THE TRADE Union Congress (TUC) organised the knifing in the back of the Southern guards’ and drivers’ struggle on Thursday, brokering a ‘deal’ which removed the safety critical role of the guard from the trains, at talks from which the RMT had been excluded.
The leadership of the ASLEF union, under its general secretary Mick Whelan, which represents the drivers, has played a particular treacherous role in leaving the RMT union to fight on its own.
The new depths to which the leadership of the TUC has sunk, in assuming the role of a corporatist boss-helper, helping the bosses out of their difficulties have not sprung out of thin air. The TUC leadership has a long history of reformist betrayal, reaching as far back as 1926 when they called off the general strike just as it was gathering strength and momentum.
The TUC leaders’ more recent history is equally treacherous. In September 2012 at the TUC conference, the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) seconded by the RMT transport union moved Motion 5.
It stated the TUC ‘must continue leading from the front against this uncaring government with a coalition of resistance’. This must include ‘taking co-ordinated action where possible with far-reaching campaigns including the consideration of the practicalities of a general strike.’
This motion was overwhelmingly passed. During the debate, Steve Turner, executive policy director of Unite, told the Brighton conference: ‘We are at our best fighting back, roaring like lions, not cowering in corners.’ – Quite! Three years later, the TUC Congress dropped any discussion on the practicalities of organising a general strike. Why? To signal to the Tories that they wanted to collaborate with them.
Their willingness to collaborate was made clear in the TUC’s submission to the ex-Tory chancellor Osborne in advance of his Autumn Statement November 2015. This begged the Tories to: ‘Deliver on the commitment to include workers on company boards within a year, and build on this with a plan for more employee involvement in delivering higher productivity workplaces.’ In other words, the TUC was volunteering to help the bosses step up the exploitation of the workers, while driving down wages.
By becoming a part of a corporatist set-up these leaders hoped to find a new role for the bureaucracy, as junior partners with the bosses, helping them to impose cuts and closures on the workers. Today, the TUC leaders are trying to get state sponsorship for the role of the ‘Judas goat’ that leads the rest to the slaughter for the benefit of the bosses.
In November 2015, the Tories pushed through the Trade Union Bill, which is the most vicious piece of anti-union legislation. It makes unions jump through so many hoops that organising a legal strike becomes virtually impossible. There was no TUC-organised mass demo. They let it go through without a fight, boasting that they had allied themselves with Tories such as David Davis to get a few amendments through. They actually helped in the new anti-union laws.
Then in November 2015 the junior doctors voted 99% in favour of strike action and they organised a series of massive strike actions, despite a rabid bosses’ and media campaign against them. At the TUC Brighton conference November 2016, Emergency Motion 5 ‘Support for the BMA and junior doctors’ was also passed overwhelmingly.
The motion called on the TUC to ‘continue to provide solidarity and support to the BMA and its members.’ However, they let the junior doctors fight on their own, helping the imposed contract in, and helping the Tory campaign to destroy the NHS.
Now they have gone the whole hog – helping the rail bosses, by keeping the RMT out of crucial talks, to force their plans onto the ASLEF leadership. All unions affiliated to the TUC must demand the immediate recall of the TUC Congress to sack this leadership that serves the bosses and splits the unions for the benefit of the bosses.
This vital issue will be discussed at the ATUA conference on February 11 (see ad page 2). Workers need a leadership that will defend the NHS with a general strike, not make their careers out of stabbing the working class in the back. Make sure you attend the vital ATUA conference, and make sure that you bring a