SO today i attended the National Shops Stewards Netowkr annual conference with fellow trade unionists and anti cuts activists.
The conference which is in its 5th year now was held at the south Camden community school which we are always grateful for their support in lending us the building for the day.
just before half past 11 400 or so trade union activists packed into the main hall there to listen to Rob Williams the chair of the NSSN give a appraisal of the last year and the magnificent struggles and protests the students lead last year following this the superb TUC demo attended by 3 quarters of a million trade unionistsa and workers .
A quick point to those who desserted the NSSN after a democratic decision was taken to form a anti cuts committee in late January it was excellent to see that this has not dampened the spirit of those who still attended and certainly numbers were still very impressive. I'd estimate about 400 maybe more.
But throughout the morning and the afternoon sessions we were given some brilliant speechs from such people like Tony Mulhearn who was involved in the famous Liverpool 47 struggle in the mid 80's where 47 labour councillors took on the tory government and won. In stark contrast to todays liverpool city council again run by a labour run administration headed by Joe Anderson who has seen through huge cuts and a lot of hand ringing to go with it. Tony made the point if Liverpool residents were given the choice today we are sure the good people of Liverpool would prefer a fighting council willing to put up a fight and bravely stand by their workers and residents than waht we have today a lot of nothing and a lot of deep unessesary cuts passed on by a labour council.
We had several more excellent speakers in the morning session chaired by Rob Williams who has faced some struggles himself in the trade union movement himself which i may look at with his dispute with Ford another time it was a interesting dispute.
We had the excellent Jane Aitchison who said to us "More people support nationalisation of the banks than rewards for the bankers" i could not agree more. I really do such feeling is growing more and more per day.
Only a year or two ago John Redwood was quoted by saying we all look for ways to avoid paying tax. SSuch ways of how things have changed is a remark like that today would be heavily frowned upon today where there is little sympathy for the bankers who caused this economic crisis with their wreckless gambling speculative culture.
There were so many excellent speechs i dont think i have enough room on this blog to do themall justice but i felt so inspired by the whole event to know that there are trade unionists and activists willing to stand up for our class and fight the austerity project being enforced on us today.
There were recouring themes throughout the conference i felt. Many in the trade union movement will know about the upcoming co-ordinated strike action which ballot vote permissing we will have up to 3 quarters of a million workers out on strike on that day alone. This will be in conjunction with big mass rally's and demonstrations in our towns and cities across the land on this same day.
I believe there is a big demo planned on London for this day with a march and a rally to westminster too i will blog about that nearer the time sending solidarity to all workers taking industrial action to defend the pensions that are heavily under threat by this condem government.
There has always been trade union victimisation and we got to hear from both suspended London Underground Tube drivers Arwyn Thomas and Eamonn Lynch Eamonn who has since won his job back through tribunal yet Arwyn has disgracefully not this is why the RMT has called 4 days of solid strike action to coincide with June 30th to stand up for their fellow trade unionist who was disgracefully targetted due to his trade union activities although London Underground will not admit to that.
It is a crying shame that in the Uk we have some of the harshest anti trade union laws in Europe this was said once by Tony Blair a labour prime minister. The travesty is that during the last labour government failed to repeal any of the anti trade union laws in 13 years of a labour government. This just confirms to me how much labour care for workers. They dont.
We had excellent contributions from all unions i think We had Martin Powell Davies from the NUT who his union are also balloting for strike action on June 30th to the leader of the CWU in London who's members face loosing many of their mail sorting depots very soon if the privatisation of the royal mail goes through
There was many references to Vince Cables attack on the unions this week when he spoke at the GMB conference in Brighton. Many at the NSSN conference today wanted to take on Vince and show him workers can fight back and are not scared of him.
One activist from the PCS stood up to say mmy dad told me to stand up to bullies and if they come back for more give them a bloody great punch in the nose. This is exactly what the trade union movement and the organised working class plan to do on June the 30th.
Of course June the 30th is not the end. It is just the start to building pressure on teh TUC and other big unions such as Unite and Unison to join in the battles later in the year building for a all out public sector general strike to defend all we have gained as a class in the last 100 or so years.
Another point that kept being raised was the inaction of Unison with Dave prentice the general secretary of this union dragging his heels and holding his members back. Saying that his members dont want to fight and have no desire to strike in the autumn. This is not waht i hear and many Unison members want to join mass action with other trade unions such as PCS, NUT, CWU, NUJ and many more hopefully to come aboard .
I am sure to revisit this conference next year and detail it more in this blog in the coming weeks as we lead up to June the 30th which will hopefully be the closest we have coem to a all out public sector general strike for some time. Certainly many workers will be new to strike action and taking industrail action. These workers must be supported and given solidarity and not left on their own. A injury to one is a injury to all in this movement.
Lastly i'd like to mention the inspirational Greek bus union leader who came to speak at our conference today. I was so pleased to hear of other workers across the world facing cuts are fighting back too. As this is not a battle just limited to Britain this is a attack on all workers all over the world and a chance for the capitailists to regain what crumbs we have to repower their system.
The Greek union leader spoke through a translater but his message was loud and clear. They are ready to stand with us across Europe too. He said that Greece now has VAT now 23%, retirement at 67 years old and this is just the start.
In Greece teachers salaries cut from 1300 to 1000 Euros this is staggering and all things we can see being tried over here in Britain before long.
There was a mass standing ovation for this guys speech and we here in Britain wish him and his workers luck in their battles in Greece too.
So all in all todays NSSN conference was excellenta nd helped us discuss and build a strategy for taking on and fighting the cuts. Many trade unions and trades councils are being reformed and turned into fighting unions. But the fight must go on and the struggle must continue inside and outside the unions. This is just the start lets keep building for a better future.