Tuesday 23 October 2007

Shop Stewards Network Builds Unity

On Sunday October 21st, I attended the first South-East Regional Conference of the newly-founded National Shop Stewards Network, backed by the RMT and other national unions. The aim of the body is to link together union reps from across different unions and to help strengthen workplace organisation.

It was a good opportunity to meet up with other public sector trade unionists including reps from UNISON local government, CWU postal workers, and PCS civil servants.

The closing speech by Brian Caton, General Secretary of the POA (Prison Officers’ Association) was inspiring. Commenting on contributions that other speakers had made about union leaders needing to keep in touch with the workplace, Brian joked about how, if the Government carried out their threats, he might be spending a few months with his members locked up for supposed breach of anti-union laws! This was after prison officers took strike action in August. This justified and well-supported action could be deemed “illegal” because Tony Blair had broken his promise to remove the ban on industrial action by prison officers introduced by Margaret Thatcher.

Brian finished by saying that as a son of a Yorkshire miner, he had seen the Government wreck the fishing industry, the steel industry and the mines and the mining communities. He appealed to the meeting for trade unionists to stand together, saying “We mustn’t let them wreck out public services too”.

For further information on the network, visit: http://www.shopstewards.net/

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