Louise Hollingsworth, PCS National Young Members Vice-Chair reports back as the Young Member’s Observer to TUC Congress.
Sunday 7th September
The TUC conference this year was in Liverpool held in the BT conference centre by Albert dock. This conference is where trade unions and reps alike discuss and debate issues that are not only important to us as workers but also to the general public.
Conference was opened with a speech from the current president and two votes of thanks for him carrying out his duties. Starting off the weeks proceedings were several different motions, covering employment rights.
All motions from employment rights to immigration and zero hour contracts to anti trade union legislation were carried unanimously.
One motion of note was relating to trade union rights and ensuring that trade unions always have the right to organise, strike and repeal all changes the Tory government have made to current industrial relations.
Monday 8th September
The first block of motions heard covered fair pay and a living wage.
PCS spoke on the motion covering public sector pay. This motion has called on the TUC to: put a case to all parties in the run up to the 2015 election to end below inflation pay; co-ordinate joint action between all unions and promote a living wage.
UNISON, EIS, NASUWT and UCU also spoke in support of this motion. It was carried unanimously by conference which is promising to see in this current climate. It was clear from the passionate speakers that most unions are happy to see continued action and are willing to take the fight forward.
The section was further rallied by a speech from Francis O’Grady who pointed out that this current climate has led to a “Downton Abbey style of living”, with the haves and have nots being very clearly segregated in society.
The next block of motions was dealing with education and ensuring school children get a decent standard of education regardless of how much their parents earn or where they live in the UK. All motions in this block were carried.
After this the motion on traineeships was heard and PCS put in an emergency motion to state that this agreement should never have been agreed as it was proposing forced unpaid work on young people due to benefit sanction threats. The TUC have agreed that they should have consulted the young members within the TUC structure and will meet with PCS to discuss how the traineeships agreement can be amended to reflect the changes we have proposed.
Chuka Umunna –Shadow Business Secretary was an invited speaker after this section and put on a very slick performance that asked not what Labour would do for us but what we would do for Labour. This was followed by a Q&A session which was stage managed as not one question was received from the floor and none of the questions asked seemed to help reveal what Labour’s intentions when it came to protecting public services. Mr Umunna seemed more focussed on what would happen if Scotland went independent.
The day was ended with motions covering Health and Safety and the NHS. All motions were carried in this section.
Tuesday 9th September
PCS spoke well on many motions on the Tuesday. But what seemed to be turning into the norm, is that every motion was carried with no contention or disagreement.
I think as I have attended PCS conference I expected more passionate debating but what seemed to be the case was the passion was lost in speakers shouting at the gathered delegates. Although in saying this, every motion that was heard was important in helping improve jobs, pay, services and the economy. But it all hinges on what the TUC take forward on the actions/motions agreed by conference
Congratulations to Sue Bond PCS vice president who was awarded a gold badge in the Congress awards section.
We also had Mark Carney – governor on the Bank of England as a guest speaker. He talked at length about interest rates and how they may be expected to rise in the next year. He also talked of wage restraint and how he fully expected that this was expected to ease in the private sector in the new financial year. He also thanked the working class for taking on low paid, low skilled jobs in order to help support the economy. In fact one thing he did mention was the scope to increase the working day in order to boost the already “stable” economy.
All the questions that were asked of him were skilfully answered by not saying very much at all.
PCS President Janice Godrich was ‘allowed’ to put forward a question about tax evasion, but Mr Carney managed to evade the question by stating it was not his responsibility to make tax decisions. Personally I felt it wrong to invite Mr Carney to the TUC conference and have him preach to us about pay and conditions as I am unsure how much a man who makes £300k plus a year knows about the working class.
Wednesday 10th September
The last day of the conference was much the same as every other day I attended, lots of motions being heard and unanimously carried. The only difference is that one motion was actually lost.
Motion 78 detailed that a motion from the 2013 TUC conference was passed but has since been put on the back burner. It stated that a TUC delegate attends TUC conference and moves the TUC council conference motion as a delegate (reserved position at the TUC). It further asked for implementation of the motion from 2013.
This conference experience was very different from PCS conference. There was a real lack of debate from speakers and every motion put forward (apart from one) was carried unanimously.
This whole experience has provided an insight into how the TUC can bring many different unions together. And hopefully this will show the current government that the union movement is still willing to fight for the rights of both public and private sector workforces.