What should be the biggest conference of its type for years is winning wide support across the trade union movement.
The Organising for Fighting Unions conference, set for Saturday 11 November in east London, will discuss defending public services from the government’s assault.
It will also discuss political representation for trade unionists. New Labour is privatising public services, attacking workers’ pensions and retained every one of Margaret Thatcher’s anti-trade union laws.
The conference has been initiated by Respect, and hundreds of trade unionists from across the labour movement have signed up to back it.
They include PCS civil service workers’ union general secretary Mark Serwotka, RMT rail workers’ union general secretary Bob Crow, and University and College Union (UCU) joint general secretary Paul Mackney.
Bob Crow says, “This is an important conference for all trade unionists. It will continue the debate about where New Labour is taking the trade union movement.
“If the trade union movement doesn’t wake up very quickly it will end in the abyss.”
John Farnan, a member of the Communication Workers Union national executive, told Socialist Worker, “Campaigning against Bush and Blair’s wars has been central to Respect, but the party has also always been about a great deal more.
“As Labour has retreated rightwards, it is Respect which has kept up opposition to privatisation and the anti-union laws, and the defence of good working conditions. We want to work with trade unionists outside Respect over these issues.
“I hope the conference will act as a focus for all those who want democracy not dictatorship in the workplace. In Royal Mail we are engaged in a major battle to defend our union. The conference should be a place to discuss such battles.”
Tansy Feltis, PCS London and south east regional committee chair, said, “I am supporting the conference because we need to fight for our services and jobs, and against the privateers and the anti trade union laws.
“The recent PCS conference showed the desire for an alternative to New Labour as 170 people came to a Respect fringe meeting.
“I am mobilising to get my branch to back the conference and to take people from work.”
Jane Hardy, a member of the UCU national executive, said, “UCU’s pay dispute has shown how New Labour has allowed the market to dominate higher education.
“We are now organising to vote no to management’s deal. This conference is about creating a rank and file network that will make our opposition to such deals stronger in the future.”
Lynne Chamberlain, a member of the UCU further education committee, said, “The conference is an opportunity to get together and talk about democracy and how we can fight back.
“In education we are facing pay disputes and redundancies, and workers in other unions are facing similar attacks. Trade unionists should use this opportunity to build from below.”
Union activists are urged to pass motions backing the conference in their regions and branches.
Organising for Fighting Unions conference, Saturday 11 November, London. For more information and a model union motion go to www.respectcoalition.org People quoted above speak in personal capacities.