On the weekend of the 24th March, the TUC Young Members Forum held its annual conference and for first time in its history, voted to support and call on the TUC for a general strike to beat austerity.
For those un-initiated in the internal running of the TUC, all affiliated unions are invited to send youth delegates to debate and vote on key issues affecting young people, elect the vice chair (the Chair is elected at TUC Congress proper) and generally set out the campaign priorities of the youth forum for the coming year. (The full agenda and motions can be found online here).
The PCS delegation spoke on a range of motions to highlight the alternative and how the only way we can defend terms & conditions and win concessions from the employer is from campaigning linked up with industrial action & strategy. The PCS’s own motion called on the TUC to launch a youth campaign and to put the issue of the general strike back on the agenda as the only way to fight austerity. This produced support from union delegates across the floor, with supporting speeches from UNITE, GMB and other unions with no speeches against. The vote itself was overwhelmingly in support, showing that young trade unionists are calling out for more industrial action that the TUC has so far dithered on.
One point of contention was the decision for the PCS delegation to vote against the TSSA motion calling on a better railcards for young people. Though the delegates initially were down to support it, the RMT set out clear opposition that railcards are a product to generate profit to private companies and that any changes would just be further subsidising profits for them using taxpayers money. The only way to reduce travel costs for young people, is to renationalise the railways and set out a pricing model that benefited society and not private profit. In the same way PCS wouldn’t call for the Work Programme to be slightly kinder to young people as it doesn’t solve the problem but only slightly alleviates the symptoms.
Perhaps most shocking for the PCS delegates, was that just under 50% of delegates to the conference were workplace reps. Though this doesn’t rule out the other 50% not being union activists generally or full time officers, it does raise the issue as to why aren’t they reps and why hasn’t their unions integrated them? It’s clear that in the future we need to be concentrating on what we can do to get more young people getting involved.
The PCS also extends its support and congratulations to the new Vice-Chair, UNITE Young Member Anthony Curling, who we look forward to working with to make the TUC Forum a campaigning, fighting body.