‘CALL A GENERAL STRIKE RIGHT NOW!’ Young Socialists tell the TUC

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Young Socialists marching on Sunday in Bournemouth to the TUC Congress
Young Socialists marching on Sunday in Bournemouth to the TUC Congress

THE TUC Congress opened in Bournemouth on Sunday to clamorous demands for an indefinite General Strike to bring down the government.

After last year’s vote in favour of the TUC ‘discussing the practicalities of a general strike’, unions and delegates supported the demand for the actual calling of a general strike ‘right now’.

The Young Socialists were cheered and clapped as they marched through Bournemouth and arrived at the Congress hall demanding: ‘TUC get off your knees – Call a General Strike Right Now!’ and ‘No Zero Hours Contracts – TUC Must Act Right Now!’

Delegates spoke to News line about the issues before they entered the hall.

Peter McParlin, National Chairman of the Prison Officers Association, said: ‘Our motion which was carried at Congress last year calling for discussion of the practicalities of calling a general strike is now owned by the TUC.

‘We’ve had all the talk necessary, now is time for action.

‘Nothing has improved, history will be very unkind on the trade union movement if we don’t have a general strike.

‘And we should stay out as long as is necessary to gain our objectives, which are to reverse the failings of this government.’

Pointing to the Young Socialists with their banner and loud chants for a general strike, McParlin added: ‘Every voice is important, but it is the youth who are the most important – it is their future we are fighting for.’

Ian Lawrence, General Secretary National Association of Probation Officers, said: ‘Seventy per cent of our work is being privatised by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.

‘On 17th September our NEC will receive a report about our entering into a trade dispute and we are working with the PCS, POA, Unison and GMB to discuss coordinated industrial action within the justice sector in the autumn.

‘Privatisation will totally dismantle the 106-year-old probation service, undermine public protection and put communities at risk.

‘Making profit out of victims of crime is immoral.

‘NAPO will be supporting motion 54 today from the RMT for the question of the general strike to be kept on the agenda and intensified.’

Blacklisted construction worker Dave Smith, of the Blacklist Support Group, said: ‘Motion 57 is about blacklisting and the TUC is calling a national day of action on blacklisting on November 20th.

‘It’s great they are calling action to defend a couple of thousand victimised activists, but they should also be calling action against this government on behalf of all the victims of austerity.’

John McCormack, President Elect UCU, said: ‘We’ve just done a freedom of information study with all colleges and universities and it’s emerged that the use of zero hours contracts is extremely widespread right across further and higher education.

‘The TUC and the Labour Party must wake up to this plague and take action against it now – outlaw it.’

Bill Rogers, Chairman of the Chingford Aslef Branch and Secretary of the North East London Council of Action, said: ‘The threat to close down Chase Farm Hospital is getting closer and closer, they are planning to shut the A&E and Maternity in November.

‘So the Council of Action is organising a march through Enfield on 26th October with a view to occupying Chase Farm.

‘We’ve already mobilised Chingford Aslef and Enfield FBU to support the march.

‘We’ve come along today to ask the delegates to support our march and our plan to occupy and a lot of delegates say they will support.

‘These are regular trade union delegates who say they will raise it in their branches.

‘The Young Socialists lobby is absolutely brilliant, when they started chanting for a general strike delegates joined in.’

Dave Prentis, Unison General Secretary, said: ‘The fight to stop the closure of Chase Farm Hospital is very important and I support it.’

Tony Moore, retired Thames Lighterman and TGWU member, said: ‘The TUC has a very important role to play in fulfiling the wishes of the working class – which is the bringing down of this government.

‘People can see what’s taking place, like the breaking up of the NHS – which is an enormous issue in the working class.

‘They can see this government’s true intention, which is to privatise everything, and they can see the necessity of a general strike to bring down this government and bring in a planned socialist economy.’

Richard Stevens, Unite member at closure-threatened Charing Cross Hospital, said: ‘The TUC must call a general strike to defend the NHS.

‘The presence of the Young Socialists in Bournemouth today has had a powerful impact.

‘Their slogans were really strong and all the other demonstrators joined in, because these slogans speak for the whole working class.’

John Ryan, CWU retired member, said: ‘We have to occupy Chase Farm, Charing Cross, Ealing, and all hospitals that they are planning to close.

‘We need a general strike to bring this government down.’

Inside the Congress on Sunday, the TUC announced that it is to hold a national day of action against blacklisting on Wednesday 20 November.

It said that protests will be held up and down the country and there will be a lobby of Parliament in London.

The TUC condemned the fact that companies who have blacklisted workers have still not been held accountable and they called for a Leveson-style inquiry into the practice.

The TUC called on the government to introduce the following measures:

• A judge-led inquiry must be carried out into the practice of blacklisting.

• All companies must be asked if they have ever complied, used, sold or supplied information that could be used for blacklisting.

• Companies that refuse to comply or apologise and compensate victims if they have engaged in blacklisting should be barred from bidding for any public sector contracts.

• Blacklisting should be made a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘There is a clear need for a Leveson-style inquiry into blacklisting to make sure it is stamped out once and for all.

‘It is essential that companies who have blacklisted workers own up, clean up and pay up.

‘Blacklisting is a shameful practice that has no place in a modern society.

‘It causes misery for those blacklisted and their families and it puts lives at risk.

‘It is scandalous that so many people’s livelihoods have been ruined or put at risk just for raising health and safety concerns.

‘The government cannot sit on the fence any longer.

‘Blacklisting must be made a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment and an unlimited fine.’

The day of action will be coordinated by the TUC with the support of all the main unions in the construction industry.

There will a lobby of Parliament in London, along with other activities up and down the country including events in Scotland and Wales.

Times and speakers at the Central London lobby will be confirmed in the coming weeks.

Unite described the blacklisting of construction workers as a national scandal on the scale of phone hacking and repeated its call for a ‘Leveson style’ inquiry.

The union said it will be calling on activists up and down the UK to take part in activities to highlight the need for justice for the victims of this industrial scandal and to eradicate it from the construction industry and ensure that it can never happen again.

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: ‘Unite is 100 per cent behind the TUC day of action against blacklisting and we will be urging our activists to take part to demand that the blacklisters own up, clean up and pay up.

‘The burden of proof weighs heavily on workers who find themselves blacklisted and even where there is compelling evidence this is met with denial.

‘Across construction there remains a staggering complacency, which must change.

‘Unite firmly believes blacklisting continues and we need politicians to act.

‘The only way to consign this morally indefensible practice to the history books is to strengthen legislation against blacklisting to give the law real teeth.’

A ‘new deal for working people and new freedoms for trade unions’ were called for by Unite general secretary Len McCluskey on Sunday.

He accused the Tory Party of duping the public by blaming all the country’s economic and social ills on the trade unions.

McCluskey told the TUC: ‘It seems that the Tories only know one answer to every problem – attack trade unions and workers’ rights.

‘The greedy bankers crash the economy – blame the unions. Rich men’s money corrupts our politics – attack the unions. Living standards are sliding – let’s have a go at the unions.

‘I am sure if we have more floods in the winter, or England don’t qualify for the World Cup, then a Tory minister will be coming to the dispatch box proposing new measures to tie up trade unions as the answer.’

McCluskey was speaking on the Unite motion: ‘Trade unions, new freedoms’ which calls for a ‘new legal settlement’ to provide new rights and freedoms for trade unions and people at work, and the restoration of wages to ‘proper and decent levels’.

He said: ‘It was Tony Blair who boasted that Britain had the most restrictive anti-union laws in Europe, but there is no situation so bad that the Tories can’t make it worse.

‘The laws drawn up by Thatcher and left in place by New Labour have been made still more onerous by this government.’

However, he said, there is ‘a method in the Tory madness’.

He said: ‘They know that their system is in trouble. They know that their divine right to rule is being questioned across society. And they know that trade unions are at the heart of any alternative.’

McCluskey outlined the thrust of what Unite called a ‘new deal for working people’:

• to challenge the establishment as to why British workers are treated so much worse than those elsewhere in Europe

• to expose the fact that the flexible labour market brings only benefits to bad employers

• to trumpet the benefits of collective bargaining and work to extend its reach

• to develop a real package of reforms that will liberate unions from the worst of the laws, and restore justice in the workplace.