Socialist Worker

TUC congress delegates pass motions opposing austerity and racism

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans in Brighton
Issue No. 2521

Congress delegates listen to Frances OGrady

Congress delegates listen to Frances O'Grady (Pic: Socialist Worker)

The TUC bureaucracy was pessimistic about the prospects of defending workers' rights at conference in Brighton this week.

It has placed its faith in the EU and waiting for a Labour government to defend workers’ rights. But many working class people, including their own members, backed leaving the EU in June despite their leaders’ recommendation.

The TUC believes the prospect of Labour government is slipping further away, pulled by the argument that Corbyn is “unelectable”. It was significant that he was only invited to the General Council dinner on Monday night rather than being invited to address conference.

Sean Hoyle, RMT union national president, told Socialist Worker, “They said that Jeremy Corbyn spoke last year, but that seems like a bit of a cop out.

“I think the mass movement support Corbyn, but I’m not sure how many trade union leaders support him and how many support him through gritted teach.”


Sean said TUC leader France’s O’Grady claimed she nominated Jeremy Corbyn at her Constituency Labour Party (CLP) selection meeting.

Frances OGrady at the annual May Day demonstration earlier this year

Frances O'Grady at the annual May Day demonstration earlier this year (Pic: The Weekly Bull/Flikr)

But many delegates do support left wing policies—and want to fight against austerity. Labour's shadow education secretary Angela Raynor received rapturous applause when she slammed the Tories grammar school policy.

As Ucatt union delegate James Moran told Socialist Worker, “Jeremy Corbyn’s policies are for workers—that’s what we’re about as trade unionists.

CWU union general secretary Dave Ward argued that the TUC should use the radical mood around Jeremy Corbyn to mobilise workers. He said, “If Jeremy Corbyn can get 500,000 people to join the Labour Party, we can get 1 million people on the streets to defend workers rights.”

Delegates passed a motion that “instructs the TUC Executive to work towards and coordinate a major national demonstration in 2017 on a new deal for workers”.

I think the mass movement support Corbyn, but I’m not sure how many trade union leaders support him and how many support him through gritted teach

Sean Hoyle, RMT national president

The conference was also set to debate motion 29 against the pay cap. It calls for the TUC to “actively support and coordinate strikes action across the trade union movement” and call a “national demonstration to build support”.

Delegates should support this motion.

The Tories are weak, but it will take a real fight to exploit their divisions and push back austerity. As James said, “People before us had to fight for what we’ve got—and now we’re going to fight even harder to defend it.”

Stand up to Racism gets support at congress

A motion on “challenging the politics of hate” was overwhelmingly passed at TUC conference. It called on the TUC to “launch a well-resourced Stand up to Racism campaign to condemn these attacks and continue to fight against racism and hatred”.

Many speakers highlighted racist attacks that took place after the EU referendum result and saw the Leave vote as driven by racism. Micky Nichols, a FBU union delegate, said, “We failed to defeat the politics of hate racism and division”.

Some racists felt emboldened as both the Remain and Leave campaigns whipped up racism against migrants. But the Leave vote was not primarily driven by racism and the majority of working class people are hostile to racism.

Kamaljeet Jandu from the GMB union pointed out, “The Remain campaign did not do enough to stand up to the anti-immigrant rhetoric”.

Janice Godrich, a PCS union delegate, added, “Sadly racism was here before the referendum and was fuelled by the right wing media ad by government.

“That’s why the motion calls for launching an antiracism campaign that’s integrated with an anti-cuts campaign.”

The TUC general council supported the motion, but with an explanation. Gloria Mills from the TUC General Council said, “We already support the UN Antiracism Day demonstration that’s organised by Stand Up to Racism.

“It is annual focal point for antiracism, which can have a bigger reach and focus than if it was just restricted to the trade unions.”

Delegates oppose Tory Trade Union Act

Delegates passed a motion arguing for the TUC “to convene an urgent conference on how best to coordinate responses” to the Trade Union Act.

Tony Burke, Unite union assistant general secretary, said, “We must have the right to strike, collective bargaining is just collective begging without it.”

An amendment from the FBU firefighters union called on the TUC to “discuss all options for challenging the new legislation”. This would include “practical steps to be taken to support any unions and groups of workers threatened”.

If Jeremy Corbyn can get 500,000 people to join the Labour Party, we can get 1 million people on the streets to defend workers rights.

Dave Ward, CWU general secretary

Ian Murray, an FBU delegate, said, “For the last two years we’ve been talking the talk, but now we’ve got to walk the walk.

“We should be discussing as a mass movement how we defy it.”

Sean Hoyle from the RMT said, “Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to repeal the Act is just one more reason why we need a Corbyn-led Labour government.” His argument was echoed by the POA union general secretary Steve Gillan.

It’s welcome that Corbyn opposes the Act, but it will take action now to defeat it.

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