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From The Socialist newspaper, 5 July 2007

National Shop Stewards' Network conference

Join the fightback against the bosses' offensive

This Saturday 7 July will see hundreds of shop stewards and workplace reps from all unions and industries gather together in London at the founding conference of the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN).

Bill Mullins

The initiative for the conference came originally from the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) but this week's conference has been mainly organised by the Shop Stewards Network steering group (SG). The SG was elected last October at a previous conference and is made up of rank-and-file reps.

The RMT and four other national unions (PCS, CWU, POA and the NUM), along with dozens of local trade union branches, have already sponsored the conference and are sending delegates.

This meeting will be the first rank-and-file conference of shop stewards for many years. In the 1970s and 1980s the development of the shop stewards' movement was an integral part of the rise in militant industrial action in those years.

The shop stewards' movement was able to unite struggles at local level. And it led to the development of national combine shop stewards' committees in engineering, the car industry and other industries.

These in turn gave rise to national claims and national action against the attacks on living standards, jobs and conditions.

Much of industry has since been wiped out, in an act of sabotage by British capitalism not seen since the Romans' destruction of Carthage. But this does not mean the end of workers' power. The decisive nature of even relatively small sections of workers such as the rail workers and the postal workers means that their present example will and can be followed by many others.

It will not be an exact repeat of the past but the need for an organisation like the NSSN cannot be overstated. Many obstacles will be thrown up in its path, as has been the case in some of the more right-wing unions.

The conference will allow shop stewards to compare experiences but also to develop fighting strategies to apply to their own situations. The workshops on the anti-union laws, organising migrant workers and young workers as well as fighting privatisation and the government's pay freeze will be key sessions where these tactics can be hammered out.

For more information about the NSSN see the web site http://www.shopstewards.net

Come to the NSSN conference on Saturday 7 July, 11am-5pm, South Camden Community School, Charrington Street, London NW1.


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