Trades Councils conference: reinvigoration needed!

Submitted by AWL on 26 May, 2010 - 4:07 Author: Elaine Jones

At this year’s Trades Councils conference there were around 70 councils represented (there are now 157 Trades councils and 23 County associations registered with the TUC which is an increase of 31 from the previous year).

In workshops there were reports on anti-cuts campaign, some victories, and how the trades councils were trying to organise opposition to local council cuts and academies. We suggested that the Trade Union Councils Joint Consultative committee should attempt to co-ordinate anti-cuts campaigns and try and facilitate the linking up the campaigns. There was also recognition of the important role that trades councils could play in the coming months once we know where the cuts will fall.

In the debate on the defence of migrant workers and the Detention of children in removal centres the motions just said stop the detention of children and women, don’t build any more detention centres and ‘replace removal centres with residential hostels as in Australia and Sweden’. Workers' Liberty supporters argued that this doesn’t go far enough that we should be against any detention of asylum seekers, for the end of immigration controls and we certainly shouldn’t be demanding that they should be replaced by another form of detention. However the motions were passed.

The debate on manufacturing centred on supporting industry. The argument was made that the trade union movement should be making more socialist demands about how industry is run, nationalisation and workers control, rather than just begging the government to give bribes to international capitalists to stay and continue exploiting us. However the amendment did say support workers taking action including occupations to stop closures and job losses.

We opposed the idea of 'promoting the Morning Star as our daily paper' and tackled those who thought that Europe was to blame for all attacks on the working class. One woman, Anne Green, made a speech early on in the conference about how 'all this [cuts, etc] is coming from Europe', and reiterated it in a later speech. Workers' Liberty supporters explained how the British ruling class are happy to attack the working class whether in Europe or out. An idea that several of the delegates expressed support for once the conference finished.

The conference is allowed to pick one motion to go forward to the TUC annual conference, and our choice of the strongest of the motions against the anti-union laws was picked. This tells the TUC to campaign against the anti-union laws, but also to support all workers in struggle, including those taking 'unofficial' action when they fall foul of the anti-union laws.

Most of the motions passed without any opposition and the executive had recommended to accept them. There were guest speakers some interesting however one of them was more of a ‘turn’ than a speaker, a ‘professor’ who was correctly described as a ‘insulting wind baggery waste of time’ by one observant delegate.

It was quite a left-wing conference but also quite old. There were about 3 people under 40, a dozen 40-50, and all the rest... Many people spoke about the need to recruit younger people, though very few seemed to have thought about relating to students as a way to do this.

The role of Trades Councils in co-ordinating opposition to cuts and supporting industrial struggle is important in our fight to rebuild the trade union movement. They can help co-ordinate rank and file campaigns on industrial and political issues and many of the delegates present seemed to realise the important role they can play in coming struggles.