THE TUC Congress in Brighton was divided yesterday over an amendment to Composite Motion 15: Public Sector Pay, which called on the General Council ‘to organise days of strike action, including a major national demonstration, against the government’s pay policy’.
The composite motion had merely called for ‘days of action’ and a national demonstration.
The amendment, from the Prison Officers Association, appeared to be won on a show of hands.
But conference chairman Dave Prentis, after calling for a second show of hands, then insisted on a card vote.
The amendment was lost on a card vote, with 1,388,000 for and 2,957,000 against. It was defeated by a majority of 1,569,000.
The Unite delegation abstained in the card vote after voting in the show of hands.
It was said that Unite was unable to participate in the card vote because their voting card was mislaid.
Delegates said they believed if Unite had voted for, the amendment would have been won.
The amendment was moved by POA General Secretary Brian Caton.
He said ‘This Labour government lied, lied and lied again to us.
‘Public sector pay is at the heart of our union’s concerns.
‘This Congress must begin to show we can do things by acting together.’
He warned: ‘We don’t think this government is going to listen.
‘This government’s not for turning. Gordon Brown is constantly saying this.
‘That is why this organisation must pull us together and make the government listen.
‘The government rejected what the public sector pay body said we should get.
‘Angry? I should say we are!’
He added: ‘The Tories are on the horizon.
‘If we are weak when they arrive, you will all be like the POA, stripped of all your rights.
‘Let’s lobby, let’s march, but let’s take action.’
Seconding the amendment, John Leach, RMT, said: ‘We give wholehearted support for the POA amendment.
‘If it means taking on the government, so be it.’
Seconding the composite motion moved by UNISON, but opposing the amendment, Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) General Secretary Mark Serwotka slammed the government’s pay policy.
He said that ‘(Business Secretary) John Hutton and the rest of the Cabinet should spend less time talking to millionaires and more time talking to their core supporters.’
He added: ‘It’s no longer good enough for individual unions to fight on their own, we need to coordinated action.
‘We need days of action organised by the TUC, a national demonstration. Bring people onto the streets to demonstrate their anger.’
He added: ‘We’re balloting 270,000 of our members for industrial action.’
He said: ‘The fault lies with Gordon Brown and the government.
‘If the Tories win the election, if industrial strife breaks out, the government will only have themselves to blame.’
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber intervened in the debate to oppose the POA’s amendment.
He said: ‘It’s disappointing we have a division. . . We won’t achieve unity if unions are asked to subordinate their own democratic decisions to one TUC coordinating campaign.
‘Unions have to make their own judgements whether or not industrial action is necessary.’
Yesterday afternoon, the TUC Congress in Brighton debated Motion Five: Trade Union Freedom, moved by the Prison Officers Association.
The motion called on the TUC to organise a series of one-day general strikes until the anti-union laws are removed from the statute books.
Moving the motion, Brian Caton, POA general secretary, said: ‘People who choose to be in a trade union in this country are more oppressed than anywhere in Europe.
‘The trade unions were born out of struggle.’
He added: ‘But I’m not just thinking of the past, I’m thinking of those who will come in the future.
‘Yes, have your rallies, lobby MPs, but let’s show what we can do.
‘These laws are bad laws. Choose freedom now and break those laws.’
The motion was seconded by Bob Crow of the RMT.
Ian Lavery, NUM general secretary, said in support of the motion: ‘We should stop believing we are going to get something from this Labour government.’
Billy Hayes, CWU general secretary, called on the POA to withdraw and remit its motion to the TUC General Council.
John McInally, of the PCS, said: ‘I reluctantly oppose the motion.’
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber, speaking for the General Council which opposed the motion, said: ‘We cannot support a call for a series of general strikes.
‘A general strike in pursuit of political objectives would be unlawful.’
The motion was overwhelmingly lost on a show of hands.