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TUC Congress debates action to defeat the anti-trade union bill
Iain Dalton, Congress delegate with Usdaw (personal capacity)
Opening just one day after Jeremy Corbyn's stunning victory in the labour leadership election, this year's TUC Congress in Brighton had a noticeably different mood.
Hundreds of cheering supporters outside greeted Corbyn's arrival to address the conference which was matched by an equally warm reception inside. Delegates enjoyed the refreshing experience of a Labour leader speaking in support of strikes and the vital role trade unions play in defending workers.
The most pressing issue on the Congress agenda was that of the government's latest anti-union legislation. The main composite motion included references to giving support to any union finding themselves outside this law as well as organising committees to resist this legislation based on trades councils and local anti-cuts groups.
However, the potential difficulty for the TUC in developing a serious strategy to defeat the anti-union bill could be seen by the TUC leaders 'reservations' on a stand-alone RMT motion.
Despite passing a motion two years ago to consider a general strike, they quibbled over the inclusion of references to 'generalised strikes' to defeat the bill. That they didn't formally oppose the motion reflects the huge pressure from below. This was shown by the big turnout to the National Shop Steward's Network pre-Congress rally and lobby as well as a number of general secretaries pledging to go to jail if necessary in defiance of the legislation.
A number of Socialist Party members spoke during Congress, including PCS (civil servants union) vice-president John McInally in the Trade Union Bill debate, to explain how PCS has re-recruited 90% of its members in groups such as the Department for Work and Pensions where check-off has been removed by the Tories. They now intend to roll this out across the public sector.
Significantly, the proposed lobby of the third reading of the bill looks set to be a mass protest. Local trades councils should organise transport for any union members and supporters to attend to turn this lobby into a mass demonstration.
The willingness to mobilise significant coordinated industrial action may soon be put to the test as congress pledged to mount a campaign against the public sector pay freeze.
The attacks facing workers since the election mark nothing less than an all-out declaration of war on the working class. It will be vital that pressure is maintained on the trade union leaders to deliver the action necessary to defeat the Tories.
Kill the Bill: defeat the Tories' anti-union plans
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In The Socialist 23 September 2015:
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