THE Prime Minister met 15 trade union leaders at Chequers yesterday. This was an event in itself, since all the earlier Blair-Brown governments had said that the days of TUC leaders meeting the Prime Minister were over.
With a general election approaching, in the middle of a massive economic and political crisis, Brown however needs the support of the trade union bureaucracy.
He wants it to hold back the anger of the working class at Labour cuts, and also to provide millions, from workers subscriptions, to the Labour Party to finance its election campaign.
The price for getting the unions’ cash will be Brown having to listen to the union leaders concerns about the carnage that the government’s policies are causing to the working class base of the trade unions.
Trade union leaders will be urging Brown not to seek to resolve the crisis by making vicious attacks on the jobs and financing of the public sector, and also that his government must provide financial support for manufacturing industry, including the crisis ridden motor car industry.
The only satisfaction that they will get will be empty and verbal, that the cuts Labour makes will be minor compared to the savage attacks that the Tories intend to make if they become the government.
This will be enough to keep the support of most of the trade union leaders, but even in the ranks of the most pro-Labour leaderships, there are doubts about just where Brown is leading them.
Tony Woodley, the joint leader of Unite, has no such doubts. Yesterday he praised Business Secretary Mandelson for the alleged ‘exemplary’ way that he has been ‘working his socks off’ to save ‘British jobs’. He paid the same compliment to Brown, at a time when tens of thousands of his members face the sack at Magna, and when unemployment is at 2.4 million and rising fast.
His co-partner is now not so sure. Derek Simpson began the day comparing PM Brown to a ‘rabbit in the headlights’. He added that to get re-elected Labour must support industry and the unemployed, not cut spending.
By mid-morning he was correcting himself. A Unite statement said: ‘Derek Simpson, Unite’s joint general secretary, wishes to clarify that Gordon Brown has his full support and that Mr Brown is the only choice for leading the party to the next election.
‘Unite’s position is that winning the election does depend on the government and the PM ditching the ‘New Labour’ ethos and embracing a progressive agenda for jobs, public services, housing and pensions. Mr Simpson does warn that failure to draw clear dividing lines between Labour and the Conservatives could spell disaster at the next general election.’
Woodley and Simpson will unite to argue, as will the majority of the union leaders that Labour cuts are much better than the massive cuts that a Tory government will bring, and that therefore Brown and his bankers’ policies must be supported, right to the bitter end.
However, some union leaders may not, and certainly a majority of the delegates at the TUC Congress will not.
There is no doubt that Labour’s plan to cut half of the £179 billion of government debt over four years will see slashing attacks on the public sector and the sacking of hundreds of thousands of public sector workers, including lecturers, doctors, teachers and nurses, with wage cutting wage ‘freezes’ for those who remain, along with pension and benefit cuts for all.
The TUC congress must stand up for the working class.
It must move and pass an emergency resolution halting the payment of the trade unions’ political levy to Labour. it must also decide that all trade unions must come out with the postal workers when they take national strike action.
The Congress must decide that the best way to prevent the return of the Tories is for the trade unions to bring down the Brown government, and bring in a workers government that will carry out socialist policies.