September 2002

Wolverhampton, Bilston & District TUC
Secretary Report August/September 2002


Wed 11th September 7.30pm B’ham Council House, Collmore Row CATUC meeting on the effects of Sept 11th 2001 on racism & privatisation

Sat 14th September 11am-2pm stall in Queen’s Sq. on 20th anniversary of Sabra & Shatilla massacres.

Sat 14th September 6.30pm public meeting Dunstall Community Centre

Thurs 19th September 7.15pm delegate meeting Civic Centre, open to TUists

Sat 28th September 8.45am W’ton TUC coach from Faulkland Street to London for Don’t Attack Iraq demo, £3 unwaged £8 waged

Mon 7th October early start possible trip to 1st day of Friction Dynamics ETs in Liverpool – contact Sec for details

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Current State of the TU Movement

The media’s “summer of discontent” of trade union militancy has not materialised as some of the ultra-left and right-wing had hoped for. Power cuts and mountains of rubbish have not been seen. Yet the trade unions movement is in one of its strongest positions since the Thatcher years when the Tories introduced swathes of anti-trade union laws to neuter the unions.
Trade union membership in Britain has stabilised at around 7 million, making us the biggest force to be reckoned with in society.
What we have seen this summer is the first council strike in over 20 years when a million workers took strike action over poverty pay. Despite the employers’ (already second) final offer, new concessions have been won to bring bottom scale pay rates over and above £5 per hour.
Railway unions RMT, ASLEF AND TSSA have also been forced to take strike action to win pay deals and to protect health and safety. Firefighters are currently running a pay campaign that could result in the FBU’s first national strike for over a quarter of a century. Postal workers in the CWU are also likely to resort to action in face of job cuts and privatisation.
Younger and more progressive leaderships have been elected in many unions this year. The NUJ and RMT have both recently elected “wreckers”. Blair-supporting officials in the PCS and Amicus-AEEU unions have attempted to ignore the democratic vote of their members, trying to declare themselves leaders. They no doubt took their mandate from George W. Bush. However the elected, progressive General secretaries have now taken up their positions.
Most trade unions have been reviewing their links to new Labour. While virtually all unions have fought to preserve the links to the Party that they originally helped to set up, many have cut the cheques that they send each year. Instead their conference delegates have been deciding to spend their money on political campaigns run by their own unions, to support their own members. Five years of new Labour haven’t brought the kinds of changes to society that trade unionists have been fighting for. That is why there seems to have been a leftward shift and return to mass struggle.
Leaders of the other main unions such as the TGWU, GMB, UNISON and Amicus -MSF, which were the mainstay of new Labour supporters, have also been speaking out against government policies that are angering their members. Fights will continue against poverty pay, privatisation and the anti-trade union laws.
Despite improvements to the trade union laws by the government, much is still to be done. There is a need to repeal all these laws and replace them with a Workers’ Charter that would fall into line with international law and guarantee the right to strike in Britain. This is exemplified by the struggle of the 87 Friction Dynamics workers in Caernarfon. These TGWU members were sacked after their Victorian employer locked them out for seven weeks following a week’s strike over health and safety. He then sacked them in line, he believed with Labour’s new laws. They are still fighting for their jobs 14 months later.
Trade unionists just want to be able to organise on the same playing field as the employers.
This summer’s trade union action has given confidence back to trade unionists that our membership is more than just an insurance policy. The future is ours, but we must make it happen.

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