‘FIGHT FOR JOBS!’ – London Met delegate tells Congress

Delegates applauding the demonstration by Vestas sacked workers who were demanding that the plant be nationalised
Delegates applauding the demonstration by Vestas sacked workers who were demanding that the plant be nationalised

THE TUC Congress in Liverpool was brought alive yesterday by a passionate call to fight for jobs with occupations by Mark Campbell of the University and College Union at London Metropolitan University.

He was speaking in support of Composite 3: Jobs, the Recession and Redundancy Rights.

Campbell said: ‘Redundancies should not be the cheap option for employers, yet for many employers they are often the first and only option they consider.

‘And it’s not just compulsory redundancies – we also have massive numbers of non-voluntary “voluntary redundancies’’, which are often reluctantly accepted when workers are threatened with the likely alternative of the paucity of statutory redundancy pay.

‘If that is not bad enough, some employers including my own, London Metropolitan University, have gone one step worse.

‘Staff are targeted and selected for compulsory redundancy (often on the flimsiest and most unreasonable grounds) and are then offered their actual weekly wage instead of the £350 a week statutory pay.

‘But only on the basis that they sign “gagging’’ orders and accept “compromise agreements’’.

‘This needs to be halted now.

‘We need actual weekly pay to be the minimum in terms of the calculation for statutory redundancy pay, and it needs to be available from day one of employment, not only after two years’ work.

‘However, UCU believes the strongest and most important statement of the motion is that noted by the TSSA amendment: “Congress congratulates those workers fighting to keep their jobs, including those taking action such as the occupation of workplaces in order to raise awareness and stop closures.

‘I would therefore like to use the remainder of my speech to offer my union’s heartfelt thanks to the following: the Vestas occupiers, the Thomas Cook occupiers, the Visteon occupiers, the Waterford Crystal occupiers and especially to our own members, now on their 14th day of all-out strike action, at Tower Hamlets College in east London.

‘All of these workers have taken the brave decision to stand up not just for themselves but for their communities.

‘So yes, we need to support this motion.

‘We need to make it harder and more expensive to make workers redundant.

‘But we need to take inspiration from those who have begun the fightback to save jobs.

‘We need to get off our knees as a trade union movement and match the resolve of those occupiers and strikers who have given a real lead to our movement.

‘And if Gordon Brown feels comfortable with using the “C’’ word, isn’t it time we felt comfortable using the “S’’ word and the “O’’ word.

‘Strike and occupy – save jobs, defend our community,’ he concluded to enthusiastic applause.

The motion was moved by Unite Joint General Secretary Tony Woodley.

He declared: ‘Spivs and speculators have made millions of pounds taking our economy over the edge, sacking bank workers and factory workers but putting little back into the economy to protect jobs.’

He demanded the government ‘nationalise the banks completely, not part nationalisation but take them over.’

He did not however demand the nationalisation of the Ellesmere Port and Luton GM factories where thousands of jobs are under threat, as well as the tens of thousands of jobs that depend on them.

Woodley called for short-time working for when the recovery begins.

He claimed: ‘The free market is in the past. Start intervention, public intervention.’

He concluded: ‘That’s the sort of Labour we are all proud of. Listen Gordon, before it’s too late.’

Earlier, Congress voted for Composite 1: Posted Workers Directive.

This was supported by the General Council with reservations concerning the Lisbon treaty.