TUC Blog: Wednesday morning - equalities

Submitted by Janine on Thu, 09/14/2006 - 13:52

It's groundhog day on equalities representation, as Congress once again debates and rejects the dangerously revolutionary proposals that the TUC's Women's, LGBT, Black Workers' and Disabled Workers' Conferences should have the right to:

  1. submit two resolutions to Congress rather than one as at present;
  2. elect the women's etc seats on the General Council.

Actually, the proposal was not even to do these things, but to consider doing these things. But no - even that was too much for those union leaders determined to defend at all costs their control over the TUC's General Council and its Congress agenda.

Maria Exall proposed the resolution on behalf of the TUC LGBT Committee, and was followed by five supporting speeches from the Prison Officers' Association, University and Colleges Union, PCS, FBU and National Union of Teachers.

The only speech against was from TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber, those union which opposed it not bothering to explain why and content to leave it to BB. His argument against the 'two resolutions' proposal was awesomely pathetic - that the current set-up was a historic compromise reached in 2001 between those who wanted two resolutions and those who wanted none at all and "that compromise should not be disturbed". Nothing to do which whether the proposal is right or wrong then.

I'm now wondering whether Barber's weak (to say the least) leadership of the TUC is down to him thinking that capitalism is a historic conpromise between bosses and workers which should not be disturbed.

And the reason why equality reps should not be directly elected by equality conferences? Because the whole General Council should be elected by Congress, apparently. Thing is, most of then actually aren't - they are elected directly by big unions with reserved seats. So if Amicus elects the Amicus reps and Unison elects the Unison reps, then why shouldn't the women's conference elect the women's reps?! As far as I see it, if you are not elected by the women's conference, then you are not a women's representative but a representative who happens to be a woman.

Sadly, the resolution got 2,411,000 votes in favour but 3,789,000. The RMT delegation couldn't find its voting card, most unfortunately as we were actually going to vote in favour. Neither could TSSA, who were going to vote the wrong way. And on the initial show of hands, one of our delegates broke his mandate and voted against.

Later on this morning, we finally got to the resolutions and GC report on women's equality. We passed uncontroversial but important issues on violence against women and other subjects, and a particularly weak one from USDAW on flexible working. So the TUC now has a mandate to make the "business case" for extending flexible working rights - hang on, how about we make the workers' case and leave it to business to make the business case?!

I got on my feet again and asked a question - well, two questions actually - to the General Council. Firstly, I plugged the planned demonstration on International Women's Day and asked the General Council to endorse and support it; and secondly, I asked that the TUC be rather more vocal in championing abortion rights rather than leave the field free for religious leaders and others to make the case for cutting time limits unchallenged. I got my assurances, which might not be a cast-iron guarantee but at least it keeps the issues on the agenda.

I'm going home now, and will blog on the stuff I missed later on.