The TUC has published the Preliminary Agenda for the 137th annual Trades Union Congress, taking place from 12-15 September in Brighton.
Very little action is proposed, certainly no strike action, though it is evident from the motions that trade union members have very serious concerns and are looking for action.
First on the agenda are motions demanding the repeal of Tory and Labour anti-union laws.
Motion P03 ‘Trade union freedom’
– submitted by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) reminds that unions sought political representation after the courts ruled against strikers.
The motion states: ‘Congress recalls that 102 years ago, under powers derived from the Taff Vale judgement, railway employers sued the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants for £23,000 for taking industrial action. Congress notes the subsequent 1906 Trades Disputes Act removed trade union liability for damages caused by strike action.
‘Congress notes that trade union rights have deteriorated since 1906 and unions are again liable for damage caused by strike action. Today, National Express and Tyne and Wear Metro are using these laws to threaten the RMT with penalties totalling £500,000 for taking industrial action.
‘Congress reiterates its policy of repealing the anti-trade union laws. To coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Trades Disputes Act in 2006.’
The RMT calls for a campaign for a ‘Trade Union Freedom Bill’.
Among its demands are fair strike ballot rules, the removal of ‘restrictive industrial action notice procedures’ the right to take secondary action and the right to strike without being sacked.
The motion concludes: ‘Congress requests the campaign for a Trade Union Freedom Bill be supported by a national march, rally and lobby of Parliament in 2006.’
One of the major issues confronting workers is pensions.
Motion P22 ‘Pensions’
from the Public and Commercial Services Union conveniently forgets that the public sector unions called off the planned March 23rd national strike against government plans to up the pensionable age to 65 and scrap final salary pensions, rather than take on Blair in the run-up to the May 5th general election.
Instead it starts: ‘Congress congratulates the public sector unions on their willingness to take united action against the Government’s proposed imposition of a compulsory rise in the pension age to 65.
‘Congress welcomes the Government’s subsequent acceptance that all aspects of the proposals will be open to genuine negotiation.’
It continues: ‘However, Congress believes that the Government will continue to argue strongly for the pension age to increase.
‘Congress believes that to defend our members’ interests it will be necessary to maintain and enhance the public sector campaign alliance and to organise together for maximum pressure should further united industrial action prove necessary.’
The motion commits the TUC General Council and Executive Committee to back a coordinated campaign with unions and pensions groups and to ‘organise a national pensions demonstration before the end of the year’ and to ‘assist unions taking industrial action and support the coordination of that action’.
Note, it does not commit the TUC or affiliated unions to actually taking strike action.
The biggest TUC union Amicus submits the main motion on behalf of the private sector workforce:
P25 ‘Industrial policy’.
Its introductory paragraph displays that the bureaucrats live in cloud cuckoo land, with heads buried deep in the ground in the face of the raging capitalist crisis, whilst at the same time complaining about savage job cuts.
The motion commences: ‘Congress believes that a successful industrial policy is vital to a successful UK economy, to generate the economic wealth required for investment in high quality public services.
‘Congress commends the UK Government for delivering economic stability, but believes this masks increasing job insecurity.
‘There is a haemorrhage in skilled jobs, which are all too often replaced by low-paid, low-skilled, insecure work.’
Reformist idiocy and downright treachery sees the motion appealing to EU Directives, and to the ‘good nature’ of the Labour government to subsidise industry, and the capitalist state to legislate workers’ rights and conditions.
Motion P27 ‘Working Time Regulations’
and the opt-out, from Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) reveals even more treachery, that the unions have given up the gain of the 40-hour week and are not getting far on stopping employers forcing workers to exceed the 48-hour week as per the EU Directive.
Motion P31 ‘Public services’
submitted by UNISON palely reflects the huge anger felt by workers over the continuing effort to destroy the NHS and other public services through the government’s privatisation drive.
It states: ‘Congress welcomes government commitment to extra investment in health, education and childcare but is opposed to the policies of privatisation and marketisation for delivery.
‘Measures such as Academy Schools and Independent Treatment Centres are expensive and inefficient and undermine collective provision and fairness.
‘Whilst Congress supports greater efficiency, it strongly rejects the current reviews, which are all too often used to squeeze jobs and working conditions.
‘Congress demands that where public sector workforce reform is accompanied by new remuneration systems, they must be fully funded and end the gender pay gap.
‘Clearly the public want first class public services and this Congress must lead such a campaign.
‘Further, Congress demands that the Directive on Services in the Internal Market being debated in the European Union is withdrawn, as it will promote further liberalisation and privatisation of public services, attack workers’ rights throughout Europe and undermine social and environmental standards.’
But all the motion proposes is the ‘campaign’ and to ‘oppose’ privatisation – not a mention of industrial action, or even a demonstration.
P32 ‘Civil Service job cuts’
from the PCS Similarly, is forced to acknowledge that its members have taken strike action against the axing of over 100,000 civil service jobs.
However, it even seeks to lull members into a false sense of security saying: ‘measures to avoid compulsory redundancies were conceded, and planned cuts in sick pay were abandoned.’
In the next breath it admits: ‘However, Congress notes that the Government’s cuts are clearly worsening public services with the closure of DWP offices, severe problems with tax credits, massive privatisation in the MoD, and other problems in nearly every government department.’
The timid motion concedes the possibility of strike action, adding: ‘Congress also calls on the General Council and Executive Committee to offer full support to the Civil Service unions should further national action against the cuts becomes necessary.’
Similarly, while its members up and down the country have been defying the law and walking out against management provocations, the Communication Workers’ Union merely calls on Labour to keep its promise not to privatise the Post Office and for the TUC to support its ‘campaign’ against privatisation.
Motion P77 ‘Iraq’
from the Community and Youth Workers’ Union seeks to redress the betrayal by the ‘big four’, TGWU, Amicus, UNISON and GMB union leaders at last year’s Labour Party conference.
The motion calls for a ‘speedy withdrawal of all troops from Iraq as called for by the TUC 2004.’
It states: ‘Congress asserts that the continued illegal occupation of Iraq is a contributory factor, and not the solution, to the increasing terrorist activities in and outside Iraq.’
After taking a sideswipe at the resistance, the motion concludes: ‘Congress believes that the continued presence of British troops in Iraq is morally and legally indefensible.
‘In the absence of an early departure date being agreed with the US administration, Congress calls on the British Government to set its own unilateral date for an early and speedy departure from Iraq.’
The motion does not call for any trade union action to force the government to either set the date for a speedy departure or resign.
It is precisely this action that the Iraqi workers desperately need.
The TUC agenda must be an alarm call for workers to remove the cowardly and treacherous gang of reformist leaders at the top of the trade union movement, and replace them with a revolutionary leadership that will mobilise action to bring down the Blair government, withdraw troops from Iraq, defeat and disband the capitalist state and go forward to socialism.