(Congress assembled at 10.00 a.m.)
The President (Nigel de Gruchy): Delegates, good morning. I call Congress to order. I would like to begin by saying that the programme of music this week has been put together by Music for Youth and many thanks to the JSS Ensemble who have been performing for us this morning. Unfortunately, they have left, but I think they deserve a round of applause. (Applause) A thank you also to the National Union of Teachers for sponsoring Music for Youth.
Congress, I have great pleasure in opening this, the TUCs One Hundred & Thirty-Fifth Congress. I warmly welcome all delegates and visitors to Brighton.
The President: The first formal item of business is to ask Congress to approve the tellers and scrutineers as set out on page 6 of the General Purposes Committee Report. Is that agreed, colleagues? (Agreed)
If any teller has not yet seen Mike Smith of the TUC staff, would they please come to the corner of the platform on my right now. Colleagues, I also remind you that you should have switched off your mobile phones.
The President: Congress, I now come to the introduction of sororal and fraternal delegates and visitors who are seated to my right, which believe it or not is to your left. I suspect there are a few teachers amongst the scriptwriters, and they leave nothing to chance, which is a very sound principle on which to operate. From the AFL-CIO, we have Jerry Zellhoeffer and Penny Schantz. From Histadrut we have Nawaf Massalah.. From the Japanese TUC, Rengo, Tsutsomu Arai. From the ILO, we have Bob Kyloh. From the Commonwealth TUC, we have the Director, Annie Watson. This year our sororal delegate from the Trade Union Councils Conference is Sheila Banks. I am also very pleased to welcome Diana Holland, sororal delegate from he Labour Party. She will address Congress on Tuesday morning.
Last but by no means least, we have someone called John Monks, the General Secretary of the European TUC, and we will be coming back to him a little later this morning. We are, colleagues, expecting other guests, and I will introduce them as and when they arrive.
The President: In leading in on Chapter 13 of the General Councils Report, said: It is traditional for us at the beginning of our Annual Congress to remember all those colleagues who have died since we last met. In our report we list Ken Ashton, former General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists and President of the International Federation of Journalists; Ken Baker, former National Officer of the General and Municiple Workers Union - now the GMB; Tom Bradley, former president of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association; Gilbert Bryden, former General Secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland; John Cogger, former President of the RMT and Chair of the General Purposes Committee from 1997; Lord Gladwin of Clee, former General and Municipal Workers Union, southern regional secretary and General Council member; Roy Hughes, who was a member of staff at TUC Congress House; Tom Jackson, former General Secretary of the Union of Post Officer Workers and President of Congress; Maureen Rooney, National Secretary of Amicus and Chair of the TUC Womens Committee and Bob Stevenson, former General President of the National Union of Footwear, Leather and Allied Trades.
Since the General Councils Report was printed, the death has also occurred of Terry Carlin, who will be known to many of you as the former Northern Ireland Officer of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. Terry worked for the ICTU for 34 years and was a frequent visitor to the TUC and Congress.
In remembering those who I have named just, I ask you also to remember all those other trade union colleagues who died during the past year who served the trade union Movement in their own workplaces and in their own ways. I ask you to remember all of those who died in different conflicts in various parts of the world during the past year. This year, delegates, we should especially remember those trade unionists who have died in Colombia. Let us recommit ourselves to the cause of world peace. I ask you to stand, colleagues, for a minutes silence. (Congress stood in silent tribute)
The Vice-President (Bill Morris) Congress, it is now my privilege to invite our President to deliver his address.
The President: Thank you very much, Bill. Once again, brothers and sisters and guests, good morning. Trade unionism may not be for the faint hearted but it has never been more essential if employees are to regain some dignity at work.
It is one of the great ironies of our age that despite all the economic progress made millions of employees feel enslaved by their work. the job exercises a tyranny dominating their lives. It demands longer and longer hours and more and more obsequiousness to management.
The job generates unparalleled degrees of stress, the occupational cancer of the 21st Century.
Unfortunately, another irony is that unemployment is even worse! But it does not have to be like that. There are, thankfully, examples to the contrary where enlightened management results in a contented workforce. And more to the point, where trade unions are recognised and operating effectively, these pressures are much diminished.
The core function of trade unions is surely to make a difference for the better for people at work. For the TUC it must be to work with Government, the CBI and others to create a framework in which unions can operate as effectively as possible.
I believe that both the TUC and its affiliated unions are better able to carry out their core functions in a spirit of genuine social partnership. But where this does not exist I make no apologies whatsoever for being a totally unreconstructed traditional trade unionist. If appropriate industrial action is the only chance of securing fairness and dignity for people at work, I endorse it.
But open conflict is a hazardous, if sometimes unavoidable path. That underlines the value of the much more productive path of social partnership, if it can be secured. Indeed, there are organisations, and indeed whole countries, which have deliberately and successfully embraced social partnership as a means of combining economic progress with a dignified treatment of the workforce.
But in the UK progress towards social partnership has been painfully slow. More than six years into a Labour Government there ought to be a lot more social partnership about.
But I am please to record recent progress such as the Skills Alliance and the tripartite agreement reached between Government, TUC and CBI on the EU Information and Consultation Directive. We achieved, as you may have noticed, a little breakthrough last week in the agreement with the Prime Minister to establish a Public Service Forum.
The predictable over-reaction came from the usual suspects, caught in a prejudiced anti-union time warp of their own. I have to ask, what on earth is wrong with millions of working people through their representatives having their voices directly heard in Downing Street? Of course, we all know what is really wrong; the business barons and the media moguls want to retain that privileged access for themselves?
We have seen progress in the NHS and Local Government, and twice in recent year sin the education service mutual distrust has been largely set aside as a more partnership-based approach has produced progress in two important areas.
In 2000 teacher unions began working with Government to improve pay. We succeeded in making much progress with compromise on both sides. Indeed, a Cabinet minister recently, albeit somewhat controversially, felt constrained to observe that some teachers might soon be paying the top rate of income tax. I would describe that as a very nice problem to have.
The recent National Agreement on Workload and Standards is the second positive product of partnership. Indeed, the TUC played a very important role in facilitating a very effective joint approach, involving as it did unions representing teachers and other staff working in schools.
I recognise that there is not universal accord and that time will be the ultimate test on whether the Agreement achieves its fundamental objectives of reducing workload (including long hours) and raising levels of pupil achievement.
So I appeal to you and to the unions to give partnership a chance, if the opportunity presents itself. And further to facilitate that opportunity, I call upon the Government to adopt a much more consensual and enlightened approach two broad fronts.
First, the vexed issue of public service reform. Policies determined behind closed doors by a cosy coterie of cronies and viewed with stunning disbelief by those who have to implement them will never work. Successful policies require widespread involvement and genuine agreement with the people who are required to implement them day in, day out of their working lives.
Often it is not so often the principle of reform that is in dispute but the manner of implementation. Many sensible reforms have been suffocated by mind-boggling mountains of paperwork and Byzantine bureaucracies bizarrely imposed with them.
Take the example of targets. There is nothing wrong in principle with a few carefully chosen targets to provide incentives to achieve and record success. But imposed by the barrel load, reviewed by destruction week in week out, indeed day in day out, as they have been in heath and education, they will quickly degenerate into a morass of managerial madness only to be resolved by the lowly operative resorting to fix, fiddle and fraud.
So to the Prime Minister I say, by all means stand by your principle of what matters is what works. That is why so many people are genuinely perplexed by the Governments dogmatic insistence that privatisation is so vital to public service reform and improvement. There is so little evidence that privatisation possesses a unique ingredient for success. On the contrary, as you know, there has been a catalogue of expensive problems, from the railway to the latest, Atkins Education Services in Southwark.
Indeed, the Government undermines its own record of success by constantly promoting the need for more privatisation and relentless reform. In my 34 years involvement in the education service, I have never known a period free from fundamental change.
Look at the myriad of reform and counter reform that has bedevilled the Health Service in the last two decades. Chairman Mao Tse-Tung would have been proud of such permanent revolution!
Out of the blue, we were suddenly informed that those NHS hospitals performing to the best standards would be encouraged to seek foundation status. So the sensible dictum what matters is what works suddenly became: If it is working very well, fix it!
We represent millions of members in both public and private sectors. It is absurd to pitch one against the other. Both sectors play vital and complementary roles in delivering the wealth and social well-being of our country.
And where privatisation works, it does so by worsening conditions for employees, many of whom are already amongst the lowest paid. From birth it was but a thinly veiled excuse to introduce into the public sector workplace a militant if not malignant managerialism designed to prevent unions from ensuring that employees were treated with dignity and fairness.
Democratic accountability is swept away under the carpet of commercial confidentiality. Governments have been rather coy in disclosing the many millions spent on engaging consultants from the big accountancy firms to implement privatisation in its many different forms.
Instead of lecturing us on how to do our jobs, those companies would have been far better employed auditing the books of firms like Maxwell, Enron, WorldCom, Equitable and many others with a bit more care than obviously they did.
Why does this Government have such special faith in business people when so many of them have presided over and endless succession of financial and accounting scandals that have ruined companies, rocked economies and played havoc with the pensions of millions of people?
There is no greater need for a partnership between government, unions and employers than to sort out the future of pensions. We cannot tolerate a situation in which good working folk, faithfully paying their contributions over many years, have their retirement ruined by rank abuse of the market by those at the top and by daft inflexible rules like FRS17. To those of you already taking action to defend your pensions, I say well done, and more power to your elbow. And if many more in both public and private sectors have to follow suit, then so be it.
The second area in which the Government could do much to promote partnership relates to employment legislation and rights at work. I say to the Government, grant fairness and dignity for all, not after one or two years, or even six months but from day one. And not just in large companies, but in small ones as well.
I see no valid reason for denying protection against unfair dismissal to anyone. After all, the only firms, large or small, who have anything to lose are those that are badly managed, and rightly so.
It is not good enough for New Labour simply to proclaim that things are better than they were under the old Tories. Of course they are. Only a fool would pretend otherwise. But we diminish our own achievements if we fail to acknowledge the restoration of some rights, the establishment of a minimum wage, improved levels of investment in public services and other socially beneficial measures, such as those introduced by Chancellor Gordon Brown.
So I say to the Prime Minister, just as you demand high standards from us, we demand the same from New Labour.
So we welcome protection against dismissal during the first eight weeks of lawfully balloted industrial action. But we cannot understand why it suddenly becomes fair the day after. Transport & General Workers Union members at Friction Dynamics cannot understand how they were not protected at all.
Our colleagues operating in the harsh world of the private sector cannot understand how simple majorities (no matter what the turnout) are good enough for MPs, good enough to form a government, good enough for local councils, good enough for devolution but somehow not good enough for trade union recognition in the workplace.
As democratic voluntary organisations we should have the freedom to write our own rule books. The Labour Party can expel Ken Livingstone, the only politician with the guts to challenge the dominance of the car. A golf club can expel a member for wearing the wrong dress. Burt unions like ASLEF cannot expel from their ranks the self declared fascists and racists of the British National Party (applause and cheers) whose main motive, anyway, in joining in the first place is to receive financial compensation for being unfairly kicked out!
We view with dismay the constant attempts by the UK Government to water down and sometimes block EU directives. The Temporary Agency Worker Directive is but the latest example. Insisting upon long qualifying periods makes a mockery of many of the problems the Directive seeks to address.
It would also allow a coach and horses to be driven through agreements like that secured in local government to end the two-tier workforce. So, if you will pardon the pun, we expect high standards from Labour, so we demand high labour standards.
The past Congress year has been interesting and busier than I expected. The FBU dispute broke out in the Autumn and thankfully an agreed settlement was finally reached, although it could have and should have come much earlier. The fault for that certainly did not lie with the union side. I believe that the fire fighters deserve our commendation for fighting the good fight with the customary courage we have come to associate with their serve.
In-house we said au revoir to one of our most distinguished general secretaries, John Monks, exported to the European TUC in Brussels. In his place we welcomed Brendan Barber, who is, in my view, already living up to the very high standards set by his predecessor.
The Executive then had some interviewing to do and appointments to make. I was delighted to preside over the shattering of the glass ceiling when two excellent women candidates, Frances OGrady and Kay Carberry, so deservedly secured the posts of Deputy and Assistant General Secretary respectively.
I also felt extremely privileged to preside over some truly impressive and indeed moving General Council debates on the great issue of the war in Iraq.
As each day passes I feel more and more convinced that the General Council got it right. We concluded that the case for war had not been established. We declared that armed conflict should only take place with the full backing of the United Nations.
But once soldiers were committed we were constrained in our comments, anxious not to expose our troops, and do not forget these days men and women, to greater dangers than they already faced.
Whichever side of the argument you are on, and I recognise the strong sentiments felt, it is deeply disturbing that there is so much dispute about the facts, ironically labelled intelligence, upon which decisions and judgements have to be made.
Perhaps there are those in politics and the media who now wish more mature judgements had prevailed to play down rather than hype up personal issues which, however consuming to the protagonists, were irrelevant to a successful outcome of operations in Iraq.
While it is right to investigate the tragedy surrounding Dr. Kellys death, it should not divert us from the far more fundamental questions. None the least of which is, surely, what about the increasing number of deaths of young British and American soldiers, not to mention dedicated UN personnel and indeed innocent Iraqi people. Once again, superpowers are re-learning the hard way that repelling invaders is one thing; regime change another.
The appalling lack of preparation on how to deal with the aftermath of war was as revealing as it was tragic. While the hospitals were left to the mercy of the mob the oil fields were very quickly protected. And I wonder if the hawks who were content to take on the role of scourge of Saddam, will now concede their folly, if not their hypocrisy, in happily selling him arms and nuclear technology which they did a few years previously.
Of course, we have to have a defence industry, but when will the leaders of this world accept that peace and security will never prevail unless and until the scandalous international trade in arms is brought under control? Look at Africa, so desperately short of food, but never lacking for arms. Of course, we cannot turn out backs on the world. While mindful of our own deficiencies they pale into insignificance compared with some of the regimes around the world.
British Prime Ministers have to deal with foreign leaders, whoever they are, however elected or not. Indeed, I believe that Tony Blair deserves our congratulations if, as seems to be the case, he was instrumental in persuading President Bush to be more even-handed in the USAs approach to the Arab-Israeli problem..
We must all hope that this conversion is genuine and permanent for otherwise there will never be a solution to that tragic conflict that has plagued the Middle East and indeed the world for so many years.
The Middle East epitomises the potentially catastrophic conflicts between rich and poor; secular and religious; democracy and dictatorship; peaceful and violent change; which recognise no national boundaries even if they are over-simplistically labelled as East v West.
It is this lethal cocktail of conflicts, not simple terrorism, that constitutes the greatest threat to world peace and security. And these conflicts are fed rather than diminished by the red-necked oil rich crusaders from the Wild West exercising such a selective concern for peace and democracy throughout the world.
To survive in the other war of global economic competition we are told that we have to have flexible labour markets. But camouflaged under that cruel euphemism, lie the painful realities of reduced pay, worsened conditions, and heightened job insecurity for the thousands of employees, many of whom have played their part in building up companies over many years.
In contrast, for the directors and executives its massive rewards that are so disproportionate as to border on the criminal and the fraudulent. Unless the gaping chasm between the treatment of the employee and the director is addressed it could provoke otherwise unnecessary industrial conflict. It is high time that governments paid some regard to the quality of life which cannot be measured solely in economic terms.
I do not accept that we have to take everything that globalisation throws at us. Whilst of course the TUC should stand full square behind fair trade, free trade must not be allowed to ride roughshod over decent labour standards. The peoples of our continent need a strong and socially enlightened European Union.
The poisonous anti-EU propaganda emanating from certain quarters is nothing more than the self-serving interests of a motley crew of fat cat media and business barons. They want no restrictions to be placed upon their ability financially to freewheel around the world, unhindered by fair labour practices or equalities issues, locating profits where it suits them and deigning to pay corporation and income tax if they so condescend.
These are the same fools who protest against every regulation, without which the very system they advocate would destroy itself through individual greed and corporate corruption.
I suspect the debate on joining the Euro will be difficult and divisive. Inevitably so. For no one really knows the effects of joining or, indeed, staying out.
But I believe history teaches us a lesson. In June 1955 the UK was invited to attend a meeting of foreign ministers meeting of the six original EEC members to discuss a 'fresh advance towards the building of Europe'. Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, declined to send his Foreign Minister, dispatching instead a civil servant to observe the proceedings in Messina, Sicily. The civil servant left early declaring: 'I leave Messina happy because, even if you continue meeting you will not agree; even if you agree, nothing will result; and even if something results, it will be a disaster.' Theres nothing quite like getting it right, is there?
Whatever we decide this week, I hope we do better than that civil servant. I am confident that we will. I am optimistic about the future of the trade union Movement. During my 14 year son the General Council, the members and, indeed, the high quality staff at the TUC have always been an education for me and sometimes a positive inspiration. My thanks go to them. Thanks also go to my union, the NASUWT, for all the confidence and support so freely given over so many years, and for having seconded me to carry out my duties as TUC President. Last, of course, but by no means least, thanks to my wife and family, tolerant, as always, beyond the call of duty to the end.
Our common calling as trade unionists will always be difficult. We have to stand up for the dignity of the employee, for fairness at work. We understand the paradox that the interests of the individual are best protected through the action of the collective. Some people in positions of power may find that inconvenient.
But thats just too bad. Because sound, sensible trade unionism makes this world a much better place. Thank you. (Applause)
Vote of Thanks
The Vice-President: Thank you, President, for your address. I now ask
Sis Sue Rogers to move the vote of thanks for the Presidents Address.
Sue Rogers (National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers): Congress, I am delighted to move the vote of thanks to Nigel for his excellent Address. Here is someone who truly understands the problems workers face each day because he, quite clearly, spelt out those problems. We do need pragmatists like Nigel to remind us to ask the simple but basic questions. Why? In his Address Nigel has challenged us not to blindly go forward but to question management at all times. Just what is the value of what management is asking the workforce to do? Is there a need for it? Are there benefits from doing it? If the answer to any of those questions is no, then we must confront them both for ourselves and for those who depend on our lead.
Nigel, we agree that the ideal is co-operation, the sort of co-operation that you ask for, but we are also glad that you make it clear that so often the demands of management are just quite simply short-sighted and stupid.
I have known Nigel for a bit more than 17 years, and I have come to respect his courage and dedication to trade unionism and the rights of workers. Life for Nigel has been forged in struggle, from his birth in Jersey where - it was during the Nazi occupation of that beautiful island - his family faced deprivation and all the horrors of the fascist regime. At times you can pick up that Jersey ancestry in his speech when you get the accent of his home, that slight sort of 'uuh', as a sound at the end of many of his words. That in fact is a Jersey accent.
Never one to avoid conflict, he spent part of his student days in Paris during the riots of the 60s. It is where he gained his skill in languages. You have to learn the art of negotiation pretty quickly in such circumstances, I can tell you.
He joined NASUWT at the start of his teaching career in London and early on in that career he became elected secretary of the London Association and then he became a member of that Unions National Executive. He left teaching to join the staff of the NASUWT and rose to be elected General Secretary in 1992. He is also on the executive of Education International, representing over 24 million teachers and 304 trade unions worldwide. If you think you have got problems, consider those.
During his period as General Secretary the NASUWT prospered and grew, largely through his commitment to members and concern for those members daily struggles. It was Nigel who first awoke teachers to the realisation that their problems were workload. He raised the campaign and had the vision to see its impact. When the National Curriculum was first introduced he led the battle against the marking of assessment tasks, what we call SATS, that were demanded by the Tory Government of the day. It led the NASUWT into the High Court and produced the only significant High Court victory won by a trade union in the whole of the Thatcher years. Nigel got it absolutely right in the victory we won against Wandsworth, who acted as a Tory puppet in 1993.
Above all, Nigel is no desk-bound general secretary. Do not be surprised by that rather correct demeanour. His concern for members means that schools and LEAs often found him turning up in defence of those members. During the 1990s Nigel became prominent in a series of clashes with employers and school governing bodies over the problems of pupil violence and indiscipline. The Ridings School in Calderdale was perhaps the most high profile. His reputation grew. I can actually remember one instance in my own authority, which is Sheffield, when we were having just a little difficulty, and they said, 'You are not going to bring that Nigel de Gruchy in, are you?', such was his reputation.
He gained publicity as the king of the sound byte -- you heard it this morning from Nigel, that 'cosy coterie of cronies' - so much so that the then Secretary of State for Education, David Blunkett, once actually threatened to break his legs. I think it was in jest.
His year as President has indeed proved eventful and difficult especially as the distance between the Labour Government and the trade union Movement has widened over many major issues. Throughout all this turmoil, Nigel has maintained stead support for the trade union Movement and assisted in preserving the integrity of the TUC and what it has always stood for.
As a new girl on the General Council I have watched with some amazement Nigels idiosyncratic chairing. However, we do seem to make progress somewhere, although I am never quite sure how. I am sure this week he will take us forward in the same positive and pleasant way.
Throughout his trade union work, he has been support by his wife, Judy, and son, Michael. As a family together, they have stood up for what they believe in with, I think, impressive results. The NASUWT is indeed proud, colleagues, to provide a President of integrity, steeped in trade unionism, whose speeches have shown that he is not afraid of confronting the issues, that he has demonstrated radicalism, courage and commitment to the principles we all hold dear. So it is with great pleasure that I propose this vote of thanks to Nigel de Gruchy, TUC President, for the address he has delivered. I move. (Applause)
The Vice-President: Thank you, Sue, for that insight into the life of Nigel.
I invite Bro George Brumwell to second the vote of thanks to the Presidents Address.
George Brumwell (Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians) in seconding the vote of thanks, said: It is a great pleasure for me, colleagues, to second the vote of thanks. Nigel's and my path crossed in 1974. We were on an industrial study tour and he had been proposed for that study tour by the TUC. Incidentally, that particular study tour did produce, eventually, six General Secretaries and six members of this General Council. So our paths go back over 30 years.
We have heard Sue tell us about Nigel coming from Jersey and living under the German occupation. Of course, the roots of Nigel's militancy can actually be traced right back to that occupation because I am told that when he was 2 he picked up his mother's shoe and threw it out of the window at some passing German soldiers. The officer picked up the shoe, smiled, patted him on the head and gave it him back. I am not sure whether that was the beginning of the end for the Germans!
I suppose where Nigel really burst onto the scene, like many of us, was in the trades council Movement. Nigel was a live wire. He was reckoned to be the most militant teaching union representative south of Watford Gap and John Monks fondly tells me the story that Nigel actually moved at the Lewisham and Deptford Trades Council a resolution calling on the General Council to call a general strike against the Industrial Relations Act in 1971. It was carried by 14 votes to 12. That was his first big input into the industrial scene.
When you read a lot in the press about the "awkward squad", and of course many of our colleagues recently elected have been much maligned in the press as being members of that squad, we all have to be members of the awkward squad if we are going to advance the cause of working people. Nigel really was an original member, in those days, of the awkward squad. He has the T-shirt and was actually dubbed the Elvis Presley of the Lewisham and Deptford Trades Council! He has not changed, has he?
Nigel's leadership has been impressive over the past 12 months and throughout his own trade union career. He has led the TUC with distinction but, I am bound to say, not without sacrifices. He has had to forsake the cool, crisp Chardonnay and smoked salmon of the teaching world for the beer and sandwiches of Downing Street.
To turn to Nigel's Presidential address: You have covered every point that is of concern to the trade union Movement and working people in this country. Yes, it is hard hitting, and so it should be. But I want to thank Nigel for his contribution to the trade union Movement. I want to thank the teaching unions who are a very important part of the TUC and for the lead they often give. And I want to thank Nigel's wife Judy for her support over the years.
I want to draw on two words that Nigel picked out at the end of his speech. Those were "dignity" and "fairness" and if this Movement is about anything, it is about dignity and fairness of ordinary working people. I am delighted to second the vote of thanks.
The President : Actually, George, it is Sancerre, not Chardonnay!
Thank you, Sue and George.
Report of the General Purposes Committee
The President : Delegates, I will ask Gerry Veart, Chair of the Congress General Purposes Committee, to give the GPC's first report.
Gerry Veart (General Purposes Committee): Good morning, Congress. May I begin by paying tribute to my predecessor as Chair of the GPC, John Cogger. Many of you will have known John whose lively GPC reports to Congress will be a very hard act to follow. I hope you will bear with me in my first year as Chair.
On behalf of the General Purposes Committee, I would like to report progress on the final agenda. Composite motions 1 to 21, as agreed by the General Purposes Committee are set out in the GPC Report and the composite booklet, numbers 1 to 19 in the order of the agenda. Numbers 20 and 21 were added later.
For the first time in many years -- perhaps ever -- I am pleased to announce, at the opening of Congress, that all composites proposed by the GPC and amendments to motions have now been agreed. Since the composite booklet was printed, we have achieved agreement on two further composites: Composite Motion 22 on the future funding of the BBC and the BBC Charter, and Composite Motion 23 on pensions.
In turning to the printed GPC Report, you will see where the movers on motions have agreed to accept amendments to their motions. On behalf of the GPC, I would like to thank all those unions that have co-operated in reaching agreements on composites and amendments.
I can also Report that the GPC have approved an emergency motion in the name of AMICUS on the Smiths Industries pension scheme. Copies of the motion will be distributed on delegates' seats at lunchtime and the motion will be taken in the pensions debate this afternoon.
You will also notice from the GPC Report that Roger King, a candidate for Section E of the General Council, sought to withdraw his nomination and the withdrawal was approved by the GPC. Since our written report was finalised, the GPC was notified that Mick Rix, a candidate for Section C of the General Council also wished to withdraw his nomination. The withdrawal was approved by the GPC and I am announcing the decision now in order to give delegates maximum notice of the removal of Mick Rix' candidature from the General Council ballot. The withdrawal will be made clear on the ballot paper. We are still awaiting details of the three AMICUS nominees for Section A of the General Council.
Delegates, in order to ensure that we complete our business expeditiously, please would you come to the rostrum quickly if you are scheduled to speak. Please also respect the time limits on speaking times. Unless reduced, these are five minutes for moving a motion and three minutes for seconding and supporting.
Finally, whilst we are aiming to encourage maximum participation this week, I would urge that you do not impede Congress and draw unwelcome attention to yourself by failing to switch off your mobile phones.
Congress, that concludes my report. Thank you.
The President : Thank you very much indeed, Gerry. Can we now agree the GPC's report. (Agreed) Thank you very much.
Changes in Senior Staff
The President : I am now moving to Chapter 12 of the General Council's Report, TUC Organisation, on page 148.
I am sure, delegates, you do not need reminding that we have a new TUC General Secretary, Brendan Barber. After it became clear that John Monks was the only nomination for the ETUC General Secretary, the General Council put in place procedures to seek nominations for the post of TUC General Secretary. This resulted in Brendan Barber winning nominations from 41 TUC affiliates representing 96 per cent of members. Brendan, we wish you well and we will be hearing further from you later today.
We also have a new Deputy General Secretary, Frances O'Grady and a new Assistant General Secretary, Kay Carberry. Congress, I know you will all have pleasure in seeing two women at the top in the top team. Paragraph 12.2 reports on those and other changes in senior staff.
Paragraph 12.8 will also be taken at this point because it refers to the TUC structure and constitution and we need to take this rule change at the outset of business because it allows motions which appear later on the agenda from the equality conferences to be moved in the name of those conferences.
The President : Delegates, we now move to Chapter 1 of the General Council's Report on rights at work. I call on Bill Morris to introduce the debate.
Rights at work
The Vice-President leading in on Chapter 1 of the General Council's Report said: President and Congress, today I can report on a year of consolidation, preparation and progress in our work in respect of employment rights.
We have been working extremely hard, building the TUC's employment rights campaign based on the resolutions carried last year and the year before that. We have drawn together the TUC's Charter "Modern Rights for Modern Workplaces" setting out our goals and indeed our vision. The Charter gives us a foundation on which we will seek to build a framework of modern employment rights.
Colleagues, we are engaged in a major consultation in respect of rights at work throughout the United Kingdom which is informed, developing and, indeed, should develop. Our view is that United Kingdom workers have every right to be consulted in advance of key decisions.
Congress, it is an insult that workers should learn from the local radio that they have lost their jobs and we must end the culture of sacking by text messages.
New legislation will be based on agreements and discussions between the TUC, the Government and the CBI. The agreement demonstrates that genuine and constructive dialogue between the social partners can and does produce results. We do not claim that our work so far in respect of these discussions is perfect but it is a welcome first step -- and, I emphasise, only a first step.
British workers need to feel that they are valued, respected, listened to and consulted. There will be much more work to do in the coming year. We will be producing briefing and guidance notes for negotiators. We shall ensure that the new regulations provide opportunities rather than threats to existing agreements.
Colleagues, this autumn will see the publication of another Employment Relations Bill which will include changes to the law on statutory recognition. This will move us forward on trade union regulation; forward on Wilson & Palmer and I, for one, sincerely hope it moves us forward on the exclusion of the BNP and other racist organisations from trade unions. Racists and their vile messages and beliefs have no place in our Movement. No government -- no government and especially not a labour government -- should ever deny the trade union Movement the right to expel racists from our ranks. That should never happen.
But, colleagues, while the Bill offers some progress, it fails to tackle the fundamental flaws written into the original legislation by the employer lobby group; for example, the exclusion of small firms from the current recognition legislation with some 5 million workers denied the right to a collective voice and representation at work -- deliberately discriminated against by the law. We say human rights cannot depend on the head count of the payroll.
But denying rights to millions is not quite enough for the small firms community. They also dislike the ACAS Code of Disciplinary Practice and Procedures. They want it scrapped. They say that the new minimum procedures in the Employment Act are enough for them. They argue that they should be opted out. We say that there should be no opt-out for any employer from basic human rights. You cannot opt out from human rights.
Colleagues, the conference season is here. How do I know? Because the CBI is whingeing again! They are currently pleading with the Government to turn a deaf ear when we ask for improved workers' rights. They are yearning for a return to their good old days and for a backward culture of employment rights -- a culture which denies the right to recognition for millions; one which supports a two-tier workforce in the name of flexibility; one that backs no consultation with workers on their future and one which sanctions the sacking by text messages and closures of pension schemes while the bosses top up their pension pots.
Down that road lies disaster -- disaster for workers, business and for our economy, our country and our society. So I say to the CBI, "Do not take that road. Just join the TUC in the 21st century".
Congress, last year I spoke from this platform about the 86 T&G members at Friction Dynamics who have been sacked for taking legal and lawful industrial action. They met every single dot and comma of the law. An employment tribunal found that our members were unfairly dismissed. "At last", we thought, "justice". But, no. What the company did was to cut and run. They went into liquidation and, to add insult to injury, they set up another company which bought the stocks and assets from this old firm, from the administrators, at a knock-down price. Would you believe it!
If that it is not justification for fundamental reform of the laws on insolvency and scrapping the disgraceful eight week rule, I do not know what is! This case demonstrates, even in the 21st century, is that British workers still do not have a legal right to take lawful industrial action without dismissal. Trade unions still do not have a right to offer support to sacked workers.
It is clear that labour laws and workers rights are not working. The current laws have failed to protect workers and must be changed. While Ministers sit on their hands, our members perish in the dole queues. To them I give clear notice: the T&G will take its members' case to the heart of the political process and will continue doing so until we get justice for our members because justice for them will be justice for every single worker in this land. That is a duty we owe and will deliver.
Colleagues, we need other changes, too. Our agenda must be about a better work/life balance. People at work should never have to choose between their jobs and their children. We also want our legal framework to match up to ILO standards and be among the best of European practices. In Britain today too many workers are denied the opportunity for legal protection because they do not count as employees. They may not be employees in the eyes of the statute but they are workers and this Movement will speak up for them, including their conditions -- particularly those who are classed as agency workers.
But, Congress, the Government must also raise its game. I want to tell them today that we deplore their efforts in blocking the Directive on Agency Work by scratching around, seeking to get lengthy qualifying periods inserted in the statute. We say that agency workers, like all workers, deserve rights and protection.
Colleagues, when we ask for reform of employment laws we are not harping back to the past. We are not being dogmatic, old-fashioned or unthinking. But if it is a crime to defend workers and workers' rights then we say, to all those out there, count us all guilty because we will continue to give that defence.
Our case is a simple one. In a 21st century economy we and workers need 21st century employment protection. Our agenda is a progressive reforming agenda; reform that delivers workplace fairness, social justice and economic prosperity. So, today, it is my privilege to commend Chapter 1 of the General Council's Report Congress.
Congress, I have been proud to lead the General Council's work on employment rights over the years. I wish you every success in the continuing campaign for the coming year; every success, because we cannot rest until we all deliver for all workers fundamental workers' rights. Thank you very much. I move the report. (Applause)
Rights at work
Tony Dubbins (Graphical, Paper and Media Union) moved Composite Motion 1.
(Insert Composite Motion 1 - Rights at work)
He said: Colleagues, last year Congress unanimously adopted a very clear agenda on employment rights. We also said that we would judge the Government by the depth of their commitment to the Information and Consultation Directive and the review of the Employment Relations Act.
Sadly, the length of this resolution reflects our judgment. While progress has been made on the information and consultation legislation, the initial response to the Employment Relations Act review and on the temporary agency workers is very disappointing indeed. Improving the labour market by giving workers better protection has been consistently opposed by those who say it causes unemployment by reducing labour market flexibility. We should not be surprised by that. The CBI, after all, was certain that the introduction of the minimum wage would lose us one million jobs.
Academic research and the evidence of our own experience proves that despite an expansion of employment regulation in the last five years, there has simultaneously been a huge growth in employment in the UK. Let us be clear. There is no evidence that moving towards the European social model will put our economic future at risk.
What is evident is that strong trade unions combined with effective management encourages more training, higher productivity and greater employment stability. The evidence is all around us that employee discontent is growing and will continue to grow unless a fairer balance is struck between the interests of employees and the interests of management.
It is right that we proclaim our successes in notching up new recognition deals as a result of the Employment Relations Act but we must never forget that workers in companies with less than 21 employees are completely excluded from the basic human right of recognition. That is arbitrary and unfair and the Government have failed to provide a remotely convincing answer to justify it.
Once again, the small business lobby is being pandered to with their bogus arguments about red tape. The TUC and my union have produced a very simple recognition scheme for small firms which would not involve any red tape but the Government still say no. We cannot and must not let this matter rest. Nor will we give in to small business lobbying on dispute resolution. They do not like the ACAS Code on Grievances and Disciplinary Procedures because it does not get them off the hook at employment tribunals. We will not stand by and watch the code which we and good employers agree is necessary be ditched.
The review of the 48 hour opt-out is due this year. Our message to Government must be clear -- no more opt-out and cop-outs. The rulings on information and consultation provide unions with a unique opportunity to organise around the obligation to consult. However, we need to make sure that the Directive is not watered down and we need to take great care that the regulations will not impede or damage existing union arrangements.
Redundancy and insolvency laws are out of date and totally inadequate. My union faced a situation recently where Imperial Home Decor in Darwen went into receivership with hundreds of redundancies imposed overnight. There is no consultation and no guarantees on redundancy pay or on other payments owed to our members. This must end. Receivers must consult with employees and their representatives and workers must have first call on a company's assets when their employer becomes insolvent.
Colleagues, it is important that the TUC now steps up its campaign on rights at work and uses every means available to get our message across to the widest possible audience. We must ensure that this Labour Government understands that if they want the support of working people at the next election, they have to demonstrate their determination to implement real fairness at work right now. I move.
Richard Rosser (Transport Salaried Staffs' Association) seconding the composite motion, said: Virtually all the favourable legislation on rights at work has been passed by Labour governments and all the unfavourable legislation by Conservative governments. Under this Government we have, for example, the benefits of signing up to the Social Chapter, agreement on ending the two-tier workforce in local government, new rights to information and consultation, the development of union learning services and union learning representatives, the National Minimum Wage and statutory rights to recognition and representation. I know there are some who profess not to be able to tell the difference between this Government and the Conservatives but, then, why let the facts get in the way of a good soundbite?.
The Government's welcome measures to provide the statutory recognition of trade unions where employees support such a step are, however, in danger of being weakened by the acts of employers and legal interpretation of the legislation. Silverlink, a train operating company, dragged out our recognition claim for managers over 15 months with a Central Arbitration Committee calling a ballot, even though we had over 50 per cent in membership because, for reasons best known to themselves, they chose to accept the company's protestations that recognition would not be conducive to good industrial relations. Despite this, the vote in favour of union representation was over 80 per cent.
We have also had a case where the Central Arbitration Committee granted us collective bargaining rights for managers in another train operating company, Gatwick Express, without recourse to a ballot, since we had over 50 per cent in membership, but this decision was overturned at a judicial review which ordered a ballot of managers. We were dismayed that the Central Arbitration Committee decided not to send legal counsel to the judicial review hearing to support the unanimous decision of its panel to grant us recognition. That decision by the CAC not to turn up must have sent a clear message to the higher court.
It is obvious, despite the Government's good intent, that some of the practices and procedures on union recognition are seriously out of kilter with the law they are supposed to implement. Parliament legislated to ensure that if a union has a majority of members in a workplace who want collective recognition, then those employees get collective recognition. With the current procedures that is not always happening.
Why does automatic recognition not mean what it says? We are happy to contest a ballot if it is not clear that a group of employees want union representation. But we are having to contest ballots when a clear majority are already members. We then find employers using the fact that they determine the pay, the hours, the bonuses and the promotion prospects for each individual employee but use that to put enormous pressure on their staff to vote against union recognition.
Congress, it is time that loopholes in the Employment Relations Act were closed so that anti-union employers cannot get round the law or bully employees out of their legal rights. It seems that the way the law is being interpreted favours employers over unions. How is that fair or good for industrial relations? The spirit of the Government's law is clear. It is about ensuring that employees have access to collective representation by their trade union when they want it. In practice, employers find it too easy to side-step this. The provisions and procedures must be tightened up and amended to ensure that the reality of workplace rights reflects the will of Parliament and not the will of hostile employees. I second.
Paul Gates (National Union of Knitwear, Footwear and Apparel Trades) speaking in support of the composite motion said: President and colleagues, this is a wide-ranging composite covering a variety of aspects relating to rights at work.
I would just like to concentrate on the theme of our original motion outlining the concerns we have had as a union since the introduction of the 1999 Act. This is the exemption of companies employing under 21 people from the recognition procedures which we believe is nothing other than discriminatory. How else would you describe the exemption of around five million workers from the provisions of the Act, simply because they happen to work for a small company?
Congress, we believe that the discrimination deepens when you start to examine the gender and ethnic breakdown of these workers. According to the Government's own statistics, there were over a quarter of a million people working in the textile and clothing industry in 2002 in just over 10,500 workplaces. Of these 10,500, 8,675 employed less than 20 people -- and that is over 80 per cent. Most of these businesses are small machining factories employing mainly women and workers from the ethnic communities. Once again, the most vulnerable people in our society are clearly not protected by minimum basic legislation.
That is why, Congress, we believe that the trade union Movement has a responsibility to highlight the discrimination hidden within the existing legislation. Small firms continue to argue red tape and bureaucracy. Again, we need to point out to both these employees and the Government the cost to business and the taxpayer of poor employment relations demonstrated by the increasing number of complaints to tribunals from his non-unionised sector.
Colleagues, why should workers in a modern day society be denied the rights and benefits of others simply because of the size of the company they happen to be employed by? The TUC has made great strides over a couple of years in providing education and training; working in partnership with responsible employers through the TUC Learning Services and Partnership Institute. Again, why should five million workers lose out on these opportunities simply because of the size of their employer? The trade union Movement must mount a major campaign to ensure that five million of our workforce are no longer discriminated against simply because of where they work.
Many of us will remember the slogan of the TUC campaign before the 1997 election: "Put a cross in the wrong place and you can kiss employment rights goodbye". I am sure many of these five million put their cross in the right place. It is now time they received the same employment rights as the rest of the workforce. We, the trade union Movement, have an obligation to ensure these rights are delivered and not kissed goodbye.
Congress, support the composite and support the campaign. Thank you, President.
Robert Crow (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers) speaking in support of the composite motion said: I was listening earlier on to the excellent speech by the President when he said about social partnership. Perhaps some of the partners that some of the TUC General Council meet are different to some of the partners that we meet as a union. It was not so long ago that one of the partners, a bloke called Brian Souter from Stagecoach was at the Scottish TUC waving his membership card around saying he was all in favour of partnership.
He wants to remember, when he talks about partnership, my members in Devon when they take action on £5.80 an hour, go on legitimate strike action and he buses in scabs from all over the country to break that strike, but when we ask for members in those same depots where the scabs have come from to take action, it is classified as secondary action. So if you want partnership, if it is good enough for the bosses to understand what solidarity is then it should be good enough for us to bring in laws that create secondary action as legal as well!.
It is only a shame, brothers and sisters, that we cannot speak longer than three minutes. We have got this bloke Digby coming here tomorrow. Perhaps his name is Rigsby -- rising damp -- for some of the statements that he has been making. But the reality is I do not want to listen to the employers' representative telling me how hard it is and telling me about being backlogged on social partnership and how the trade unions have got to change. We do not just want consultation when a factory is shutting down. What we should be leading is a campaign to stop those factories being struck down, leading to a defence of the manufacturing industry in Britain and not sitting about, "It is closing down".
Also, on top of that, what we should be asking for is workers' rights on day one. What is the difference? Why should you have to wait six months/12 months/two years to have workers' rights? If you pay tax on day one and if you pay National Insurance on day one then why should you not be entitled to workers' rights from day one as well?. That should be our message. On top of that, comrades, it is no good us coming here year after year saying we are going to repeat the anti-trade union laws and do nothing about it. What we have got to do is raise people's consciousness out there and start calling rallies of people on the floor. If you get people on the floor to tell this Government that we do not want a war in Iraq then we should have people on the floors of London and every other city in Britain to say we want employees with workers' rights from day one and nothing else. Eight miserable Acts of anti-trade union legislation were brought in for those Tories in those dark miserable days and, after six years, they have only been modified. If it is good enough when you are in opposition to ask for repeal, it should be good enough when you have got an 160 majority, and therefore every single Act should be repealed and workers' rights put on the statute book!. I ask you to support.
Jeremy Dear (National Union of Journalists) speaking in support of the composite motion said: I am following Bob Crow for the third year in a row! In the words of Malcolm Wicks, a Government Minister, 'I want to assure you that the Government will promote the implementation of all ILO core labour standards and to bring to an end the violations and abuses of the trade union rights of our fellow human beings.' In the words of Kylie Minogue, "We should be so lucky, lucky, lucky". (Laughter and applause)
Our members in Express Digital Media were sacked without consultation or compensation; our union rep at Aberdeen Journals was sacked for organising to protect her fellow workers; our members at Bristol were facing threats and intimidation to halt their attempts to organise and our members at the Racing Post were denied union recognition by a sweetheart deal signed with a company union with not one single member at the title. If this was happening under a Tory Government we would not be surprised, but the fact that it still happens after more than six years of a Labour Government should rightly anger us.
The fact is that British workers will still be the easiest and cheapest to sack in Europe. Five million workers in small firms will still be excluded from union representation rights and Britain will still be in breach of international core labour standards, even after the review of the Employment Relations Act takes place. Our members still work the longest hours for the lowest pay with the fewest rights and the shortest holidays in Europe, and they do so in breach of international laws our own Government has ratified.
The anti-trade union laws do not create fairness. They create inequality in the workplace. As a result of the anti-union laws, working life in Britain has been characterised for too long by low pay, long hours, increased stress and illness. We do not want improved union rights for some academic or political reason, but because strong, independent trade unions with enforceable rights remain the best protection for workers. We have consigned the government that put the anti-union laws at the heart of its economic policy to the dustbin of history. It is time for the laws to go to.
It makes me bloody angry when, in the ERA consultation document the Government says that overtly anti-union behaviour is relatively rare. Tell that to the Becton reps threatened at Sky or the NUJ reps dismissed in Northcliffe or the GPMU reps dismissed at Staverton or those in manufacturing or telecoms or other sectors who face the campaign of US union busting consultants.
We want rights at work delivered -- delivered by a Government which many of our members worked to get elected -- and where they are not delivered we must actively campaign on the political, legal and industrial front taking our campaign to the workplace, the union branches, the political parties and, yes, on to the streets too.
Steve Kemp (National Union of Mineworkers) speaking in support of Composite 1, said: I think it is incumbent on us, Chair, to recognise that there is a long way to go in respect of rights at work. Any consultation procedures and relationships at work cannot and must not be one-sided. Trade unions, and all of us here today, are, I suspect, sick and tired of the Thatcher-imposed one-sided power relationships at work. We are also fed up to the back teeth, as has already been said, of the now seemingly annual ramp by the CBI Chairman attacking trade unions, particularly in the public sector, for representing people in the workplace and attacking the few crumbs of comfort thrown to us by this Labour Government. It makes you wonder why we keep on inviting them here. What a nonsense that we are required in a so-called civilised modernising society to have 40 per cent of people in a workplace indicating that they want trade union membership before it becomes legal. Bearing in mind that barely 40 per cent of the electorate bothered to vote in the 2001 General Election, the word 'hypocrisy' springs to mind.
Before we become in any way under the illusion that this Government has committed itself to rights at work never forget our brothers and sisters in the FBU who, when obtaining a strike ballot of 90 per cent-plus, were still threatened with the law to force them back to work when they were on strike working for better terms and conditions. Also, what a complete and utter disgrace is a law requiring a further ballot after eight weeks of industrial action and that a Labour government -- a Labour government - should place such an overbearing power in the hands of an employer makes a mockery of workers rights. NUM members at Rossington Colliery in Yorkshire have already had a taste of this pernicious legislation. Miners were forced to re-ballot in the middle of an employer-instigated dispute. It is like asking one army to keep balloting its soldiers after eight weeks. Let me remind Congress that even Thatcher did not think of that one.
Congress, we are all aware of the ruthless and unscrupulous way in which employers will use every weapon of the law put in their hands by government to suppress rights at work, such as BskyB and Northcliffe Newspapers, and places where the workers bore the full brunt of that Labour legislation. As Bill has already said, and others, Friction Dynamics, a firm that found no difficulty with current legislation, simply by changing a name has been able to avoid paying out unfair dismissal awards to its workers. Congress, some cynics this week, and in the past, have said that the TUC is a carthorse but we have never been able to drive a cart and horse through Britains current employment laws like employers currently do. It is time that we had a Labour government determined to restore rights at work for everyone regardless of numbers, and a Labour government committed to the class that created it rather than the class that would love to destroy it. I support Composite 1.
Leslie Manasseh (CONNECT) speaking in support of Composite 1, said: President, Congress, despite its shortcomings the Employment Relations Act has enabled us over the past three years to extend trade union recognition to a number of new companies, but now I think the situation is beginning to change. The number of applications is falling and, as we have heard, the applications themselves are becoming more complex and contentious. Employers are becoming more hostile and some are resorting to American-style union-busting. Although this practice is not yet widespread, it is definitely on the increase. Quite apart from their threats to any kind of partnership or voluntary approach, union-busting campaigns expose a very serious weakness in the legislation itself.
There are a number of mostly American companies which specialise in nothing but, as they put it, union avoidance. They boast of their record of keeping unions out of workplaces. They are very good at what they do and they are touting for business here in the UK as we speak. Their tactics vary. As the NUJ explained, sometimes they use crude threats and intimidation but the more sophisticated are not bullies, rather they act as concerned friends anxious to prevent workers from making the mistake of voting for union recognition. They spend weeks and weeks in workplaces briefing managers, holding meetings with employees, and swamping the place with so-called factsheets. They run relentless campaigns of disinformation and misrepresentation. Depending on their audience they vary their approach but some messages are ever present. They never acknowledge that the union is a legitimate part of the workforce. We are always a third party, somewhere between an unwelcome houseguest and an alien from some far-flung planet. They are expert at creating fears, sowing confusion and, of course, isolating and undermining our reps.
With great skill and care, and of course ignoring all the evidence that we have heard about this morning, they construct an image of trade unions and collective bargaining as wholly inimical both to the success of the company and the interests of those who work for it. In this they care nothing for the truth but in their way they are true zealots. Their aim is simply to defeat a union in a ballot. They are very good at it. This is how they make their living.
We need to respond at a number of levels. We need to discuss among ourselves the tactics of how we defeat union-busting campaigns. We need also to respond at a legal level. The success of union-busting companies does not lie in their arguments; these are for the most part false. It lies in the amount of access they have to employees. While they are at work each and every day the very meagre provisions of the code on access puts us at a disadvantage. There is no better example than this of an unfair labour practice.
Finally, we need to send a very clear message to government and employers alike. There is no place in the industrial relations landscape here for union-busters. If there is ever a recipe for conflict in the workplace, they are the authors of it. Please support.
Rosie Eagleson (AMO) speaking in support of Composite 1, in particular the section dealing with the scope of collective bargaining, said: Congress, the very essence of trade unionism is collectivism, collective organisation, collective bargaining, and collective action. It is therefore essential that we remember this when setting the agenda on employment rights. We must prioritise the fight for collective rights; it is not simply enough to achieve recognition. Recognition must enable us to bargain on all the issues that affect our working lives.
The current legislation in restricting bargaining to pay, hours, and holidays, undermines this ability. The current position is both confused and confusing. It is a paradise for lawyers. Believe me, Congress, we know this to our cost because in the magistrates court service our employers are lawyers. There are now three possible definitions of what is covered by collective bargaining. Firstly, it can be those subjects agreed between unions and employers. Secondly, it can be those matters referred to in section 178 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Consolidation Act, terms and conditions, termination and suspension of employment, allocation of work, discipline, and physical conditions. Thirdly, it can be the narrow range of areas specified for statutory recognition, pay, hours, and holidays. Increasingly employers, even when entering into voluntary arrangements, are keen to restrict bargaining to the pay, hours, and holidays formula. Even worse, they tried to argue that pay does not cover issues such as job evaluation, hours does not cover worklife balance or alternative working patterns, and holidays does not cover things like flexi. Of course we dispute this but there is ample opportunity for delay and diversion even when we have recognition. We are an organisation also with tiers of devolved decision-making so there is further scope to use the restrictive definition to avoid negotiation.
Congress, it is simply not enough to add training, equality, and pensions to the list. We need to enhance the scope of collective bargaining to the broad inclusive statement in the original definition. It will also not be enough just to pass this resolution. The high profile campaign referred to must become a reality. Brendan Barber recently described the perfect union. He said: 'Unions must be highly proficient all-rounders.' He added: 'We are most successful in delivering what workers want when we can pursue a broad bargaining agenda.' Congress, we agree. Unless we can achieve this, the future will remain imperfect. Support the composite and demand action.
Roger Lyons (AMICUS) speaking in support of Composite 1, said: President, sisters and brothers, I rise to highlight one special serious issue that has been included in the composite, redundancy. Redundancy is the worst of times for any working people, not only does it ruin livelihoods, it damages self-confidence and blights whole communities. Skills and expertise are scattered to the four winds. With over 10,000 manufacturing jobs going every month, we have a right to know why redundancies are so popular with employers in this country as the first resort, not the last, and more than the same global employer who imposes it elsewhere in their European operations.
The answer is simple. It really is true that it is easier and cheaper to sack workers in Britain. Let us do some European comparisons. In the Netherlands, the employer has to prove that alternative options such as working time reduction, relocation, or retraining, has been negotiated with unions and every reasonable effort made to win agreement before any idea of enforced redundancies, and then at a high financial cost, can even be entertained. In France, employers must negotiate at workplace level with proposals to retrain and otherwise mitigate any downsizing proposal, or a tribunal can block the employers plans. That is why the workers that Marks & Spencer wanted to sack are still at work but with another employer, the French employees that is, not those they sacked in Britain. In Germany, employers must present a special plan agreed with the workers incorporating consideration of all alternative options to redundancies or a tribunal can step in. In other words, they cannot sack their human capital as easily or as cheaply as here so companies chop away at their UK operations when the board wants cutbacks. We lose quality work, experienced workers, market share, and our manufacturing base erodes still further.
For the first time the Redundancy Payments Act gave some compensation for redundancy but the formula nearly 40 years old provides a maximum £260 a week, which if linked to earnings would be well over £400 a week now. This formula must be revised to make redundancy more expensive and more in line with other countries. After nearly 40 years, colleagues, the action is clearly a priority. When the Redundancy Payments Act first came into law in 1965, the top ten was headed by Ken Dodd and the Diddymen with a tune called Tears. Musical tastes may have changed but the tears remain. There are thousands who face insecurity and redundancy. We insist on a level playing field. It is intolerable yet it is so much easier to sack a British worker, and so much cheaper. Congress, let us update this clapped out 40-year redundancy pay formula and bring hope to those in despair. I call on all-out support for this composite.
Jack Amos (Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union) speaking to Composite 1 on the Employment Relations Act, said: This is such a huge composite. It is almost like a book but I will keep my comments short and to the BECTU part of our original motion.
Rupert Murdoch at BskyB recently involved my union in an extremely ugly campaign where the company threatened to relocate to India if they allowed us to have trade union rights and recognition. It has been mentioned from this platform before but I thought I should mention it again. It was obvious that our members there were threatened with the worst thing, which is losing their jobs.
We are also calling on the General Council of the TUC to campaign for an inclusive definition of a worker so that our members, particularly in the Schedule D freelance areas, have the same rights at work from day one of employment. These are so-called atypical workers. It is a word that was coined in Brussels. At the moment it is just one word, atypical. We hope for the sake of the Movement that it does not become two words, a typical worker in this country. We would ask the trade union Movement to fight for all rights for all workers from day one. Thank you.
David Matthews (UBAC) speaking in support of Composite 1, said: My unions particular interest in this large composite is employment tribunals. Two years ago we came to Congress and gained unanimous support for opposing government proposals to charge fees for workers taking their case to employment tribunals. The day that that motion was to be debated the Government announced they were withdrawing those proposals. I have to say that our small banking union is incandescent with rage that three years later we have to come back here and do almost exactly the same thing. On that basis alone I urge you support this motion. Thank you.
Barry Camfield (Transport & General Workers Union) in speaking to Composite 1, said: Chairman, Congress, this, as we know, is a crucially important debate that goes right to the heart of todays workplace and trade union agenda. Prime Minister Blair was only half right when he promised us fairness, not favours. He has certainly done us no favours and we are waiting with bated breath for fairness.
As Richard said, there have been some changes but the reality today is that there is growing disaffection with New Labour. We have seen manufacturing collapse, the pensions robbery, and as we heard on Sunday the pensioners were still being denied their basic rights and link with earnings, public ownership being abandoned as a concept, the denial of decent employment rights, and stress and pressure building on working men and women throughout this country. After the years of Tory division and their gross abuse of power, Britains hardworking families expected real change with no more Wappings and Murdoch, decent rights at work, the freedom of association, the right to organise, the right to collective bargaining, international rights, and ILO obligations. The reality is vastly different.
Friction Dynamics, as Bill Morris eloquently set out, makes the case and we pay tribute to our members in the balcony, and their leaders regionally and locally, for their courageous stand on principle lead to the people of this country. We pay tribute to you today. As Bill said, men and women were sacked over the radio. Solidarity action was banned. We could have supported our Friction Dynamics members with action around the UK but it was banned under a Labour government. Our firefighters were treated appallingly badly in their dispute. Political fund ballots are madness in most of our eyes, and state regulation of our rulebook reigns.
We expect the CBI to defend their vested interest but we also expect the party created by ordinary men and women to represent the interests of labour, to stand up and do that. We are going to make a strong message at the Labour Party Conference to the rank and file of the Labour Party, the constituency members and the MPs, to join with this Congress and trade unionists to work now to repeal the anti-trade union laws that bind the ordinary people of this country, people who get treated appallingly badly day by day in Britain. We are going to stand up and fight back. Read the composite. That is the basis we are going to campaign on over the next year and we are going to take this message into the heart of the Labour Party and eventually to those who will not listen in the Labour Government. Yes, we will appreciate a few favours but, by Christ, some fairness would be a good start. I support.
Paul Kenny (GMB) speaking in support of Composite 1, said: I always start by saying I am just going to be brief, but when a trade union official says they are going to be brief you are normally here for an hour. I would like to focus on a couple of areas. I do so without any apology from the GMB, or anybody else, about coming here and raising our anger concerning a lack of action from this government over the last two years. We make no apologies to anybody about raising our members fears.
Firstly, on the need to strengthen a recognition procedure, the GMB strongly echoes what the GPMU said. The issue of small firm exemptions is a blight on even the most basic framework of protections at work. On recognition applications, bad and unscrupulous employers are constantly undermining the framework around CAC applications for recognition and using intimidatory tactics inside workplaces. That is nothing new and politically a year on nothing has been done about it. Employers shut down, open up the next day, and trade as new companies. Nearly every union in this hall has seen it. If Labour ministers think the current CAC and recognition legislation is okay, then try being a trade unionist exercising your rights inside a workplace with a hostile employer.
We have the disgraceful stance the Government has taken around information and consultation rights. Just so that everybody remembers why it was a just case, we had workers driving into work and hearing on the radio that they were losing their jobs. People were being told by text messages, as Bill said, that they were being sacked. That is why there is justice for proper information and consultation rights for working people in this country, not a shop, and not red tape. People are entitled to be treated properly or in this modern world we will have pictures of history repeating itself. Recently, our officials were told by a company called Bonus Print that there would be trade union rights for the workers over their dead body. Bonus Print used to be called Grunwick and these employers have not changed; it is clear. We send a big strong message today. Listen to what we are telling you. Listen to what we are saying. Do something politically or someone is going to get politically done. Support.
Susan Worsley (UNIFI) speaking on the subject of TUPE and pensions, said: I am a good employee. I am productive and conscientious. I paid attention when my parents told me to make sure I joined the pension scheme when I obtained my job. I was lucky and found a job with a major bank, which allowed me entry into a final salary scheme. I did everything right. My employers may decide that they want to outsource my area of work and my rights to a pension that I had been counting on have gone. It is a scandal in an age when we are constantly being told to save for retirement that the right of access to a pension scheme is not protected under the current TUPE regulations.
UNIFI is calling on Congress to campaign to ensure that this gaping hole in the TUPE regulations is filled with a right of access to a pension scheme of equal quality to that of the employees old employer following the transfer. We have been awaiting reform of the TUPE regulations since this Labour Government first came to power, yet there has been delay after delay. Throughout the long drawn-out process we have been consistent in our call that the revised regulations must include provision for occupational pension schemes. The revised regulations are finally due to be published, we hope, this autumn. Following the Governments Green Paper on pensions, some elements of pension protection are likely to be included but these provisions fall so far below what we would consider acceptable that we must continue to campaign for the right of access to a broadly comparable scheme following the transfer.
It seems that a transferee would only have to match employer contributions of up to 6 per cent into a stakeholder pension. They would not be required to continue to make pensions in excess of this or, it would seem, put in place a final salary or money purchase scheme equivalent to that operated by the original employer. Whilst this is a small step in the right direction, it should only be the first step. There is still a long way to go. The TUPE regulations are basically about fairness, about having your terms and conditions protected during the transfer so that you are not made worse off to a situation in which you have no personal control.
It seems obvious to us that one of the most important elements in anyones terms and conditions is the right of access to a good pension; after all, pensions are deferred pay. Unfortunately, it still does not appear that this is as obvious to those making the decisions. That is why we must continue to work to ensure that whatever the area of the economy you work in, if you are subject to a transfer your new employer will have to give you access to a pension scheme of equal quality and they will not be able to avoid their obligations.
If the Government wants to create a society in which people will be able to provide for themselves in retirement, why do they continue with a self-defeating policy excluding occupational pensions from TUPE? This has to change, and soon. We urge you, please, to support this composite.
Mary Davis (NATFHE) speaking in support of Composite 1, said: I am sure, like me, you often ponder deeply about trade union history; if you do not, you can be helped by this. This is a little advert here from the TUC. We have this TUC history on-line now. You can see it outside the hall. It is very very interesting. What you learn from this, and it is an excellent initiative which anybody can access, is that in terms of our history the whole struggle of the trade union Movement has been about trade union rights and recognition, really from the time that the Combination Acts were repealed in 1824.
My point is simple. I actually think we have gone back to 1824. We have gone back almost to the very minimal legal definition of what a trade union is, with very very few rights to compensate us. This did change in the 1870s by Tory and Liberal governments but the big change, of course, and it is quite right, came when trade unions formed the Labour Party. In fact, if you look at the composition of the Labour Representation Committee in 1900 it was not all unions that formed the Labour Party. Why did everybody come in? It was one simple issue, Taff Vale. It was a trade union issue. What the trade unions wanted was a Labour voice in Parliament to repeal anti-trade union legislation which was holding back the development of the Movement and holding back rights of people at work.
This is the issue that I think we should really consider and think about, not in an academic way but in real way. That is exactly why the Labour Party was formed. I have heard people saying that it is really through a Labour government that we have rights but I say if that is true what we have to do is ensure that that Labour government repeals those wrongs that the Tories committed under Thatcher over 18 years. This composite is very detailed indeed. The devil is in the detail but it just shows how bad things are that we need four pages of it to say where we should be going.
Our contribution specifically from NATFE is on the question of the erosion of bargaining rights in general and the curtailment of the right to strike by the simple mechanism employers are using of partial performance. Partial performance is actually, in some instances, equal to no performance and equal to a lockout. If you take strike action, that is counted as partial performance. It has happened to me and it has happened to many other people I know; you are locked out. There is no right to strike. This is why when Tony Blair first came to this Congress however many years ago, shortly after John Smith died, he said that what trade unions will get is fairness, not favours. I say, let us get some blinking fairness. We have never asked for favours. Let us get some fairness, let us pass this, but we need to fight every inch of the way for every part of it.
Geoff Waterfield (ISTC, The Community Union) speaking in support of Composite 1, said: President, delegates, I want to draw attention to the part of the composite concerned with union-busting tactics. Many companies are poised for attack on the limited gains we have made in the last six years in restoring some element of fairness to the law; even the standard legal reference books give advice to employers on ways of frustrating trade union organisations. They want to deny working people by any possible means their right to have their interests at work represented by an independent trade union of their choice. The law as it is at the moment provides plenty of scope for an employer to intimidate, threaten, and cajole employees after, before, and during the 20-day access period.
Experience in North America demonstrates very clearly how important it is that the law should rule out the vicious union-busting campaigns which are part of the scenery in the US and which are specifically ruled out in Canada. The impact can be seen in the evolution of union membership in the two countries. In the mid-1950s rates of organisation of over 30 per cent were common to both countries. Canadian membership has held up well while US rates of organisation have plummeted over wide industrial sectors.
The lesson is this. Quite small changes in the legislative framework can make a great difference in practice over a period. Unlike the US but like Canada, Britain has ratified the two ILO Freedom of Association Conventions. The body of the ILO, which checks on compliance with conventions 87 and 98, say that intimidatory tactics are inadmissible. Our government should take that on board and I call on the General Council to press this point as hard as they can. We support the motion.
George Brumwell (Union of Construction, Allied trades and Technicians) speaking in support of Composite 1 and addressing the UCATT amendment, said: Colleagues, the debate about employment rights and the repeal of all the anti-trade union legislation will mean nothing if we do not address the question of bogus self-employment that exists within our industry and has crept, and is creeping, into other industries. The privatisation programme of the Government is a direct attack on terms and conditions of every worker in every sector. At the heart of that privatisation drive are many big players in the construction industry. They have honed to perfection how to deny workers their rights. They use the tool of bogus self-employment. We are in courts and tribunals every week trying to establish rights for workers under the existing legislation and we are finding it very difficult. Forty per cent of building workers are denied a paid holiday that is laid down in a tablet of stone under the European directive but still the abuse goes on.
The Government itself can deal with this at a stroke. The DTI review of employment status can state quite clearly what is a worker and what is an employee, and they can do that without any legislation being introduced. If you look at my industry, £80 billion a year and £40 billion of that workload is for the Government. At a stroke the Government can say, 'Employ fair conditions on every contract funded by public money.' Gordon can do himself a favour and pull in another two to three billion pounds worth of tax revenues that could be ploughed back into the public services. I support.
The President: Thank you very much, Joe. I hear no other speakers. I invite Tony Dubbins from the GPMU to exercise his right of reply, if he so wishes. (No reply) Thank you, Tony. Bill?
The Vice-President: No, President.
The President: Thank you very much indeed. We move to the vote on Composite Motion One.
· Composite Motion 1 was CARRIED.
Economic and Industrial Affairs
The President: I now turn to Chapter 3, Economic and Industrial affairs, and I call Composite Motion 2, Trade Union Rights and Partnership in the Public Sector. I would like to indicate that the General Council support the composite motion.
TU Rights and Partnership in the Public Sector
Brian Caton (Prison Officers Association) moved Composite 2.
(Insert Composite Motion 2, Trade Union Rights and Partnership in the Public Sector)
He said: For the POA this motion is a simple one. We need true partnership and that partnership is not something that we are seeing currently. We demand that the political wing of the Labour movement of the United Kingdom, our political wing, do three things: firstly, return to my members the fundamental right, if necessary, to withdraw their labour in line with the obligation under Article 87 of the ILO Convention; secondly, to give a commitment that the Fire Service Bill will not pass through Parliament in its current form as this will be a further breach of the obligations under Article 87 of the ILO Convention; thirdly, and most importantly, to give every worker in Britain the rights that they should have had since 1948 as provided for in Article 87 of the ILO Convention to which the country is a signatory. They are not unreasonable requests, I would have thought.
We are already acknowledged as having the most draconian employment law in the EU. A true Labour Party would commit itself to ending this unsustainable position. It was in 1994 that prison officers had the right to take industrial action removed. The decision to remove these rights came following some industrial action at Preston and Hull prisons. The action was taken not as some would have you believe about pay, about terms and conditions, and about any proposed redundancies, our action was taken to protect the health and safety of staff, prisoners, and the general public. We had prisons that were grossly overcrowded, no different from what we have today. We had found a gun in Preston prison. There were staff shortages and the staff finally said, 'No more. We are closing the gates before we see a repeat of the month-long disturbance at Strangeways and elsewhere in 1991.'
Whilst in opposition we had commitment after commitment on what a new Labour administration would do, remove the offending section 127 of the Criminal Justice & Public Order Act. Since then we have seen the change of government we wanted to see and this has brought about a move back towards a more social agenda and a more partnership-led approach between the public sector, trade unions, and government. The Government should be applauded for its recent decision to create the public sector forum to ensure that the reform of the public services meets the aspirations not only of government but also of those who represent the workforce and the general public. There are some leaders of British industry, as we heard earlier, that may come here during the week in order to put their view. I have to say this. These wreckers of the Governments new and welcome partnership approach should not be allowed to derail the positive reform of our public services. That is what Digby Jones sought to do in the comments he made last week.
Partnership depends not on words on paper, not on good publicity, or indeed on the banner headlines in the tabloid press, it is partnership in practice and respect and understanding for the desired results that is truly a partnership approach. It is therefore essential that the Government ensure the partnership philosophy is demanded and enforced throughout the public sector. Though this new approach is to be welcomed, it has provided some nice spin for those who have opposed in recent times, but we on our side want to see it work. It is not within the modern approach but we see it to conduct industrial relations through the High Court. It is not within the modern approach but we see it to use the tabloid press to attack the integrity of union leaders at times of strife. It is not within the modern approach but we see it to use legislation to remove workers rights through primary legislation, as with the current proposals contained within the Fire Service Bill.
Remember, colleagues, if any government, be it this government or any other shade of government, is prepared to remove the rights to take legal industrial action from firefighters because they say they are essential services, who will be next, nurses, teachers, paramedics, water supply workers, electricity supply workers, telecommunication workers, maintenance workers, social services, and bus drivers? I do not have that long left but it is an extremely long list. Colleagues, my members want to see section 127 of the Criminal Justice & Public Order Act removed. It has now been six years since the Movement helped the Labour Party to power and my members are still waiting. The Fire Brigade and Fire Brigade control workers want to see an end to the diversifying Fire Services Bill. They should not have to wait until the end of this week before they have the commitment they are looking for. Every worker in this country should be given all the rights that a British government has pledged to provide. I so move.
Ruth Winters (Fire Brigades' Union) in seconding the composite motion said: Also backing the right to strike for every worker in this country.
The Fire Services Bill, as George has said, and as has been said by the PLA, has gone through Parliament. It sets an extremely unwelcome precedent in this country. Many delegates will be extremely disappointed, as we have already heard in the previous debate, about the lack of progress by the Labour Government since they were elected in 1997. The overwhelming bulk of Tory anti-trade union laws remains on the statute book; every Directive that has come along from Europe to extend workers' rights and trade union freedoms has been watered down to meet CBI preferences and policies. Tony Blair has said publicly that in Britain the law remains the most restrictive on workers' rights in the advanced industrial world. He is not wrong in that assessment, is he? We know that. What an extraordinary and phenomenal statement for a Labour Prime Minister to make and take pride in.
I suppose at least it can be said that until now things have not got any worse than in the Thatcher and Major times in terms of rights, but our gallant Labour Government have backed the demands of the CBI extremists, the neo-liberal fanatics, to preserve Thatcherite settlements. We are supposed to be grateful to maintain what Thatcher and Major imposed. Now this government can no longer sustain even the most shamefully modest claim. The Fire Service Bill takes this country into unknown territory, even to Lady Thatcher. Now the workers' friend, apparently, John Prescott, is to take powers to impose settlements to over ride totally the process and outcomes of free collective bargaining. I thought we were the ones who were supposed to live in the free world.
He originally sought these powers during our recent national dispute on the grounds that collective bargaining had broken down. To say the least, that was a cheeky and absurd position for them to take because the government had intervened on three separate occasions to prevent a settlement in our campaign. Now that a settlement has been reached and the military war against Iraq supposedly has ended, why does this government insist on progressing the powers in the Fire Services Bill? It is draconian legislation that offends ILO Conventions and the European Charter and is unworthy of a Labour Government. Furthermore it sets unwelcome precedents for future governments and every single worker in this country because, if they can use it on us, they will use it to police every public sector settlement on pay and conditions of service. That is something this Congress and the General Council have to fight with every single fibre we have.
The Fire Service Bill is still there. It has been held over us, dangled over us, almost like a noose hanging round our necks. If we do not make the next process in our pay negotiations they will impose. It is all over the proposed White Paper and every single issue that is in there. Of course, we would like to debate what we debated earlier in terms of fighting for better trade union rights, but what this one is about is stopping the erosion.
We have to make sure, and reiterate the fact, that this imposition bill, if enacted, will destroy trade union workers' rights; it is a back-door means to prevent the right to strike. This is not an act of modernisation, it is not an act of public safety, it is not an act of partnership and it is not an act of any real Labour Government. Tony Blair tells us that he is acting as the government and not as the Labour Party. I tell you, Tony, I bet you will be knocking on our doors for money and our votes when it comes to the next general election. It is our responsibility as trades unionists to stop this Labour Fire Service Bill going through. Please support.
* Composite Motion 2 was CARRIED
Presentation to John Monks, ETUC General Secretary and TUC General Secretary 1992-2003
The President : It is now my great pleasure to introduce John Monks, the European TUC General Secretary, and former TUC General Secretary, and his wife Frankie. I am sure there can hardly be any delegate in the hall who is not aware of John's outstanding contribution to the TUC and to the union Movement.
John began working in Congress House in 1969, becoming head of the Organisation and Industrial Relations Department in 1978. In 1987 he became Deputy General Secretary, and in 1993 General Secretary. This year he moved to be General Secrety of the European TUC.
Before I make a presentation to John, let us see a video that captures some of the flavour and scale of John's achievements over the years.
(A short video was then shown)
The President : I hope you agree that that was an excellent tribute to John. We are now back live.
I would like to say a few words also about Frankie, his other half or better half. Frankie is a native of the Netherlands. For many years she was a teacher in a South London comprehensive school. There is courage for you! With a background like that, I think I am on safe ground in saying that Frankie taught John everything he knows about the European model of social partnership. Frankie, we are particularly glad that you could be here at Congress today and I delighted to be able to present you with this gift as a token of our appreciation.
(The presentation was made)
Frankie Monks : Thanks very much for this. It is very much appreciated but utterly unnecessary.
Let me just say one thing that reminds me of John's very long time at the TUC. I used to say 'How on earth can you work for one organisation for so long, don't you fancy a change?' He said 'Well, simply. Its because I love the job. The comradeship and the support I have had from the trade union Movement have been so wonderful.' That is why he just loved the job; he loved doing it.
All I would like to say is: thank you very very much for giving John such a wonderful job. I want to wish you all the best in the future, and especially Brendan and his great team. Also I hope that the great and the good of this country -- I won't name names -- will begin to listen and take a bit more notice of your great Movement and all the working people, the ordinary working people, and the pensioners of this country. Thank you. (Applause)
The President : Thank you, Frankie, for those very short but wonderful words.
I now turn to John. John, it gives me great pleasure to be able to present you with the gold badge of Congress.
(A presentation was then made amidst applause)
John, I have great pleasure in inviting you to address Congress.
John Monks : Nigel, it is not an easy job following my wife on a public platform like this, because in a way she encapsulated in very few words what I feel about the British trade union Movement and trade unionism generally.
You have done me a very, very great honour today in giving me this gold badge. It will be a very cherished possession of the Monks family in the years to come. My leaving period has been a series of events that I am going to remember all my life, and the highlight was an event at Congress House where the guests in a 'This is Your Life' sequence were Doreen Lawrence, Jack Jones -- who I am very pleased to see here in his 90th year -- Neil Kinnock and Sir Alex Ferguson. I know you do not all share my enthusiasm for Alex and I am not a religious man, but that evening was as near to Heaven as I expect to get. So thanks for that to the General Council and to everyone at the TUC, including some of the key members of staff.
Well, what to say after 34 years? Perhaps, firstly, if I love it so much why am I leaving one of the best jobs in the world? For me, a ten-year stint was about right, and I had an excellent successor in the wings in Brendan, who was more than ready to take over. When John Boyd -- some you will remember him -- the General Secretary of the AEU in the late seventies and eighties was leaving the General Secretaryship of that union I asked him what he thought had been his main achievement. He said simply, 'Leaving the union in good hands' and I have never forgotten that. I believe that I have left the TUC in very good hands. That was one reason.
Next is the call of Europe. Like many still are in the UK, I was initially rather tone deaf to its message but I have come to realise that you do not get trade unionism in one country any more than you get socialism in one country. Our fortunes depend on others, especially our near neighbours and our biggest trading partners. The European Union for all its faults, and there are plenty -- you read about them every day in the tabloids -- is a union friendly bloc of fifteen countries where welfare states are the best in the world, where public services are the best in the world, where trades unionism is still central to just about everything in the economic and employment areas. Just think for a moment about your agenda at this Congress. The cry from this Congress this morning on labour law was 'Give us the rights that match worker/union rights in the rest of the European Union'. That is quite right but it could easily be the same cry on health or indeed on transport, where from a long way down the UK only aspires to reach average EU levels, never mind the best.
Yet, you know, often British trade union opinion can be lukewarm to this EU adventure. We do not get the point. The EU was started to bring peace, prosperity and equality to our part of the world, and to show the way to others with troubled histories and troubled presents. Neil Kinnock said to the General Council about 18 months ago that the adventure was to turn the twentieth century bloodiest continent into one of its most prosperous and peaceful gardens. That is really, in essence, what it is about.
Contrary to the Eurosceptics, we cannot ever stay out. There are a million twentieth century British and Commonwealth graves in France and Belgium alone, and they are a silent but eloquent reminder of that. Why do we tend to approach every development, every major development anyway, in the EU like a child shivering at the pools edge at that first swimming lesson? Why do we wait and see for years before taking the plunge, and then only because events usually conspire to push us in? Why do we approach issues like the Euro as if we were constipated bank managers -- sorry UNIFI -- trying to insist on a bottom line profit all the time? It is too big a decision to look at it in just those terms.
The economics of the Euro are very, very important to workers. You will be debating that this week, but you have to take a broader view too because if the Euro works well it will introduce a new dynamic into Europe's economies. The challenge is to make it work well, and you do not help that process by standing on the touchline just as a commentator; you have to get on that field of play.
You know, most of all for trades unionism, if we are to build an economy that is as powerful as the United States of America, yet is more equal, more generous and much more worker and union friendly, we will have to do it in and through the EU, not just in one country. I do not believe that there is an alternative trade union route to success. If we fail to do that, we will remain vulnerable to all those 'made in conservative America' fashionable phrases, the anti-union measures you have been talking about this morning. We talk about them all the time: privatisation, deregulation, derecognition, deunionisation, maximising shareholder value, with the results of this soaring inequality through accelerating executive salaries that we can all see so graphically.
These measures are extremely fashionable in Europe, just as much as in Britain and in the United States, and the job of the ETUC is to mobilise resistance to this, to defend and to promote social Europe as an antidote, as an alternative, and not just in Europe but in a more generous way in world development too, one which is much more inclusive and not just looking at all those bottom lines in the developing world.
Only in the genuine social partnership societies do I believe that trade unionism will thrive and grow. That is going to be our message at a major demonstration in Rome on October 4, to put pressure on Berlusconi and the Italian Presidency, to ensure that social Europe does not get forgotten in this construction of a new enlarged European Union. I hope to see a good British contingent at that event. I know it is a long way to go but not the worst place in the world to go to either. It will be an enjoyable and, I hope, politically important event.
Finally, maybe something of a parting shot on domestic matters. Most of my 34 years at the TUC have been under a conservative government. The last six years, although there have been lots of frustrations, lots of complications, have been a whole lot better. I get as frustrated as many of you about the government's half-heartedness on a number of issues, on Europe generally and on opposition to more worker rights in particular. I think it is ridiculous that we have not yet fully sorted out the two-tier workforce issues and we are still in a muddle about what exactly is to be this private role in delivering improved public services. I do not even grasp myself, after trying extremely hard, what really a foundation hospital is. I have not heard it explained in a manner that I can even begin to fully understand, never mind begin to think that there may be anything in it. The pensions crisis is crying out for decisive government moves, as is the plight of the pensioners. I look at it in the whole, I look at it in the round, and I appreciate many, many positive factors too: the economic stability, the high employment levels, a lot more public servants who have been employed, the growing skills and learning services work which is going to become an ever more important part of the work of the TUC and this Congress. There are better labour laws and they are benefitting trade union membership. It is a long way from that Norman Tebbit speech, which was a graphic reminder of what the alternative can be to what we have at the moment.
When someone -- a Minister or me on occasions -- lists the achievements of the present Labour leadership, which includes, by the way, winning elections which has not been the hallmark of every labour leadership, then you can almost see trade union audiences yawning and switching off until you get to the next bit of attack. It would be a huge mistake to continue like that. Congress, do not do that. Never get to the position that I can recall we got to in 1980 after Mrs Thatcher and Mr Tebbit had been elected, when we realised how basically decent the Callaghan Government was after it had actually lost office. This is an imperfect but decent government. At the moment, I believe, it is in need of your help. The TUC should aim to be a source of help rather than a source of just awkwardness. Awkward for sure sometimes. George Brumwell put it well this morning. But supportive too and looking all the time for positive engagement, not out of blind loyalty to Labour but because workers and unions do better under Labour. Do not get the thing out of proportion, keep a sense of balance, and remember who your friends and allies are. Because things are not perfect does not mean that they are hopeless. Just remember the level of employment now compared with when Norman Tebbit and Michael Howard were quoted in that particular video. Just remember what a really hostile government can do and what it did to trades unionists and workers.
All right, we have not put it all right yet but keep trying to put it right and you will do that by constructive engagement with the government and with employers too, particularly those employers who are prepared to work with us.
Maybe just one other point. Do not let the political debates that are dominating this Congress divert attention from the basic challenges because the basic challenges are the same: how do we appeal to workers in the private service sector? What can we do for them? At the moment we are nowhere so well organised as we are in public services or in the manufacturing sector. How do we appeal to the young who do not yet see the virtues of collectivism, who cannot quite understand the collective bargaining concept that is central to our lives? These seem to me to be the No.1 priorities that we have to face in the trade union Movement.
So, Nigel, some parting shots to this Congress: I remain privileged and very proud to have served it for 34 years; I look forward to serving the whole of the trade union Movement in the years to come. As Frankie said, may you grow in membership, in strength and in influence to secure the future for working families and for all the vulnerable in our society. May you take your rightful place at the very heart of this nation's affairs. Thank you for your comradeship, thank you for your support. Thanks for everything. (Applause)
The President : It says in my script, colleagues, that I am to thank John for this thoughtful address. As skilled as the TUC staff are, I do not believe they have to be great prophets to be able to predict that John would always deliver an extremely thoughtful and effective address. Thank you very much indeed, John. I thought every single one of those words was very apt indeed and well said, bearing in mind what is going on out and about in this world at the moment. John, we wish you well in your new role and we are sure you will be successful, a champion of trades unions in Europe as you have been in the United Kingdom.
Congress adjourned until 2.15 p.m.
(Congress reassembled at 2.15 p.m.)
Sir Bill Connor (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) moved the following motion:
(Insert Motion 34 - National Minimum Wage)
He said: The minimum wage, if you can recall, was introduced for three principal reasons. Firstly, it was introduced to deliver justice and fairness for workers; secondly, to combat cheap labour practices and provide a level playing for employers and, thirdly, to relieve the taxpayer of the cost of shoddy employment practices. But, Congress, we are still failing on those three tests. Where is the fairness and justice in totally unprotected 16 and 17 year olds being paid £2 an hour and less? Where is the level playing field when scrooge employers dump older workers and substitute cheap teenage labour? Where is the benefit to the taxpayer when our investment in continuing education is ransacked by slave labour practices? Congress, these are not merely academic arguments. We, in USDAW, conducted a survey of 16 and 17 year olds a few months ago. The results were shameful. A sales assistant in a cycle shop was being paid £1.33 an hour; a lift engineers mate was on £1.53 an hour; a general farm assistant was on £1.70 an hour; a hotel worker on £1.75 an hour, and a warehouse operative on £1.86 per hour.
Even if we only applied protection to the existing minimum wage of £4.20 and appllied 90%, which is in many of our voluntary agreements, that would be £3.78 - double the highest rate that I have quoted. If we applied 80% at 16 that would be £3.36 which is double the middle rate I quoted. So that would represent to those people who are currently unprotected a significant improvement. They would be entitled to and protected by law in respected of minimum standards. The poverty in those jobs is reflected in more than just the basic pay rates. There is no pretence at training. There is no claim to provide a qualification of any description, and not even a guarantee of a safe and secure working environment. We found jobs advertised for 16 and 17 year olds sales canvassers knocking door to door in the evenings and paid the princely sum of £10 per shift. We would not want 16 and 17 year olds knocking on doors to strangers at night, anyway, and certainly not for a miserly £10. It is precisely that kind of cheap labour which the MinimumWage was designed to combat. As a basic protected rate of pay, it is not just a fundamental principle but it is common practice in our agreements and in many countries. In Belgium, France, Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain, their youngest workers are protected properly by law. The US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand do likewise. Even in the overwhelming majority of our voluntary agreements in the UK they set down an adult rate at 18 which is proportionate for under 18s on an agreed basis.
Most young workers are not trade unionists and can therefore not rely on our support. They need the Government and the law for their basic protection. The Government and the Low Pay Commission have failed to address this issue, but we now have a window of opportunity. The Government have specifically asked the Low Pay Commission to investigate the case for national minimum wage protection for 16 and 17 year olds. We are urging the General Council and other affiliates to do everything possible to make that case, to gather the evidence and to prove our arguments to the Commission, and that evidence certainly exists out there. It will help to make the case for some of the most vulnerable workers amongst us.
Yes, we must do everything possible to ensure our 16 and 17 year olds continue in education. That is the ideal position. Let us also recognise that the way post school education is funded makes this almost impossible and we should not hide behind noble sentiments. We should recognise that around two-thirds or 67% of post school students are in some form of paid work to help fund their studies. For tens of thousands of workers it is not a choice between education and work; it is both at the same time. Let us continue to argue for competence based pay rates - if you are good enough you are old enough - and if people are up to speed they should get the rate for the job. But as Dave Anderson pointed out in the debate at a previous Congress, most of our voluntary agreements have the 18/17/16 formation. We can expect a decent statutory floor for young people and we should be campaigning for that.
Therefore, I ask Congress to support this proposition overwhelmingly. Thank you.
Sandra Allen (GMB) speaking in support of the motion, said: Congress, what sort of a message does it send to two-thirds of a million 16 and 17 year olds that society stands by while they are exploited in the workplace, paid at rates as low as £1.50 an hour? Are they expected to do only half the work as they are only receiving under half the Minimum Wage? I do not think so. Everybody wants to feel that young people have more of a stake in our society and so we should. They are our future. Yet the Government still excludes them from the safeguards and protections that cover older workers. The GMB is, frankly, unimpressed by arguments that a minimum wage for 16 and 17 year olds will deter them from pursuing further studies. Rubbish! The traditional career entry and apprenticeship opportunities for this age group have all but gone. The term 'entry level job' has now become almost synonymous with 'McJob'. The Commissions remit is to look at a minimum wage for 16 and 17 year olds set below the current youth rate. Congress, I ask you whether hoards of young people are going to drop their aspirations and ambitions in favour of a job paying less than £4 an hour, that a minimum wage for this age group will give them a stake in notions of citizenship, equality, rights and responsibilities. It will allow them to work fewer hours and devote more time to study, and it will stamp out discriminatory and exploitative employment practices.
Congress, the GMB has always maintained that there is no place for age rates in the minimum wage structure. One of Britains great failings is the paucity of workbased training provision for all ages, but in particular employers have got out of the habit of investing in their future. Instead, they expect highly skilled and fully trained young workers to drop in their laps, courtesy of the further and higher education institutions or of other employers. If the Government are really concerned about young peoples employment prospects, it should be encouraging employers to provide them with meaningful training, not sanctioning arbitrary age discrimination. The GMB wants to see the end of age rates in favour of a more robustly enforced development rate linked to high quality training. Employers should be investing for the future, making sure that we can compete in the global labour market with well-trained, highly motivated employees and we will not get that by letting our young people be exploited. Please support.
The General Secretary: President and Congress, the General Council is recommending support for this motion but wishes to accompany that support with an explanation. It remains the firm belief and the long-term objective of the General Council that all workers should enjoy the protection of a National Minimum Wage, regardless of age or status. We also reaffirm strongly Congress policy that our aim is that all young people aged under 18 should either be in full-time education or employed on a quality training programme. In which case, a trainee development rate of pay can apply. However, we recognise the reality that regrettably many 16 and 17 year olds leave school and go into jobs where they are offered little or no training, where often, too, they have no union to protect them from exploitation and where they can receive appallingly low pay rates, as little as £1 or £2 an hour.
Our vision of minimum wage protection for all workers is undimmed, but we recognise that in Britain today there are hundreds of thousands of young workers who get no minimum wage protection at all. So while our principles remain firm, in the short term we support the pragmatic position of support for extending minimum wage protection to 16 and 17 year olds at a lower rate as an important first step, but only a first step, towards our longer term goal of fair and decent pay for all. Please support.
Catherine Gray (UNISON): You will have to excuse me. I am a bit nervous about making this speech, so I asked a suitably more experienced colleague if he would just have a look at it for me and give me some pointers. He has written at the top: 'Just remember to breathe in and breathe out'. So I will stick to that and I will be all right.
(Laughter) Dont worry. It wasnt Alastair Campbell.
Reluctantly we will be abstaining from voting on this issue and it is reluctantly. You should have been at our delegation meeting yesterday. That is not to say that we do not wholeheartedly not support USDAW in seeking to extend the National Minimum Wage to 16 and 17 year olds. We have all worked closely together over the years for the campaign which brought in the minimum wage in the first place. UNISON acknowledges that with 75% of USDAW membership being affected by the minimum wage, that is 75% of their membership struggling to get a home with the increasing inflation of house prices and denegration of council properties; that is 75% of their membership being paid a pittance of lower. We recognise this is a real issue for them, as it is for us all.
My union has always believed that 16 year old people should be encouraged to remain in education or in work training. It is only when we get this balance right that we will have the workforce and learning culture that we all want. However, many 16 and 17 year olds are in work but they are not covered by the minimum wage. They are covered by the single room status from wanting to claim Housing Benefit. They are discriminated against in the workplace, seen as tea-makers and filers with no access to any training or real career progression.
Whilst this nation seeks to gain coverage for 16 and 17 year olds in the National Minimum Wage legislation, it does not remove the discrimination already inherent in the current system. It transfers it to a younger age group and that discrimination must be removed.
As vice-chair of UNISONs National Young Members Forum, I am particularly appreciative of all the work that was put in and has got us to this point, and of the work that we are still to do to ensure that the rate is extended to all workers. That is the point. All we want to see is a decent national minimum wage for all workers, based on the job they do, not the age they are.
The President: Thank you, Catherine. You did very well. I hope I did not add to the trauma at the beginning. Does USDAW wish to exercise the right of reply?
Sir Bill Connor (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers): On a point of information -- I thought that Catherine made a very good speech even though they are not going to vote on the motion -- let m say that 75% of USDAW members do not rely on the Minimum Wage. When the National Minimum Wage came in none of our members were getting below the Minimum Wage. We have done a bit better than first impressions might indicate. Thank you for your helpful comments, anyway.
* Motion 34 was CARRIED.
Mark Serwotka (Public and Commercial Services Union) moved Composite Motion 10.
(Insert Composite Motion 10 - Work/life balance)
He said: Congress, this composite motion deals with the crucial issue of work/life balance. For anyone who had not realised what a crucial issue this was, cast your minds back to the magnificent industrial action taken by mainly low paid women workers at Heathrow in the summer which brilliantly highlighted the issue of work/life balance. I am sure that everyone here fully supports those workers in their struggle and their right to keep a decent work/life balance.
The PCS demands an end to the work till you drop Britain. The culture of long hours working in Britain has reached epidemic proportions.
Lets look at some of the facts. British workers have less holidays, less public holidays and work longer hours than anywhere else in Europe. Two-thirds of workers are suffering from working long hours. More than a third of office workers are risking their health by taking no breaks at all; 37% of staff slave away at their desks all day. This is causing record increases in stress-related illnesses. We are seeing increases in rates of depression, suicide and alcoholism. They are all rising as a result of people working too long hours. Divorce rates in Britain are at a seven year high. Working the longest hours in Europe is given as one of the major contributors.
Recent research by the Medical Health Foundation found that 25% of all workers in Britain work more than five days a week. One in six workers in Britain works more than 60 hours a week compared with one in eight in the year 2000, so the problem, so the problem is clearly getting worse. The Mental Health Foundation says that six out of ten workers are experiencing negative effects from working long hours. These effects include taking less exercise, spending less time with their partners and neglecting friends and families. It has taken European legislation to limit working time in the UK, but the 48 hour working week still does not apply to many workers and, disgracefully, the CBI and the Institute of Directors would like us to remain the sick man of Europe and retain the opt-out from the 48 hour rule. Congress, we must be clear. There should be no opt-outs from the 48 hour working week.
The CBI tells us that people have a choice. Research revealed by PCS tells us that that is not the case. Independent research found that 48% of people regularly feel pressurised either by their extensive workload or by their bosses to work longer than their contracted hours. Just over a quarter of those replying said that they felt pressurised almost always or often. The notion that our members and other workers in this country have a choice about their hours is a myth. Even where unions, and my own is one of them, have negotiated many excellent work/life balance policies, our members do not have the choice to take advantage of them. Our members are under siege, often working in areas of the public sector, in particular where there are not enough staff to deliver key public services. How do you keep your working week to reasonable levels when you have nobody else to pick up the workload.
Part-time working is another issue. Many of our members now have the right to ask for part-time working. If you are a low paid worker it is an economic fact of life that many of them cannot afford to go part-time. In the Civil Service more than 40% of Britains civil servants earn less than £15,000 a year. 25% of Britains civil servants earn less than £13,250. How can you exercise your right to go part-time when the reality is that your wages do not support that choice.
Therefore, Congress, in passing this resolution, we must demand that the TUC says to the CBI and the Institute of Directors that their attitude is completely unacceptable and it is not sustainable in the long-term. The CBIs attitude will build up health and social problems for the future. Workaholics should be tackled and treated, not admired. We should also be clear that working longer hours does not mean working better.
PCS is working to tackle work/life balance issues in a variety of ways; encouraging members to take up their existing rights, developing new approaches with employers and urging the Government to make statutory improvements where these will help to make work just part of a better balanced life.
PCS believes that the steps outlined in this motion will begin to tackle the problems. These demands are not fluffy liberal notions. They are key industrial bargaining issues: a 35 hour week with no loss of pay and increased holidays up to European standards should be core demands in our industrial negotiations.
The UK is the fourth richest country on the planet. The wealth of this nation should be invested in achieving a better work/life balance. Universal child care, for example, would give every child the best start and a fairer future and would help working parents. Britains long hours culture, which is often coupled with low pay, is an impediment to improved productivity and a more civilised society.
The Governments proposals to increase the retirement age in the public sector to 65 is disgraceful. Working till you drop is no way to solve the problems of the work/life balance. The Prime Minister says he shares our work/life balance agenda. We say to the Prime Minister, stop listening to the CBI, stop listening to the Institute of Directors and listen to the people in the labour and trade union Movement whose members put you where you are, who are crying out for radical action to be taken.
I hope this composite motion is carried unanimously. I hope that every affiliate in attendance at this Congress goes back and he shows that his demands are taken up in an industrial agenda. The time has come that we do not just needs but action. I urge you to support the composite.
Roger Lyons (AMICUS) seconding the composite motion, said: British workers work 216 hours more than their European counterparts, and the group of workers most likely to work these long hours are men with children. It is working fathers who bear the brunt of the long hours culture. It is their children who suffer the absence of fathers due to our long hours culture. In turn, it is working mothers who have to reduce their paid hours, often losing their position, status and income levels in the labour market in order to provide the care that families need. In summary, men and women, mothers and fathers, have too little choice and too little power to organise their working time. This, truly, is a disgrace for our time. Whilst workers have very limited scope to balance their working time and earn a decent wage, employers have been able to use and abuse the infamous opt-out provisions to force employees to work more than a 48 hour week. We compare so badly, for example, with France, where the statutory right to a 35 hour week is enshrined in law.
Meanwhile, the average worker in the UK works 44 hours a week. Our workers work 9 hours a week more than French workers doing the same work! What this means is that the working week in the UK lasts for more than one day longer than that in France. So we really must commit ourselves to a serious campaign which results in a reduction of working hours in the UK today.
I want to highlight the right also under the new Flexible Working Regulations give working parents the right to request flexible working. Undoubtedly, this is a tool which many fathers will be able to take advantage of. This is because the new right forces employers to seriously consider requests from working fathers to reduce their working time. Sex discrimination cases can now be taken if they are refused family friendly working practices. If the employer is obstructive, then industrial action may become necessary.
Mark pointed to a recent successful campaign by BA workers to defend their work/life balance. Today, Congress should salute the activists involved including our senior lay rep, Barbara Cunor-Milton, who is here for this debate in the balcony. They defended their work/life balance and they won.
We must also re-visit the 35 hour week campaign. It must be a priority. The PCSU must launch a campaign based on the £15 million fighting fund left over from the last campaign. A successful campaign for a 35 hour working week and the widespread adoption of flexible working regulations to improve working fathers working time will bring more control to so many workers over their working lives and an introduction to a quality of life already enjoyed by many of our European sisters and brothers.
Colleagues, I have pleasure in seconding Composite 10.
TCW Jones (Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen) speaking in support of the Composite, said: Many of you will recall, probably some 25 years ago, the forecast by those experts of a date in the future that come the new millennium, we will be working a 20 hour week, not every week, of course, and we would have so much leisure time that it could become a problem itself. Perhaps it was me and I just got the dates and the centuries wrong. Now we can have a chance for a proper work/life balance. It can be done, and done without giving the CBI and employers high blood pressure. Good employers should welcome it. ASLEF has had a number of successes with various train operating companies with a four day, 35 hour week. It is a reality, or soon to become a reality for some. We still, however, have problems with overtime and rest day working cultures within some companies. We still have train drivers rostered for 12 hour shifts in a stressful environment. Stress has been proven to be a killer, and it also leads to numerous health risks. There are examples of train drivers working 60 or 70 hours a week, all work and no life in that balance.
My trade union is doing much to tackle this problem industrially, but we need more. We need legal protection and we demand it now. It is bad enough that we have to work the longest hours in Europe, but worse when those hours become a hazard to public safety and the health of our members. Fatigue kills. Long hours on the railway and within many other industries is a national scandal. We want to see an end to the exemption of transport workers from the Working Time Directive and an end to the nonsense of individual opt-outs which are a green light for bullying managements.
Quite rightly, we have laws limiting working hours for bus drivers, lorry drivers and airline pilots, but there is no protection at all for train drivers. A tired driver becomes a dangerous driver.
For the past year ASLEF has been running a Drive Down the Hours campaign to try and establish some legal decency in the railway industry, and there was much support for Early Day Motion 937 to give us a better work/life balance, to create more jobs and to become a family again. ASLEF is proud of its industrial achievements, but it recognises the needs for political and legislative work to go hand in hand with that. Thank you. I urge your support.
Judy McKnight (The Trade Union and Professional Association for Family Court and Probably Staff) speaking in support of the composite, said: Congress, Composite 10 sets out a very broad agenda for the TUC in campaigning for the achievement of work/life balance policies. I want to concentrate on one part of that motion, the very last bullet point, which calls for policies to ensure that employers exercise their duty of care to their employees including the provision of measurable and manageable workloads.
In January of this year NAPO members in the Probation Service took industrial action in the form of a one day strike. Our industrial action, the first we had organised nationally for more than ten years, was not about pay or other perhaps more obvious conditions of service. It was about workloads. Year after year our members have seen their workloads ratcheted up and up without any equivalent increase in staffing levels and not only have members faced ever greater case loads but the people they are supervising on probation are increasingly high risk. Our members work has become more and more stressful. Despite years of promises by our employers to take action to address our workloads, at least introducing policies that would require managers to measure and prioritise workloads, no action was taken. The pressure on the Probation Service to meet often unachievable targets has meant our employers, effectively, paying lipservice to what they knew were our legitimate concerns.
So in January our patience snapped and we took industrial action. It is shameful that it took industrial action to get our concerns addressed, and although things are currently far from perfect we do now at least have workload agreements in place. We know that our experience is not unique. Across the board in both the public and the private sector, working people are being driven to distraction by the pressures of meeting unrealistic and unachievable targets. Often in the name of modernisation, employers are seeking to introduce policies. Often they are called 'flexible working practices' which, in reality, are predicated on staff working longer hours and often more and more unsocial hours including evenings and weekends.
Congress, the Government have proclaimed themselves committed to work/life balance policies. Let us campaign to get the Government to make those policies a reality, not a sound bite. Please support Composite 10.
Owen Coop (Graphical, Paper and Media Union) speaking in support of the composite, said: President and delegates, the GPMU fully supports the arguments made by the mover and the supporting speakers to this composite. Of course, we support the call for a 35 hour week to join many of our European counterparts who have already secured a shorter working week with employers. However, we believe that the first step towards the work/life balance is to ensure that the Working Time opt-out is abolished by this Government.
Delegates, in March 2000, when the Prime Minister launched the Governments work/life balance campaign, he said the campaign would focus in three areas. One of those areas was tackling the long hours culture which exists in this country, but we still have four million UK workers working more than 48 hours a week.
We, in the GPMU, have a simple answer to the Prime Minister and the way to tackle long hours, and it is this. End the opt-out now. This will not only show their commitment as a government to reducing the long hours culture in the workplace, but also it shows their commitment to health and safety in the workplace, many of which are caused after fatigue and tiredness sets in through working long hours in the workplace. How often do we hear doctors making mistakes through lack of sleep? How often do we hear about drivers falling asleep through fatigue at the wheel? Lets not fool ourselves. A lot of management encourage long hours rather than pay employees a decent living wage in the first place.
So, yes, we want a work/life balance and all the benefits that that can bring to our members, but our message is clear to the Government: withdraw the opt-out. Dont cop out to the CBI! We ask you to support the composite.
Jim Barbour (Fire Brigades Union) speaking in support of the composite, said: Conference, I have to tell you that we in the Fire Service will not be waiting with baited breath for this Government to do something positive for ordinary working people. A 35 hour week with no loss of pay would be nice.
Congress, in our recent dispute those conditions were on our wish list, amongst other things. The reality is that fire fighters and emergency control staff still work an antediluvian 42 hour week , and our officer members, incredibly, are expected to work a 78 hour week. On top of all of this, the Government are hell bent on excessive overtime in order to cut jobs, which they call 'modernisation'!
You can be sure that the accountant or the PR executive is into flexy time, job swapping and sabbaticals, but oddly enough the officer cleaner is much more likely to be interested in getting in the hours rather than balancing work with life.
We say the work/life balance should apply to all, not just for the middle classes.
I think it is worth reminding ourselves that this Government when it is talking about the work/life balance is also telling us that we will have to work until the age of 70 to pay for our retirement. The spin doctors will, no doubt, attempt to dress this up as a campaign against ageism, but I am sure we will all see through that one. What our rulers want is to put more work into life, not more life into work. We say that a 35 hour week will create jobs, will improve productivity, will reduce workplace stress and will improve family life. It sounds like a good deal for everyone. Support the composite.
Marge Carey (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers): Congress, our union supports Composite 10. We understand the problems of the work/life balance, and in many of our areas the retail members work 24/7. When the companies started to open on Christmas Day, that was the step just too far. So we introduced a huge campaign throughout the union and with the Government to protect Christmas Day. I have to say that it was with success. I would like to thank the General Council for supporting USDAWs campaign to protect Christmas Day. With your support, our campaign moved the Government from a position of neutrality and indifference to one of positive support. For that reason, I would also like to congratulate the Government, too, for listening to our campaign. It is fair to say that the Christmas Day opening has not yet reached epidemic proportions, but the Government did listen, and they realised that the trend was moving towards widespread opening. They decided to nip it in the bud before it became unstoppable.
The Government have recently completed a consultation of all the large stores trading on Christmas Day, and we are confident now that legislation will be introduced to stop all large stores opening on Christmas Day, and that will be effective from next year - 2004.
As the speakers have said, the work/life balance is an important issue. It is not just important to our shop workers. Christmas Day is not important just to our shop workers. It is a collective day or rest and a day that the vast majority of workers still expect to spend with their families and friends.
Many thanks to the General Council and to everyone who supported our campaign. Please support Composite 10.
The General Secretary: Congress, the General Council strongly supports the thrust of this motion, ending the long hours culture and establishing a better work/life balance is absolutely a top priority. However, one aspect of the motion requires an explanation, and that is the part which specifically calls for a statutory limit of 35 hours on the maximum working week and, I think, on this issue we need to enter a specific point.
Clearly, the 35 hour week is a key bargaining objective for many unions. In calling for the Government to bring forward legislation and to guarantee that this reduction in working hours is without loss of pay, we need to make progress in bringing down working time for sure, but to require the Government to legislate in this way we think needs to be considered further.
There is a still a huge problem of excessive hours of working in the United Kingdom, and the individual opt-out that has been referred from the working time regulations maximum of 48 hours means that here in the UK we have no effective limit. Congress, yes, 35 hours is an important long-term goal and many unions have achieved it. But, so far as the law is concerned, let us get to 48 hours and get rid of the opt-out as a first step towards that goal.
(The right to reply by the PCS was waived)
Composite Motion 10 was CARRIED.
The President: Colleagues, we now come to that section of the Congress where we honour and recognise the important contribution of our lay activists. They are, after all, the bedrock of our Movement. This year marks something of a departure for Congress. As many of you know, the annual presentation of the Mens Gold Badge and the Womens Gold Badge stretches back more than 70 years. More recently, the Congress Award for Youth was introduced in 1970. During that period the role of the lay activist has changed and evolved. Since the 1970s we have seen the creation of health and safety reps.
Earlier this year we saw the introduction of statutory rights for Union Learning Reps, a major breakthrough, which is already revitalising union organisation, and of course the vitally important foundation for our Movement is the work of lay organisers in recruiting new members and winning recognition agreements.
To celebrate these achievements for the Movement, this year we present five awards at Congress: the Womens Gold Badge and the Congress Award for Youth, to recognise the contribution of women and young members to the Movement. In addition we also present awards to recognise the specific contributions of health and safety reps, learning reps and lay organisers. In a few minutes, we will present the awards to this years winners, but before we do that, we have a video to show you.
(Video was shown)
Women's Gold Badge
The President : We have seen the video, and now it is time to meet the award winners. The Women's Gold Badge. As we have seen, this year's winner of the Gold Badge is Violet Keld. Violet is an USDAW shop steward at Morrisons where she has worked hard to represent her members, even though she only works part-time. She has also played an active role in her community where she has always been willing to help people with problems outside of the workplace. Unfortunately, Violet could not be with us today and her award will be collected by USDAW President, Marge Carey. (Applause)
Presentation of Women's Gold Badge.
Congress Award for Youth
The President : This year's Congress Award for Youth goes to Ross Marshall. Ross is 24 years old and works for London underground. He is a safety rep, Branch Chair and member of the RMT London Regional Council Executive Committee. He also sits on the TUC Young Members Forum and was this year's winner of the RMT Youth Award. Ross has been the driving force in the campaign for the RMT to set up its own youth section. Unfortunately, Ross cannot be with us -- we will get down to some real people soon -- as he is unwell, but his award will be collected by Dawn Elliot of the RMT. (Applause)
Presentation of Award for Youth
Award for Learning Rep
The President : The award for learning rep goes to Sandra Allen of the GMB. Sandra is a senior rep at Unilever. She managed the highly successful Springboard Union Learning Fund project. Sandra now manages the GMB's Taste for Learning project which, with the support of the company, has now opened on two site learning centres at Unilever's factories in Grimsby and Hull.. One of these sites received a TUC Award for Best Workplace Learning Centre. (Applause)
Presentation of Award for Learning Rep.
Award for Safety Rep
The President : This year's winner of the Award for Safety Rep is Anthony Hitchins. Anthony is the union safety rep for the Transport and General Workers' Union at Peugeot in Coventry. He has worked hard for a safer workplace by persuading his employers to switch to safer cutting oils, to improve ventilation and to introduce medical checks. As well as the normal Safety Committee meetings, Anthony and his colleagues now meet the directors every six weeks. (Applause)
Presentation of Award for Safety Rep.
Award for Organising Rep
The President : Finally, the Award for Organising Rep goes to Hussain Ali Ahmed. Hussain led the campaign to organise his workplace, a video distribution centre, over a two year period. In secret, and facing threats of dismissal, he recruited 70 members to help win recognition. The workers mainly speak Tamil and Hindi and Ahmed used his language skills and community links to organise them. He encouraged three new reps to come forward and he played an important role during the CAC process, mapping the workplace and taking part in-house calls. (Applause)
Presentation of Award for Organising Rep
Inaugural Address by the General Secretary
The President : We now move to the General Secretary's address and, as Robert Taylor recently wrote: "The role of the TUC General Secretary is almost impossible. It requires an ability to perform a bewildering range of roles with no block votes or big battalions at their instant command. Any leader of the TUC needs to persuade and cajole their union colleagues through logic, common sense, patience and intelligence.
Congress, I feel sure that you will agree that Brendan Barber, our new General Secretary possesses those qualities in abundance. The Fire Service, the BA dispute and Public Services are just a few of the challenges that Brendan has faced. Congress, I am sure you will agree that Brendan has come through with flying colours.
Delegates, I am now delighted to call upon our General Secretary, Brendan Barber, to give his inaugural address to Congress.
The General Secretary: President and Congress, this morning we gave John Monks the send off that he deserved. He gave wonderful service to the TUC and to the working people of this country. He gave outstanding leadership to our Movement.
But I also owe him a great personal debt. His friendship, his wisdom and his generosity of spirit taught me so much of what is best about our Movement. When John took office trade unionism was at a pretty low ebb. Membership was in free-fall. Among the employers derecognition was all the rage. The Tories were waging war on us and some people even claimed that unions were finished -- we were part of the past, not the future. Together, we have proved them wrong. As we heard John say in his first Congress speech: "When we are united in solidarity there is little we cannot achieve".
So what have we achieved? We have won crucial changes to the law from the minimum wage to recognition rights; from parental leave to rights for learning reps. Falling membership has been halted, with hundreds and hundreds of new recognition agreements. With the right of every worker in this land to call on union representation, there are now no "no go" zones for trade unionism.
The media is fond of saying that these are victories for union bosses. But they are not. They are victories for ordinary people that work up and down this land: hairdressers who now get a minimum wage; the care workers who now get paid holidays for the first time ever; for the air stewards, the printers, the pilots; the bank workers, the journalists, the factory workers, the food workers, the IT staff, the charity workers and all the rest who all now have their union recognised for the first time. They are all proud of their union; proud of the gains that we have made and proud to be part of our future.
So what about our future? I see three great challenges, each central to why we stand up to be counted as trade unionists today. First, we stand for social justice. That is why we fight the inequality and unfairness that still disfigures too much of Britain at work. Second, we stand for respect at work. That is why we are out to give people a voice and to drive up the quality of working life. And, third, we stand for prosperity. That is why we want to help to build a successful economy; an economy that can generate the wealth, the jobs and the opportunities that can improve all of our lives.
Let me say something about each of these in turn. For much of the last century, the gap between rich and poor got smaller. It was part of what we used to mean by "progress" and by "modernisation". But now the gap is growing bigger again. In 1981, the poorer half of the country owned only 13 per cent of the wealth. By the year 2000 they had to make do with just 1 per cent. In Britain today, one in three children live in poverty. Meanwhile, millions of Britain's pensioners struggle desperately to get by. There is no big secret about why the gap is growing. Up at the top end, boardroom greed is on the rampage with salaries and bonuses that bust inflation year in and year out and pay-offs the size of a lottery jackpot -- even when they have botched the job, and pensions that get ever bigger as their staff schemes are snatched away.
Meanwhile, at the other end, millions of people suffer the indignity and the hardship of poverty pay. One in five of Britain's full-time workers today earns 250 a week or less. These are dry statistics, but each is a family struggling every week to make ends meet, wondering whether they can afford new shoes and clothes for their children and skipping meals so their kids do not go without.
Take the cleaners at the HSBC Headquarters in East London. They earn just 5 an hour. What must it be like for them to clean the directors' offices knowing that one of the directors has already been guaranteed a 20 million pay-off! So let us commit ourselves today to putting the struggle to eliminate low pay at the heart of our trade union mission.
We do not just demand fair pay but equal pay, too. We know that for every 10 a full-time man earns a full-time woman earns only 8. For part-timers the gap is even greater. The grim reality for too many women is low pay today and then poverty pensions tomorrow. So Britain's employers need to be told: "End this discrimination. Deliver equal pay now".
Our Movement has to battle discrimination on every front: The malice that can destroy the working lives of lesbians, gay or transsexual people; the indifference that can deny people with disabilities a decent chance and a fair crack at work. And discrimination still blights the lives of too many black workers. The evidence is clear. If you are black in Britain today you are twice as likely to be unemployed as your white counterpart. If you are black in Britain today you are less likely to have your employer invest in your skills. And if you are black in Britain today you are far less likely to reach the top at work.
It is 10 years since Stephen Lawrence was savagely attacked and murdered on a shadowy South London street. It is 10 years since a BNP Councillor was elected in Tower Hamlets in East London and 10 years since the TUC launched our "United Against Racism" campaign because we have a special responsibility to fight racism at work.
But as BNP election results show -- and they had another gain only last week -- we must be out in the community too, taking our campaign to the street corners and to the doorsteps. That was the message of the Respect festivals in London and Manchester this summer. That must be our abiding commitment. So I ask you to pledge never to rest so long as the BNP try to divide and destroy our communities. Tackling injustice and inequality is the first great challenge we face.
So what is the second? It has to be to drive up the quality of working life. Our mission has always been about more than pay. Pay cannot compensate for stress, for a job that uses only a fraction of your talents or for a boss that does not listen. Top is the issue of time as today's debate high highlighted. It is whether we can balance work with the rest of our lives. We all need time for rest, time for our families and even some time for ourselves. It is plainly wrong that British workers work the longest hours in Europe. It is shameful that Britain alone in the European Union uses an opt-out from the 48 hour week.
Every boss can pressurise their staff to sign an opt-out and the evidence is piling up that many do. One in four of those who signed an opt-out say they were given no choice. Two in three of those who work more than 48 hours have not even been asked to sign.
Later this year the European Union is to review the opt-out and we know that the business lobbyists are already fighting hard. They say that everyone has the right to work more than 48 hours a week; it is a kind of free choice issue. It is not the kind of free choice that I recognise. It is like saying that people should have the right to work for less than the minimum wage; the right to work in a dangerous environment or to drive when drunk. Even the Government's own figures show that two in three people working more than 48 hours a week want to work fewer hours.
That is why, yesterday, I launched the TUC's new campaign: "it is about time". We are asking people to tell us their long hour stories by calling the TUC's timeline or contacting our websmart website. Our long hours culture damages people's lives. But it is also a symptom of just how badly so many of our workplaces are run. Other countries work fewer hours, have more holidays and yet produce and earn more. Why can't we? I want Government and employers today: It is about time to wake up. It is about time to start tackling our long hours culture and it is certainly about time to end the opt-out.
But time is not the only issue. Skills is the other crucial ingredient in a better working life. The least skilled work is the least satisfying and the least productive work. Millions are working way below their talents and capabilities. They suffer and the country loses out.
I am immensely proud of the huge drives forward by out Movement just in the last few years. I could give you the statistics: the 300 union learning fund-backed projects that reach into more than a thousand workplaces; countless thousands of workers back into learning that had previously been written off by our education and training systems. The 5,000 union learning reps, and more every day. But that is, perhaps, not the best way to do it.
I get lots of letters every day from junk mail to missives from Ministers. But none have affected me like the 12 I received all in one day. Every single member of a literacy class had used their new skills to write to me to thank the TUC for making their class possible. Each of them said that without trade unions they would still be missing out on the new worlds that were now beginning to open up to them. Each of them told me that this was the first letter they had ever written.
Congress, our work in this field transforms people's lives. So let us today recognise all the hard work done by the learning rep, by the tutors and the union staff that have begun to make this possible.
Better skills do not just benefit individuals. They are vital, too, to economic performance. And that brings me to our third key challenge: helping to build a successful economy. What do we mean by that? We want a full employment economy that generates prosperity for all our citizens and funds public services of the highest possible quality. If the economy flounders, it is our members and potential members who are hurt the most. Remember the mass unemployment of the 1980s! That is why I want to see unions fully harnessed to the task of delivering higher productivity. At present, our productivity lags dismally behind the United States and major European economies, too.
There is no single easy answer that will close the productivity gap; no magic wand; no get rich quick scheme. But there are lots of straightforward steps we can take. We need more investment in skills, in infrastructure and equipment. We need better and more skilled managers. We need determined and smart support for our manufacturers such as using public procurement more intelligently -- the kind that union campaigning helped to win when the Government awarded the Hawk contract to British Aerospace at Brough.
British manufacturing is under threat, with over 10,000 jobs bleeding away every month, and yet our long term prospects depend critically on maintaining a vibrant manufacturing sector able to compete with the best in the world. That is why we need more high performance work places. All the evidence shows that you do not get top performance unless the workforce feels valued and no work force feels valued unless they know that their voice is heard with genuine consultation and hard information.
The TUC's Partnership Institute is supporting unions and employers working together to change for the better and, crucially, we now have broad agreement with Government and the CBI on how we are going to implement the new Directive on Information and Consultation rights. Congress, this is a massive opportunity for us. But it is not something for employers to fear; indeed, it is a crucial step in building the high performance workplaces we need today.
Congress, I have talked of three great challenges: overcoming inequality and injustice, boosting the quality of working life and delivering a successful economy. But what does all this mean for our relationship with the Government?
It may come as a surprise to you but it is no secret that there have been plenty of tensions and lots of frustration. That is going to be evident through the course of this week. The Government has still failed to deliver on the fairness at work that we demand. Ministers are still too ready to believe employer bleating about so-called red tape and in our vital public services reform often seems to have been something that has been imposed on public servants rather than managed with them.
We have to press our causes with Government with passion and with commitment and talk straight when we think they have got it wrong. That is what we will go on doing. Areas of disagreement inevitably hog the headlines, but it is only part of the picture and we would be selling our own efforts short if we ignored those areas where real progress has been made with this government. I have already told you of information and consultation rights, learning reps and flexible working. All these have been secured just in the last few months, along with action to tackle the two-tier workforce in local government and better enforcement of the minimum wage. There has been movement, too, on the crucial issue of public services reform.
Congress, this issue is absolutely central to the Government's second term. If the increased funding that they are pumping in -- funding to provide for 400,000 new public servants -- fails to deliver visible improvements they will pay a devastating political price. But it would not be just the Government that pays the price. It will be everyone who believes in public services. The right wing ideologues would take us off in a very different direction.
"public funding and public provision does not work", they cry. "the only way you will see real improvement is if you allow people to buy things for themselves through insurance and vouchers even." we would rue the day if those ideas every began to gain ground.. We need to open a new chapter and I hope that the public service forum that the Prime Minister agreed with us last week is the beginning of a new way of working together.
I say to Ministers, "The stakes are very high". That is why I say to the Government, "Work with us. Win the support of the workforce. Make public servants proud ambassadors, confident that the services they deliver are getting better day by day. Turn all of our public services into beacons of best practice with fair pay, equal pay, top class management, high quality training and real consultation".
But my challenge to the Government is even broader than that because I want to see the Government setting out a positive vision for the role that unions can play in achieving all our joint objectives. Do not just treat us as a problem; something to be squared for the conference season. Use us. Use our ability to make business more productive. Use us for the way that we can bring learning to the workplace. Use us to make society fairer, to help those at the bottom and tackle the excesses at the top. And challenge us, too. We know we can do more to recruit, to organise, to spread partnership. Make us raise our game too, because it is when we work together that we grow together.
Congress, trade unionism is needed now as much as for any previous generation. We have made important gains. We will go on demanding more from Government and from employers too. But let us make sure that we are getting the best from the gains that we have already made. Winning a change in the law does not mean anything unless people at work get the benefit. That is where unions come in. That is our job. We have to make sure that the new rights are not just a chapter in a law book, but a reality in every workplace.
Whatever happens with Government, our future is in our own hands. It is for us to shape our own destiny. I am convinced that this is an age of opportunity for us and I am determined that trade unionism will nourish, rooting out injustice and inequality; helping people get on as well as get even; building an economy to deliver prosperity for us all. I want Britain at work to be Britain at its best.
These are mighty tasks and worthy goals but we are a Movement of principles and of purpose. When we gather together we come together each year to make our points. Let us make sure we do something even more important, and that is to make a difference. Thank you. (Applause)
The President : Thank you very much indeed, Brendan, for that stirring and very thoughtful speech. You have certainly given us all, I think, much to reflect upon. I am absolutely confident that the TUC will continue to thrive under your leadership.
The President : Delegates, I think we now move to Chapter 4 of the General Council's Report on page 46 on pensions and welfare and I call on Jeannie Drake to lead in on behalf of the General Council.
Pensions and welfare
Jeannie Drake (General Council) leading in on Chapter 4 of the General Council's Report said: President and Congress, there have been many issues competing for public attention this year, but pensions have surely seized a position of dominance. We have seen a sustained and systematic attack by employers on workers' retirement savings. High quality final salary schemes have been closed for new employees. Inferior defined contribution schemes with much lower employer contributions are all, if anything, that is offered to new staff.
We have heard the excuses. "Asset prices have fallen -- the stock market has collapsed"; "FRS 17 means pension fund liabilities are greater than the value of the company" and "Final salary pensions are no longer suitable for a mobile workforce".
But, Congress, let us be clear. That is what they are - excuses! They cannot explain why the slow trickle away from final salary schemes has become a raging torrent. Employer opportunism has to play a large part.
Yes, it is true that asset prices have fallen and it is true that accounting standards create problems. But what motivates employers more than anything else is the desire to transfer the risk to employees and to reduce costs. British employers will save billions by closing final salary schemes.
For years and years when the stock market was rising employers took contribution holidays. When stock markets fell, first they transferred the risk on to the employees and now, when they have to start paying into pensions again, many are dumping their responsibility and, in the worst cases, simply walking away from fund deficits and all the human misery that that causes.
The post-war consensus on a tripartite responsibility for pensions between employers, employees and Government is no longer a consensus. While workers are seeing their pensions cut, many top directors making these decisions continue to enjoy hugely generous final salary pensions. They feather their own nests while our members suffer.
Congress, this cannot go on. Urgent action is needed to re-build the UK pension system. The voluntary system has failed. That is why the General Council are calling for a new pension settlement based on re-asserting the principle of shared responsibility. Government workers and employers all have to play their part.
The Government has to provide a decent basic pension operated in line with earnings. Yes, we acknowledge the Pension Credit is a step in the right direction, but reliance on increasing means testing is a real weakness. Government must reform a state system that disadvantages millions of women and penalises them for their caring responsibilities, their low pay and often their part-time status. But, for shared responsibility to re-assert itself, employers must be under an obligation to contribute to a pension scheme -- and workers must contribute too.
This shared responsibility must be supported by a public and fiscal policy infrastructure. One of the biggest problems we face today is the catastrophic fall in employer contributions which reinforces the lost opportunity for accumulating pension benefits which increasing numbers of workers face.
So are the Government acting fast enough? The Pensions Green Paper and the action plan published in June contain important and useful measures: a Pension Protection Fund to guarantee that if an employer goes bust workers will still get their pensions; an immediate change in the law so that solvent employers winding up their pension scheme meet their promises in full and more effective rights for unions and workers to be properly informed and consulted -- a need illustrated by the totally unacceptable behaviour of Smith Industries covered in the emergency motion which we are taking in this debate.
But these positive steps, welcomed by the General Council, have been balanced by some negative moves: the reduction of limited price indexation of the pensions from 5 per cent to 2.5 per cent and the proposal to increase the public service pension age.
Let me be clear here too. The General Council are opposed to these proposals and we will campaign against them to change the Government's mind.
And while encouragingly, the Green Paper did include a chapter on women and pensions, it said nothing about how poverty among women pensions could be tackled; nothing about improving women's entitlement to the basic state pension; nothing about getting more women into occupational pensions and nothing about closing the gender pay gap. 91 per cent of those not receiving a full basic state pension are women and two-thirds of women pensioners have no access to occupational pensions.
The General Council support Composite 16 which addresses these issues and I commit the General Council to putting the issue of pension provision for women at the heart of the agenda over the next year.
Congress, we need a much wider and better informed debate about pensions. The new Pensions Commission will help in that process but the General Council has to play a role.
Other organisations have published detailed proposals for the reform of the pension system: the National Association of Pension Funds, the IPPR, the Pensions Policy Institute and the New Economics Foundation with their proposal for People's Pensions.
The General Council will assess all of these proposals and we will take the best of these ideas and press the Government hard to think afresh. The General Council supports Composite 23. It is consistent with existing Congress policy but calls on us to raise our campaigning profile and raise our game to show that workers are angry with what is happening to their pensions and to show employers that their double standards are damaging relations at work.
We talk the language of shared responsibility and we mean it. Pensions are too important to be left to the goodwill of employers. We need a strong statutory framework -- a clear obligation on employers to contribute.
But we need to apply best practice too. Unions have a critical role to play in educating members about pensions. If we have negotiated a good scheme then we have an interest in making sure that workers join them. Workplace representatives should see it as part of their daily work to encourage workers to join the pension scheme.
In conclusion, Congress, the pensions crisis is not solely an issue for existing pensioners or a concern for those who have reached their 50s and are suddenly motivated by enlightened self-interest. This is a cross-generational issue where young and old have common cause. It is today's pensioners, your future and our children's inheritance. So let us go forward today united in our commitment to a determined campaign on pensions.
Congress, support Composite 16 and Composite 23
The President : Thank you very much, Jeannie.
Christine Bond (Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union) moved Composite Motion 23.
(Insert Composite Motion 23 - Pensions)
She said: Mr. President and Congress, there is a continuing crisis in the occupational pensions. There is a continuing closure of final salary schemes for workers but, as pointed out by the TUC's own pension watch survey, not for company directors who are still to be found awarding themselves final pension salary schemes. There has been widespread reduction in pension benefit to workers and serious concern about the massive extent of pension scheme deficit.
This Congress calls on the General Council to prioritise its campaigning on pensions. Congress, the definition of "pension" in a dictionary is "a monthly payment to someone retired from work" -- payment deferred from their working years, I would say. All workers should have access to secure and sufficient retirement income, whether they have worked for 40 years for one company or, as is more likely, having worked for many employers -- sometimes 40 employers you might find with our freelance members.
Pensions and pension schemes are a serious matter to the collective bargaining position of our Congress members. The safety of being within a collective net protects workers. The push to make pensions an individual responsibility leaves members vulnerable. Look at the 401 case in America and look at the idea of maybe ending up with voucher pension schemes. If our 21st century economy is to succeed our pensioners have to have access to secure and sufficient income. The key element of a campaign should be a minimum compulsory employee contribution with a target in excess of 10 per cent. Employer pension scheme assurances to protect schemes. Pension scheme membership as a right of employment. Tax incentives to make sure the schemes work well. Review of legislation impacting on schemes and the protection of existing members' right to occupational pensions without abatement of their contractual retirement age.
Gerald Imison (Association of Teachers and Lecturers) seconding the composite motion said: Mr. President, it is an honour for ATL to be invited to second Composite 23 because, in our belief, it is one of the most crucial issues that is being addressed this week. It has been referred to in all the major speeches that we have had and it is an issue which affects all our members -- our present members, our past members and, as Jeannie has said, our future members.
The TUC -- it is quite clear -- is aware of the crisis. The problem is that the Government is still saying, "Crisis? What crisis?" all the unions who brought forward resolutions in Composite 23 are, in different ways, urging exactly the same thing. Until the Government accepts that there is a crisis on pensions and that it, the Government, is crucial to finding a solution, then we will have a situation where too many workers will not be able to afford to retire and, when they do, will not be able to afford to live in their retirement.
Ironically, of course, it is in the Government's own interests because, with inadequate pension provisions, there will be a greater financial burden on the state. Poor pension arrangements mean state financing will climb out of control. Of course, this was initially a problem that was largely found within the state sector but now, particularly with the publication of "Action on Occupational Pensions", it has moved firmly into the public sector. It seems quite clear that the Government has failed to learn the lessons from Robert Maxwell. It, itself, thinks that it can play with public sector funds as though these were Government property rather than money held in trust for pensioners to come.
But the impact is not just in the future. It will hit present workers at a time when, as you, President, said this morning, social partnership is important to deliver improving standards. Making changes such as raising the normal retirement age will alienate public servants where morale is already fragile and make public service a less attractive option. The position will that be for teachers staff will be more likely to leave much earlier than they are at present in order to establish a second career well before retirement.
The public sector reform agenda requires committed careerists and, against a background of uncompetitive salaries and inferior condition, the pension provision has always been a crucial part of the employment package. There have been dramatically negative implications for the teaching force on the proposals made by the Government.
What do we want? Essentially this: action to ensure proper, stable, safe and adequate pension arrangements for all. It is action that is the key. Words and rhetoric go only so far. We need a sustained, raised campaign. On this issue the Government has to move and if they will not move freely the TUC must move them. I second.
Lorimer Mackenzie (The union of choice for senior managers and professionals in public service) speaking in support of the composite motion said: Congress, let me start by saying that I agree with the Government when it says that action is needed on pensions. We are all aware of the misery caused to those who have seen the pensions and had their lives wrecked. No one should have their futures taken away from them, and yet that is precisely what the Government seems to be proposing with its changes to the pension age for public servants.
My union represents senior managers in the civil and public service. My managers have the honour of working for the Government -- whatever government. Without my members, governments of any hue could not deliver anything to anyone. And yet it seems as if this Government wishes to repay us with a fundamental attack on those who have served it so professionally.
Throughout their working lives civil servants have become used to being paid less -- sometimes much less -- than the private sector equivalents. This is unfair but successive governments have made it clear that it comes with the territory. "Anyway" -- they argue -- "you have better pensions and you have greater job security". Job security is not what it used to be and now they are attacking our pensions. They are attacking our pensions, not because there is any problem with our pensions but because of the way that the private sector has been behaving about its. I suppose I should not be surprised that the public sector workers are being kicked. It is a common enough reaction from governments. What makes it all the worse is the hypocrisy in how and when it is being done.
We have only just finished a massive exercise in the form of the Civil Service Pension Scheme. After years of negotiations the Civil Service Union has agreed with the Government -- a scheme which is intended to take us forward into the brave new world of the 21st century. The exercise involved all members of the scheme -- literally hundreds of thousands -- making choices on their pension provision. The deadline for the choices to be made was the end of March this year. Once it had got those hundreds of thousands of individual choices, what do the Government do? Less than three months later, it tells us it is changing the rules. Underhand does not even begin to describe that sort of behaviour. You ask people to make choices which will affect them for decades to come and the Government move the goalposts. You would not be surprised to hear that some of my members are very angry. It can take quite a lot to make senior civil servants very angry, but this has angered them.
The Government called this paper "Simplicity, Security and Choice". From my members the message is that we welcome simplicity, we welcome security and we welcome choice. We want the simplicity we would get from leaving our pension age where it is, at 60, we want the security of knowing that a Government is not going to cheat us of our expectations and, as to choice, hundreds of thousands of civil servants have only just made theirs. So if the Government sees any problem with this, we will help keep it simple for them. "leave our pensions alone!"
Christine Robinson (ACCORD) speaking in support of Motion 23, said: Along with our brothers and sisters in UNIFI, I represent staff in the Halifax Bank of Scotland Group. I am also appearing before you, and it is sort of comforting that half the room have left, as a blithering idiot. I actually was about to press the Print button on my laptop at 10 past 2 when it decided to eat my speech but I shall do the very best I can and hope for your dispensation.
I am actually supporting motion 23, and paragraphs 5, 6 and 7 detail our position on the anti-discriminatory element of the proposals, which, incidentally, are not very well detailed in themselves. Our concern is that this could potentially be a backdoor route to extend working lives. Whilst we recognise the diversity and flexibility that the proposals support, we must actively campaign against this being used to force an increase in the retirement age to 70. An extended working life should only be through employee choice, and for enjoyment and fulfilment, not for subsistence, and we have to strive to protect that choice.
Speaking very briefly of subsistence, yesterday I attended the Pensioners Rally. It was very poorly attended and I promised Jack Jones that I would offer up his challenge to delegates here to give the rally more support. Rodney Bickerstaffe said something that has been reiterated by a number of speakers: 'Pensions are for yesterday, today, and tomorrows issues and we should be addressing them collectively, not as pensioners or workers but together.' We should do that with the National Pensioners Convention and I hope that you will rise to Jacks challenge. He ended yesterday as I am going to do, although I am not actually going to sing to you. Jack does sing, Keep Right on to the End of the Road. I can see a few faces out there who might be familiar with this song, certainly I am, but there is a poignant line in that that does not leave a dry eye in the house, 'When you are tired and weary, still carry on'. I do not think so, do you? Support the composite.
Carol Mochan (British Dietetic Association) speaking in support of the motion, said: I am glad to be part of the composite on pensions. The BDA has always been a supporter of the TUCs campaign to ensure that all workers have access to a secure income in retirement. With the publication of the Government paper, Simplicity, Security and Choice, and the expected Pensions Bill in 2004, this interest has clearly continued. Pensions provision is a complex issue, as we have heard, and I do not propose to have answers to how we may resolve the ever-growing crisis, rather I believe that to ensure the future for all the trade unions the TUC must be detailed and precise in its scrutiny of the Government proposals. The trade unions together with the TUC must provide a strong voice to ensure a fair distribution of wealth is transferred from the working to the retired.
Our motion, in particular, focuses on the proposed changes to retirement age and the current review of public sector pension schemes such as the one being undertaken of the NHS scheme in England and Wales. This review contains the proposal to raise the age of retirement of public sector workers from 60 to 65. Whilst the BDA welcomes the Government proposals to outlaw age discrimination, those that desire to continue working should under new laws be allowed to do so, and the BDA fully support this. As trade unions we must, in particular, look to ensure this does not disadvantage others who may not be able to continue or who may be in the type of work that makes it much less desirable to do so.
In the proposed changes to the NHS scheme a heavy reliance on increased normal pension age is clear. The August briefing paper from the NHS Confederation states, 'It is envisaged that by the end of 2006 all new staff will join on the new conditions, that is normal pension age of 65,' and then it goes on to say that a key task for the scheme review would be to decide on how the higher pension age would apply to the future service of existing staff. It seems that with a now already stretched and undervalued public sector this will cause increased levels of stress and disappointment.
While as trade unions we want to see people continue to work in public sector jobs, we do not want this forced through mandatory increased pensionable age, rather it would seem obvious to suggest the Government may wish to look at retention of staff in the public sector through increased job satisfaction and other attractive packages. Secondly, can we be sure that the Government can successfully make such a substantial change to public sector pensions without making changes or cutting out accrued rights.
Congress, the BDA is a small organisation and so needs the TUC and its resources to assist it in protecting its members. This is why we urge the General Council to continue its detailed scrutiny of government proposals. It must ensure no loopholes are left that will enable employers to exploit such changes that are likely to be contained in any bill laid down before Parliament in 2004. Congress, I support.
Patrick Carragher (British Association of Colliery Management - Technical, Energy and Administrative Management) speaking in support of the composite, said: I really want to confine my remarks to that part of the composite that deals with the issue of compulsion. I have to confess that I am not a pensions professional, a qualified actuary, or anything like that but it seems to me that if we are going to address this crisis that faces the pensions industry, we have to address the fundamental problem of funding. We have to make sure that we fund our savings pot for retirement and to make sure that there is going to be sufficient in it.
During the last Conservative government in the 1980s the government, partly I think because they felt they wanted to encourage individual investment in the private sector, partly because they wanted to make pensions portable, and partly because they were obsessed with choice, introduced personal pensions. That was not really a proper choice. What was on offer was a less well-funded vehicle for our future pensioners that, in effect, sold them short. It would be wrong to pretend that there was a golden age of pensions but we certainly had a much more robust system when we had wide coverage through properly funded occupational superannuation schemes. What we have seen over recent years is a continual flight from that and really the Government has to grasp the nettle here. If we are going to be serious about not causing a crisis for this generation in old age and not mortgaging the cost for future generations we need to make sure that we fund properly. I would call upon the Government not to run away from those hard decisions because without them this crisis will remain with us and get worse. I support the composite.
Bobby Barnes (Professional Footballers Association) speaking in support of the composite, said: I was a professional footballer for 16 years playing for clubs at various levels and now on a day-to-day basis my job involves looking after the interests of our members at every level. The proposed legislation under the Government Green Paper chooses to move the exemption that we currently enjoy at age 35 for our members to take their benefit and equalise the earliest retirement age to 55. This would be immensely damaging to the financial well-being of our members. Contrary to public opinion, the vast majority of professional footballers are not in the supertax bracket. Second and Third Division players in fact tend to have salary levels much more closely linked to the national average. Footballers share the same concerns as workers from all disciplines. They all have mortgages and bills to pay, and increasingly job security is very much becoming a thing of the past. Indeed, the average career for a professional footballer is actually eight years and the fallout rate up to the age of 21 is 80 per cent.
Our members generally leave school at age 16 with few skills to equip them for a second career. We as a union spend in excess of £5 million a year on our retraining and education programmes. Pension benefits at age 35 provide a cushion to help ease the transition from football to a second invariably lower paid career. Should the exemption be removed, sportsmen will face severe financial hardship with inevitable reliance on the state while members adjust to a brand new career in their early 30s at a time when they are raising families. At a time when the Government is urging individual pension provision this legislation will discourage people from saving at a time when their earnings make them most capable of doing so. Sport provides entertainment and employment for millions of people in this country so please support the composite.
Tony Woodley (Transport and General Workers Union) speaking in support of the composite, said: Sisters and brothers, this is the single biggest hot potato that faces our members in this country today. We have pensions with a double crisis. On the one hand, we have the state pension, which is still too low and still without that absolutely vital link to state earnings. On the other hand, we have occupational pensions themselves in crisis. We are seeing a campaign of naked shameless robbery by the fat cats who are out there that leaves hundreds of thousands of our workers without the pension they have paid for, whilst in the boardroom we see them making off with literally billions of pounds, as Jeannie said. In fact, £19 billion of pension surpluses have been stolen - and I do use the word 'stolen' - from our pension funds over the last few years. Pensions are deferred wages and they are payment for work our members have already done. Ronnie Biggs has spent 35 years on the run for stealing pennies compared to what companies are doing to our pensions right now, today. We need to address both aspects of the pensions crisis. With regards to the state pension our position is very clear. We demand the return of the link between state pensions and earnings, not a fudge, not a delay, but for it to be done now, and immediately. We want to see an end to the indignity of means testing and an end to pensioner poverty.
Chair, with your indulgence, I would just like to say this, as another speaker has done. There is no bigger embodiment of a fight for pensioner rights than Jack Jones. Jack, up on that platform behind us, I would like to say on behalf of all of us, thank you very very much for what you have done for us. I have no doubts, comrades, that Rodney Bickerstaffe will continue that tremendous work. Let nobody say that we have a country that cannot afford to meet the demands we are making. If we can find billions and billions of pounds for an illegal and unacceptable war, we can look after our pensioners in this country today. The Labour Government, our Labour Government, must act to bring justice to state pensions. In my view, on occupational pensions they must force employers compulsorily to pay, compulsorily to contribute to occupational pension schemes. That is the only way to force them to move on. No more pension holidays, no more payouts, no more excuses.
Colleagues, I will finish on this. Fighting back makes a difference to our members. It is time that this TUC, our TUC, stopped complaining and started campaigning with a national TUC public rally on this big issue. If the jolly foxhunt brigade can do it, so can we, and we will make a difference.
Dave Tyson (Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen) speaking in support of Composite 23, said: The need for a major improvement in state pension provision is a common ground in our Movement. All retired men and women should be able to live in security without the indignity of means testing. That is a basic demand of the great pensioners movement led by Jack Jones, and now Rodney Bickerstaffe. Let me say that I was proud to be able to attend their eve of Congress rally yesterday. I hope that next year we will see even more Congress delegates turning up to show their support and solidarity for this important event.
Colleagues, ASLEF wishes to draw to your attention one particular important aspect of the pensions crisis. This is the danger of replacing all our funds and all our hopes on the stock market. This is partly a matter of common sense. The stock market is volatile and can slump as well as boom putting the value of pensions at risk. There is also the important ethical issue. Where is the sense in putting our pensions at mercy on the very companies we condemn, the exploiters of the Third World, the polluters, and the arms merchants? There is an alternative, the peoples pension fund. These allow pension funds to be invested in buildings of public infrastructure projects, schools, health facilities, housing and transport. The peoples pension fund is aiming to create a secure, rational and principled investment model that will benefit not only pensioners but also our community as a whole. I believe it is time for the labour movement to look seriously at these alternatives and stop getting away from the casino economy of our pensions, and move forward to a radical new look at pensions investment. I urge the General Council to consider seriously investigating these opportunities provided by the peoples pension fund. I support.
Mark Serwotka (Public and Commercial Services Union) speaking in support of the composite, said: Congress, we have a pensions crisis. What we are seeing is twilight robbery. The questions facing this Congress and the whole of the trade union Movement on the growing pensions crisis is what are we going to do about it. Congress, there is anger and worry amongst PCS members both in the public and private sector. In the UK we see workers not earning enough to join company pension schemes. Half of all remaining final salary pension schemes have been shut to new employees or closed completely in the last 12 months. Congress, that has saved British employers £1.6 billion. Pension funds are £250 billion short of the sum needed to match potential commitments. The state pension system is insufficient to deliver a decent living income. Many workers are being forced out of retirement because they cannot afford to live. As part of the Governments 'work till you drop' policies proposals are now on the table to raise the public sector pension age to 65.
Congress, the Governments action on pensions is short-termist. It fails to meet the needs of workers and pensioners and will result in either workers having to work longer or struggle to exist in their old age. Congress, contrast that to the story for the bosses and directors where the average directors pension fund in a final salary scheme is worth £2.3 million; this pays a pension of between £168,000 to £300,000 a year whereas the average Civil Service pension is £4,000 a year. It is an outrage.
Congress, Britain is a rich country. It is a matter of political priorities. As Tony Woodley has said, if we can afford billions of pounds for an illegal war in Iraq, surely we can afford decent pensions for the pensioners of today and the pensioners of tomorrow. Congress, yes, all of us should indulge in talks with our employers and the Government but the Governments approach is designed to pick us off one by one. When the General Council met Andrew Smith, the minister, he assured the public sector unions would have negotiations on our individual pension schemes.
Congress, this is not an issue where we should fall into the trap of being picked off while each union just seeks to defend its own scheme. Congress, we need maximum unity. We need to decide at this Congress and back in our affiliated unions what we are going to do about it. We need the maximum unity between public and private sector unions and workers, maximum unity with the National Pensioners Convention, building unity between the pensioners of today and the pensioners of tomorrow. We need a national demonstration and rally. We need regional activities and events and, yes, Congress, let us be clear, PCS believes we need a sustained campaign and a national demonstration in this country. If French, German, Italian, and Austrian, workers can take to the streets in their hundreds of thousands, then we can do it in this country.
Congress, there are some in the trade union Movement who say such action will let the Tories back in. If we make too much of a fuss, then the Tories and Iain Duncan Smith will sneak back into government. The view of PCS is that what will let the Tories in is if the Labour Government fails to take decisive action to protect working-class people in this country. Let us support the composite but let us be clear, we need massive action, probably including industrial action, a national demonstration, and a national day of action to show this government we mean business. Congress, support the composite.
Tony Brockman (National Union of Teachers) speaking in support of Composite 23, said: In any decent society, the fact that people are living longer ought to mean that the full range of state and occupational pension provision will be improved. Instead, this Government seems determined, despite all its rhetoric about pension flexibility, to put a straitjacket on public sector schemes, a straitjacket which would force workers to choose between taking a worsened pension at 60 or to work a further five years to get the benefits that they thought they had already paid for. This cost-cutting approach is not just a disgraceful swindle, it is wholly unnecessary.
Existing public sector schemes, and especially the new Civil Service scheme, have been actuarially assessed as able to pay benefits from age 60 on current expected life spans. That is why the National Union of Teachers gives notice that it will fight any imposed increase in the pension age and warns Government that this is the last straw for a profession which is already demoralised by the never-ending cascade of half-baked, untried, initiatives and hoops through which teachers are expected to jump. You might have thought that they would realise the need for a rejuvenated rather than a geriatric profession to perform these gymnastics but the effect of their proposals would be to make teaching, which is already in recruitment crisis, even less attractive to new recruits.
Teaching requires not just intellectual agility, it makes surprisingly physical demands on teachers as well. It is sheer cruelty to compel teachers to give up their expected retirement benefits at 60 and to put in an extra five years. Not only that, Congress, but the changes threaten the quality of childrens education as well: firstly, by worsening the teacher shortage and depriving children of the right to be taught by a qualified teacher and, secondly, by providing children with semi-conscripts as teachers rather than teachers who still have the enthusiasm and energy to ensure that their children succeed.
Congress, please pass this composite unanimously and build for a massive demonstration to defend our public sector pension provision.
Peter Pendle (Association for College Management) speaking in support of the composite, said: ACM members work in further education and over 90 per cent are members of the teachers pension scheme. I am going to cover the two main issues that ACM added to the composite but before I do so I want to touch on the issues of increasing the retirement age in public sector pension schemes.
When the Times educational supplement splashed the news about a possible increase in the retirement age for members of teachers schemes from 60 to 65, our phone lines lit up. It takes an awful lot to wind up my members. No other issue has caused so many members to contact the head office in a single day. There was a fair amount of panic and no one welcomed the idea; all expressed concern. The impact of this move will affect more than just individuals. Colleges are already finding it difficult enough to recruit and keep qualified lecturers and managers: low pay, poor job security, and high levels of stress mean that many leave early. If they know they will have to work for another five years, the problem will only get worse.
I would like to turn now to our two main issues. Firstly, we are calling for employers to encourage public sector workers to remain in their final salary schemes. Sadly, the fact that membership of pension schemes is not a condition of service means that there are still those who opt out of their employers schemes. When they retire their incomes are very likely to be less than they would have been had they joined the scheme. Of course, critics of public sector final salary schemes say that they are a drain on the taxpayer and that in any case why should a public sector worker enjoy the benefits of a final salary scheme when everyone else is closing theirs down. Such thinking is not just narrow-minded, it is actually very short-sighted. Who will end up paying the price if public sector workers walk away, or have their schemes taken away? Instead of living on pensions related to the final salary and paying taxes, we will have to fund the full social cost of pensioners living on low incomes and needing support from the state. We say to public sector employers, until membership becomes a condition of service make sure people join the pension scheme.
Our second key issue concerns scheme rules that favour married couples and discriminate against unmarried partners. This happens in many public sector pension schemes. It seems almost inconceivable that in a modern society where we have more choice over our lifestyles that there is still one set of rules for married couples and another for those who are not. A common example can be seen when it comes to widows and widowers pensions. Despite living as a couple, if you were not married to your partner, then your partner will not get a pension. If you were married, then they will. This is wrong and it must be changed.
Colleagues, a few years ago pensions were seen as a specialist issue and only of concern to those about to retire or understand how they work, but the falling stock market, the closure of final salary schemes, and the theft of entire pension funds, has changed all of this. Pensions are a vital issue and this is an important composite. Please give it your support.
Malcolm Keight (Association of University Teachers) speaking in support of the composite, said: President, Congress, I have to say that as a union official who has negotiated retirement terms and early retirement deals for over 20 years I have long been concerned that it is a real matter of regret that I now have to recommend to members as a reasonable offer what just a few years back would have been quite unsatisfactory. Early retirement terms are now far less than they were ten years ago.
The impact of an ageing population, privatisation, large-scale restructuring in both public and private sectors, is not a new phenomena. The impact of stock market unpredictability whilst not new seems to be a rediscovered excuse to erode and reduce hard-earned entitlements of workers. We are told that the stock markets are largely driven by sentiment. We cannot expect our members to have to plan for their retirement on the sentiments of City dealers and brokers, and analysts, who pick up fat five and six-figure bonuses whether the markets go up or down.
As others have noted, when market sentiment was high employers gave themselves holidays from paying pension contributions. When sentiment is low, it seems workers must lose their expected benefits. The benefits of occupational pensions are the result of years of campaigning and negotiation by the trade union Movement. Now, through market-based actuarial valuations and excessively stringent tax and accounting regulations, those benefits are being rapidly dismantled. Most public sector schemes are not in fact dependent upon valued funds, therefore the Governments proposal in the Green Paper, Simplicity, Security and Choice, to reduce public sector pension benefits by increasing the normal retirement age from 60 to 65, is not a response to market pressures but a piece of blatant opportunism to reduce benefits and put people under financial pressure to work longer.
The Government has voiced concern that young people today are not providing enough for their own retirement whilst at the same time employers, both public and private, are looking to reduce their contributions. Workers, it seems, must provide for the long-term but employers can get away with whatever they can in the short term.
Congress, the TUC must give this campaign the absolute top priority. We must press beyond dignity at work and look to dignity throughout life. We must unite the campaigning of pensioners and those who have applied significant amounts of their pay, and their current pay, to provide for retirement. Everyone must take responsibility for the future, workers, employers and, most of all, the Government. There must be no opt-outs. There must be no short change. I urge Congress to support composite 23 and go back to your unions and campaign, and support this campaign to the utmost. Thank you, President.
Florence Sparham (Equity) speaking in support of Composite 23 with particular reference to paragraphs 8 to 12, said: I would like to touch on how the move to equalise all pension schemes would be damaging for many Equity members. Like professional sports persons already mentioned by Bobby Barnes of the Professional Footballers Association, many performers are reliant on their physical movement capabilities for their livelihood. For performers such as dancers, circus artists, those who are members of national ballet companies and those working in West End musicals, their professional careers peak in their 20s and it is completely unrealistic to envisage them performing in the same way through their 50s and into their 60s. Even if they felt they could, there is a distinct lack of roles and work opportunities for dancers as they get older, but that is another debate.
These workers rely on the security of an occupational pension for when they are no longer able to perform. The need for pensions in this area has been recognised by employers, and until recently by the Government. The Government has stressed its desire to move people away from state support and make them more self-reliant. To take away the early pension rights of this specific group of workers would be in opposition to this aim, forcing many to turn to benefits or worse, trying to extend their careers longer than they would be physically able and so risking long-term injury.
If dancers and other physical performers were to be denied the right to claim their pensions from 35 years onwards they could well find themselves financially destitute whilst seeking new employment, all unable to afford the costs of retraining and thereby missing out on a chance to take up a second career and pay towards their final retirement at 60. This is important, bearing in mind that retraining is essential to those who have spent their lives, many from early youth or even childhood, in dance training, often at the expense of other skills and interests. As with professional footballers, there is a perception that performers are on huge salaries but this is only true of a small number of stars. The average dancer working in shows or for a dance company is not likely to be on the sort of salary that would allow them to save significantly outside of a pension scheme. To those working in these fields the right to claim their pensions early is invaluable and they are asking for no more than what is theirs anyway.
Physical performers of all sorts bring immense enjoyment to many people and help sustain an important part of the economy, particularly in London. It would be a shame to see individuals deterred from pursuing their craft because of a fear of having nothing to fall back on when what must be a relatively short career comes to an end. The Professional Footballers Association and Equity have already talked to the Department of Work & Pensions and the Inland Revenue, and today I urge Congress to throw their weight behind this matter by supporting this motion before formal proposals are put forward by the Government in a White Paper due for the autumn. Please support. Thank you.
Tony Poynter (ISTC, The Community Union) speaking in support of the composite, said: I am very pleased to be able to support this motion on behalf of the ISTC. Most of the pension news these days is gloomy. I bring good news. Nearly a year ago our members in Caparo went on strike twice to have their final salary pension schemes restored. These were the first strikes in Britain on pensions. We won them. I work for Corus on Teesside. You may have heard of the commercial problems that Corus have and are struggling to overcome at the present time but the companys final salary pension scheme is perfectly sound. It is better managed than the company has been for many years, mainly because it is jointly managed by the trade unions and the management. We have reposted an attempt by the company to deny scheme membership to new employees. We won these battles because our members value pensions as much as their wages. Now they all recognise there is something special about wages; if a company becomes insolvent, employees pay has the first claim on assets and the state picks up responsibility for shortfalls, but this does not apply to pensions. That is morally wrong. It is morally wrong that hundreds of employees of Allied Steel & Wire stand to be denied most of their pension, some of them virtually on the eve of their retirement.
The Government acknowledges now that it has been a formal obligation under an EU directive on insolvency to guarantee the payment of pensions. The British Government should have done this 20 years ago. Andrew Smith should have addressed it as a top priority. He has done something to cover future failures but nothing for the people in ASW, or in similar schemes. As I speak now, an ISTC delegation is meeting Andrew Smith in London to press him again to assist the Allied Steel & Wire workers. If that fails today, the ISTC, with our colleagues in Amicus, is going to take on the Government to pursue it through the courts to win back the basic entitlement. This case matters to all of us in Britain and we count on the TUC to take a supportive interest in the coming months. We support the motion.
Val Salmon (Fire Brigades Union) speaking in support of the composite, said: As a working mother of 36 years, battered and bruised but very proud and certainly not beaten member of the Fire Brigades Union, it will come as no surprise to all out there that, like everyone else, our pension schemes are under attack. The Local Government pension scheme covers all our emergency fire control staff but 27 years in and suddenly the light at the end of the tunnel is disappearing fast, no longer retirement at 65 but possibly 70, and if we are ill, we virtually have to provide a death certificate to leave. The result is that our members are suffering from ill health, particularly stress, and still having to work or face being sacked under capability. The 85 rule we hoped would provide welcome release but it is so restrictive that it may as well not exist. The Firefighter pension scheme is occupational and by no means under-funded by our members who pay 11 per cent contributions. At present a firefighter has to be fit for operational duties, and rightly so, but threats are afoot to remove that clause -- not to assist members but to restrict recruitment, and obliterate ill-health retirement. Again, our members are being pressurised. Those who work in the emergency service are forced to work past 55 or 30 years service. There is also no mention of same sex partners, even after all this time.
We will continue to expose the fact that final pension schemes are in financial difficulty because our employers have squandered the cash. We will continue to defend our pension scheme and we totally support the call for a national campaign, including a campaign of action on all aspects of pensions. It is a disgrace what this Government is trying to do. We must take the opportunity to unite and fight this onslaught for our past, our present, and our future. Support the composite.
The President: Thank you very much, Val. I have no further speakers. There has been no speaker against. I do not know whether BECTU still wants to exercise a right of reply? (No reply) Thank you very much indeed. We can move to the vote on Composite 23.
* Composite Motion 23 was CARRIED.
Women and Pensions
The President: I now call Composite Motion 16, Women and Pensions. As Jeannie Drake indicated in her lead-in, the General Council support the composite.
Diana Holland (TUC Womens Conference) moved the following composite motion..
(Insert Composite Motion 16 - Women and Pensions)
She said: After 27 years working in the catering industry, an active shop steward, and bringing up a family, this is one womans view of her future in retirement. She said: 'I said to my husband, We managed on no money when the kids were small, we can do it again.' This is not the future she worked for. It is not the future we expect. For too many people retirement is something to fear and far too many women retire into poverty, their state pension undermined by paying the reduced stamp, banned in the past from joining occupational pension schemes because they worked part-time, and now they are allowed to join those very schemes are under very serious threat. That is why this years TUC Womens Conference chose Women and Pensions as the issue that we wanted to prioritise. Most delegations put in motions on that issue. Pensions has risen right to the top of the industrial agenda.
Last year the Womens Conference called for your support to set a target date for ending womens poverty and this motion deals specifically with the injustice suffered by women pensioners. Low pay and unequal pay faced by women at work mean inequality in retirement. Interrupted contribution records because of caring and part-time work mean a lower pension. Discrimination costs women and their families hundreds of thousands of pounds over a lifetime. Womens income in retirement is just over half that of mens and, as was said earlier but I think it is worth looking at the figures again, women are 91 per cent of those who do not receive a full basic state pension and two-thirds of women pensioners have no access to an occupational pension scheme. They are absolutely reliant on the state. More than twice as many women as men rely on the means tested minimum income guarantee. They rely on means testing.
At a time when we should be celebrating that people are living longer there are too many debates suggesting that this is something we just cannot afford, people living longer is a burden. It is not. Retired men and women keep many of our communities together. They provide vital childcare and caring support for their families and their friends. They save money and they build the quality of our lives. They have contributed throughout their lives. They deserve to be treated with dignity, but the longer you live, the greater your chance of living in poverty. Women are the majority of those who are poor in retirement.
We are calling for the TUC to work with others to set up a conference on tackling all inequalities in pensions. This motion calls for action, action in ten key areas to put women and pensions right where Jeannie said it would be, at the heart of this major TUC campaign, ending the scandal of people on the lowest earnings being locked out of even the basic state pension, closing tax and benefit retirement poverty traps, ensuring all employers contribute to pension schemes, ending the sex discrimination that discredits so many of them, whilst campaigning harder than ever to stop them being abandoned, and of course calling for a state pension that keeps pace with pay, restoring the earnings link.
There have been some important advances from this Government, winter fuel payments, guaranteed income for the poorest pensioners, free eye tests. We welcome those, we want more, but in too many areas the debate on pensions is taking us backwards and we are looking to the Government to stop rather than support this. We do not want a greater dependence on insecure private pensions. We do not want continued undermining of SERPS through the state second pension. We do not want to make everybody work longer before they can get the state pension. We do have choices. Employers must stop attacking pension schemes and be required to support them.
Government must give a lead. There is a chance here to do a new pensions settlement, something as visionary as the introduction of the welfare state by the post-War Labour Government. We in the trade union Movement must play our part, too. Many of us do not think of pensions until late in our lives but if we do not take action now, all of us, of all ages, then todays workers will be tomorrows poor pensioners. As we know, every year there is the Pensioners Rally on the Sunday before Congress. I hope every delegation here will make sure they are represented there at next years rally. Support the TUC and the National Pensioners Convention campaigning for dignity in retirement and justice for women pensioners. Congress, I move.
Di Wood (UNIFI) in seconding Composite 16, said: I know that a lot of what I was going to say has already been said so I will try not to cover too much of what has already been mentioned, but there are some things that Diana has just referred to that I would like to reinforce.
I was here last year speaking about poverty in this country and I seem to be here again speaking about poverty for pensioners. Congress, there are over 11 million pensioners in the UK and some 7 million are women, and it is predominantly women who bear the burden of pensioner poverty. Women are most likely to be reliant on the state pension for their income in retirement. However, the pension system of the UK does not reflect the reality of many womens lives. They often give up work to look after children and are likely to become carers of dependent relatives. Many women working part-time are often limited to the number of hours that they can work and, as such, their earnings often fall below the lower earnings limit so that they cannot build up state pension entitlements. This is illustrated by the fact that only 49 per cent of women receive the full basic state pension compared with 92 per cent of men. Furthermore, womens earnings are still significantly lower than the earnings of men. In the finance sector, for instance, the gender pay gap is a massive 46 per cent. With employers switching from final salary to money purchase pension schemes and reducing their contributions, together with the state backing away from its responsibilities by reducing the value of the basic state retirement pension, women are getting the worst of both worlds.
Whilst we have achieved considerable success in our part-timers pensions campaign for women there are still many issues that need to be addressed. These include the lower annuity rates for women and the married womans reduced rate contribution to the state scheme. Sadly, the Governments Green Paper has failed to tackle the fundamental causes of womens poverty in retirement. The Government cannot address the issue simply by pension reform. Women also need to gain quality in employment, which will lead to better pension provision. However, we must accept that gender equality is a key goal for pensions policy. If we can get the policy right for women, it is also likely to be right for men. I urge you to support the composite. Thank you.
Barbara White (Musicians Union) speaking in support of Composite 16 and referring in particular to paragraph 3 said: Until 1977 women could opt out and pay a lower rate of National Insurance contribution. With this they did not build up any retirement pension in their own right but depended on their husband's contribution. Although this option was stopped in 1977, married woman who had already chosen were allowed to carry on paying at the lower rate. These women still do not earn state retirement pensions or get any credits from Home Responsibilities Protection.
There might be some who believe that a woman knew and had considered the consequences when she opted to pay the married women's stamp. This is not really the case. Large unions, organisations, etc., often have pensions advisers who can offer help and advice, but as a casual worker in a union such as mine, or even maybe someone who is not in a union at all, there was very little advice. Surely the state should not have allowed women to put themselves in such a risky position.
Imagine that you have been married for three or four years and you have one child. Not through choice but through necessity, you return to work. You take your child to the carer, quite possibly mother or grandmother, and return to work. You find out about the married women's stamp which, if you opt for it, will leave an extra amount of money you can spend on your family. If money is short, women always deny themselves. Should they still be suffering because they did not make an informed choice and were unaware of the potential damage to their retirement security?
Contracting out of state pension either by the married women's stamp or by contracting out of SERPS has not been a success. Contracting out should be stopped for the future. We are not asking for these women to have any advantage over those who paid the full stamp, but surely they should be allowed --if they have the money -- to pay the extra in, perhaps for fewer years than they are missing if they cannot afford more. Many of these women are now receiving less than 50 pence a week as their pension.
The UK Government are the only European Government to plan a reduction in public pension provision as its population ages. The rest are planning increases. Many women retire into poverty on far lower pensions than men. This composite calls on the Women's Committee, in association with the TUC, to arrange a Conference on Tackling Inequalities in Pensions. The most effective way of eliminating poverty in old age for women would be to provide a decent basic state pension, enough to live on.
Please support this motion.
Pauline Thorne (UNISON) speaking in favour of the composite said: As has been said by speakers to the pensions composite previously, pensions are in crisis as never before. Unfortunately, we are all too familiar with the assault being launched on occupational pensions provision in the form of the closure of final salaries schemes. The government claim that defined contribution schemes are no worse than final salary schemes. They are wrong. Final salary schemes are the minimum requirement for low paid workers, the majority of them women, if they are to avoid abject poverty in retirement.
We know that the average level of contributions to defined contribution schemes is much lower than for final salary schemes. For many of our members it would fail to lift them above the level of the minimum income guarantee. But even a final salary scheme assumes that your final salary is at a decent level in the first place, and that you have the required number of years in the scheme. For many women this just is not the case. The gender gap in pensions reflects the gender gap in pay, the gender gap in our society -- an unacceptable gap. If you earn peanuts you retire on peanuts. It is this that the government should be rectifying as it is obviously beyond most employers to do so voluntarily.
The pensions position of the higher paid has never been better. The pensions position of the low paid in terms of ability to join adequate company schemes has never been worse. All employers should be compelled to offer an effective level of pensions provision and ensure that it is adequately index linked, not at the ludicrously low cap of 2.5 per cent the government are at present proposing. It should be underpinned by a decent state pension, not one that reflects a disadvantage to women with previous caring roles; not one where the value is far too low, only about fifteen per cent of national average earnings and continuing to decline; not one based on demeaning means testing but one that we know works, restored in value and linked with earnings. UNISON welcomes the composite's call for indexed survivors benefits, but these must be offered without distinction to marriage or sexuality, and in our view any question of compulsion in pensions scheme must include removal of discrimination. We need action and the TUC will lead the way.
· Composite Motion 16 was CARRIED.
The President : Before we go on to the next scheduled item of business, I would like to take a moment of your time to welcome our Amicus comrades fighting the closure of the train manufacturing company Alston. We have with us in the balcony about 20 workers from Alston, which is the last train manufacturer left in the United Kingdom. (Applause)
Smiths Industries Pension Scheme
Rob Benjamin (AMICUS) moved the following Emergency Motion.
(Insert Emergency Motion E1)
He said: I do not think I am overstating the case when I say there is a crisis facing the Occupational Pensions Scheme, a crisis which, if left unaddressed, will see us looking back in five or ten years' time and saying, 'Do you remember when companies used to provide us with pensions schemes? I wonder what happened to those.'
Unless the government act quickly to reform the legislation on pension consultation there will be nothing left to consult about. Smiths Industries are the latest in a long line of companies who, by virtue of the weak legislation surrounding these pension schemes, are able to announce changes to the way in which the benefits are accrued and paid for, or simply stop the schemes altogether at the drop of a hat. Most people are surprised to learn that the employers who provide occupational pensions schemes are free to act in a most cavalier manner, with no requirement for involvement, dialogue or agreement from those people who are actually members of those schemes. That is the way the law is framed.
It is that law that allowed Smiths Industries to announce last month, completely out of the blue, that they would be closing their final salary pension schemes to new starters, slashing early retirement benefits and doubling -- yes, doubling -- the member contribution rates and, in return, their own employer contributions rates would be nearly halved. That is the same Smiths Industries, by the way, who have been identified as paying £350,000 into a pension arrangement for a director's benefit. Perhaps he did not mind not being consulted on that one. Smiths will say that they are consulting because, like most employers, they think by simply getting people into a room and telling them what they are going to do is consultation. Well, I have news for them. The phrase 'lump it or like it' is one that should not be used for proper consultation.
Amicus supported our members' campaign in UEF and ASW. We support our members in Rhoda(?), and we will support our members in Smiths in the campaign against the closure of their final salary schemes. It cannot be right that the retirement aspirations of ordinary working people can be decimated by their employer without any form of consultation or agreement. The law must be changed and the law must be changed now. True, the government appear to have listened to us on proposing the reform of legislation to ensure that companies do consult with trades unions and employees over potential changes to pension arrangements. We welcome that, but that reform of legislation is not scheduled to come into force until 2005. I can tell you that that will not bother the employers in the slightest because those things that will be left to be consulted upon in the future will have been already decided.
Every day a new employer announced changes in its pension scheme and the poor stunned workforce have no say in those changes or the structure of how they are implemented. It is a nonsense that we are going to have to wait two years for the right to have our say on the most valuable part of our contract we have with our employers. We are being told that this is not a right to introduce changes of legislation without first allowing all parties to comment, but apparently it is OK to introduce changes to members' pensions without them being allowed to comment. I am sorry, that makes a mockery of the whole process.
The General Council has to make the point to government that we need the rights of consultation on pensions' changes now, not wait two years for what is a fundamental right. There our ten million people in this country who are saving for their retirement through occupational pension schemes. They are being responsible, doing what the government wants and trying to ensure that they have a decent income in retirement and do not place an extra burden on the state. Yet every one of those ten million people is vulnerable to having their plans and security pulled from underneath them by their employer who simply thinks that they have the right to do so at any time without any kind of input from the scheme members. That cannot be right and we must demand changes in the legislation now.
I urge you to support this emergency motion and support the workers pension rights and support them by reining in the unscrupulous employers before it is too late.
Keith Hazlewood (GMB) in seconding Emergency Motion 1 said: Every August the hunting, shooting and fishing lobby celebrates the glorious 12th when grouse shooting begins. This year on August 15th Smiths Industries decided to take a couple of pot shots at their employees' pension scheme. Well, more than shots really. The company is trying to blow massive holes in our members' pensions rights and downgrade the rights of new entrants.
This is not an isolated case; it is part of a gathering storm, an onslaught on workers' pension schemes that more and more employers are attempting. They think they can condemn unions to the King Canute role, powerless to prevent our members being overwhelmed by a pressure to cut back on pensions. We say that pensions schemes can be protected and must be defended. Pensions are too valuable for us to allow them to be eroded. We want the government to take urgent action to bring forward legal rights for members of occupational pension schemes to be consulted before decisions are taken.
Where Smiths Industries go today other employers will try to follow. Attacks on pensions scheme have the potential to spread like a forest fire. We need government action to create an immediate firebreak. They can do so by acting immediately to introduce proper consultation rights. On its own that will not stop the attacks but it will take the wind out of the employers' sails and help unions defend their members.
Colleagues, please support the emergency motion.
· Emergency Motion One was CARRIED.
General Council's Statement on Europe
The President: We now move on to Chapter 5 on Europe, page 52 of the General Council's Report. The General Council has agreed a statement on the UK and the Euro and I will call the General Secretary to introduce the debate and to move the General Council's statement.
The General Secretary leading in on the General Council's Statement on Europe said: I move the General Council's Statement set out in paragraph 5.2 and support Composite Motion 17. This is a big year for Europe. On May Day ten more countries will join. They range from the Baltic States to the islands of Cyprus and Malta. It will be an historic day, another huge step for our common European democratic values, taken against the background of peace and stability in our continent.
Next month governments will start to agree a new constitutional treaty and next June citizens across Europe will go to the polls to elect a new European Parliament. I think we can guess how this serious momentous process is going to be reported in much of the British press. We will have scare stories galore -- straight bananas, smoky bacon crisps under threat, a European super state taking over our lives. Rather than straight bananas it is time for some straight talking and an end to the scare stories.
Let us look at the facts. First, we are likely to get a permanent Chair at the European Council rather than the buggins turn that brought us that great friend of working people, Signor Berlusconi. Second, it will be easier for the European Union to agree big foreign and security policies. We will still take unanimity but I suspect I am not the only one here today who would like to see a stronger European voice on Iraq and on the Middle East peace process just as a start. Europe has strong economies, good welfare states and rights at work, and that is precisely because it gives working people and their organisations a real voice and a stake in law-making.
As a result of the new Treaty that we expect to see, the new Charter of Fundamental Rights should build on that and go further. A new legal basis for public services and solidarity and equality will be enshrined as part of the European Union's core values. Of course, we have not got everything we wanted and we need to keep pushing. As John Monks said this morning, the ETUC is organising -- together with the Italian affiliates -- a mass demonstration in Rome on 4 October to mark the opening of the Intergovernmental Conference. It did just occur to me that John seems to have developed rather more of an appetite for mass demonstrations since he went to Brussels! So, the clear message that jobs, prosperity and decent conditions at work must continue to be a central purpose of the European project will be spelled out loud and clear.
That brings us to economics. At the Intergovernmental Conference Europe is bound to step up its joint decision-making. The decisions taken will have a big effect on the UK economy, the jobs and living standards of our members, but until we join the Euro we will not have a full seat at the economics table.
Where do we stand on the Euro? Congress, last year you agreed that the General Council should continue to press the case for the Euro, if we pass the five economic tests and could join at the right exchange rate. Well, now we have the assessment that we are not there yet but well on the way. As the government said, the potential gains of joining the Euro are, if anything, greater than anticipated. On the tests it concluded, to put it simply, that there was still work to be done. Ministers said that they would campaign on a pro-Europe platform, to make the case for Europe and the principled case for the Euro. The General Council welcomed that pledge by the government ,and that stance is echoed in Composite 16 that the General Council ask you to support.
I have to say that we have not seen the energy that we hoped for in beginning to make that case for Europe and the Euro. The momentum has been lost. I understand the distractions and the difficulties but that should be the cue for re-doubled efforts because manufacturing needs the stability and certainty that the Euro will bring. As the General Council's statement makes clear, one issue that worries us is the emphasis that government put on labour market flexibility and, in particular, references to regional and local pay flexibility in the public services.
The Chancellor has told us that there is no threat to national bargaining. Well, perhaps he will say more tomorrow but this is an issue we will be pursuing, and we stand ready to resist any moves to de-regulate the labour market, attack workers' rights or undermine collective bargaining. Other countries have joined the Euro without any of these and so can we.
But if we have a message for Ministers we also have a message for Europe because the Euro is not yet perfect, far from it. Indeed, Europe could learn much from the reforms that this government have made to the UK economic policy-making. The symmetrical inflation target may be a little bit of dry economic jargon but it is a guarantee that bearing down on inflation, as we must, never so dominates economic policy that jobs and growth are forgotten. The golden rules that permit borrowing for investment are a common-sense recognition that public spending can bring growth and economic efficiency in its wake. That is why we and the European TUC will continue to press for reform of the European Central Bank and the Growth and Stability Pact.
However, the Euro debate is not just about weighing up the economic pros and cons. Economic, monetary, social and political issues are inseparable. Congress, we said this time and time again. There is a clear link between participation in the Economic and Monetary Union and the promotion of the European social model and quality public services. Congress, there is an ideological battle to be fought. It is whether we adopt the US model of poor rights, weak welfare states and unregulated free markets, or take the European high road that combines prosperity and fairness, rights and competition, welfare states and markets. We have to champion the European social model as globalisation threatens to drag us all down. With John's help at the European TUC we will fight that good fight.
Congress, I move the General Council's Statement.
Michael Leahy (ISTC, The Community Union) moved Composite Motion 17.
(Insert Composite Motion 17 - European Union)
He said: The larger part of the press has woven a tissue of lies to hold us back from sharing fully in the advantages of the world's largest integrated economy. They say that economically we would be damaged but the Euro membership would cost us our sovereignty and our way of life. The Chancellor, no zealot, for the Euro calculates that inside the Euro British national wealth would go up by three billions a year. That is a lot of doctors, nurses, and teachers. Just eliminating currency transaction costs alone would be worth a billion a year.
There are real risks in delaying taking advantage of these benefits once convergence is certain. Anyone with experience of British manufacturing can see where the economic advantage lies. In the countries of the Eurozone manufacturing output has been growing steadily over the last ten years. In Britain there has been virtually no growth at all. The people who make the crucial decisions in Toyota and other multinationals are clear about the risks they run in investing in Britain. In the last two months, the Euro exchange rate has fluctuated between 1.46 and 1.37. What basis is that for deciding to base a new factory in Britain when such risks can be virtually eliminated in the Eurozone?
Any thorough study of the position will show that Britain will gain a new vibrancy and strength from the engine of an enlarged European market, all by the single currency, just as in the Irish Republic. Ireland is by no means the largest of the Eurozone states. The Irish are as much, I say, attached to public services as we are, but when the Commission wagged a finger at Bertie Ahearn's government over what it saw as excessive public expenditure he waved them two fingers back. Is Germany or France more likely to be constrained by economic growth and the Stability Pact? Of course not, and neither would we be if public services and jobs were threatened.
We know very well in the steel industry how much our sovereignty impacts on global developments. Not at all. We would have had no hope of defending ourselves against US tariffs had it not been for the commitment and understanding of the EU. The truth is that we cannot always put off a commitment to European economic integration and expect to have a significant influence on the economic and political environment in which we have to compete.
Ask yourselves, Congress, why the US Digger and a Canadian press baron should care so much about our decision? Could it be that they have motives other than their concern for our welfare? Could it have anything to do with the concern that further EU integration might take us further away from the orbit of their own vast wealth and influence? Could it be that it would be the final nail in the coffin of the present Conservative Party? The answer in all cases is yes. They are afraid of the EU because it dares to stand up for workers' rights in multinationals, like John Monks said this morning. It requires the companies to enhance the environment, not pollute it. It resists involvement in unjust wars and finally it puts human values ahead of the power and wealth of capital.
The European Economic Union offers to the people we represent, and their unions, influence and strength in crucial respects which are no-go areas for our brothers and sisters in the US and Japan.
Doug Nicholls (The Community and Youth Workers' Union): You do not enter the biggest negotiation of your lifetime, let alone of your generation, without some preparation. At last year's Congress we were united in calling on the General Council to prepare some objective reports to raise the level of debate and awareness on the Euro. To the government's five tests, four of which are not met, we added the sixth test of the trade union Movement, manufacturing and public service unions combined.
The General Council's work has not been done and so we cannot support their Statement. They have not earned the right to it in our view. In this year's composite we put last year's mandate on them again and look forward to progress this time.
As the President said, this debate cannot be left to the anti-Euro press barons, or the more worrying pro-Euro multinational company barons. There is no milk and honey flowing from the Euro. It is going sour. 650,000 jobs, mostly in manufacturing, were lost in Germany in the second quarter of this year. Germany, Italy and the Netherlands are in recession and France's economy is shrinking. Eurozone growth is in the negative. No wonder the OECD in its recent report has called the Euro area the world's remaining weak spot. It is not dynamic and it is not waiting to save British industry and re-open our factories and mines.
As a TUC we look at two key indicators to judge big issues like this. We have had good news here on employment and growth in Britain as a result of the democratically controlled financial framework our elected and accountable Chancellor has constructed. The unelected and unaccountable ECB has presided over Eurozone unemployment rates that are double ours and growth rates that are half ours. In this composite we are making it clear we do not want to converge with that kind of disaster.
However, there is a step change going on in Europe where the composite calls for more work. The Common Market is becoming, through the proposals for a EU Constitution, a federal super state. The proposed constitution poses a complete change of political economy and democracy in Europe, and all existing Treaties will be over-ridden. At the very least we will need a referendum on this. The will of the people brought the United States of America about. The will of the Berlusconis of this world is bringing in the new EU Constitution. They want to prop up ailing nations as one legal personality whose powers will stand above those of national governments. Policy forums with British governments on anything will become irrelevant if they get their way. The plans put legislation, the single currency, justice and policing, foreign policy and the European Union Army under one centralised control. They even put the EU court above all national courts and the Court of Human Rights.
Our trade union response to this will by judged carefully by the two-thirds of workers who are not yet in unions and now make up their minds whether to join us, or not, depending on whether we are seen to continue the struggle for democracy and social reform in Britain or whether we go into the meltdown in a new European Union and its monetarist economics.
Tony Dubbins (Graphical, Paper and Media Union): I speak in support of the General Council's Statement and also supporting the composite.
Colleagues, while we are pleased to support the composite motion I really cannot say that we have been very pleased with the manner in which the Euro debate has been progressed in this country. We welcome the Chancellor's recent statement but the fact of the matter is that statements of good intention are no substitute for resolute and concrete actions, and these have been sadly lacking.
We are all aware of the continuing decline of manufacturing and the damage that is being done by being outside the Euro. Joining the Euro will at least give UK manufacturing a chance to compete on a level playing field with other countries in the EU.
However, any campaign to join the Euro will only be supported by the GPMU if it is accompanied by a clear and unambiguous commitment to maintain investment in our public services and to support the continued development of the European social model. The days of watering down social directives and leaving British workers with inferior protection are over. There must be no more individual opt-outs from Working Time Regulations and no more opposition to the Agency Workers Directive.
It should also be about demonstrating a commitment to further European political unity, and demonstrating the commitment to a real alternative to American style deregulation and insecurity. In this respect, however, there really are some contradictions in the UK position at the moment. The anti-European, xenophobic right-wing press push the little England line even harder at the same time as ten new countries are joining the EU. The government insist they want to be at the heart of Europe but will not find the courage to lead us on the Euro. Some of us rightly say we want a common European policy on Iraq and that we want European standards for public services and European standards for workers' rights, but then we wrongly reject a European single currency.
While all of us want to unite to strengthen international solidarity and challenge global capital, some of us shie away if that compromises our national sovereignty. In reality we all want peace and prosperity, but can we do this alone? You know the answer: it is no. But we can do that much more effectively as a fully integrated member of the European Union. Support the statement and support the composite.
Margaret Hazell (UNIFI) supporting Composite 17 said: In 2000 Congress called on trades unions to take the lead by encouraging an informed debate on Britain's membership of the Euro. I believe we have generally succeeded in that. Unifi now believes that it is time that the British trade union Movement took the lead by encouraging an informed debate, not just on the Euro but Europe in general. Too often in this country the discussion over European development is hijacked by elements within the media, whose only aim seems to be to prevent any objective discussion amongst the general public. The prejudices - and, in some cases, apparent outright xenophobia -- makes it increasingly difficult for people to know what to believe.
Unifi believe that as trades unions we can play a key role in shifting this debate away from the prejudices, as the composite says, fostered by unaccountable media owners, to one which sheds light on the real issues at stake and allows people to make up their own mind. We believe this because we have done it. Unifi is unashamedly pro-European and indeed pro-Euro, and it is by providing the information, the support and the opportunity for Unifi's membership to engage in an open and informed debate that we have arrived at this position. Indeed, some of the virulent anti-Europeans whose views are supported by significant elements within the media might be surprised to note that, when given the opportunity to engage in an informed debate, Unifi's membership was virtually unanimous in decided that entry to the Euro would be good for them.
It is an exciting time for the European project: enlargement to include ten new members by May next year; the launch of the Euro and the current discussions on a new Treaty for the European Union. That means that the pace of change is faster now than at any time since the original Treaty of Rome. These developments will not create some kind of European Utopia but, equally, will not lead to the end of democracy as we know it. There is a balance and, therefore, an open debate is vital, but only by providing people with the information to understand the issues can people make an informed decision. As unions we must help provide that information. We are pro-European but, as others have said, the trade union Movement nationally and across Europe must continue to work together to ensure that the social dimension of the EU is strengthened wherever possible. It cannot be left to whims of the media barons like the Rupert Murdochs and Conrad Blacks of this world to dictate the terms of the debate on issues as important as these.
We believe that the trade union Movement has a vital role in opening up an informed debate on this issue. We can set a positive example and we ask you to support the composite.
Paul Gates (National Union of Knitwear, Footwear and Apparel Trades) supporting Composite Motion 17 and the General Council's Statement said: KFAT has continuously supported the UK's presence in Europe, and being from the manufacturing sector has strongly believed that entry into the Euro is of considerable benefit for the reasons outlined by previous speakers.
With the enlargement of the Eurozone the economic strength of the region can only continue to grow. We firmly believe that as a nation our economy has to be linked into either Europe or the United States. One startling difference between these two rich men's clubs is that the European Union has a profound social agenda which far outweighs that of the United States, as John Monks outlined this morning. As a trade union Movement, it is the development of that social agenda that we believe is so very important.
However, Conference, this composite is not about whether we join or not; it is about ensuring that trade unionists, ordinary working people, do receive factual information, particularly in respect of terms of employment, economic growth and public expenditure. Working people need to be provided with easily understood answers to the questions that they will want to ask regarding such an important decision affecting their lives. It is not just a question of the benefits to the manufacturing sector. The public sector needs reassurance too, and that is why within the composite we call on the TUC to present the trade union position in respect of public services and how they have been affected in Europe. This is to counterbalance the biased propaganda put out by the anti-European media owners, whose views on social and welfare rights and public services are secondary to their hysterical concerns about square sausages and straight bananas. The TUC need to present clear facts.
It is just as important that Conference supports the General Council's statement. It simply reiterates the position passed by Conference last year and nothing has changed since then. It runs complementary to Composite 17. The composite notes the government's conclusions that the British economy is converging with that of the Eurozone, whilst the General Council's Statement welcomes a stated commitment to join if the five tests are met. That is not a technicality for trade unions to argue about; that is the stated position of the government and the TUC respectively.
Colleagues, it is vitally important that trades unionists and working people have the information before them. It is an important decision that will affect the lives of this country. Please support the composite and the General Council's Statement.
Ged Nichols (ACCORD) supporting Composite 17 and the General Council's statement said: Nobody is under any delusion that entry into Euro would be the cure for all of our economy's ills, and there is no doubt that there are problems with the economic policy-making structure at the European level, which the General Secretary alluded to in his introduction. The European Central Bank is not transparent enough in its operations and there remains far too much emphasis on inflation targets and not enough on employment or economic recovery. The Stability and Growth Pact is also far too rigid and cannot cope with the economic challenges that are confronting Europe today. The three per cent limit on budget deficits that the Pact imposes is clearly inadequate for the current situation, and there is a growing consensus that the Pact needs to be reformed.
Colleagues, we should not use the bad criteria of the Pact as an excuse for refusing to join the Euro. The reality is that the Pact has been renegotiated and restructured and France and Germany, together with a number of other countries, have been breaching the criteria regularly, in particular the three per cent deficit that Brendan referred to. No one is kicking up too much fuss about this and many believe that a deficit is necessary to boost the European economy.
Turning to public services, many people believe that public services on the Continent are better funded and more efficient than in the UK. John Monks referred to that this morning, and we are all united in the aim of improving our public services. So why is it the case that our colleagues on the Continent -- who are just as keen to protect and develop their public services as we are -- do not seem to confuse the issue of investment in public services with Euro membership? I believe it is because they understand that both are, in fact, possible and I think it will be a positive start if we could achieve a similar understanding.
Colleagues, support the composite and the General Council's Statement. Let us be part of an integrated and social Europe and. as John Monks said earlier, let us get on the pitch and play.
Anita Halpin (National Union of Journalists): I am here to explain why the NUJ will be opposing the General Council's Statement, The UK and the Euro. It is a simple, logical reason. My union was one of the first to call on the TUC to facilitate debate on the European Union. We were part of the composite in 2000, which has already been mentioned. Our intention was that the General Council should take, as it were, an information and consultation role. Why? Because then, as now, there was more disinformation than clarity about the true nature of the European Union, both immediate and long term.
The EU is evolving -- an economic and monetary union, maybe even a common foreign policy, enlargement and, most recently, the European constitutional treaty mentioned by the seconder. All the more need, as Composite 17 says, for a debate conducive to shedding light on the real issues at stake. Congress, we supported this position last year, asking for information. There have been very few, if any, information materials from Congress House. So we will be supporting this position again in Composite 17.
But to come to a decision we need consultation. This debate is part of such a consultation. We would argue, however, it is not the end. Congress, my union does not have a policy on Europe and the Euro, and if you are honest some of your own may be in similar positions. We want to take a collective view, as united as possible, for deciding what is best for working women and men in our country. So we can support the composite but not the General Council's statement because it is too early. Congress asked questions last year; they have not been answered. But -- and this is where the logic comes in -- if you pass the General Council's Statement those questions will never be answered because the debate is over, the die is cast. Any General Council Statement takes precedence over Congress motions, the motions we decide and put forward each year. Usually, as has been said, they supplement and complement motions.
However, in this case, the statement in our view goes beyond that. It is a policy changing statement, policy about whether or not we join the Euro, whether or not the TUC leads a campaign in support of that. For that reason, we feel we have no option but to oppose that statement as it changes policy and allow Composite 17 to be our policy for the next year.
Mick Rix (Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen) speaking against the General Council's Statement and in favour of the composite said: British membership of the European single currency is an issue of the greatest long-term significance for trade unions in this country. It is an economic issue which could affect thousands of jobs, but also, more importantly, there is a fact that is missed: it is a major political issue that affects everyone, touching important issues of democracy, accountability and sovereignty. It is not a simple issue of left versus right. Many people are unsure, confused and not aware of the facts. It is a dishonest approach of 'pro-Europeanists' and 'Europhiles' to condemn those who may have a difference of opinion over a single currency as either nationalists or utraleftists.
Last year Congress asked the TUC to conduct some detailed research into all the implications of the Euro for British trades unions so that an informed, balanced view and debate can take place within the Movement. This regrettably has not been done. Instead there is an attempt being made by the General Council to bind Congress into endorsing the Euro in principle without any more ado: no informed debate, no facts that last year's Congress composite asked for. This is, in effect, an attempt to short-circuit that debate and that democracy that Congress called for, an informed one where people can make a proper decision. Exploring issues like the democratisation of the EU institutions, seeing what effect the Euro will have on prices, incomes, jobs, and spending on public services. Let us have that debate; let us have that report with that information that this Congress asked for, instead of just announcing the conclusion without the facts and destroying unity within this Movement.
In the interests of that debate, in the interests of the integrity of this Congress, I urge you to vote against the General Council's Statement and vote in favour of the composite.
Jane Carolan (UNISON): We are supporting the composite and opposing the General Council's Statement. We are asking Congress to reject it.
UNISON considers itself to be a friend of the General Council, but as a friend we are happy to give you advice. Our advice on this occasion is: please take your rose tinted spectacles off. The Euro is no longer a theoretical concept; it exists in the real world. The Maastricht Treaty provisions exist; the Growth and Stability Pact exists. From Galway to Greece the Euro economies are no longer run by democratically elected governments; they are run by the European Central Bank. The economic criteria applied by that Bank are strictly monetarist based on inflation targets and interest rates. The effect of this is deflation requiring countries to cut budgets and reduce public sector debt, and we can look at the results of that.
Look at the growth within the Eurozone which, as has already been referred to, is expected to go below one per cent or nil, and compare that to Britain where it is 2.5. Unemployment in Britain is substantially below the continental average. Single monetary policy has a single interest rate and even the pro-Europeans enthusiasts reckon that the European interest rate is too high for seven countries, too low for four and just right for one country. In addition, in the Growth and Stability Pact we see severe restrictions in fiscal policy. Look at the effects of that on what was one of the Europe's most successful economies, Germany, where we now have stagnation and severely rising unemployment, but Germany cannot use traditional economic management because the European Central Bank says so.
Whilst the TUC may wish that the Growth and Stability Pact could change wishing will not make it so. It is a central tenet of the Pact that the Bank operates with complete political independence. So complete adherence to the Bank's rules means that Germany faces fines of millions of Euro because it keeps its level of public spending. Ireland is seeing massive cuts. Portugal is in the middle of an austerity programme. UNISON has been at this podium over many years talking about the threat to public services. Now Gordon Brown is saying the same, acknowledging that the Central Bank has warned that future spending plans are incompatible with the Growth and Stability Pact.
So where are we headed now? You do not need to go down the pier and get Madame Clara to read the tealeaves. We know because the European Bank told us so in their own Bulletin, and I want to quote this. The Bank says that public pensions systems in health need to be placed on a substantial footing by limiting the public sector's exposure and enhancing public funding. Public health and long-term care systems should focus on providing core services leaving individuals to provide. Greater private involvement in health care financing can be achieved in particular by patient core payments. That is the future as the Bank sees it.
We can have a Europe of the Euro, flexible labour markets, more public expenditure and high unemployment. I do not think that is the trades union agenda. Please reject the General Council's Statement.
Sir Bill Morris (Transport & General Workers' Union): Supporting Composite 17, opposing the General Council's Statement.
The T&G is supporting Composite 17, not because it meets all our requirements -- it certainly does not. It does not rule out a referendum in this Parliament, and it argues that there is convergence where there is none -- but because we see the development of Europe as the defining issue for this generation, which requires maximum unity from this Movement.
I share the General Secretary's vision for a new and emerging Europe but the T&G will only support that crucial last step at the right time and on the right conditions. There will be no rush and no quick fixes. It is for those reasons that we oppose the General Council's Statement. If implemented the General Council's Statement will, in fact, do severe damage to our economy and, indeed, to our members' pay and conditions, and I will tell you why.
In June the Chancellor announced that the five tests have not been met and the British economy has not converged, yet now we are being asked to accept a reformed package to achieve false conversion, regional reform of labour market flexibility, re-structuring of housing and mortgage planning, a new definition of inflation and, wait for it, a new harmonised index of consumer prices to replace the RPI. At a stroke inflation will be cut. Congress, at a stroke the new index will not just cut inflation, it will cut your members' pay and conditions, and if you do not understand that read pages 53 and 54 of the General Council's Statement before you. At a stroke a worker's average earnings will be decreasing by £250 per year. For the Governor of the Bank of England it will be £1,717 a year.
The CBI likes the new index. It is a gift. With the trades unions it is a pay cut. The General Council's Statement completely fails to recognise the scale of the problem that the Index will cost. The Statement is silent on the fact that we are seeking to get false conversion. Yes, I support the long-term aim of joining the Euro at the right time and on the right conditions. We have members in manufacturing and, indeed, in public service. We take no lessons from those who speak only for manufacturing. We speak for everyone. However, let us be very clear. Our members' jobs will not be the price to be paid. Our members are not turkeys and they will not be voting for Christmas.
I urge Congress to vote for the composite and reject the General Council's Statement.
Bob Crow (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers) speaking in support of the composite, said: I oppose the Statement from the General Council on two issues. The first issue is that the policy last year was that the General Council would go back and have a look at the question of the Stability Pact and have a good debate amongst the Movement. We do not believe that that has taken place. So it is not just a principle about this motion but any motion you pass this week. If you ask the General Council to look at it, how do you know you will not be back here next year without those statements being looked at.
Secondly, I refer to this whole illusion of the European Union. Let me make it quite clear that my union is a worldwide union. We have maritime workers working throughout the length and breadth of the world and I have more importance with workers with workers, for instance, in Malasia and the Philippines than I do have with a Liverpool Street City broker making millions of pounds on a day to day basis. It is not about smokey bacon crisps, it is not about wrapping yourself up in the European Union flag if you dare come up to this rostrum and speak about the European Union, but it is about the democratic strutures that operate within that European Union. Tell my members in Scotland at this moment in time, Caledonian MacBrayne workers, ex-BR workers, transferred to Sealink, now working for Caledonian MacBrayne being told by the European Union that they are now going to be privatised by the European Union is democratic, because Scottish people dont want it and our members dont want it. That is the reality that is taking place in Scotland at this moment in time.
If you look at the European Central Bank, May edition, it says that the National Health Service cannot properly be funded because it is far too expensive under the tax systems. That is the reality which is taking place out there. Whether you are for the European Union or against it, by supporting the General Councils Statement, you are allowing this TUC to tell the Labour Party that there is no need to have a referendum because the next General Election will be the referendum as to whether you go into it or not. We should say to people that we should have an informed debate.
Bill Morris, quite rightly, said that he is in favour of it, and that is a position of his union which I respect, but I want working people to have that say after an informed debate. The reason why the General Councils Statement is up is to muddy the waters. What you should do is support the composite and reject the General Councils Statement out of hand and allow for a proper debate to take place and to have a proper referendum. My position in the union is that we should not go into the Euro because we believe it will be at the expense of jobs. Do not go back on previous TUC decisions. The point is that the TUC decisions last year said that there should be an informed debate. If you pass this General Council Statement you are going to turn on its head what took place last year. So I am in favour of supporting those people throughout the world who want to have a debate about supporting jobs in the manufacturing industry and so on, but you cannot do it by supporting the General Councils Statement and the composite. So support the composite and reject the General Councils Statement.
The President: The ISTC has the right of reply.
Michael Leahy (The Communication Union): Let me say, first of all, that the composite and the General Councils Statement, as far as I can see, are in unison. (Laughter) There is no difference at all, unless you want to dance angels on the point of a pin and say that in our brief composited notes and in the General Council Statement it welcomes. I mean to say, where are we going here? There is no way that we want to stifle debate. It is fundamentally important. My own union and other unions that have spoken in favour of the composite wanted a debate for long enough. The problem is that we have not had a debate, so we welcome the debate.
In reply to Bill, we are nobodys turkey. It is September, not Christmas. I do not intend to be a turkey and vote for Christmas. Thousands upon thousands of jobs have been lost in manufacturing industry as a consequence of us being outside the eurozone. Many of those manufacturing jobs, as you say, quite rightly, Bill, are members of the T&G. As far as we are concerned, we want the debate, we are quite willing to have that debate and we are confident that once the British people know and understand what the economic and political issues are they will vote overwhelmingly for the euro. Thank you.
The President: Thank you, Mike. I also call the General Secretary, who also has the right of reply.
The General Secretary: President and Congress, we have tried to maintain as much unity as possible on this issue in recent Congresses. We have tried but we have failed. Last year Congress carried a General Council Statement, but it carried it in the face of opposition from some unions. I hope that Congress is going to do the same again today. The issue is clear. Which direction do we want to point in? Do we want to become full players in Europe; do we want to give our manufacturing industries the stability in exchange rates that they so desperately need, and do we want to play a integral part in Europe providing ourselves with a platform on which we can defend and advance Europes social model?.
What is the alternative? The alternative is to walk away, as so many previous generations of political leaders have done from the challenges of Europe in the past.
Those who have opposed the General Councils Report have talked about the need for greater democratic accountability for the European Central Bank They have talked about reform of the Growth and Stability Pact to ensure our capacity to use public spending. Congress, the General Councils Statement recognises both of those concerns. We are pushing for change, so is the British Government and other governments, too. If we get to a referendum then at that stage we will all be in a position to make a judgment on whether sufficient reform has been agreed and is going to be delivered.
The General Councils Statement also recognises the issue which has been raised by the T&G of the proposal to change our inflation index. I would like to think that trade union negotiators will not be misled by this change and they are not going to allow employers to seek to use this change to water down the deals that we can achieve.
The final point that has been raised by those opposing the General Councils Statement is that the General Council has failed to discharge its obligations from last years Congress. What is all this about? I will tell you what it is all about. Last years Congress resolution said that in preparation for a referendum the General Council should place before each Congress prior to any such referendum factual information concerning prices, unemployment, growth, public expenditure, the Stability and Growth Pact and industrial relations in each of the eurozone countries.
In June the General Council considered that. They considered that as they were digesting the 2000 pages that had been generated by the Treasury of factual information on prices, unemployment, growth, public expenditure and the rest across Europe. They also noted that there was no imminent referendum in prospect. They made what I think was a reasonable and proper judgment, that in no circumstances would it be necessary or appropriate for them to produce a report duplicating the work that had been done by others. Let me say that when that decision was made, there was no particular dissent registered in the debates in the Executive Committee and the General Council by some of those who have raised that objection today.
Congress, this Statement is not reaching a final view. The final view is to be taken by the trade union Movement on the euro when the assessment has been completed. But let us keep looking positive and carry the General Councils Statement.
The President: Colleagues, we now move to a vote on the General Councils Statement. Will all those in favour, please show? All those against? I find it too difficult to tell by a vote of hands. It does seem reasonable to me to take a card vote and then there will be no doubt. I am sorry at this late hour to do this. With your co-operation, colleagues, we can do it quite quickly.
To remind you, colleagues. We are now voting on the General Councils Statement
· After a show of hands, a card vote was called for.
· For the General Council statement: 3,213,000
· Against the General Council statement: 2,882,000.
· The General Council statement was CARRIED.
· Composite Motion 17 was CARRIED.
Brendan Parkinson (Graphical, Paper and Media Union) speaking to paragraph 5.6 of the General Councils Report said: As the chair of a newly formed EWC, I was fortunate to be asked to attend the Arhus Conference. I say 'fortunate' because my company actually refused to pay me time off in order to attend the Conference, but companies, particularly small and medium sized companies, but also many larger ones, are reluctant to grasp the opportunity provided by an effective EWC and do not extend this influence beyond the terms of the legislation. I am interested to see that the Report states a need for extending and strengthening the existing legislation, but I detected a distinct reluctance from the Euro Parliament representatives at Arhus to pursue this route on the basis that a partnership cannot exist by legislation alone so there must be voluntary commitment from both sides.
Unfortunately, that is not happening. The company which I represent had to be dragged kicking and screaming all the way to an EWC. Now they constantly hide behind weaknesses within the legislation to prevent effective development of the partnership forum. If EWCs are to be an effective part of the Social Partnership, ther needs to be strengthening of this legislation, so I would urge Congress to push for the review and to strengthen the legislation. Thank you.
The President: At that point, colleagues, it is time to adjourn until 9.30 tomorrow morning. Thank you very much indeed.
Congress adjourned until 9.30 tomorrow morning
Report (47,500 words) issued 30 Sep 2003
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