TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady declared that the Labour Party remains the best bet for working people and now is no time to be talking about setting up a new party of the left.
Addressing the GFTU conference, O’Grady surveyed the ruins of the election campaign which saw a move to the SNP north of the border and the English nationalism of UKIP bite into Labour’s core vote in England.
“My view is that workers have more in common with each other across borders than they do with a London stock broker or Edinburgh banker,” said O’Grady, who did though concede that the Labour Party gave too much ground to the economics of austerity.
On the positive side, O’Grady believes that it will not be all plain sailing for David Cameron with potential problems coming from the SNP and his own backbenchers. “Some of those backbenchers are for hug a hoody, others make Norman Tebbit look like a bleeding heart liberal,” said O’Grady, who also saw potential problems of division coming for the Tories over EU referendum and their own internal leadership battle to succeed Cameron.
The TUC GS called for “unity and discipline” in opposing the attacks of the Tories on trade union rights.
“This is a crucial time for our movement and the people we represent,” said O’Grady, who declared that “the TUC will always stand on the side of the worker taking strike action.”
The TUC leader called for the movement to put more effort into organising, particularly in the private sector. “These are tough times for our movement, we must get out and organise, then together we will win.”
John Hendy, QC, told the conference that the Tory Government government is determined to destroy the trade unions as the next stage toward the fulfilment of the neo-liberal capitalist agenda.
Hendy highlighted how there were 80% of workers under collective bargaining agreements in 1979 but that this was now down to 20%.
He warned that after the government’s initial efforts to raise voting thresholds required to get a strike and making it possible for agency workers to be used as strike breakers, would be followed by efforts to remove check off, facility time and political funding.
Hendy called for the trade union movement to put collective bargaining at the top of their industrial and political agenda. “Collective bargaining is the only way workers voices can be heard at work. It is an argument for social justice,” said Hendy, who credited much of the growing inequality in society to the demise of collective bargaining.
The lawyer called for any future commitment to the Labour Party to be conditional on it supporting the restoration of collective bargaining and the right to strike. “Unless the Labour Party support those two points they do not deserve the support of the trade union movement,” said Hendy.Other motions passed calling for the outlawing of zero hours contract and the implementation of a £10 minimum wage