Wales TUC - 'Unity' must be based on action

Right wing leaders fail to stifle debate

The main word for this year's Wales TUC Conference was 'unity' but as the debates continued it became obvious that there were marked differences in what delegates perceived by unity. For the more combative union delegations, particularly those in the unions that took strike action on May 10, and indeed many rank and file delegates from all unions, unity means marching, rallying and striking together. However for the leadership of some unions unity seems to mean a refusal to discuss differences of opinion on tactics, strategy and particularly politics.

Alec Thraves, delegate from Swansea Trades Council, ran foul of the drive to mute criticism and hide differences when he suggested that thousands of trade unionists, particularly in UNISON, would have been frustrated that they were denied the opportunity to participate in the pensions struggle since November 30. Alec was censured by the President of the Wales TUC for attacking the leadership of another organisation.

In resolution after resolution on the main issues affecting Welsh trade unionists, Conference voted to fight the cuts. Differences at first glance looked minor but were indicative of which delegates have already committed to fighting all cuts, including those from a Labour Welsh Government and others who want to try to manage the cuts more humanely than the Tories.

Cardiff Trades Council's amendment to the Living Wage resolution, calling for £8 an hour with no exceptions on age or other grounds was defeated by the block votes of the big unions. As was Swansea Trades Council's amendment to a resolution on increased powers for the Welsh Government, calling for no increases in taxation for low-paid workers to pay for the cuts and instead for taxes to be targeted at big business, profiteering landlords and the rich. But both received significant support from more left unions, particularly PCS.

Comrade Les Woodward moved the Swansea Trades Council resolution on fighting the cuts, one of the few resolutions to demand support for continued strike action on pensions. Bob Crow seconding, laid the blame for the crisis on capitalism. It was unanimously passed but the General Council qualified their support by refusing to accept the commitment to organising a demo in Cardiff; probably worried it might look like criticism of a Labour Welsh Government. Incredibly UNISON's Regional Secretary, Margaret Thomas,to shouts of 'no' around the conference floor, called for Wales to hold a separate demonstration on October 20.

When seconding the composite on supporting Remploy a passionate Les Woodward, national Remploy Trade Union Convenor, was told off for swearing; now swearing is not something I generally approve of but I'd regard calling Tory ministers “bastards” more a point of information. In the debate on a RMT motion on fighting attacks on trade union rights, mover Bob Crow and other speakers, made the point that Labour had left the Tories’ anti trade union legislation in tact despite 13 years of majority government and threatened POA members with prison for taking strike action. It was also pointed out that by refusing to accept majority votes for action as mandates because of margin or turnout, unions risk giving credibility to the Tories plans for minimums on both.

In a move to stifle further criticism of Labour cuts in Wales, the General Council forced through (only on the card vote of the big 3 unions, UNISON, UNITE & GMB) a reorganisation meaning that there will only be a full 3-day conference every other year in future; in between conference will be a 1-day affair with only 'important' resolutions being taken. This conference was itself the first since the emergency 1-day conference of November 2010; we're facing the most vicious attacks on the working class in generations and yet the Wales TUC does not meet.

Maybe somebody wants to deny Socialist Party members such a forum because they can see we're getting an echo; eight Socialist Party members were delegated and they made over 30 speeches from the rostrum. Over £200 was raised from delegates for the Socialist Party fighting fund and 52 copies of The Socialist were sold.

Ronnie Job, Swansea Trades Council delegate

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