This morning, we were treated to an address by TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber. There are various little things he said that I could pick on and slag off, but I won't, because it was the overall message that bugged me. Basically, after listing the Labour government's bountiful gifts to workers, Brendan told us at length about how oppressed and badly treated women workers are. The thing is, brother, we know that. What we want to know is: what are you doing about it?!
It was always going to be livelier when the questions started. Here's mine, followed by Brother Barber's reply and news of the other questions and answers.
Last year, I attended TUC Congress. My union, RMT, proposed a resolution opposing the replacement of Trident with a new generation of nuclear weapons. It was a controversial motion, it was thoroughly debated, and it was passed.
This week, Tony Blair took his Trident replacement plan to Parliament. Perhaps, having failed to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, he wants some here in Britain where he can keep an eye on them and know exactly where they are. Or perhaps he'd just rather spend billions of pounds on nuclear weapons instead of on the NHS, schools or ending poverty.
90+ Labour MPs rebelled against the government, which needed Tory votes to win. But I did not notice any campaigning by the TUC against Trident replacement.
Did you do anything? Or is the truth of the matter that the Labour rebels did more to fight for TUC policy than the TUC did?
Barber's answer was just as I had expected. He reminded me that as well as the RMT resolution, Congress had also passed a statement calling for consultation and sufficient time for a debate. And Brendan used the statement to trump the resolution. So Brendan hade "made strong representations" to the government not to scrap Trident, but to avoid making an early decision. Guess what? The government took no notice.
An FBU delegate asked about the issue of childcare that was debated yesterday. She specifically asked him not to use the fact that affiliated unions don't provide brilliant childcare as an excuse for the TUC not to - the TUC should lead, not follow. So Brendan, erm, proceeded to use the fact that affiliated unions don't provide brilliant childcare as an excuse for the TUC not to.
Other questions were on privatisation, single parents, F.E. teachers, pensions, tax avoidance, and Union Learning. Barber's answers sounded like he had mistaken himself for a government spokesperson, lauding New Labour's massive advances for working people. Never mind, because where they fall short, the TUC "makes strong representations".
TSSA delegate Neeta Patel asked what the TUC intended to do to support the rail unions' fight to defend the Section 12 regulations. Reassuring enough, the TUC has met with the rail unions and has "made strong representations".