Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Crewe Conference of Trade Union Councils

Where Are The Workers?

THE Sunday Times in an editorial following the May 2015 elections declared:

'Trade unionism is a minority cause.  The days of an economy dominated by large manufacturing industries are long past.  The proportion of private sector employees who belong to a trade union is just 14%.' 

Last weekend's Crewe Conference dramatically displayed the gulf between private sector trade unionism, and  public sector unions like the PCS.  Some eight Motions were dedicated to the attacks on trade unions and about half referred to the PCS union.  Other Motions  expressed concern about the representation of the working class following the defeat of the Labour Party in the General Election.   

A Motion 7. from Cardiff noted 'attacks by local government on union branches' and the 'clear intention of (Francis) Maude and the Tories is to destroy PCS financially by withdrawing the check-off from government departments'.  From the building trade, a UCCAT delegate questioned this domination of the public sector when things were so bad on the building sites, and the anarcho-syndicalist trade unionist Dave Chapple from Bridgewater TUC, challenged the call in Motion 17. from Merseyside TUC that the TUC should 'wave affiliation fees from [the] PCS [union]'. 

Similarly the reference to the 'blacklisting and victimisation of union reps' in Motion 7. must strike people working in the British industrial wild west of the building sites as strange, when they have suffered for donkey's years from blacklisting on a massive scale.  To a former blue collar worker like myself; the delegate from UCATT; the thousands of workers in the British building trade; and even a postman like Dave Chapple, the Secretary of Bridgewater TUC who said that his delegates 'would be displeased if the PCS delegates had their affiliation fees waved'; the plight of the PCS would seem somewhat feather-bedded.

In Spain, in the famous anarchist trade union, the CNT, there were times when the land-labourers of Andalucia had their union dues waved because of the hardship they suffered through the irregular work pattern in the field with unpredictable harvests:  the anarcho-syndicalist industrial workers in the factories of Catalonia and Barcelona were more than willing to shoulder the costs of their Andalucian brothers and sisters. 

But, comparing the English PCS union today to the Spanish trade union confederation the CNT of the 1930s is like comparing a white-collar pygmy to an industrial giant: it just doesn't bear comparison on any scale of reference. 
In 1966, I led a raid with group of Manchester anarchists on my local dole office in Rochdale to obtained a my labour exchange file.  When we examined my file compiled by Labour Exchange staff (the kind of people who are now members of the PCS) we found that it contained a section marked 'Derog' in this derogatory dossier, as part of my labour exchange record since I was involved in the national apprentice strike in 1960, there was a stream of derogatory references entered by those law abiding employees at the Rochdale Labour Exchange who had interviewed me over the years after I'd been sacked after the apprentice strike up to 1966 when we purloined my dole documents. 

It's nice to know that the people in the Labour Exchanges of the 1960s, and would now be members of the PCS union working in Job Centres, were routinely black-balling me back then and for all I know may still be blacklisting claimants now.  Yet, these people in the PCS, who operated as willing blacklisters of working people in the 1960s, are now asking me and my Trade Union Council for support because the Government, to which they have been for years the loyal  servants of the State is getting at them. 
I have a heart, but isn't this kind of cant and humbug asking rather too much of me under the circumstances?

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