Unions call for EU treaty vote
Opposition to the neoliberal agenda has pushed trade unions into calling for a referendum on the European “reform treaty” – a rehash of the European Constitution – despite attempts by TUC leaders to get them to soften their position.
The GMB and RMT unions are pressing for votes at the TUC Congress that call on the government to hold a referendum on the reform treaty – a move that has been ruled out by Gordon Brown.
According to reports, Brown expressed anger at the motions when he met union leaders after his speech to the TUC on Monday – and he told them that he would not give any ground.
The GMB is demanding a vote on the treaty in order to press the government to end its opt-out from European social legislation that protects workers’ rights.
In a separate motion, the RMT wants a referendum and to campaign for a “no” vote, on the grounds that the treaty reduces democracy, increases military activity and encourages more privatisation of public services.
Under pressure over law reform
Demands at the TUC Congress for the repeal of anti-trade union laws were given an edge by the recent unofficial action of prison officers.
The TUC passed two motions in support of the Trade Union Freedom Bill. Bob Crow of the RMT pointed out that Gordon Brown’s speech had made not one promise to extend trade union rights.
The second motion harshly criticised the general council of the TUC for inactivity over the issue of trade union law reform. Yet the general council backed it and it was passed unanimously.
A fringe meeting on trade union law was addressed by striking workers from Manchester mental health trust. They received a warm reception, as they had done throughout the TUC Congress.
Firm backing for council housing
The TUC passed two motions on housing during its Congress. Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said current government policy on the issue “defied common sense”.
Derek Simpson, joint general secretary of Unite, said he was glad council housing was back in the mainstream political vocabulary.
The motions confirmed trade unions’ commitment to the so called “fourth option” of direct investment in council housing demanded by campaigns such as Defend Council Housing.