TUC preview: for workers' rights - in words or deeds?

Submitted by Janine on 5 September, 2004 - 8:47

By Maria Exall

At this year’s TUC Conference, Brighton, from 13 September, there are several motions from a variety of unions on the issue of employment rights.

As in previous years these include many good positive demands, as well as the call for the abolition of anti union laws. This year, however, the unbiased observer may well be confused as to the intentions of those voting for these motions.

The trade union movement, led by the Big Four unions, will be supporting policies in September that they failed to support in July.

At the Labour Party National Policy Forum at the end of July the same organisations who will overwhelming vote for progressive policy on workers’ rights at the TUC ducked out of a confrontation with Blairites within the Labour Party on precisely the same issues.

Not only was employment rights not pushed on to the agenda for the Labour Party Conference later this month (something the combined votes of the unions and left supporters can ensure) but no significant promises from the Government in rights for British workers were made as a result of this unprincipled climbdown.

To put this failure in context, it should be remembered that to get the TUC united on the issues of the abolition of the anti-union laws and for a positive agenda on workers’ rights is the fruit of several years of campaigning by those on the left of the unions, including the United Campaign for the Repeal of the Anti-Union Laws.
Other motions on the TUC agenda for next week include several on the issue of working time. There is the call for an end to opt-outs from the European Working Time Directive, and a motion from the CWU calling for progress towards a statutory 35-hour week.

There is a NATFHE motion on Iraq that emphasises the need to build solidarity with Iraqi trade unionists — this will undoubtably be a key debate.

This year’s motion from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered TUC is on continuing the unions’ legal challenge to the exemption from discrimination laws of pension provision for same-sex couples.
This is pertinent as Parliament is due to discuss the Civil Partnership Bill in September, which also fails to deliver equality in this important area.

- United Campaign for the Repeal of the Anti-Union Laws fringe meeting, Monday 13 September, 6pm, Old Ship Hotel.
- Labour Representation Committee fringe meeting, Wednesday 15 September, 1pm, Quality Hotel.

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