TUC Blog: It's Trade Unionism, Captain, But Not As We Know It

Submitted by Janine on Tue, 09/12/2006 - 20:37

Yesterday, a posse of RMT activists came down from London to make a noise about East London Line privatisation. Wearing T-shirts, holding a big banner and handing out leaflets and stickers and helped for a while by TSSA delegates, they succeeded in making sure that everyone at the Congress now knows about the issue. In the evening, they went to Ken Livingstone's reception to point out to his guests that he is attacking workers and passengers by privatising the line, and is pretty much unfit to be a guest at a trade union event.

Also in Brighton yesterday was Robin Sivalapan, collecting shedloads of signatures on his petition against his outrageous victimisation.

These two things felt like outbreaks of genuine trade unionism in an event that otherwise seems so remote from rank-and-file members and the workplace.

On Sunday evening I went to the women's reception, which was enjoyable enough and a decent opportunity to talk to other women delegates. But the guest speakers were Labour MPs Hazel Blears and Ruth Kelly. When Kelly was Education Secretary, she pushed through the Academies policy which, amongst its many sins, takes teachers and other schools workers out of national pay and conditions bargaining. So you attack workers and trade unions and your reward is ... guest billing at a TUC event! It looks like the TUC has taken up the habit of self-flagellation enjoyed by Ms Kelly's friends in Opus Dei.

Several times, people I get talking to have asked me "Which union do you work for?". Er, I work for an employer, go to work for a living, and got elected by union branches to be part of the union delegation. That appears to make me a rare species.

The suit count is very very high. I wouldn't mind if it was just reflected in the clothes, but it is very much reflected in the politics too. About which more later.

Trade Unions