TUC: The unions' collective political agenda was here more in evidence than for decades...
- plus, in brief:
- Caparo pensions strike?
- rail pensions
- general militancy
- Free Our Unions Public Meeting
- Building on the rank and file revival conference
The elections of new left-leaning General Secretaries over the past couple of years - in PCS, RMT, ASLEF, CWU, Amicus - are bearing fruit. More of the members' agenda is filtering through the bureaucratic structures. In the debate on public services there were strong speeches that showed a confidence in the public sector unions' anti-privatisation agenda.
The war was not the only international issue to be discussed at Congress. The CWU raised the repression of Indonesian trade unions and the violence against union activists that resulted from attempts to introduce anti-union laws in that country .
There were other debates on the need to deal with the globalised economy through international solidarity and collective economic control. There were numerous fringe meetings on topics from fair trade and global labour standards to just pensions.
The first debate at Congress was on employment rights. The TUC reaffirmed its policy for the repeal of the anti-trade union laws. The composite also called on the TUC to support a public rally on the issue in the coming year. Whilst falling short of commitment to the United Campaign for the Repeal of the Anti-Trade Union Laws demonstration on 29 March 2003, it represented a victory for UCRATUL affiliates and their success in moving forward the agenda on employment rights over the past couple of years.
More action, though, will be needed to persuade the Government to budge on this vital issue for trade unions.
As we go to press Caparo Group, a steel company, owned by Labour peer Lord Paul is facing further strike action from workers over the closure the final salary pension scheme to all workers. They want to replace it with a cheaper alternatives, which are more risky for workers.
Caparo's decision is one of a growing wave of such closures in recent years.
The RMT has threatened a strike over the closure of final salary pension schemes. The union is currently negotiating with a number of companies, including Wightlink, an Isle of Wight car ferry operator, Southern Vectis, an Isle of Wight bus company, and Wilts & Dorset another bus company to try and prevent closures of the schemes.
Under rules created when the rail industry was privatised in September 1993, railway workers' pensions were given a degree of protection. A cash reserve enabled workers at rail companies to pay reduced contributions. This reserve is now set to run out in September 2003.
There is a fear that rail companies may try to close their final salary pension schemes to new workers.
A leading employment law firm has produced a report showing that one in two employers expect staff to hold a strike ballot over the coming months - a general expectation of militancy. Let's prove them right.
Free Our Unions
7pm Thursday 19 September, Assembly Rooms, Oxford Town Hall
Speakers: Friction Dynamics
Maria Exall, CWU National Executive
Supported by Oxford Trade Union Council
Building on the rank and file revival
A working conference for socialists in the trade unions, organised by Solidarity and Workers' Liberty
Saturday 26 October, 11am-5pm
ULU, Malet St, London
Speakers (in personal capacity) include Mark Serwotka, Gen Sec PCS and Steve Godward, Birmingham firefighter
More details: 020 7207 3997