Trade unionists fighting back across the public and private sectors came together at the Unite the Resistance conference in central London last Saturday.
Workers reported from their strikes at Hovis in Wigan, South Gloucestershire council and ISS cleaners on East Coast trains. Teachers, firefighters and postal workers from around Britain were at the conference too.
Union leaders—including CWU general secretary Billy Hayes, EIS president Phil Jackson and UCU vice president Liz Lawrence—joined them.
Bfawu bakers’ union leader Ronnie Draper got a standing ovation when he called for unions to “reinvent bottle”.
“It’s true that things are hard for people now, but they’re no harder than for people in Greece and Italy where they have general strikes,” he said.
“Trade union leaders have got to do what it says on the tin—they’ve got to lead. We balloted our members for a general strike—and we got a 78 percent yes vote. If you don’t ask you won’t get a yes.”
More than 500 people attended the conference, which was on the theme of Organising to Win. There were large workshops on topics such as defending the NHS and beating oppression at work.
Train cleaner Alex Ajufo talked about how building the union had helped bring workers together. “The management wouldn’t listen to us because we were cleaners,” he said.
“But all are equal, black and white. We came together to fight together in the workplace.
“The only way we can fight the problem of oppression is through solidarity.”
Other speakers in the plenary sessions called for unity against government attempts to divide us.
“The Tories have set up a false divide between disabled peoples’ rights and workers’ rights,” said lecturer Ciara Doyle, an activist with Disabled People Against Cuts.
Veteran anti-racist campaigner Lee Jasper brought a cheer to the room when he asked “What happened to the English Defence League? Unite Against Fascism beat their arse.”
He called for opposition to the Tories’ immigration bill.
Jane Aitchison from the PCS union warned against unions pinning their hopes on a future Labour government. “I can’t wait till 2015 for things to get better,” she said. “It would be wrong for us not to try to stop this now.”