Around 500 workplace reps assembled in Camden Centre in London today for an excellent seventh annual National Shop Stewards Network conference.
NSSN chair Rob Williams kicked off the day’s discussions, reminding the audience that it was their conference, to discuss and debate building workplace struggles, solidarity, and action across the whole trade union movement.
To introduce the first discussion, entitled The Fightback Austerity, Campaigning for a General Strike, the conference was addressed by PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, Billy Hayes CWU General Secretary and Steve Gillian, General Secretary of the POA.
Mark Serwotka emphasised the unprecedented nature of the attacks in this period and said that after Osborne’s latest statement, normal rules of engagement do not apply.
With 85% of the cuts still to come, unions need a response that is up to the scale of the battle; “a radical opposition is required now more than ever…
“We need people bold enough to say that there should not be a single cut”.
Throughout the discussion from the floor. Shop stewards and union activists from across the country were cheered when they demanded that the time for the TUC to call a General Strike was more urgent than ever. “there has never been a better time to build for a general strike!” said one delegate.
Conference resolved to call for action and to argue for a coalition of willing Trade Union leaders, stewards, members to lead the fight against austerity.
Delegates also raised the question of worker’s political representation and the need for a new workers party. The expulsion of two Labour councillors from Southampton for voting against cuts, and the attack by the Green Party council in Brighton on refuse workers pay underlined that need more than ever.
Perhaps the most inspiring part of the day was the international report back from RMT Assistant General Secretary Steve Hedley and NUT NEC member Martin Powell-Davies who were part of delegation of five trade unionists who had flown from London as part of an international visit, along with delegations from Austria, Germany and Switzerland, organised by EMEP, the Party of Labour. It included two other RMT Executive members.
A business section of the conference was introduced by NSSN secretary Linda Taaffe, who referred to a written report that had been circulated.
Linda appealed for finance donations to be sought widely from supporting trade unionists and trade unions; and a new steering committee was elected for 2013-2014.
Few of the hundreds present in the hall will have left without feeling that the NSSN has already made a tremendous mark on events, and with the authority and allegiances it is building up, can go on to become an even more decisive force in making sure we have a trade union movement that is up to the tasks ahead.
One delegate afterwards said that it was refreshing after the previous week’s People’s Assembly, which “wasn’t a forum for democratic debate on the programme needed against the cuts, nor did it answer the central question of what needs to be done.”
Here in fact, Rob Williams, chair of the National Shop Stewards Network, wasn’t even called into the PA session titled “Tactics for the anti-austerity movement”, despite requesting to contribute both before the event and during the session.
However, whatever failings of the People’s Assembly,it shows the need to continue to build the NSSN, and the success of the NSSN conference shows that trade unionists understand the need to organise to put pressure on the TUC to organise a General Strike and build a New Workers Party
NSSN “Trade Union” strike RMT POA PCS NUT Turkey solidarity “shop steward” “General strike” CWU wokplace “Billy Hayes” “Steve Hedley” “Martin Powell-Davies” “Mark Serwotka” TUC “Linda Taffe” “Green Party” “Labour Party”