A workers Charter, promoting workers’ rights and setting out campaigning priorities, will be a focus for discussion at the Organising for a Fighting Unions conference on 11 November. Over 400 people have already signed up for the conference.
Linda Smith, one of the organisers of the conference and a member of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), said, “The most important thing is to bring together trade unionists who are interested in fighting back. We can discuss our experience in the workplace and how to organise the unions.
“One of the focuses of the conference will be supporting the Trade Union Freedom Bill, which is to be put forward in parliament soon.
“Under the Tory anti-union laws, kept in place by New Labour, the unions are constrained. It is very difficult to get a dispute started.
“This bill will increase the freedom that trade unions have to organise if it is passed.
“It is important that we don’t just bring people together to agree on the issues. We also need to take action in support of our demands.
“Trade unions have to be about action. They are based on what people do.
“The Workers Charter is a set of broad principles that workers can unite around. It will help us build effective unions and help workers to fight.
“The immediate campaigning priorities it raises are to organise lobbies of MPs in favour of the Trade Union Freedom Bill, to organise in support of the Public Services Not Private Profit campaign and to campaign in defence of the NHS.
“We also want to organise a solidarity delegation to Venezuela, so workers can show their support for, and see, the dramatic change taking place there because of, the government of Hugo Chavez.
“Trade unions need to become more effective in workplaces. We need to act collectively across the unions, seeing that issues such as the privatisation of the NHS affect us all.
“People can raise the issues that the Workers Charter promotes in their workplaces. They are things that we can do concretely.
“We really want to discuss something that people can take away and use in their workplaces to build fighting unions.
“Obviously, if there are things that people feel are missing from The Workers Charter there will be an opportunity to add to or amend it at the conference.
“The conference has been initiated by Respect. Trade unionists were central to the founding of Respect.
“Tony Blair will be replaced as the leader of the Labour Party in the next few months, but the key thing for workers is policy.
“Whether Gordon Brown or John Reid is Labour leader, the ‘modernisation’ of public services will continue.
“The Organising for Fighting Unions conference is also about how trade unions are represented politically.
“The big four unions - Unison, Amicus, T&G and GMB - are all affiliated to Labour.
“But the FBU voted to disaffiliate and the RMT rail workers’ union has been thrown out.
“Workers need a political voice. In the public sector where I work our jobs are run by the policies decided by politicians.
“John McDonnell, the left wing challenger for the Labour leadership, and other Labour members, will be attending and speaking at the conference.
“It is important that we unite around common goals. Everybody should make sure they are in London on 11 November to discuss the issues that affect every worker.”
Organising for Fighting Unions conference
Saturday 11 November
Shoreditch Town Hall London
Conference initiated by the Respect coalition