Socialist Worker

Right to Work conference: a chance to join the resistance

by Viv Smith
Issue No. 2201

Workers rally at the Greek parliament on Thursday of last week
  (Pic: Workers Solidarity)

Workers rally at the Greek parliament on Thursday of last week (Pic: Workers Solidarity)

Everyone who wants to be part of the resistance in Britain and Europe should be at the Right to Work emergency conference on 22 May.

A trade unionist from Greece will talk about how workers have been striking and taking to the streets against savage austerity measures.

A member of the Portuguese Left Bloc, which has made big electoral breakthroughs, will be there.

Activists from across Britain will come together—including workers who have led strike action at British Airways and students who have occupied their colleges to defend education.

It will be a key staging post to developing networks of resistance and solidarity in every town and city in Britain.

Emily Balsdon is a student at the University of East Anglia. Her student union has passed a motion supporting the conference and is putting on a minibus to it.

“Most students are forced to work to survive, so we are workers too,” she said.

“The Norwich Right to Work group has brought trade unionists and students together—people who are concerned about jobs, social services, health care and unemployment.

“It’s mad to say that the recession is finished. We are facing such big cuts and life is tougher. Meanwhile the bankers are living it up.


“I think it will be really important to hear about the struggles in Greece. The revolt of workers and students in the face of the International Monetary Fund is an inspiration.”

The conference, called under the slogan, “Defend our Services, Fight for Every Job, Organise Solidarity & Resistance,” has widespread backing.

The National Union of Teachers annual conference voted unanimously to back the conference.

Branches of the CWU, RMT and UCU unions are among a range of trade unions supporting it.

Pat Gallagher, a mental health nurse in Manchester, says the conference will help her build the fight against cuts.

“We are one of the few areas where managers have admitted how much they want to slash—nearly £1 billion from the health budget by 2014.

“Mental health cuts are a big problem in Manchester. The number of beds has already been cut.

“We have got to be prepared to fight—even if the union leaders won’t. That’s why we are taking people to the conference.”

Pat adds that the conference will be useful in challenging right wing arguments.

“We have to find ways of tackling the divisions that managers and bosses sow,” she said. “The workshop on migrant workers at the last Right to Work conference helped me take those arguments on.

“This year’s session on fighting racism will be really important.”

Rob Rayner works in one of the biggest job centres in Leeds and is a PCS union rep.

As unemployment rises, there is growing demand for job centre services—yet even here jobs aren’t safe.

“Jobcentre Plus is one of the biggest civil service departments but job security is a huge issue,” said Rob.

“There has been massive recruitment of people on temporary contracts and no one knows if they will be renewed.

“But there is no fall in the workload—and the stress is huge.

“We have quite a few people who want to come to the conference to talk with other trade unionists about how we can organise.

“We are also keen to come back and set up an organisation for unemployed workers in Leeds.”

Luke Wilson, an IT worker in the Unite union and a delegate on the Leeds trades council, stressed the need for unity.

“It is difficult to win a struggle if you are fighting on your own,” he said. “Things that affect one group affect us all, like cuts in public services.


“The last conference was excellent. There was a good turn out and a real appetite to fight back. We need to take this further now.”

Luke sees the conference as a mechanism for increasing workers’ confidence to fight.

“The trade union bureaucracy keeps holding struggle back, using the excuse of not rocking the boat for the Labour Party,” he said.

“It’s a false argument that we need to be prepared to confront.

“It is important that we struggle for rank and file confidence and control so that we can fight the attacks that are coming.

“We need more power in the hands of rank and file trade union members.”


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