Congress adopted the following statement:
The July 7 attacks on London's transport system were aimed at killing and injuring innocent people, many of them on their way to work. And as the failed attacks two weeks later demonstrate there remains a strong threat of further outrages.
In presenting this statement to Congress the General Council seek to identify the action that the trade union movement now needs to take in response to the new more dangerous situation in which we now live and work.
Trade unionists were among the victims of July 7. Trade unionists were prominent in the widely praised rescue and recovery efforts and we are determined that it will be trade union values of solidarity and unity through diversity that prevail in the new circumstances.
The victims of 7 July came from all parts of the world. They did not have a common race or religion. Many were drawn to London by the prospects of a better life. The bombers killed indiscriminately. Those who died could have been any one of the millions who travelled around London every day of the week,
Our first thoughts are therefore with the victims: the bereaved, the injured and especially those who will carry the scars of that Thursday in July long after the headlines have faded. Our thoughts too are with the family and friends of Jean Charles de Menezes, shot dead by police officers on 22 July, another tragic victim in the aftermath of those first explosions.
Secondly, Congress puts on record its gratitude to those emergency service and transport workers who dealt with the aftermath of the outrage magnificently, demonstrating high levels of professionalism, compassion and commitment. The action of these workers ensured that the working life of the capital returned to normality with minimum delay. Many of those who were first on scene following the explosions acted with tremendous presence of mind, great determination and complete selflessness in tending the injured and dealing with the horrific situations that they faced. Some just happened to be there and could equally have been the victims as the rescuers but many were transport workers whose first instincts were to look after the passengers in their care. The part played by the emergency services has been rightly recognised as has that played by many others who had to undertake grim but necessary work over the following days through the local authorities, police and forensic teams. They all deserve great credit.
No amount of training or preparation can prepare for the sort of attacks which occurred on July 7, nevertheless it is clear that many of the preparations that had been made by the transport authorities, emergency services and others helped to ensure that the injured were treated as quickly as possibly; that panic did not spread; and that the effects were not as devastating as the bombers intended.
And thirdly, we have been touched by the many messages of solidarity and sympathy which arrived from trade unionists around the world - in particular from those who have also experienced terrible suffering. They reminded us that the people killed and injured on 7 July, as in almost all terrorist attacks, were ordinary workers, bound together by international ties of friendship.
No matter how professional the response to a major disaster, there are always lessons to be learned and it is important that the appropriate lessons are drawn from the London attacks.
Whilst accepting that total security cannot be guaranteed, Congress calls on the Government to undertake a thorough review of the threat of terrorism to public transport safety and implement measures to improve this without delay. In particular, Congress urges the Government to ensure that appropriate training, equipment and back-up is provided for all workers who are likely to have to deal with such incidents in the course of their work. The General Council welcomed the invitation issued to union representatives by Rt Hon Tessa Jowell, a minister charged with important responsibilities in the aftermath of the attacks. The meeting held a few days after the attacks provided a means for unions to have an input into the Government's analysis of the lessons which need to be learned following the attacks and we are continuing to ensure that unions draw on the experience of their members and that the results of our work are fed into the Government's own analysis.
It is clear that working people and their unions have a vital role to play in determining the proper response to the attacks.
At a time when there is increasing pressure on public bodies, as well as private companies, to maximise levels of efficiency and return on investment, management will always be counting the cost of any improvements in worker and passenger safety. Workers who are in the front line, through their day-to-day experience, are able to provide a unique and invaluable insight. They can give their own perspective into what safety measures are necessary; where the threats are at the greatest; and what support is needed in an emergency. It is essential that their experience is drawn on and that they have the opportunity to act collectively and independently through representative trade unions.
In addition to the discussions with government, we therefore welcome the talks that have taken place following July 7 through London Transport, through the individual organisations and companies and at workplace level. These should continue and we are looking to them to achieve the common goal of minimising the risk of further attack, whilst preparing thoroughly for the worst if it happens.
Whilst lessons can be learned and proposals implemented at workplace and organisational level, it is also clear that there are some key principles that apply more generally. In part these are drawn out of our extensive experience of dealing with health and safety in the workplace.
We would identify the following key points:
Safety and protection measures must be introduced in consultation with the staff and their unions.
Training for front line staff in coping with emergency situations should be reviewed in light of the increased threat of terrorist attacks and improvements made, in consultation with staff, as necessary.
Effective communications systems are essential in emergencies, particularly when, as on July 7, multiple attacks are staged with the aim of maximising confusion and panic. Communication systems should be reviewed and improvements made as necessary.
There will also be scope for improvements to be made in the equipment available to deal with emergencies and risk assessments need to undertaken to ensure that adequate funding is available for necessary safety measures.
Whilst equipment and devices such as cctv can assist, experience shows that there is no substitute for trained staff at times of emergency and any considerations of staffing numbers need to take this into account.
The July 7 attacks demonstrated clearly what we had all been aware of for some time, namely that there are people who have both the means and determination to attack us at our most vulnerable.
Within all workplaces, particularly those at greatest risk, management should be cooperating with union representatives, including safety representatives, in assessing risks to individual workers, to members of the public and to the organisation itself. Where there are safety representatives and safety committees in place they form a good starting point for this enhanced risk assessment. Where such representative structures do not exist they should be established as the most effective means of providing the appropriate levels of protection.
Congress welcomes the steps taken by the TUC to better co-ordinate the experience of affiliates and calls for this to work to be stepped up both within the UK and with sister organisations in the EU.
In terms of the wider society, it is even more important that the proper balance is achieved between protecting ourselves from threat whilst at the same time ensuring that these measures do not in themselves either threaten us or create a breeding ground for discontent and disengagement from society.
In the first few days after the attacks, there was a genuine sense of solidarity in the face of adversity - exemplified by much of the media coverage and especially by the Trafalgar Square vigil, which we helped organise with the London Mayor, and where the 'London United' message was clear, as was the united opposition both to terrorism and racism.
Nevertheless, whilst those sentiments remain dominant, we cannot ignore the fact that over the past few weeks we have also seen an increase in racial abuse, racial attacks and attacks on property such as mosques. Islamophobia is being fomented by the far right, who, like the bombers themselves, want to deepen divisions in society - to create discord rather than harmony and to set people against each other on the basis of race and religion.
The trade union movement has a proud record of standing up to the far right and working with communities under threat from racists. Over the past few weeks we have sought to build on this work through our local organisations and through the visits that the General Secretary and General Council members have paid to East London, Yorkshire and the Midlands to hear from Muslim and community organisations at first hand. We will continue this work over the coming months, seeking both a deeper understanding of the issues facing communities that have been targeted by the far right and seeking to engage all parts of those communities, most particularly young people.
Other groups and other organisations also have special responsibilities in the changed circumstances following the 7 July attacks.
As was noted above, the media played a powerful role in emphasising the genuine sense of solidarity across different communities following the attacks, but the media can also play a negative role in simplifying, stereotyping and characterising groups in ways which play into the hands of extremists and undermine that sense of solidarity on which we need to build. As media workers have recognised through their unions, they and their employers need to be particularly conscious of their responsibilities and to act in a responsible way.
Educational institutions also have an especially important part to play in shaping attitudes. Schools and colleges and the education unions have taken these responsibilities seriously and the work which they have begun needs to be built on in creating and building on a sense of communal solidarity opposed both to terrorism and to racism.
As we have seen in many other situations across the world women and women's groups can play a vital role in standing up to men of violence and bridging divides. But in order to do so they need to work together and to develop supportive collective organisations and such organisations themselves require recognition and support across the community.
For its part the trade union movement will be looking for opportunities to work with other groups committed to the goals of countering both terrorism and racism.
Members of our ethnic minority communities continue to suffer discrimination and disadvantage. For example, our research shows that people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin, who have been the particular target for increased racial attacks, are overall, the poorest and most excluded ethnic groups in Britain and are most likely to live in the most deprived areas and in overcrowded conditions, with the highest rates of unemployment.
A government analysis categorises 69 per cent of people from these groups as 'poor' compared with 20 per cent of the white population and 22 per cent of the country as a whole. As our document Poverty, exclusion and British people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi Origin concluded, the London bombs will encourage policy makers to take an interest in the social exclusion of British Muslims, notably those of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin. But the facts are sufficiently shocking to justify making the poverty and exclusion of British Pakistani and Bangladeshi people a priority regardless of any concerns about security.
The outlines of the action needed on employment are clear enough, and well-understood by the Government: they were set out in the report by the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit on ethnic minority employment. British people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin will benefit in terms of work, income and inclusion from:
Measures to improve educational and skills outcomes;
Reforming employment programmes and services to 'reach out' to Pakistani and Bangladeshi people;
Introducing the Building on New Deal (BOND) reforms, which will help Jobcentre Plus address needs which will go unmet by a 'one size fits all' approach. (Unfortunately, BOND currently only exists as a number of pilot programmes, and there are fears it may quietly be shelved as the Department for Work and Pensions struggles to make net cuts of 30,000 jobs);
Support for good employers who want to achieve equal opportunities, and more effective use of public procurement to encourage others; and
A political lead from senior Ministers. A recent report from the National Employment Panel proposed concrete measures that would make this strategy a reality: the DWP should concentrate resources on the cities where most black and minority ethnic people live (in the case of people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin, this would be London, Birmingham, Manchester and Bradford). Outreach support for people who are not in work or on benefit and have traditionally been excluded from the labour market. And, particularly important for the TUC, the incorporation of race equality into public procurement 'within current legal and policy frameworks.'
Some of this is already happening through the Ethnic Minority Employment Taskforce. And matters are improving - but very slowly. In particular, more needs to be done in the private sector to encourage action on race equality. The TUC's preferred method for achieving this would be the extension of the positive duties of the Race Relations Amendment Act to the private and voluntary sectors. To support this we want the Government to use public procurement as a lever to improve the employment of black workers by explicitly including the promotion of race equality in contract criteria and ensuring that promotion of race equality forms part of the value for money consideration for all government contracts.
Unions are already contributing to this effort in a number of companies, by appointing workplace equality representatives, who provide workers with independent and collective representation on issues around equality and discrimination. We would like to see this initiative being supported by giving equality representatives statutory rights to represent their members, and the promotion of collective bargaining as a way to develop meaningful action plans to tackle institutional racism and to establish targets, with clear time limits to achieve fair representation of black workers at all levels in the workplace.
As Muslim leaders have also made clear they would welcome union action to broaden public understanding of the diverse faith traditions that make up modern Britain.
Community involvement must also go beyond economics. Declining levels of participation in the political process are a worrying feature of recent times that cut across social, religious and racial boundaries. But levels of participation are lowest in the most deprived communities and amongst young people. Addressing this disengagement is an issue for political parties and all concerned with the strength of our democracy.
Young people are at their most vulnerable to extremist influences, of whatever kind, where support for democratic values is at its weakest. It is healthy for young people to be exposed to a range of ideas and beliefs. The best way for democratic views to prevail is for groups based on democratic values, including trade unions, to involve themselves in communities and promote their own beliefs. Whilst such engagement provides no guarantee that extremism will not attract vulnerable young people it certainly reduces the pool from which the extremists can draw. Unions should look at ways of more actively engaging in such work in the community.
There are different views on the reasons why over recent years young people, mainly young men, from different countries and different backgrounds have been drawn to an extreme doctrine that leads them to kill themselves and many innocent people with them. What we know for certain is that this has happened across the world with attacks in Kenya, Morocco, Bali, New York and Madrid but especially in the Middle East and now in London.
The failure to make progress in the Middle East Peace Process, and the British presence in Iraq alongside the United States, have made the UK a more likely target for such a terrorist attack.
Those close to the groups with which the terrorists have associated point to the mistreatment of communities identified as Muslim, in many countries and also to the injustices meted out to the Palestinian people as the reason for their hostility to the West and Western values.
Many of the injustices they point to are in areas where we and the international trade union movement have been active, working with the relevant trade union centres in pressing for progress towards peace in the Middle East and should these injustices be remedied (for example a lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis and a significant reduction of tensions in Iraq), some of the justifications given for turning to extremism would have less apparent attraction.
Measures to combat terrorism while preserving civil liberties
But whilst work in the community and positive developments in international politics can help reduce the chances of vulnerable young people being drawn to doctrines which praise suicide bombers as martyrs to a greater cause, they will not in themselves tackle the immediate problem of how to identify further potential terrorists and prevent them from carrying out their attacks.
In these circumstances it is right that the Government should look at the measures necessary to minimise the threat. But it doing so it should not underestimate the value of the civil liberties which have been built up over many years in many cases as a result of trade union pressure. These are values which we cherish. They are the hallmark of a free society and once lost are not easily restored. We like others will need to be convinced in each case that the value of any measure is truly proportionate to its effect in making society safer.
As we have already indicated the trade union movement is keen to play its part in making society safer.
In terms of legislation, in recent years we have seen a number of anti-terrorist measures. From the 1970s onwards governments have tried in various ways to counter terrorism through legislative means.
Looking at the legislative options, the first question which needs to be asked is 'are existing powers being implemented effectively?'
The second question is whether new measures can achieve their desired objective. The desire to silence those who advocate terrorism or encourage terrorist acts is understandable and we would not wish to prevent such actions, but the measures need to be tightly drawn and fairly applied.
We are also concerned that measures that do not command widespread support across all the community can be counter productive in increasing the sense of social exclusion that was referred to above.
Measures must also be proportionate and applied even handedly. Outlawing certain Muslim groups whilst allowing groups which threatened violence against Muslims to operate openly would, for instance, be seen as unfair and more likely to alienate the very people who need to be drawn into the mainstream political process.
We will therefore be looking closely and critically at proposed legislation and measuring it by the test of whether it would be effective; command support across the communities; and be seen to be fair and even handed.
Adopted 8 September 2005
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printed 22 May 2013 at 16:07 hrs by 22.214.171.124