Thursday, September 11, 2008

Right to work - not workfare

TUC Congress is nearing the end of our business, debating Motion 23 from the Educational Institute of Scotland, which calls for asylum seekers to have the right to work whilst their application for asylum is considered.

This restoration of rights to asylum seekers has to be right and Congress will clearly pass the motion overwhelmingly. It is ironic that asylum seekers are refused the right to work whilst benefit claimants are set to be required to work in order to receive their benefits!

Taken together the motions passed during the week amount to a pretty long wish list of the things the trade union movement wants from the Government.

The question of how we obtain greater political influence for these progressive policies is increasingly acute.

Last year's Congress was dominated by misplaced hope and faith in the then new Prime Minister. This year's Congress is dominated by a miserable poverty of ideas up on the top table about how to make political progress.

Mark Serwotka is now moving Emergency Motion One sounding alarm bells about the Government's appalling welfare reform plans.

I don't know how many of the trade union group of MPs will have the courage and principle to oppose these plans for workfare, but I do know that those MPs associated with the Labour Representation Committee will do so.

The leadership of the big unions kept their distance from the LRC when it was established for fear of losing influence by associating themselves with the hard left.

These unions have consistently failed to demonstrate that they thereby have such influence in respect of anything that matters to our members.

We have to face the reality that there are only a small number of MPs who are on our side.

It is time for a different approach, working with our few real friends in Parliament.

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