The Organising for Fighting Unions conference on Saturday 11 November will see hundreds of activists debate the future of the labour movement.
The Respect initiated conference will discuss defending public services from the government’s assaults and political representation for trade unionists.
Among the speakers at the conference are RMT general secretary Bob Crow, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, John McDonnell MP, George Galloway MP, FBU general secretary Matt Wrack, and John Hendy QC.
Socialist Worker spoke to some union activists about what they hope to get from the conference.
According to Kevin Courtney, secretary of Camden NUT teachers’ union and a member of the NUT executive, “We all face issues that we are fighting separately. I want to see a coming together of unions to fight them together.
“In particular, we need public sector union unity. We are all fighting privatisation. We could, for instance, mobilise in huge numbers in defence of the health service.
“It is also important that we have a political fightback. We all have our bits of industrial action, but we also need a political response.
“At my union branch meeting last week, we discussed globalisation. At one level it may seem abstract, but then you go on to discuss the drive to performance related pay and other issues in the job. What seems a long way away comes closer to home.
“The policies we are fighting against are part of a political drive for more globalisation.
“There is some sort of an awakening over these issues and making these links, but we need to be pushing them further. The Organising for Fighting Unions conference can play that important role.”
Richard Buckwell, secretary of Ashfield trades council in the East Midlands, said, “The unions that make up my trades council are looking for somewhere to organise a fightback. There is a feeling that we have been led up to the top of the hill only to be led back down a few too many times.
“I’m hoping that the conference can recreate the effectiveness of rank and file conferences of the 1970s, but for the current period.
“I work in local government and the issue of pensions is still there. We missed a chance in the pensions strike at the beginning of the year. We need to talk about how we can rebuild that potential.
“In the last few weeks, it has been good that some of the union leaders are at least putting some demands on Labour. But people have lost confidence in them.
“The conference can be the beginning of getting people to think about strategies for winning.”
Niaz Faiz, the chair of Defra PCS civil service workers’ union race equality forum, told Socialist Worker, “I’m coming along to the conference with three other delegates from my PCS union branch. The key thing for us at the minute is that we need to reverse the drive to privatisation.
“We need public services, run by public servants in the interests of the public.
“When you look at what the government is doing to the NHS and what they just did to NHS Logistics, unions need to think about where they spend their money.
“We need political funds, but I would argue money shouldn’t be going to Labour.
“If you think about the recent Manchester protest, you can bring people together.
“We need to use the Organising for Fighting Unions conference as a launch pad to mobilise people against privatisation and for union rights.”