By 21/10/2017 0 Comments

The Need for a United Fight-back Against Tory Austerity

“Huge issues are facing the trade union movement today,” explained Linda Taaffe earlier today in Birmingham in her role as the Secretary of the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN); at a gathering of activist trade unionists coming together in a city playing host to an important industrial faceoff between their bin workers and their Labour-run Council.

First off to speak at the NSSN “Solidarity Meeting” we heard from the Communications Workers Union (CWU), from Darren Glebocki, a national executive member who has spent the last thirty years working in Mansfield. “My union has managed to do is drive a big coach and horse through the Tories legislation,” Darren proudly explained.

The leadership of the postal workers union, along with their members, are adamant in their rejection of the government’s lies that workers “need to learn to accept less.” Indeed, defying the natural pessimism of some of their members and stewards, the CWU’s leadership fully understood that organising a national strike was the way forward.

In order to win support for strike action the CWU went beyond producing circulars, bulletins and leaflets, and made a commitment to engage their membership on a one-to-one basis – with the vast majority of such organising take place outside the workplace as gate meetings. “If you truly engage with your members then there is reason to have faith that national action is possible,” he said.

He happily reported the support his union had received form the Labour Party, noting that it is the “first time that I can remember when the Labour Party has supported any dispute of this kind, and that is all thanks to Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.”

He added that he hoped that their struggle would help ignite “a debate that needs to be had in broader movement”, that is, toward national coordinated strike action. Now more than ever is the time to “start the fight back for the future.”

NSSN meeting

Howard Beckett, Unite’s assistant general secretary followed, with his own searing indictment of the Labour Council and councillors who are attacking the Brum bin workers in the face of the strong public support. He made it clear that Labour councillors who “act like Tories have no place” in the labour movement.

The Birmingham bin workers Unite convenor, Richard Beddows, later reiterated Beckett’s points, talking about the need to end wage slavery, and also of the need to seize every opportunity on social media to raise people’s curiosity about the need for social change. “We all know that trade unionism isn’t taught in schools because they don’t want to create activists, so it is up to us to do it,” he said.

Certainly despite the massive support for Corbyn’s socialist ideas, there is also much catching-up that needs to be done within most Constituency Labour Party’s across the country. For example, as was pointed out by a representative of Birmingham Trades Council, the city has 9 Labour MP’s but so far only one city CLP has voted to back the bin workers in their ongoing fight for justice.

RMT’s Paul Reilly, a member of their national executive, spoke passionately about the need to oppose the Tories on all fronts, stating that Labour councillors who refuse to join this fight are nothing but traitors.

Katrine Williams, Wales chair for the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union made this point too. “We don’t just need words, we need Labour politicians to be fighting alongside us. That is the crucial thing,” she continued. “Now is the time to go on the offensive against the Tories, our union and members are ready to do this, but we want Labour politicians either standing with us or standing aside.”

Other speakers talked about the ways in which Labour are doing the Tories dirty work for them. Annette, a Unite rep who works for Rolls Royce, pointed to the needless tragedy that is seeing Labour-run Derby City Council overseeing the closure of the vitally need Derby Women’s Centre which has provided aid for victims of domestic abuses for the last 40 years. Combatting domestic violence should always be a trade union issue.

Jane Nellist, a leading member of the National Education Union concurred and talked about the need to fight for the education of our children. She pointed out that “there are endless issues are members could take strike action over, like for instance the underfunding of schools and cuts to resources”. What is needed more than ever “to resolve these issues… is national strike action,” she stated.

The Baker’s Union regional organiser, Haroon Rashid highlighted the need to fight within the Labour Party to replace Blairites with socialists, noting his distaste for the leader of his own CLP, Jesse Phillips. After his involvement with helping organise the outstanding McDonald’s strike over the summer, Haroon drew attention to the intensity and political commitment shown by these young fast food workers who have shown the amazing role that young people can play in reconstituting a strong trade union movement.

The day was packed with many other engaging contributions from the coal-face of industrial struggles, and for the sake of brevity they cannot all be listed. But it would be remiss not to end on the high note provided by Tom Hunt, a nurse and Unison activist from Mansfield whose involvement in the ongoing campaign to stop the closure of Chatsworth’s Ward proves once again that workers can and will fight back they are given the chance.

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