THE ANNUAL women's TUC conference last week showed that trade unionists have not forgotten the Iraq war or swallowed Labour's domestic agenda. Some 400 delegates gathered in Eastbourne. Flashes of anger against the war on Iraq and the treatment of asylum seekers brought the conference to life. One motion asked for coalition forces in Iraq to ensure women's rights were enforced.
Anna Kruthoffer, from the Bectu union, led delegates' criticisms of this approach. She demanded, 'Why should we hand our government the opportunity to say, look, aren't we wonderful, we have a few women in the government and a few trade unions? We shouldn't give them the opportunity for window-dressing the occupation of Iraq to make it look legitimate. We should say the war was wrong, the occupation is wrong, and we don't want it to happen again.'
Sue Bond, from the PCS, made a powerful speech against New Labour's treatment of asylum seekers: 'The government's Section 55 is the most punitive legislation ever passed against asylum seekers. It has meant 10,000 people forced into destitution. The government has legitimised the far right and the BNP.'
A delegate from the FBU added, 'David Blunkett says his policies warrant our support. But every time he opens his mouth the BNP rub their hands in glee.'
Others discussions focused on issues like affordable childcare, stronger laws on equality and the impact of low pay, outsourcing jobs and privatisation.