TUC blog: defending public services

Submitted by Janine on Tue, 09/13/2005 - 21:48

The major topic of Tuesday afternoon was 'industrial policy', which, as you can imagine, covers a range of subjects.

The National Union of Mineworkers moved a motion calling for renationalisation of the coal industry, predicing that without this step, the industry would be completely gone within 18 months. The NUM speaker outlined the appalling actions of UK Coal as an employer, and the progressive destruction of the coal industry since the defeat of the great miners' strike of 1984/85.

Amicus General Secretary Derek Simpson spoke about the government's attacks on public services and industry, but I felt that his criticisms were understated. Giving it the not very big'un, you might say.

Generally, Congress has heard a fair bit of criticism of the government, but no criticism, or even discussion, of the TUC's lack of success in standing up to them.

Other speakers delivered stinging dissections of the government's privatisation in schools, academies, and privatisation in the NHS.
RMT's President, Tony Donaghey, told Congress about the privatisation of Caledonian MacBrayne, the tendering process for which starts tomorrow.

The came the motion about civil service job cuts. PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka certainly upped the temperature of Congress with an animated, angry tub-thump about the devastation of his members' jobs. The government, he told us, spends £1b on consultants, who get £700+ each per day, some producing reports about other consultants, one carrying a four-day study on staff morale only to recommend more pot plants in the office.

Mark told Congress that London PCS members in the Department for Work and Pensions are balloting for strike action in defence of their jobs.

It was a strong, rousing speech: we could have done with more anger like that from the Brighton stage this week. But we could also have done with more of it this morning when Gordon Brown, the axe-wielding architect of the civil service jobs slaughter, addressed Congress. Why didn't PCS hold a protest? Storming the stage with a big banner denouncing the jobs cuts would have given Brown a powerful message, got media coverage, and boosted confidence of civil servants in the battles ahead.

Motion passed unanimously.

CWU General Secretary Billy Hayes proposed a resolution deploring Post Office privatisation. He reminded us that the Labour Party gave a manifesto commitment that "There are no plans to privatise Royal Mail" (funny, I remember something similar about university tuition fees some years back). Then, as soon as the election was over, the plans started to spill out. They might call it a 'partial share sale', but it is privatisation, and we need to fight it. Motion passed unanimously.

That fight could have had an effective launch at CWU's lunchtime fringe meeting. But people were shocked to find that one of the speakers was a Liberal Democrat. Yes, that's the right wing, anti-labour-movement party that wants to ban public sector strikes and supports Post Office privatisation. Ah, but our chap at the meeting was proposing a resolution to LibDem conference to change the policy on privatisation. Well bully for him - he's still a member of the afore-mentioned right wing, anti-labour movement party, and should have had no place on the platform.

I mean, really. CWU's policy (debated repeatedly over recent years) is to fight for their union's demands within the Labour Party. If you are going to have that policy, then carry it out! There wasn't even a Labour MP on the platform - not even the ubiquitous John McDonnell.

And to look forward to tomorrow ... pensions ... check back!