TUC Blog: Monday afternoon part one - NHS, Barber speaks, Organising

Submitted by Janine on Tue, 09/12/2006 - 00:38

The debate on the National Health Service (click here and scroll down to C9 to read the composite) was similarly to the debates on Pensions and on Public Services - plenty of anger at what the government is doing to the NHS, rather less on strategy or definite proposals for action. Still, at least the TUC has called a Lobby of Parliament on 25th October. It will be down to rank-and-file activists to build this to its full potential.

In his address to Congress, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said that "this is not the NHS that befits a third term Labour government." No shit, Sherlock. Barber's speech did contain several criticisms of the government, but they were all as soft and muted as this one. His was not the angry, fighting speech that the leader of the workers' movement should aim at the Labour government that is full-on attacking the working class. Instead, it was polite, friendly advice that perhaps they've got a few things mistaken. He remains convinced that he has the ear of Tony Blair, but misses the point that he should shout rather than whisper into it.

Then there was this really odd bit at the end. Brendan was rightly urging us to go out and build trade unions and get more workers involved, when he said that we must "Reach out to those [workers] who are exploited and those who are not." Sorry? Workers who are not exploited?! That'd be like Popes who are not Catholic, right? If the leader of the TUC believes that only some workers are exploited, then he believes that the boss-worker relationship is not inherently exploitative, so capitalism is OK or would be with a few improvements. Which goes a long way to explaining how ineffective the TUC is in fighting in workers' interests.

Next up, the debate on organising (read the composite motion here). We're in favour of it. Which is good to know. And we're going to do some more of it, which is also good to know. We're also against 'sweetheart deals' and unions undermining the organising efforts of other unions. But something wasn't quite right about the T&G's passion against unions undermining other unions' organising efforts when they are doing just that against RMT at Lynx Express and amongst London Undergound cleaners.

There was a good resolution from the University and Colleges Union called 'Strengthening Workplace Democracy'. Importantly, speakers emphasised the importance of fighting for a Trade Union Freedom Bill, which will be discussed in more detail tomorrow.