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TUC pow-wow back in city

Politicians swarm in for crucial barometer of Labour support

Published on September 9th 2009.


TUC pow-wow back in city

MERSEYSIDER Brendan Barber is next week bringing home the TUC’s national conference, an event that kicks off the annual conference jamboree.

The event is taking place at the BT Convention Centre at Kings Dock. Despite Liverpool always being a trade union hot house it’s the first time the TUC has been in town since 1906 when their pow-wow took place at St George’s Hall.

Anti-union laws introduced during the Thatcher years are still more or less in place, despite 12 years of a Labour government

Although total membership of TUC affiliated unions has increased slightly in the past year, at 6.5m it is almost half the 12m-plus it represented at its peak in 1980.

Barber, of course, is Secretary General of the TUC, a Southport-born activist who rose through the ranks to gain the hot seat.

In an age of rising unemployment and constant attacks on pay and conditions in workplaces across the country, a strong and vibrant TUC would seem to be a no-brainer.

Yet anti-union laws introduced during the Thatcher years are still more or less in place, despite 12 years of a Labour government.

With a few notable exceptions, the might of the trades union movement has been unable to halt the epidemic of job losses and rationalisation.

No doubt the city will hail the event, saying it has generated millions of pounds for the local economy in hotel bookings and the leisure economy. And that is to be most welcomed.

But what can Mr Barber and the 700 delegates do to help a city with the highest unemployment level in the North West?

The delegates will diligently debate a range of issues looking at jobs and the recession, pensions and equality in the workplace.

There will be plenty of big-wigs and keynote speakers, including the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Miliband, as well as a number of international speakers from Amnesty International and the Cuban Workers’ Confederation.

The conference starts on Monday with a matinee showing of a film charting Liverpool’s long political radicalism and its historic relations with the unions.

On the opening day there will be an address by Gee Walker, mother of murdered black teenager Anthony Walker. This will be followed by a public demonstration outside the conference centre to show opposition to racism and a commitment to stopping the advance in Britain of the BNP.

At the Albert Dock between 12.30 and 12.45 on Monday there will be a silent ‘Not in My name’ vigil.

While the agenda will tackle growing unemployment, many trade unions will ponder the impact for workers if there is a change at Number 10 next June.The resolutions will be hard-hitting, they’ll generate passion and determination, and then what?

Today the TUC is more vital than at any other time in its long history, as crucial as the 1860s when it started the fight to protect workers, and through the dark days of the Great Depression and Post War Britain, and throughout the 1970s and 1980s when manufacturing was all but abandoned in places like Merseyside.

The conference will be a crucial taster of the support Gordon Brown and the Labour Government can expect in the countdown to next year’s general election. Will the conclusion be “it's better the devil you know”?

Liverpool Confidential will be there throughout and we will keep you posted.

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Kronstadt1921September 8th 2009.

Most modern day unions are just spineless top-down bureaucracies that would rather sell out their members than rock the Labour Party's boat. It's about time the rank-and-file got organised and declared their independence from politicians and bureaucrats.

PS from EditorialSeptember 8th 2009.

Gordon Brown will be addressing the TUC conference in Liverpool next week. It seems Tuesday – the day before unemployment figures are released – will be Gord’s big day.

DisunionistSeptember 8th 2009.

BOSS$ES are not the enemy of the trade unions. Trade unions are. Look back over the years and it's clear in many cases if workers walked out to protect their pay, conditions and rights, other workers would be more than willing to swipe the work off them. It made you cry the way Liverpool dockers downed hooks whenever their comrades in other ports such as Southampton or London stopped worked. We're all united, was the battle cry from the banks of the Mersey. Yet when Liverpool dockers came out the ships heading for the port would often be diverted to places like, err let me see, London and Southampton.Look at the newspaper industry. When Murdoch set up Fortress Wapping to beat the big print unions, his top selling papers, the News of the World and the Sun, were being snapped up by, err let me see, trade union members. If Mr Neild's figures are correct, as I am sure they are around the 1980s the TUC affiliated unions had over 12m members. If the TUC had had the clout to instruct members not to buy products printed at Fortress Wapping, sales of the titles would have fallen dramatically (which they didn't).The problem with the TUC, and to some extend the same will apply to the Labour Party conference, the rank and file have little power or control. Both have more or less become toothless, and some may say spineless, talking shops. Moans and groans but little else. But wheel 'em on anyway.

WarriorSeptember 8th 2009.

Hi I agree with kronstadt,trade Unionists need to to come in to the 21st Century.and declare their Political Neutrality.they would gain more respect and more support for their Policies cross political parties..

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