Yesterday Saturday the 9th of June in London’s friends meeting house probably the most militant layers of the labour movement met for the 6th annual National Shops Stewards Network conference. What a fantastic opening and the bar was set high with the standard of PCS Union’s general secretary Mark Serwotka opened the conference with a rousing speech. Assessing the last year where so much has gone on since we last met in a smaller room which is testament to how far the NSSN has come in just a year.
The potential for a mass rank-and-file organisation like the NSSN which was set up for periods of crisis like we are living through now. The NSSN was originally set up in 2006 by the RMT union and various other lefts in the unions with the intention of holding the unions leadership to account. SO far the NSSN has played a vital role in the struggles of the working class as disputes are increasing all the time.
This year we heard some fantastic accounts of the brave fighting militant sparks and construction workers who defeated the bully boys in the construction industry and took unofficial action every Wednesday at various locations around the country going beyond the unions official leadership and this is a victory we must celebrate and look to build on. Victories of such groups of the sparks was helped by organisations such as the NSSN and this was one of the main reasons like this for setting it up to lend to support to ordinary workers in struggle.
The NSSN despite being widely written off a few years back is clearly going from strength to strength with a turnout of 400+ delegates this weekend alone and those were just the ones who could make it this weekend.
There was fantastic speech’s and calls for action and to go further into the unions and continue to build for October the 20th mass TUC demonstration but it was made clear that this cannot be enough and the call was put out to start building the slogans for a all out general strike involving the public and private sector. Each one of our slogans last year of a mass demonstration then a 24 hour public sector general strike went down really well too so we’re hoping this can lead to bigger, wider escalated action on pensions of course as that battle is far from lost as mochas the right wing union leads and the government would have you believe.
There is also an opportunity to tie the pensions battle into other big national disputes such as regional pay and pay freeze’s that some in the public sector have faced for some years now.
The NSSN as the title suggested can play an important role in acting as a lever on the trade union movement lending support and supporting those who wish to go above and beyond their union and beat back this government intent on making ordinary people pay for a crisis not of their making.
Speaker after speaker made it clear there is an alternative and if we fight we can win. Although celebrating victories in the last year it was clear that these attacks on our living standards, pay, benefits and standards of life will only continue we are only an estimated 15% into the proposed public sector spending cuts. Which is frightening in itself time after time the NHS was talked of and the need to keep fighting to defend the jewel in the labour movement’s chest. It is clear that all disputes are linked up and not lead to separate disputes as as a class we are all under attack not some more than others. An injury to one is an injury to all was another slogan put out that is still very
With the democratic nature of the NSSN with so many key speakers from key disputes telling their story as they saw it and not spun or twisted genuine workers stories was hugely inspiring indeed.
The conference confirmed to me that the NSSN is still very well placed to grow and gain influence and give a voice to the rank-and-file in all the unions. We don’t look to replace the unions but act as a lever where the union’s leaders shirk their responsibilities. If they will not act to defend their members then we will move them aside and change the unions from the bottom up.
There is plenty for us to get our teeth in and the NSSN is always looking for donations and support from trade unionists or trades councils so if you can lend supporting anyway please do.