THE SCOTTISH Trades Union Congress (STUC) met in Perth last week against a background of rising bitterness with New Labour. The conference opened with a stage managed attempt to paper over the cracks between the unions and the government.
In a blaze of publicity, first minister Jack McConnell and STUC president David Bleiman signed a 'concordat to usher in a new era of cooperation' between the Scottish Executive and the trade unions. Before the ink had dried on the deal John Edmonds, leader of the GMB, challenged it. He told the media that his union would withdraw support from Labour candidates who don't stand up against the use of private companies in public services.
Even better was the response from RMT rail union leader Bob Crow. He brought the house down when he told delegates in the debate on the anti-union laws:
'It's no good just passing resolutions-we should be doing what the Italian workers are doing. We should be saying 'Stuff your anti-union laws.' 'We should be out on the streets demonstrating to defend workers' rights.' The best sessions were the debates on Palestine and Iraq. The STUC has a long record of supporting the Palestinian cause. This year there was widespread recognition of the need to mobilise trade union members in the campaign for Palestinian rights.
General council member, Eddy Reilly from the PCS union had been to Palestine as part of the STUC delegation earlier in the year. Moving the executive motion, he described that visit as 'a harrowing experience'. 'The STUC is fully behind the Palestinian cause and condemns the crimes against humanity that are being committed by the Israeli state,' he said.
And he pointed out, 'The suicide bombings are acts of despair and desperation on the part of young Palestinians who feel abandoned and humiliated by Israeli aggression.' Delegate after delegate spoke in support of the Palestinians.
Alan Rae from Edinburgh Trades Council said Israel acts as the US watchdog in the region. He argued for the Zionist state to be replaced with a secular Palestine state where ordinary Jewish and Palestinian people could live together peacefully. In reply, STUC general secretary Bill Speirs expressed personal sympathy with this view, but argued that the STUC was duty bound to support the Palestinian call for an autonomous state based on the West Bank.
Conference voted overwhelmingly to demand that the government ends all arms sales and takes sanctions against Israel. It also demanded that the STUC organises a boycott of Israeli goods. Conference also agreed to mobilise for the demonstrations and events called in support of the Palestinian cause.
Delegates voted with only one abstention to support a motion moved by Aslef, the train drivers' union, against war on Iraq. Jim Friel of the GPMU print union called for a massive union turnout on the Scottish anti-war demonstration in Glasgow this Saturday.
With over 20 delegates, the Scottish Socialist Party made a big impact at this year's conference. SSP members spoke in all of the main debates. The SSP fringe meeting on the Wednesday evening had standing room only, with over 50 delegates present.
Based on reports from DAVE SHERRY, Scottish Socialist Voice