TUC delegates at their Congress 2012 in Brighton on Monday voted unanimously for motions calling for coordinated strike action against cuts in jobs and services, privatisation, public sector pay freeze and regional pay.
Composite Motion 1 demands the TUC ‘works for ordinary people’ by ‘promoting fair pay and decent employment’ and ‘giving full support to all groups of workers who take industrial action against cuts or attacks on pay, jobs, pensions or conditions of service and coordinating unions taking strike action’.
Moving the motion, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis Congress that now was the ‘time for action’.
He began his speech: ‘At the start I want to pay tribute, like Brendan, to the fantastic athletes who made the Olympics so successful and the volunteers.
‘But Congress, I also want to pay tribute to the 80,000 women, men and children in the Olympic stadium who showed George Osborne exactly what they thought of him.
‘The day George Osborne was rumbled and the crowd who spoke for all of us weren’t booing pantomime villains, but real life villains who are destroying Britain.
‘Tory Britain; an economy in crisis; the longest recession for 50 years; 625 public service jobs gone every single day of this coalition – and more to come; the worst child poverty record of any government for a generation.
‘A Britain where last week Save The Children, an international charity, launched an appeal to help UK families plunged into poverty by cuts and recession.
‘Stories of kids going without hot meals, winter clothes, missing out on school trips. Working families struggling with rocketing prices, plummeting pay.
‘An Oxfam report warning of inequality in Britain not seen since Victorian times – heart rending stories that shame this government and anyone who supports it.
‘And in Britain – walk down any high street, open any newspaper, turn on the TV, legalised loan sharks offering pay-day loans, interest rates reaching 4000%.
‘An industry that is now worth £2bn a year, and six in ten using money to pay their household bills or to buy essentials, trapping families in a downward spiral of debt and despair.
‘Our people. Our kids.
‘The cost of food going up again by another 10%, the cost of gas and electric rising even more. We know, Congress, that it takes just a £50 increase in monthly outgoings, and that would plunge one third of families into financial ruin.
‘Britain is changing beyond recognition.
‘Employment rights are under attack, sacking workers to be made easier than ever before. Britain, where “sit alone” judges, not tribunals, decide unfair dismissal claims; where “zero hours” contracts are all the norm.
‘A world where bankers with no shame are now speculating on food prices as millions face starvation.
‘Britain, where everything is up for sale: our NHS, our care services, our education services – essential services being privatised.
‘£27bn of contracts are to be signed in the coming year alone – despite the scandals, despite the failures. A4E; Southern Cross; G4S; ATOL and its discredited benefits tests; and failed council contracts.
‘And the Tories, the Tories, with no road to recovery, know their policies aren’t working, and are using austerity, the recession to destroy our public services, to destroy our welfare state.
‘Without austerity, they couldn’t privatise our NHS, privatise policing, close libraries, attack the hard-won rights of working people.
‘A coalition which has declared war on our people – our people facing a third year of pay freeze. Living standards slashed, while the rich and the powerful remain untouched.
‘And Congress, this is the point: it is our job to lead the fight back. To protect our heritage. To defend that fairer society that those who went before us fought for. To fight for a future that works.
‘It’s our job to ensure that 20 October is the biggest anti-cuts demonstration in our history. A day that will give hope to our people, hope for a better, fairer society.
‘And the 20 October has to be more – much more than just a march. It must be a launch pad for our campaign against austerity. After that day we must march on, united, coordinated.
‘The Tory posh boys think our members are afraid – afraid of losing their jobs, afraid of asking for better pay.
‘But it’s our job as leaders, as trade unionists, to raise them up, and to show our members what they are really worth.
‘And as a TUC we must be out there campaigning, organising, building a movement, building alliances of all unions.
‘We are never stronger than when we coordinate industrial action, when we speak with one voice. Yes, we will seek decent pay, fair pay. Yes, we will negotiate – that is what our membership expect us to do.
‘But make no mistake, if employers refuse to negotiate; if the attacks continue – we WILL deliver the coordinated action which is called for in this composite.
‘Now is the time for action. Join us and march for a future that works. 20 October 2012, London, Glasgow, Belfast.’
Seconding, Len McCluskey, Unite General Secretary, said: ‘This is our answer to a government programme which is leading our country on a path of poverty.
‘Save the Children has launched an appeal in the UK for the first time. Tory austerity has failed. We have been exposing the government’s deficiencies for the past two years.
‘Now I’m calling for £1 an hour increase in the minimum wage. That will help to create jobs.
‘Let’s have a cap on energy bills this winter.
‘Let’s take our message to the streets, let’s carry out protests, direct action, civil disobedience and strike action to support our communities.’
Civil servants union PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka warned delegates: ‘We heard this morning about the full extent how the government’s austerity agenda represents the biggest attack on working class people this country has ever seen.
‘But PCS believes as we come to this conference that we need a sense of urgency. We need a sense of urgency to turn these words into actions before it’s too late.
‘On jobs: 700,000 public sector jobs to go, unemployment predicted to reach three million, record levels of youth unemployment bringing real despair and destitution to our communities.
‘On the pension age: we will have the longest pension age of any country in Western Europe. Why could they reduce the pension age of 62 to 60 in France and in Britain we are told to work till 68 and it will rise from there?
‘In terms of pay: our members told us in a recent survey their average income had fallen by over £100, 88% of them had to reduce their spending and 77% of members tell us their money runs out in the third week of the month and they have to borrow.
‘And we have a welfare state that is now under siege: cuts to disability benefits, compulsory workfare, benefits being reduced in a way that we haven’t seen for decades and now Save the Children telling us that 25% of kids in the UK live in poverty.
‘The situation is appalling – what are we going to do about it? We need 20 October to be the biggest demonstration we have ever seen.
‘But PCS believes we need to follow up the demonstration as quickly as we can with mass co-ordinated strike action across the public and private sector.
‘Imagine what we can win if we march together, strike together and consign the government’s austerity to the dustbin of history and give hope and inspiration to the millions that look to us.’
Unison also moved successful Composite 12 ‘Austerity, pay and public service reform, which calls on the TUC General Council to ‘co-ordinate unions’ efforts to break the pay freeze and punitive pay caps, to the benefit of both public and private sectors, rejecting attempts to turn unions aginst one another.’
And to ‘co-ordinate unions which take strike action to challenge austerity policies that are loading the crisis in both the public and private sectors. while government cuts taxes for the rich.’
Mover Jane Carolan said: ‘The pay freeze, we should call it by its name, pay cuts.
‘Members face a dilemma of whether to heat or whether to eat.
‘The £250 for low paid workers has never materialised.’
She added: ‘This is not just a public sector issue. we are all getting less and it’s time to redress the balance. . .
‘To challenge the pay freeze, we must do this as trade unionists by taking action. We need to do this sector by sector.’
Seconding the motion, Mike Clancy told Congress: ‘The government’s labour market policy is equality of misery.
‘It’s a failed economic prescription.
‘We set out a vision of a professional civil service – the government plans job cuts and contracting out.’
He warned: ‘We cannot rest easy with regional pay, that will penalise people.
‘The government proposes to cut numbers, how is that going to work?
‘We want to have a Pay Review Body for the civil service.’
Warning of strike action, he concluded: ‘Our members are closer to the Yes vote on the ballot form, it’s the last resort.’
Congress also passed uninamously Composite 5 ‘Youth Unemployment’.
Commenting after the NUT’s motion, which was seconded by ASLEF, Christine Blower, NUT General Secretary said: ‘Youth unemployment is a blight on society. For one in five young people aged 16-24 who are not in full-time education, to be unemployed is both a waste of their talent and the wrong start in a life that should see them economically active.
‘Worklessness can lead to a feeling of hopelessness. This is not appropriate for anyone.
‘Schemes such as apprenticeships can provide a bridge between education and the workplace for many young people, but the target of 250,000 places by 2015 falls far short of requirement and demand.
‘We need many more high quality workplace-based apprenticeships, all of them paying at least the minimum wage and which lead to guaranteed employment on completion.
‘To prevent us descending into a two-tier education system we need to continue to campaign for the full restoration of the Education Maintenance Allowance and the eradication of higher education tuition fees.
‘Many of the children who expected a C but got a D grade in this year’s GCSE fiasco are also those who will have been affected by the reduction of the EMA, the trebling of university tuition fees and will be at higher risk of unemployment.
‘Welfare and benefits models which require any recipient on benefits to work without a wage should also be stopped. We need to ensure that internships for young people should pay at least the minimum wage, and there should be a code of practice to regulate these.
‘Our young people are society’s future. They have a right to jobs with proper contracts and at proper wage levels. Young people’s skills need to be developed for the sake of our economic future.’