Sunday, September 08, 2013

#TUC13 Congress 2013 and the State of the Unions

On train to Bournemouth to be a UNISON delegate at this years TUC Congress. I have just read through (again) the final agenda and finished off reading the mammoth 184 page General Council Report.

There are many good motions to be debated including combating austerity, improving housing supply, employment rights, fair pay, on line union voting and the Bangladesh Accord.  

For the first time in many years the trade union movement had a welcome increase in membership in 2012 by 59,000. Not a huge increase but a start in the right direction at a time when many have predicted a fall due to cuts in public services and the recession. The density rate of union members in the public sector is 56.3% but in the Private sector it is only 14.4%.

This very low density rate is our achilles heal yet there are still 6.5 million members of trade unions, the largest membership organisation in the UK by a long way. 

The Tory led Government coalition onslaught on workers rights is now in full swing. Fees for employment tribunals, reducing rights on redundancy, TUPE protection, health & safety etc. I suspect that this has something to do with our slight improvement. Workers are first and foremost fearful of their jobs and want protection at work. It is our distasteful duty to build density and organisation in all unions on the back of all this misery - but it has to be done.

You cannot rely on the law to protect you at work. You can only rely on your fellow workers and your trade union.

We also have to keep making the case for a practical alternative economic policy. Not only within the Labour Party but in the unions as well. I still have "difficult" conversations with union members about the real reason for the financial crisis of 2007 being the theft and recklessness of the Banks and not social security.

I'll try and post on as many debates and fringes as I can during the next few days.

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