Try Red Pepper in print with our pay-as-you-feel subscription. You decide the price, from as low as £2 a month.More info ×
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.
Nick Dowson looks at the new wave of co-ops and community groups where people are building their own truly affordable homes
Hsiao-Hung Pai meets people affected by the fire, and finds sadness and suffering mixed with a continuing wariness of the official investigations
Chris Williamson MP, winner of the election's tightest marginal, Derby North, and recently reappointed shadow minister for fire services, talks to Ashish Ghadiali about Jeremy Corbyn, the housing crisis and winning from the left
The Corbyn-supporting group is preparing for another election at any moment, writes Adam Peggs – and now has the potential to create powerful training initiatives, union links and party reform efforts
’We believe in you. We are with you. We will never forget.’ Grenfell solidarity sweeps East London in mass banner drops from housing estates
Michael Calderbank profiles Jeremy Corbyn's new supporters in parliament
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to witness devastating political violence, but the world refuses to act. Ishiaba Kasonga and Serge Egola Angbakodolo ask why?
When fire safety has become a privilege for the rich, it’s time to stop austerity and fund emergency mass works to raise standards immediately, writes Jane Shallice
Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art
Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs
Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox
Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole
Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part
Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper
Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s
Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach
Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.
Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite
Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead
Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee
Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power
The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced
India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya
North Korea is just the start of potentially deadly tensions between the US and China
US-China relations have taken on a disturbing new dimension under Donald Trump, writes Dorothy Guerrero
The feminist army leading the fight against ISIS
Dilar Dirik salutes militant women-organised democracy in action in Rojava
France: The colonial republic
The roots of France’s ascendant racism lie as deep as the origins of the French republic itself, argues Yasser Louati
This is why it’s an important time to support Caroline Lucas
A vital voice of dissent in Parliament: Caroline Lucas explains why she is asking for your help
PLP committee elections: it seems like most Labour backbenchers still haven’t learned their lesson
Corbyn is riding high in the polls - so he can face down the secret malcontents among Labour MPs, writes Michael Calderbank
Going from a top BBC job to Tory spin chief should be banned – it’s that simple
This revolving door between the 'impartial' broadcaster and the Conservatives stinks, writes Louis Mendee – we need a different media
I read Gavin Barwell’s ‘marginal seat’ book and it was incredibly awkward
Gavin Barwell was mocked for writing a book called How to Win a Marginal Seat, then losing his. But what does the book itself reveal about Theresa May’s new top adviser? Matt Thompson reads it so you don’t have to
We can defeat this weak Tory government on the pay cap
With the government in chaos, this is our chance to lift the pay cap for everyone, writes Mark Serwotka, general secretary of public service workers’ union PCS
Corbyn supporters surge in Labour’s internal elections
A big rise in left nominations from constituency Labour parties suggests Corbynites are getting better organised, reports Michael Calderbank
Undercover policing – the need for a public inquiry for Scotland
Tilly Gifford, who exposed police efforts to recruit her as a paid informer, calls for the inquiry into undercover policing to extend to Scotland
Becoming a better ally: how to understand intersectionality
Intersectionality can provide the basis of our solidarity in this new age of empire, writes Peninah Wangari-Jones
The myth of the ‘white working class’ stops us seeing the working class as it really is
The right imagines a socially conservative working class while the left pines for the days of mass workplaces. Neither represent today's reality, argues Gargi Bhattacharyya
The government played the public for fools, and lost
The High Court has ruled that the government cannot veto local council investment decisions. This is a victory for local democracy and the BDS movement, and shows what can happen when we stand together, writes War on Want’s Ross Hemingway.
An ‘obscure’ party? I’m amazed at how little people in Britain know about the DUP
After the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists, Denis Burke asks why people in Britain weren't a bit more curious about Northern Ireland before now
The Tories’ deal with the DUP is outright bribery – but this government won’t last
Theresa May’s £1.5 billion bung to the DUP is the last nail in the coffin of the austerity myth, writes Louis Mendee