SHOP STEWARDS CONFERENCE REPORT
On the day of the Tories' Budget and the major rail dispute, we publish the report of the NSSN Conference last weekend. You can watch the excellent main speakers on YouTube - HERE.
The NSSN website is HERE.
"This was the first NSSN conference since the Tories’ shock election victory and no delegate was left in any doubt as to the challenges we face.
But they also recognised there is no time for mourning. Activists spoke of the necessity of moving swiftly into action and displayed a confidence that a government, supported by just 24% of the population, could be defeated if the unions adopted a bold, radical and fighting agenda.
The morning session – Stop the Tory Union-Busters – was addressed by five union general secretaries or presidents, as well as leading activists from the floor.
The common thread between almost all speakers was that the left trade unions – those affiliated to the NSSN – have to make the running in the coming months.
Matt Wrack, general secretary of firefighters’ union FBU (the NSSN’s newest affiliate), said: “Imagine if the TUC leaders began to go out city by city and town by town making the case against austerity and the case for organising and then called for a general strike – then I think that could receive a huge echo.”
Civil servants union PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka paid tribute to the NSSN for being first on the scene whenever there is a dispute. The NSSN’s ability to mobilise was echoed by other speakers involved in disputes. Candy Udwin, sacked PCS National Gallery activist thanked the NSSN: “It is only because of your support that we are still fighting”.
Mark was adamant “we could stop austerity in its tracks” if the TUC united against our class enemies.
It was a message echoed by the bakers’ union’s Ronnie Draper, the RMT’s Peter Pinkney and the prison officers’ Steve Gillan. Ronnie went back to the tremendous Hovis dispute victory in 2013 that “only happened because you took part”.
Martin Powell-Davies, NUT national executive member, detailed the action taken this year by teachers, school students and community activists which has defeated the attempts to convert five Lewisham schools to academies.
Conference gave a rousing welcome to Marie and Christine from the Glasgow homelessness workers’ dispute who reported on the Labour city council’s attempts to organise a scab workforce to break their 15 week dispute.
They brought news of the success of the Dundee hospital porters’ strike, and the determination it had given them: “We’re not going back until we get what we came out for”.
The author of ‘Blacklisted – The Secret War between Big Business and Union Activists’, Dave Smith, was well received by conference as he was able to give a very serious subject the attention it deserved while making everyone laugh.
The loudest response of the morning was reserved for the RMT’s Jared Wood, speaking from the floor on the London Underground strikes planned for 8 and 9 July – a historic dispute with all four tube unions involved in closing down the complete network.
The NSSN has demonstrated for a number of years that it is a key component in the workers’ movement. It has supporters who hold key positions in many unions and who consistently call for support for all workers and for coordinated action.
This conference saw the NSSN beginning to take the next steps – putting itself centre stage and taking the movement forward if the official bodies fail to respond".