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 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 Council, especially as I understand that I am the first woman in its 140-year history to do so. During this period, the Trades Council has received praise from the West Midlands TUC Regional Secretary Roger Mackenzie 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 the Trades Council.
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 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 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 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 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 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 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 Council and by members working together from various Trades Unions.
I believe we should aim high, take inspiration from the Trades 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 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 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 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 Councils. It is important that all trade union branches affiliate – in line with TUC policy – and that delegates attend Trades 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.
M. J. Taylor.
CYWU delagate & President WB&DTUC