The agenda for the TUC’s 135th annual conference, to be held in Brighton from 8 September, includes attacks on flagship New Labour policies, such as Foundation Hospitals, and once again features condemnation for the government’s stance on Iraq.
Elsewhere, there are calls for the TUC to prioritise its campaigning work on pensions – a reflection of the number of workers” pensions hit by falling stock markets and the closure of company pension schemes to new members.
By far the most controversial proposal comes early on. In a move likely to alarm companies and the government, the Transport and General Workers’ Union calls for workers to be able to take part in secondary action – the right to walk out in sympathy with strikes in unrelated industries.
The Employment Relations Act comes under particular scrutiny. The RMT says that: “following six years of a Labour government the lack of progress in repealing anti-trade union legislation and supporting employment rights is completely unacceptable.” There are calls to reject any move to make arbitration in trade disputes compulsory, and for unions to be able to represent members irrespective of numbers at a workplace.
As always, the TUC agenda displays union worries over job losses in manufacturing. It includes calls for the appointment of a minister for manufacturing, the introduction of a 35-hour week, the implementation of European legislation on workers” rights to bring about a “level playing field in Europe,” and the revising of the remit of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee to take greater account of the manufacturing sector in setting interest rates.
Companies operating in the UK’s privatized sectors, including the rail and energy industry, are criticized for showing “little or no regard for the public interest.” The heads of such companies are slammed for receiving “large rewards that are wholly unjustified by their stewardship.”
In a sign that is likely to please global justice campaigners, there is evidence that trade unionists are becoming aware of the implications that the General Agreement on Trade in Services, currently under negotiation at the WTO, is likely to have on domestic jobs. UNISON shows its opposition to the “government’s policy of increased competition and private sector involvement in the delivery of public services,” and agrees with the critics of GATS that it will threaten UK services “by exposing them to world-wide competition.”
As has become routine in recent years, there is opposition to the government’s PFI policy, including calls for the strengthening of workforce protection and introduction of fair wages clauses.
Foundation hospitals are roundly attacked by UNISON and the TGWU, including criticism for the lack of consultation over this key government reform, and concern that Foundation Hospital Trusts will create a two-tier NHS where “elitism and excellence for the few replaces universal provision and excellence for all.”
The argument that Foundations Trusts will democratize the NHS is dismissed. They will instead “undermine democracy and accountability by ensuring a greater role for the private sector and by shifting responsibility for [Foundation Hospitals] from the Secretary of State to an unaccountable regulator.”
There is alarm at signs in this year’s Budget that pay remits for public sector workers are to include a stronger local and regional dimension. The Public and Commercial Services Union opposes moves towards “unjustified” regional pay, and calls for the maintenance of national pay rates and national pay bargaining for public sector workers.
The government is given a range of ideas for legislation to deal with the pensions crisis. Among the proposals floated in the TUC agenda are minimum compulsory employer contributions to workers’ pension schemes, and employer pension insurance to ensure scheme members are not deprived of benefits by failing discontinued schemes.
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers condemns the government’s proposal in a Green Paper to raise the public sector pension age from 60 to 65. There are also calls to re-introduce compulsory saving for retirement as “the only way of guaranteeing adequate levels of pension in the future.”
The main government minister who will be taking on delegates at the conference will be Chancellor Gordon Brown. However, he is unlikely to be the only figure preparing himself for a hostile reception. Digby Jones, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, will also be speaking at the TUC. He launched a pre-emptive strike, telling the BBC Today programme: “I wish trade unions would fight today’s and tomorrow’s battles and not yesterday’s.”
“It’s a real shame that the attitude seems to be “no, no, can’t, shan’t”, instead of saying “how can we improve skills and literacy and how are we going to stop jobs leaving the country?””
The presence of Digby Jones in Brighton will be only the third time that a CBI director has spoken at the TUC annual conference. His intervention is reflective of worries in government and industry at the new generation of more militant union leaders.
The “awkward squad”, or “New Left Majority” as they prefer to be known, have openly called for a review of political funding of the Labour Party by the union movement. Union leaders such as Billy Hayes of the CWU and Bob Crow of the RMT were also strident critics of the government’s invasion of Iraq at anti-war meetings.
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice
The Greens have stood down in Brighton Kemptown to clear the way for Labour, and the Lib Dems won’t stand in Brighton’s other seat, Green-held Pavilion. Davy Jones, who would have been the Green candidate in Kemptown, says this shows the way forward
The snap general election represents a unique opportunity to defeat this terrible government. We believe that visual artists have a crucial role to play!
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports
On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.
Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns
The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections
In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines
Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill