AGM report 25 February 2017
The conference opened with a series of excellent guest speakers from Women against State Pension Age Inequality (WASPI), the Derby Teaching Assistants dispute, the Equality and Human Rights Commission dispute, and Jack Dromey MP, Shadow Minister for Labour.
The WASPI speaker drew attention to the detrimental effect on women born in the 1950s of the Tory-Lib Dem government’s method of equalising the pension age for men and women over a very short period and without adequate notice. The aim of the campaign is to achieve fair transitional state pension arrangements for all women born in the 1950s who are affected by the changes to the state pension law. Their web site is here http://www.waspi.co.uk/
Derby Teaching Assistants are in dispute with Labour-controlled Derby Council and have taken several periods of strike action over their employer’s proposal to cut their wages by 25% by making their contracts term-time only instead of all year round. You can read more about it here https://www.unison.org.uk/news/article/2016/12/derby-teaching-assistants-to-take-a-further-six-days-of-strike-action-says-unison/ and here https://www.unison.org.uk/news/article/2017/03/council-must-use-acas-talks-to-reach-settlement-in-school-staff-strike-says-unison/
The Equality and Human Rights Commission in Birmingham have made 7 PCS members redundant by email, imposing payment in lieu of notice on them and giving them 24 hours’ notice to clear their desks. Six out of the seven are Black or Minority Ethnic, four are disabled and some are leading PCS activists. The Birmingham office of the Equality and Human Rights Commission is being closed at a time when there has been a huge rise in hate crime. More details here http://www.pcs.org.uk/news/support-equality-workers-striking-for-reinstatement-of-sacked-colleagues
Jack Dromey spoke of the importance of the win for Labour in the Stoke by-election at a time when workers’ discontent is being exploited by the extreme right. A well-organised Labour party campaign involving several hundred activists focused on the financial deficit in local hospitals and the threat by the council to close children’s centres but deliberately did not avoid controversial issues such as national defence, the concept of ‘Englishness’ and employers using the availability of migrant labour to undercut wages. He stressed that the Labour party needs to respond to working class grievances in order to become the champion of the working class again.
Resolutions were passed on the promotion of the TUC’s Dying to Work campaign, condemning the refusal of the Home Secretary to set up an inquiry into police actions at Orgreave during the 1984-85 Miners’ strike, the need for fair rates for musicians at TU events, opposition to staffing cuts on the railways and education cuts in schools, the dangers in the NHS Sustainability and Transformation plans (otherwise known as ‘Slash, Trash and Privatise’), campaigning against benefit cuts that have increased the number of people living in poverty and for a minimum wage of at least £10 an hour, supporting investment in transport infrastructure.
The Wolverhampton, Bilston and District motion on Trade Union education was ruled out of order as it had not been through the County Association of Trades Councils and a similar motion from Shropshire and Telford and Staffordshire Trades Council was remitted to the Regional Executive because its stress on classroom-based TU education was seen to be unrealistic in the present climate.
It was a well-attended and well-organised meeting that reminded me that while we can learn a lot by reading about other workers’ struggles, there is no substitute for hearing about the issues first-hand from those involved.
Penny Welch UCU March 2017