AT THE last TUC Congress its leaders were forced by the anger of delegates to accept and agree a resolution that the TUC was to look into the practicalities of calling a general strike to oppose the Tory-led coalition government’s massive attacks on the trade unions and the people.
Now under a new leader, Frances O’Grady, following Brendan Barber’s retirement, the TUC has rushed to move further to the right to form a common front with Lord Heseltine, the ex-Tory Deputy Prime Minister who, in 1993, closed down the UK mining industry, sacking tens of thousands of miners and smashing hundreds of thousands of jobs and destroying the NUM as the most powerful unionised force in the working class.
Heseltine is to speak at a TUC meeting on ‘Building a Secure Future – a new industrial policy’ alongside other bosses’ representatives and O’Grady on January 10.
In a gushing announcement the TUC said: ‘it is delighted to announce Conservative peer Lord Michael Heseltine, Labour peer Lord Andrew Adonis, corporate director Andrew Churchill and the TUC’s Frances O’Grady as speakers at this high profile panel debate on industrial policy . . .
‘The debate will consider the need for an active industrial policy, discuss what we can learn from more successful economies and consider the practical measures Government could take now and in the medium term to support key sectors for future sustainable growth.
This is your opportunity to join the discussion.’
The Daily Telegraph has gleefully announced that ‘Frances O’Grady . . . disclosed the growing consensus with the former Tory cabinet minister in an interview . . .’
O’Grady told the Telegraph: ‘We share many views. There is a consensus which cuts across party lines and business and union lines . . . We need workers to have the right skills, there is a strong consensus about the sort of things we need to do to see this happening.
‘There was a lot we welcomed in that report. What we have in common is that we believe in the need for growth and jobs, even though we might have differences in how we get there.’
Declaring an official TUC surrender O’Grady added: ‘We have lost our manufacturing base and huge industrial strongholds.’ However, ‘The TUC is still the largest voluntary organisation in Britain’. It has been reduced to the level of a charity or a women’s institute.
In fact, in embracing Heseltine it is embracing Osborne. It was Osborne who announced in his Autumn Budget: ‘We asked Michael Heseltine to report to the House on how to make the government work better for business and enterprise.’ Osborne added about Heseltine’s report ‘We will respond formally in the spring, but here’s what we will do now.
‘First, government spending should be aligned with the priorities of the local business community, we will provide new money to support the local enterprise partnerships (LEP) and from April 2015 the government will place more of the funding that currently goes to local transport, housing, skills and getting people back to work, into a single pot that LEPs can bid for.’
Also: ‘We will go ahead with the 22 Enterprise Zones already announced – plus two further zones in Humber and Lancashire confirmed today.
‘And I can also confirm that capital allowances of 100% will be available to encourage manufacturing and other industries into the zones in Liverpool, Sheffield, the Tees Valley, Humber and the Black Country.
‘Those allowances will also be available to the North Eastern enterprise zone – and we will consider extending to the Port of Blyth to create new private sector jobs there.’
He added: ‘I am today putting a further £1 billion over this Parliament into the Regional Growth Fund, with support as well for the devolved administrations’.
As well: ‘We know many firms are afraid to hire new staff because of their fear about the costs involved if it doesn’t work out. We’re already doubling the period before an employee can bring an unfair dismissal claim and introducing fees for tribunals. Now we will call for evidence on further reforms to make it easier to hire people, including: Changing the TUPE regulations; Reducing delay and uncertainty in the collective redundancy process; And introducing the idea of compensated no fault dismissal for businesses with fewer than ten employees. We will cut the burden of health and safety rules on small firms.’
In embracing Heseltine they are forming a modern version of a ‘Labour Front’ – this cannot in any way be described as trade unionism. Unions affiliated to the TUC must tell the General Council to sack O’Grady and cancel the invitation to Heseltine. There must be a recall TUC Congress to replace the leaders who have already surrendered, and to call a general strike to bring down the coalition’ This is the only policy that is acceptable to workers.