Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name. (William Morris - A Dream of John Ball)

Sunday, September 11, 2016

TUC surveys the dire state of our movement - or does it?

Before there ever was a Labour Party there were trade unions and – since the 1860s – an annual Trades Union Congress, which has today been opened by this year’s President.
Congress is, for what it’s worth, the Parliament of our movement. It is where our trade unions agree our policies and campaigns for the coming year.   
Congress meets as our movement is not in good health.
Our membership is static – which is clearly a state of affairs which could be worse. However, the “Corbyn surge” which has doubled the membership of the political wing of our movement has passed our industrial wing by.
Indeed, whilst Labour Party elections are a focus of intense interest and concern, major unions have elected General Secretaries with historically low turnouts below 10% (and even below 5%).
Strike action is at an all time low – and that is before the Trade Union Act imposes new restrictions on lawful action.
As a local government worker I am part of the largest single bargaining unit in the economy (the National Joint Council for Local Government Services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland).
I am part of the largest unit of trade unionists engaged in collective bargaining, represented by the three largest unions in the country. And I am part of a workforce which has declined by 20% since 2010, the remaining members of which earn 20% less in real terms than we then did.
Trade unions are failing to demonstrate our value to our members and potential members and this accounts for the fact that our members are not engaging and our potential members are not joining.
I would like to think that delegates to Congress in Brighton are driven by a recognition of the urgency of the circumstances facing our movement.
I really would.

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