TUC Blog: Warming Up or Selling Short?

Submitted by Janine on Sun, 09/10/2006 - 18:10

Congress starts tomorrow, so today is the day for going to your delegation meeting, unpacking your undies, blogging in the hotel bar and checking out some social functions later.

At the RMT delegation meeting, we got to the see the composited motions for the first time.

Most union motions to TUC Congress - and, hence, most composites - take the form "We note that workers are nice, (some) bosses are nasty. What whall we do about it? Commission a report." Generally, not much in the way of a fighting strategy nor too much to tie the TUC bureaucracy to actually doing much, but all very worthy of support. So there are supportable composites on Organising, Migrant Workers, Agency Workers and other topics.

Particularly worthy of support is Composite 5 on the fight for a Trade Union Freedom Bill. Not only does this composite keep the issue of the anti-union laws alive, it also pins the TUC General Council down to some specific campaigning action - including naming the date for a Lobby of Parliament (an event agreed by last year's Congress but not yet organised by the TUC), and a demonstration for the Trade Union Freedom Bill that is not just a tag-on to the annual May Day march. It's good to see that the RMT resisted pressure to drop parts of its resolution that committed the TUC to specific actions like these.

Composite 6 is a very long resolution about Pensions, put together from lots of motions and amendments and reflecting the importance of this issue. It does have some strong points, for example clear opposition to any increase in the pension age, and the demand to restore the link between pensions and earnings. Hopefully, this signals an intention for the trade union movement to draw a line in the sand on these issues. But it starts the fight with one hand tied behind it when unions have already let employers wash over the line in the sand against two-tier pension rights. Since the motions come from the leaderships of unions which have failed to effectively defend their members' pension rights, what you end up with is a composite regretting various attacks and wishing pensions were better.

I don't like the paragraph about the Railway Pension Scheme (RPS). Originating from the TSSA, it welcomes the establishment of a Commission to look at the RPS, and records its gratitude to the TUC for its help in setting it up. In my experience, whenever unions go into dispute with employers, the TUC phones up and begs them to settle the dispute for whatever crumbs are on offer - the railway pensions commission being an example. I don't see why we should be grateful to them for it! And I am afraid that the Commission itself will not deliver the goods for railworkers, and will have demobilised the fight to protect rail pensions and opened the door to attacks.

It was good to see that PCS had submitted a motion committing the TUC to support the Public Services Not Private Profit campaign, a much-needed and very welcome initiative from John McDonnell MP supported by many public sector trade unions but not yet by the really big ones or the TUC. However, PCS has dropped this paragraph in the process of compositing its resolution. UNISON and GMB probably piled on the pressure for PCS to do this, but PCS could simply have said No and kept their motion separate if needs be. But instead, we have a composite long on words but short on strategy and mandates for action. My guess is that various union big cheeses are trying to undermine both the potential for a real fighting campaign against privatisation and also John McDonnell's campaign for Labour Party leader.

PS. The weather's lovely.

Trade Unions