of Community union, a founder of our trades union council and Wolverhampton, Bilston & District TUC’s oldest affiliated branch, traced to 218 years continued existence was closed by Community and it’s members redistributed.
March – The Criminal Cases Review Commission finally agreed to refer the convictions of the Shrewsbury pickets to the Court of Appeal, eight years after application.
Our delegate meeting was a week before lockdown and we cancelled it.
April – Workers’ Memorial Day went ahead virtually with an excellent number of delegates participating https://youtu.be/5o9DVzZGYBA; our video was exhibited in a virtual lockdown exhibition by Wolverhampton Art Gallery.
UNISON City of Wolverhampton branch sourced and provided PPE for their members in private and council workplaces, since employers’ supplies were inadequate. Their members and officers also volunteered at the council’s food distribution hub at Aldersley that won an award.
May – Wolverhampton May Day Committee’s festival went ahead virtually https://youtu.be/qdNNJJqRoEQ
Bro. Des Halestrap NATFHE delegate to WB&DTUC (1990s) died on 1st May.
We restarted delegate meetings but online via Zoom. Our discussion on trade union responses to the pandemic particularly highlighted the risk of re-opening schools to staff and families of children who might spread Covid. Delegates believed that sending kids back to school was about getting parents back to work and richer parents were more likely to be able to home educate and less likely to be key-workers; one of the reasons the BAME community was hit so hard. At the start of 2021 and with infection rates at another high, the government has finally heeded to union calls for safe working and moved most education online again.
June – After George Floyd was murdered in the US by police, anger brought the Black Lives Matter movement to the fore around the world including a gathering in West Park and has challenged liberal views of equal societies. In the US however 14,000 protesters have been arrested.
We produced a video explaining BLM https://youtu.be/YJ8094TOqQk
Our discussion around #BlackLivesMatter identified that WMP officers have access to the latest body worn video cameras but only use them when they feel the need for the camera to be in use. Delegates agreed that body cams should be on at all times or at least during all interactions with the public and not at the discretion of officers. We feel that this would make the police more likely to treat the public decently and equitably and would also be evidence if any officers mistreat or act in a racially biased way. We agreed to start a campaign over this issue.
July – The benefits of Zoom became obvious as we were able to have three speakers at our meeting. Video conferencing although around for some time is now likely to be a part of all future communication.
Wrestling podcaster Will Cooling addressed the meeting. Wrestling is neither classed as a sport or entertainment and many different companies operate circuits; many wrestlers are independent working internationally. There is little regulation, ramshackle set-ups with few written contracts and superstars work next to hobbyists. It is rife with economic and sexual exploitation. Some of the biggest wrestling companies are anti-union and are linked to big business, the Trump family and also Saudi Arabian royal family. Many wrestlers are expected to do stagehand work.
Pro wrestling has recently received many #metoo accusations; including a leader of the unionise campaign, and within Wolverhampton Fight Club Pro; restructures are now happening throughout the industry.
Many companies do see the need for regulation; a code of conduct has been drawn up and some companies are moving towards unionisation. Equity is the appropriate union as wrestlers are similar to actors. they require loss of earnings to injury and legal help.
Simon Cardy Wolverhampton Palestine Solidarity Campaign – PSC has defeated the UK Government in the Supreme Court, wiping out regulations that restricted the right of Local Government Pension Funds (LGPS) to take ethical investment decisions, such as to withdraw money from companies complicit in Israel’s grave human rights violations. It is being taken up with the West Midlands Fund.
Rob Miller, Director of Cuba Solidarity Campaign – Cuba has a different approach to Western societies; 30% of GDP spent on health (UK only 13%), the highest number of doctors per patient in the world, 9 per 1000, triple the UK level. Cuba had only 147 deaths from Covid-19 by the end of the year in the 11 million population; they had early lockdown and used masks. Door to door health visitors allowed full track and trace and higher recovery rates. 30 medical brigades from Cuba assisted the pandemic response in 28 countries including Italy, Andorra and French and British overseas territories.
Our Secretary, Nick Kelleher was elected West Midlands rep for the national Trades Union Councils’ Joint Consultative Committee (TUCJCC).
Midlands TUC Women Chainmakers’ 2020 virtual event https://youtu.be/rFpIGsT2UB0
Wodenstock 2020 was postponed; donations from Wolverhampton City Council and UNITE WM/6150 means we have funds to run it in 2021.
September – Simon Foster Police & Crime Commissioner candidate gave a presentation in our further discussion on the use of body cams to make the police treat people more equitably https://youtu.be/aou9sk8e2JY . This year, 98% of stop and search reports were signed off as adequate despite a third not having mandatory police body cam footage. We are taking up the campaign with him and trade union BAME self-organised groups.
West Midlands TUC launched a Green recovery plan which if taken up would mean more than 46,000 new green jobs for the West Midlands over next 2 years, full report on https://wolvestuc.org.uk/west-midlands-tuc-green-recovery-plan
In response to continued growing assaults, threats and abuse against shopworkers and the doubling of such incidents during the coronavirus emergency, Usdaw launched a petition calling on the Government to legislate to protect shopworkers. It reached 100,000 by Xmas to generate a parliamentary debate.
GMB – a damning report of misogyny, sexual harassment and cronyism in the union was published.
TUC Congress agreed a Race Task Group which will hopefully provoke unions to look at their own structures. It met first in December and the TUCJCC will receive direct reports.
October – Dr Grace Millar UCU presented the Institute of Employment Rights’ publication Social Media and the Law, giving advice for union stewards.
TUC research – Wolverhampton social care spending has been cut by £18.9million a 22% cut in spend per capita since 2010, or £113 per person; Walsall was hit worst with a 25% cut whilst Shropshire had a 17% increase; see www.wolvestuc.org.uk
November – we held a public meeting with Paul Barnsley and Dr. Greig Campbell, In the Face of Decline: a critique of institutional labour movement responses to the world steel crisis and de-industrialisation of the Black Country.
The Tory government decided to cut the £11m adult education scheme Union Learning Fund (ULF) funding at the end March 2021. The ULF offers union members training in maths, English and IT, was first set up by the Blair government in 1998 and trains a quarter of a million people a year. In response, Midlands TUC has launched the public campaign to #SaveUnionLearning; petition: https://www.megaphone.org.uk/petitions/uk-gov-don-t-cut-union-learning
Spycops public enquiry begun, but is expected to go on for some years; latest updates http://campaignopposingpolicesurveillance.com
The government started to introduce a new bill Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill would allow spies and informers to be authorised to commit criminal acts, with no limits specified. https://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/campaigns/chis-bill/
December 2020 – After hearing campaign director Matt Natham, we affiliated to the Freedom for Ocalan campaign.
Abdullah Ӧcalan was abducted en route to asylum offered by Nelson Mandela, and imprisoned since 1999 by Turkey for “treason and separatism”; leader of the Kurdish liberation movement and the campaign is in solidarity with both his and the Kurdish people’s struggle for freedom from over a century of brutal repression and genocide. Facebook have blocked us from our advertising account after they censored the picture of Ocalan in the flyer for the event. We encourage branches to affiliate to https://www.freedomforocalan.org/
Thanks to our outgoing Executive Committee members Marie Taylor, Rob Marris, John Grant, Grace Millar, Bob & Clare Simm.
Nick Kelleher, Secretary.