Saturday, October 28, 2006

National Shop Stewards Network established

I was pleased to attend at least the beginning of the Shop Stewards’ Conference called today by the RMT Union, which took the sensible and timely decision to launch a national shop stewards’ network across all unions. Bob Crow of the RMT launched the Conference with a stirring call for rank and file organisation, although perhaps without clarity about the political organisation which we need to go alongside this.

Brian Caton from the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) spoke movingly and convincingly abut the need for trade union rights which is demonstrated by the experience of the POA. Paul Mackney from UCU gave what may well be his final speech as General Secretary to such a meeting and made a point of backing John McDonnell’s campaign for Leader of the Labour Party.

Barry Camsfield, Assistant General Secretary of the TGWU was obviously pleased to give the greetings of General Secretary, Tony Woodley to the Conference and called for work on the ground to build the shop stewards movement. Steve Kemp of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) emphasised the importance of solidarity action in the history of our movement, of which the NUM are so much a part.

Jeremy Dear, General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists praised the role of his members on the Daily Star who had taken completely unlawful industrial action to prevent the publication of an outrageously Islamophobic supplement. This seemed to underline the importance of workers being prepared to break the anti-union laws if we are ever going to get them repealed (and win the battle for a Trade Union Freedom Bill).

Although I had to leave (for the AGM of Labour Left Briefing) before the close of the meeting I am glad to learn that the National Shop Stewards Network has been established and wish the two UNISON comrades on the steering committee, George Binette and Len Hockey, all the best for the work they will be doing to help to build this important initiative.

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