Saturday, 27 June 2009

Shop Stewards Network - an inspiring conference

After spending a morning leafletting in Deptford Market against our local 'Trust' threat, I had thought twice about then going on to Camden to attend the National Shop Stewards Network Conference - but what an inpsiring event it proved to be!

Many trade unionists still lack confidence that struggles can be won - but here was a Conference full of contributions about struggles - and, more to the point, struggles that had won!

Speakers included:
* Joe Higgins, "The best fighter money can't buy", elected as a socialist Irish MEP;
* Keith Gibson from the Lindsey Oil Refinery Strike Committee who had just won a complete victory against Total's attempts to sack hundreds of workers;
* Visteon workers who had occupied their plants in Belfast, Enfield and Basildon;
* Rob Williams, UNITE convenor at Limamar Swansea, where his colleagues had responded to his sacking - a blatant victimisation of a trade unionist - with an all-out strike threat that had won him his job back.

Baljeet Ghale, NUT Ex-President, opened the workshop on "Education for What?" which helped build links between UCU lecturers, NUT teachers, UNISON support staff, students and parents - including Eleanor Davies from the Lewisham Bridge occupation. My calls for national action to oppose both cuts and privatisation were well received. I was particularly pleased to meet with young teachers from Wales and Bristol looking to build the NUT and NUT Young Teachers activities.

Rob Williams' warning that employers will use the recession to attack pensions, terms and conditions applies to teachers as much as any other public or private sector employee. As Rob summed up the conference - "If you fight, you may not win but if you don't fight you will always lose". Rob had won - so can we!


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