Some things that didn't fit in to other blog entries ...
Most days, delegates arriving at the Brighton Centre were met by groups of workers standing outside, pressing their cause:
- Gate Gourmet
- DARA (Amicus)
- Sefton Council (UNISON) - the Council has suspended six workers for taking part in a protest against housing stock transfer
- CCU/Remploy (Amicus/GMB)
- Jerry Hicks (Amicus)
It was great to see them outside Congress, but it would have been much better to see them inside - and on the rostrum, not just watching from the gallery. There should be a session of Congress each year where workers involved in fights like these should have platform time to explain their case and ask for solidarity.
As it was, I saw a stark illustration of what is wrong with the TUC as loads of suits walked past rank-and-file workers with a cursory handshake and went into the trade union movement's annual get-together.
My personal gong for the most stomach-churning moment of the week goes to Labour Party chair Ian McCartney, who told us that he had met the sacked Gate Gourmet workers and was "struck by their quiet dignity". The word 'patronising' just doesn't feel strong enough.
For goodness sake, man, you are the chair of the government party. You could click your fingers and get them their jobs back, unshackle their union and drive their vile employers out of sight. So don't give us that touchy-feely nonsense.
The Sun reported that at the Amicus press conference on Tuesday, General Secretary Derek Simpson made an attempt at humour. "A woman steward stopped me on my way to ask if I'd got a pass. I said to her, 'Nice a*se!'"
Obviously, you can't believe everything (or maybe anything) you read in the old Currant Bun, so I kept my eye out for Simpson to ask him whether this was true. I couldn't track him down though. Suffice to say that if the report is true, he's an embarrassing, sexist git.
Moreover, if he did actually say that to a steward (rather than just wishing he had), then he has sexually harrassed a woman going about a day's work. It's a disgrace, and I hope that members of Amicus reading this will take it up within the union.
There was a decent collection of around £400 for J-FLAG, the Jamaican lesbian and gay campaign.
I filled a couple of sacks with free merchandise from the various stalls. I'm all in favour of unions promoting themselves, but as I fiddled with my assorted pens, rulers, teddy bears, yo-yos, post-it pads and beer mats, I wondered whether unions' merchandising output is proportional to its organising efforts or a substitute for it! I have never recruited anyone to a trade union on the basis that if you join, you get a little fluffy bug to stick to your computer.
The writer of the book Railwaywomen spent Wednesday afternoon at the RMT bookstall selling and signing copies. I had a good natter, exchanged anecdotes and bought my copy. So come back to this blog to read a review fairly soon.
Looking forward to Janine's review. Were there any railwaywomen before the 1970s then?
Yes there were. In particular during wartime. And in certain grades, there have always been women. But other grades were men-only until really quite recently.
I think that Helena, the book's writer, was the first British Rail guard. I know that the first female London Underground train driver was Hannah Dadds, in the 1970s.