“Time to fight back” rally at the TUC conference

Today, I went up to Liverpool to join a rally aimed at encouraging the trade unions to fight for jobs and conditions and against privatisation. It is vital, in the teeth of a recession, that public services and jobs are not slashed. The message was unanimous – why should we pay for the bosses’ crisis?

Bob Crow of the RMT deplored the Tories anti-trade union laws, which are even more draconian under New Labour. He said that it was in the best traditions of the trade union movement that workers have stood shoulder to shoulder alongside each other in struggle, and that it was a crying shame that the postal workers have been left to fight alone. Determined, united action by trade unionists across the public sector, who are facing job cuts and privatisation could have brought the government to its knees. The occupation of the Vestas factory had exposed the lies of the government when it came to investing in green jobs and showed that workers would trample over the anti-trade union laws if they were forced to fight for their livelihoods.

Tracey Edwards of the PCS union representing young members, said it was vital that young people fight for jobs and spoke of the scandal of 600,000 school and university leavers without a prospect of employment. If the government can bail out the banks to the tune of billions of pounds, then why can’t it bail out failing companies and provide jobs for all.

Glenn Kelly and Yunus Baksh of UNISON (in personal capacities!) railed against the hypocrisy of trade union leaders in witch-hunting left activists, whose only crime was to organise and stand up for their members. Glenn Kelly said that UNISON should go further than simply stopping donations to its Labour-sponsored MPs, and respect the majority of its members who refuse to give anything to New Labour. As Dave Nellist said, donating to New Labour is like buying a pair of Doc Martens for your boss to kick you with!

Lastly, there was a very moving contribution from one of the Shrewsbury pickets, who included Des Warren and Ricky Tomlinson. He reminded us of their campaign (still ongoing) to get an exoneration for the frame-up by the state, who jailed decent trade unionists for fighting for their jobs. He said that it was sad that Des was no longer here at this rally, otherwise he would be still be fighting the good fight.

I don’t know what the few BNP supporters who were skulking in the sidelines made of it all. Their absence showed that they are opposed to trade unionism and do not stand for working class people. Keith Gibbons, one of the leaders of the Lindsey Oil Refinery dispute spoke about the far right being ejected from the picket lines when they tried to intervene and about how the Socialist Party was able to undercut their lies of “British jobs for British workers” by organising British and Italian workers, to get a fair deal for all.

Altogether an excellent and inspiring rally – but the fighting talk now needs to be matched by action from the major trade unions. They need to stop funding New Labour and begin funding genuine, working-class struggles.

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