Wednesday, October 15, 2008

“Building Stronger Unions – Organising the Future”

I will admit that I am not always over impressed with Labour movement conferences. While they are mostly pretty important, some are worthy but boring, educative but dull and insular.

On the bright side, I normally feel much rejuvenated while I queue up at such events to register alongside other delegates. Looking around me I suddenly feel comparatively younger, slimmer and that my hair isn’t really that grey after all.

This conference was to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the TUC Organising Academy as well as debating the development of organising in UK trade unions.

However, yesterday at Congress House, as soon as I walked down the stairs into the lower hall area I could see something was different, as the place was absolutely packed with predominantly young trade union organisers. Maybe with its Organising Academy, the TUC has finally found a solution to the age old argument in trade unions about the role of organising and servicing, and there again maybe they haven’t. But this conference surely pointed a way forward at long last.

As well as being predominately young there were also many women delegates. Not so many black delegates but a great start.

There was definitely a modern US rally “feel” with activist speakers on the main platform telling “my organising story” as well as loud stirring music and on screen video clips.

I’ve taken notes about speakers and hopefully I will post further on what I thought was useful or topical. Below is a short snapshot of stuff I found interesting from some of the main speakers.

TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O’Grady – there are 3 million employees in workplaces which are covered by collective agreements who are not trade union members, 2/3 report that they have never been asked to join. Organising makes the difference between “Begging and Bargaining” “Winning or Losing”.

Christine Blower, NUT Acting General Secretary on a very similar theme “United we Bargain, Divided we Beg”.

Jack Dromey, UNITE general Secretary believes in “Strong, self confident, self sustaining workplace power”. With regard to unions fighting each other over recruitment he did not want UNITE to “Out UNISON, UNISON in care homes” (interesting). In relationships with employers he wanted unions to be “Partners not Pussycats”.

More to follow about this conference in future posts.

An excellent conference. It has given me a number of good ideas about organising within my employer. Let’s get busy, lets organise!


Paul said...

Thanks for the good review John, and more importantly glad you enjoyed the event.

Like you I'm not always excited about tu/labour movement conferences (including, I have to admit, a fair few I've helped to organise in the past!), but I really enjoyed Tuesday's event.

Delegates and speakers alike generated a really good atmosphere, and I think everyone at the event came out 'recharged' and with a few new ideas.

John Gray said...

Hi Paul

The conference was really good. well done. There was a real "buzz" to it. While we might not always agree on everything, everyone present was focused on the best way to grow the movement and "what's it all about" - protecting the interests of ordinary working people.