Thursday, June 16, 2011

Newham Trades Council relaunch: What was Good, Bad and at times Ugly

Last night I went to the relaunch of Newham Trades Council which took place inside the Town Hall Council Chamber. I was late due to another meeting and missed the opening speeches by NUT General secretary Christine Blower;  PCS assistant General secretary Chris Baugh and
Steve Hedley from the RMT. Steve had left by the time I arrived.

I must admit to being impressed with the turn out, which pretty much filled the Council Chamber. People were  making contributions as I took my seat.  Most of which were very good and constructive.  Pointing out that we must build unity to defeat this Tory led coalition. I was surprised though that quite a few of the speakers admited that they did not live or work in the borough.

However, there were some extremely silly and sectarian grandstanding going on.  Repeating almost word for word in some instances, the Tory lies that Labour Council cuts are all unnecessary and are only being carried out to embarrass the government.  I could imagine the Evil one himself in the corner chuckling to himself at some of the comments made.  How anyone thinks they can build opposition by splitting and wreaking is beyond me?  I'm more than happy to have a row with such people but I would rather be fighting Tories.  Honest!

Overall there were many good points made and of course it is entirely legitimate to constructively criticise the Party and hold elected representatives to account.  However one contributor ended his thoughts by calling for people to stop voting Labour.  There was some clapping to this. My response is yes, if you do not agree with Labour, then don't vote Labour.  It is a free vote. No one is forcing you to vote Labour in the borough with the biggest Labour vote in the entire country.

Chris and Christine made excellent closing speeches.  Chris reminded everyone that the anti poll tax campaign was successful because everyone was under attack and everyone was united in opposition.  While Christine pointed out the ludicrous situation that there is no legal requirement for a school to have a library but there is for a prison to have one. Both of them urge support for the likely Pension's strike on June 30th and look forward to possible further strikes over Pensions involving all the public sector unions later on in the year.

I thought this was on the whole a successful meeting and well done to Newham Trades Council Secretary, Peter Smith (left of picture) for a well organised and well chaired event.  This could be the basis of a successful relaunch of the trades council.  But not if some just want to use it to bash Labour.  We must agree on what we can agree and leave the rest to be fought over elsewhere and another day. I didn't stand up and say my piece last night out of respect for the speakers present.  Because a good meeting would have just descended into a shouting match (both ways).  But I doubt I would hold my tongue again.  It also desperately needs the centre left to participate and not stay away because they cannot be bothered to go to a meeting and be lectured by those they consider (rightly or wrongly) to be weirdo la la fantasists. 

We should also recognise that the majority of workers in Newham are not in the public sector and many desperately need our help to organise.  Our fight over the Tory cuts affects everyone, but we must also support and campaign on bread and butter trade union issues in Newham such as Living wage plus, trade union recognition and health & safety in small businesses.  As the UNISON General Secretary, Dave Prentis said, Trade unions were not created for the good times, we were created for the bad times.  That bad time has come under this Government.  We need to organise centrally and locally in the Labour movement. Newham Trades Council has a proud history and I hope a bright future.   
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