TRADES UNION CONGRESS
The Brighton Centre,
Brighton, East Sussex
September 12th to 15th 2005
President: Jeannie Drake OBE
REPORT OF PROCEEDINGS
Reported by Marten Walsh Cherer Ltd.,
Midway House, 27-29 Cursitor Street, London EC4A 1LT.
Telephone No: 0207-405 5010. Fax No. 0207-405 5026)
FIRST DAY: MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 12TH
(Congress assembled at 10.00 a.m.)
The President (Jeannie Drake): Delegates, I call Congress to order. The programme of music this week has been put together by Music for Youth, and many thanks to Norton's Hot Eight who have been playing for us this morning. Well done. That was fantastic. Thank you very much, indeed. (Applause)
Congress, I have great pleasure in opening this, the TUC's 137th Congress. I warmly welcome all delegates and visitors here to Brighton.
Appointment of tellers and scrutineers
The President: The first formal item of business is to ask Congress to approve the tellers and scrutineers as set out on page 10 of the General Purposes Committee Report booklet. Is that agreed, colleagues? (Agreed)
May I remind all delegates to switch off their mobile phones. Normally, I would be encouraging you like mad to use them so my members can stay in employment, but on this occasion can you make sure they are definitely switched off. You should also find on your seats details of the emergency procedures so, please, could you familiarise yourselves with them so should there be an emergency I will give you further instructions. If any delegates require first aid, the first aid station is situated by the food servery in the east bar, the doors of which are to my left, your right.
Welcome to Sororal and Fraternal Delegates
The President: Congress, I now come to the introduction of the sororal and fraternal delegates and visitors who are seated behind me on my right. As you would expect from the British section of an international trade union Movement, we have a number of trade unionists from outside the country here this week, some of whom will be addressing Congress, others will be taking part in fringe events and some are here to network, to visit old friends in the British trade union Movement and, hopefully, to make new ones. Our international speakers this year include Carlos Rodriguez, the President of the Colombian Workers' Confederation; Guy Ryder, the General Secretary of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, who will join us later in the week, and Elizabeth Bunn, the Secretary/Treasurer of the UAW in the United States and this year's sororal delegate from the AFL-CIO. I will say more about each of them when it is their turn to address you.
We have other international guests on the platform. We have Rasem Abdullah and Abdullah Muhsin of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, and Teopista Mayanja, the General Secretary of the Ugandan Teachers' Union. Some of our international guests are old friends and colleagues making a return visit. Penny Shanks and Jerry Zellhoeffer from the AFL-CIO's European office. John Monks, the General Secretary of the European Trades Union Confederation, and Bill Brett from the International Labour Organisation. There will be a number of other representatives of global union federations and individual union representatives and other foreign visitors here today. You are all most welcome. I hope that the delegates will take the opportunity to meet with them and discuss the issues which bring us together as a global union family.
This year's fraternal delegate from the Trade Union Council's Conference is Tony Carter. Welcome Tony. Congress, we are expecting many other guests during this week and I will introduce them to you when they arrive.
The President: In leading in on Chapter 11 of the General Council's Report, she said: Congress, 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 Sir Edward Britton, former general secretary of the National Union Teachers; Lord Chapple, former general secretary of the Electricians' Union and who was president of the 1983 Congress; Peter Dawson, former general secretary of NATFHE; Bob Garland, former general secretary of the AEU foundry section; John Henry, former STUC deputy general secretary; Ina Love, former member of UNISON NEC and the General Council; Bernard Meadows, the sculptor, who designed The spirit of trade unionism, which stands outside Congress House; Ron Todd, former general secretary of the Transport & General Workers' Union and former General Council member; Joe Wade, former general secretary of the NGA, and Bob Wright, a former assistant general secretary of the AEU and a former member of the TUC's General Purposes Committee. Since the Report went to press, we have also lost a number of good friends of the trade union Movement, in particular Mo Mowlem and Robin Cook, and many of us were deeply saddened by the news of the murder of Thomas, the 15 year old son of our former General Council colleague, Penny Holloway. Tomorrow, we will particularly remember those who died in the London bombings, but at this time I am sure our thoughts are also with those who suffered loss in the major natural disasters of the past year, the tsunami and the hurricane in the southern United Stated. I ask you to remember all of those who died in man made disasters, through poverty, war and conflict in different parts of the world throughout the past year.
Let us re-commit ourselves to the cause of world peace and let us stand for a minute's silence. (Congress stood in silent tribute)
The General Secretary: Congress, I now call upon the President to address Congress.
The President: Colleagues, welcome to the 137th annual Trades Union Congress. It's a great opportunity for us to showcase the work we do on behalf of our six and a half million members, to celebrate the values that bind us together and to work out our priorities for the coming year.
This is the time to both look ahead and to reflect. It is now two months since the London bombings since we witnessed the worst in human nature, and, in the most trying of circumstances, the best in human nature. We saw the emergency workers, transport workers, social workers and support workers giving so much, so selflessly, on 7th July and after. What happened in London brought out the best in our Movement. We were proud to work with the office of the Mayor of London to organise the vigil in Trafalgar Square one week after the attacks, and we were proud that trade union values - collectivism, solidarity, justice, equality and respect for all - were right at the heart of London's response, values we have been proud to promote in our fight against the bigotry and poison of the far Right.
The core message was simple. London United - one city, one world.
This year, and perhaps more than any other, we have become aware that we do indeed live in one world, a world, with all of its problems and all of its resources, we must share.
That is why my theme for this Congress, as TUC President, is Make Poverty History. As Nelson Mandela said back in February, defeating poverty is the greatest cause of our time. It is not a gesture of charity but an act of justice. Also, as Gordon Brown said at the Make Poverty History rally, 'Don't let anybody tell you there are no great causes left, don't let anybody tell you that politics doesn't make a difference'.
Here and now in 2005, the world's poor effectively have to face a silent tsunami each and every month. For far too long they have drowned in a sea of apathy and neglect. Together we must turn back that tide.
As a Movement, all our values, all that we care passionately about, mean that we must be at the forefront of a campaign to Make Poverty History. The world has never been richer or better placed in terms of medical science, technological innovation, and intellectual capacity to beat poverty. But we need to create the political will and eliminate corruption to deliver debt cancellation, more and better aid and trade justice.
In the past two weeks in New Orleans, we have learned just how fragile the wealth of the developed world is, with Hurricane Katrina revealing the vulnerability of the poor even in the midst of American plenty.
Access to work, underpinned by strong rights, empowers people to lift themselves out of poverty, and that is the message that applies as much in this country as it does overseas. But equally we should never forget that there are always people for whom work is simply not an option. One of the highlights of my spell as President was chairing the TUC conference on poverty, which brought together unemployed workers' centres and other anti-poverty groups, who provide vital support to some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
The launch of our Peanuts 4 Benefits campaign was a powerful reminder that living on benefits is not quite the bed of roses the Daily Mail says it is, and not that everybody has shared in the UK's economic growth.
The TUC conference on poverty in October will concentrate on Making Poverty History in the UK.
Work and poverty are intimately linked, with workless families much more likely to be poor. Plainly, any Government that wants to address poverty must make a serious effort to eliminate worklessness, and whilst there has been some significant success, especially for the most disadvantaged, poverty remains a reality for far too many people and children in one of the richest economies in the world. The point is that unemployment often brings with it its own spiral of decline. It is a major cause of debt, which in turn is a major barrier to work, so the two reinforce each other, forcing families into a trap that affects health, relationships and social life.
Whilst we support the Government's drive to get more people into work, that should not be to the detriment of those who are unable to do so. Nor should a job - any job - be the limit of our horizons. We must aspire to get people from a job into a good job. We must move from high employment to high quality employment.
This year we welcomed Labour's re-election for a historic third term, but we know that mighty challenges remain. Warwick is a starting point, not a conclusion. We need a new agenda for the workplace. That means action across the board - from strong working time protections to better rights for temporary and agency workers to tough measures to combat the gender pay gap.
We welcome Labour's many achievements - the minimum wage, new family friendly entitlements and union recognition rights, but now is not the time to be held back by a poverty of ambition.
As the Prime Minister himself said recently: 'Life is still a real struggle for many people and many families in this country: families trying to cope with balancing work and family life...many families on low incomes who desperately need help and support to increase their living standards.'
The UK remains one of the most unequal societies in the developed world. Just 2 per cent of the population now owns one-third of all of the wealth. Now is the time for the Government to engage our movement - to use us, to challenge us - as a partner in delivering social justice.
In an increasingly global economy, there is the real challenge of how to give the narrative to the social model in today's world, so that economic success can go hand in hand with decent employment standards, quality of life and income redistribution to the benefit of all.
We have seen what can be done on learning and skills. More than 100,000 people benefiting from union learning last year alone, a network of 12,000 learning reps - growing all the time - and our new Union Academy just round the corner.
Now is the time for a genuine political partnership on pensions. The TUC has a strong mandate from Congress to fight to protect and improve pensions, to address the disadvantages faced by many women both in terms of state and occupational pensions. We have a responsibility to ensure that any new pension settlement will leave a sustainable inheritance for future generations, for our children and for our young workers.
Politicians simply cannot muddle through the challenges that we face in our pension system. We need a planned approach based on solutions that offer fairness and certainty. We must re-assert the principle that pension provision is a three-way responsibility between the state, employers and workers. But as a Movement, if we are to retain and enhance the reputation as campaigners for social justice then we must keep fighting for equality. Because we represent so many millions of workers, we have a unique cultural reference point from which we can contribute so much to the equality agenda.
The economy will thrive if businesses and organisations make full use of the potential of the workforce. This means drawing on the talent of everyone: black people, white people, women, men, straight, lesbian, gay, transgender, disabled and able-bodied, old and young.
The UK has a flourishing multiracial and multicultural society with people from black and minority ethnic communities making up almost 8 per cent of the population, with London boasting a minority ethnic population of 29 per cent.
But the diversity in the population as a whole is not reflected in our employment statistics. Despite hard-won employment legislation secured in the last 30 years, unemployment is higher now for black workers than it was ten years ago. Disabled people are still twice as likely as non-disabled people to be unemployed.
The answer is not simply more legislation on disability. You cannot legislate for attitudes: a massive cultural shift is also needed. Many employers still see the impairment rather than the ability.
For women, low pay is still endemic. There is a lethal cocktail of gender-based job segregation and sex discrimination in our workplaces. Unequal pay is still a dominant feature despite more than 30 years of equal pay law.
The Government have set up the Women and Work Commission to look at this issue and we will hear from the Chair, Margaret Prosser, later today. The encouragement of union equality representatives will make a big contribution to achieving diversity and forthcoming recommendations from the Commission will be welcomed. This Government more than any other have recognised that diversity comes in many forms, and that we are not fulfilling our productivity potential if we discriminate against sections of society.
But we still have a long way to go. Every union has a responsibility to support action in the workplace to end discrimination, and our capacity to tackle inequality, to fight poverty, to defend pensions and to win for working people ultimately depends on one thing, and that's the collective strength of our Movement. One of the greatest challenges we face is to start growing again. Last year we saw a net increase in membership of 20,000. Yes, a welcome step forward, but it is the missing millions we have to recruit into the trade union family. That means getting to grips with the scale of the task we face, especially in the private sector. That means articulating a vision of work that today's workforce can relate to. In Britain today there are more women trade unionists than men trade unionists and black workers are more likely to join a trade union than white workers. We need to reflect that diversity in our leadership and in our bargaining agendas.
We must shout about our successes a little louder and a little more often, because I am optimistic that we can rise to these challenges. In the past year, what has struck me most about our Movement has been the dedication, the decency and the diversity of the people who make up our Movement. I saw that when I visited the Scottish TUC, when I addressed the four TUC equality conferences and, most recently, during the celebrations at Tolpuddle. That was a reminder of the richness of our history and the justice of our cause, and also a reminder that the struggle for trade union rights still goes on. Like our comrades in Colombia - the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist - defending their movement from right-wing thuggery. Like our comrades in Iraq - the most dangerous place in the world full stop - trying to establish free trade unions in the face of appalling violence.
Last year 129 of our international brothers and sisters paid the ultimate price for their principles. Across the world, it is often the trade unions who are leading the fight for the rights and freedoms for men and women. As trade unionists - I want to say this collectively for us - there can be no definition of social justice which denies rights and equality to people because of their age, gender, race, religion, disability or sexual orientation.
I was delighted that the Women's Conference decided to submit a motion on 'Women Internationally' to Congress this year. The TUC is working with Amnesty International UK in their campaign to end violence against women, which is still so commonplace in so many countries.
In Iraq women face a uncertain future, and they need our support. Their interests must not be neglected in any constitutional settlement. We are watching developments in the debate over the Iraqi constitution closely, and want to assist the trade unions in Iraq and in Kurdistan to fight for women's equality. That is one of the priorities of the TUC's Iraq Solidarity Committee.
So, Congress, this year, for so many reasons, international solidarity matters more than ever. It matters because we live in a world of increasing uncertainty and we live in a world disfigured by poverty and grotesque inequality. But we know a better world, another world, is possible. It's a world with trade unions at its heart and it's a world that we must keep fighting for.
Thank you and have a good Conference. (Applause)
Vote of Thanks
The General Secretary: I now call on Billy Hayes, the General Secretary of the CWU, to move the vote of thanks for the President's Address.
Billy Hayes (Communication Workers Union): Chair and Congress, I am speaking on behalf of the General Council to deliver the vote of thanks to Jeannie Drake, this year's TUC President. Jeannie is also the Deputy General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union. As General Secretary of the CWU and as a fellow General Council member, I am happy to be able to deliver this vote of thanks on behalf of the General Council.
Presiding over the General Council is a big job. All the various competing agendas, in terms of time and in terms of policy and, it has to be said, sometimes in terms of ego, is no easy task. Jeannie has performed that role as President with diplomacy, intelligence and good humour and has ensured today in her speech that our collective voice is heard.
Jeannie has been described as a formidable operator in the male dominated world of trade unions, not just today, when women make up the majority of Britain's trade unionists, but at a time when you did not have to be male and forty to be a trade unionist - incidentally, I am 52 - but it certainly felt like that when I was a young trade unionist. Jeannie's trade union activities span more than 30 years. She was brought up in a Labour voting household. Jeannie first joined NUPE after leaving university. She then saw active service in the CPSA. If you were going to survive the slings and arrows of trade union fortunes, then the CPSA at that time was certainly the place to take up arms against the sea of troubles.
During this time she was also a mother who raised three kids. Jeannie, in her typically under-stated style, described this as 'multi-tasking', bringing up kids, being a trade unionists and dealing with employers. In my language, I think that is simply just hard work. Following the transfer of the CPSA P&T Group in 1985, Jeannie became the Deputy General Secretary of the clerical section of the NCU. In 1995, with the creation of the CWU, Jeannie became Deputy General Secretary and, subsequently, was re-elected twice to that position during a ten year period. Those of us who have worked closely with Jeannie will testify to her ability; her exceptional negotiating skills, her sharp intellect, her ability to put male dominated officials firmly in their places when needed - I have been at the receiving end of that from time to time - and her determination to manage her work-life balance, both in work and in deed.
Jeannie has also been a strategic thinker on telecoms issues and on the wider Movement. She has been instrumental in developing strategies which have increased the union's recognition in the telecoms sector from just one, many years ago, to more than 35 today in what is described by Ben Vervane, the chief executive of BT, as 'the most fiercely competitive telecommunications market in the world'. At the same she has ensured that our structures are responsive to lay members and Jeannie has also been a life-long advocate on equality issues both within the CWU and the wider trade union Movement.
Jeannie was one of the first trade unionists to recognise what was happening in the pensions industry and her technical knowledge of pensions few can match. We hope, Jeannie, that the final report from the Pensions Commission, on which she sits, will take account of her expert input and help secure a new settlement on pensions. Aside from her work on the Pensions Commission and the Pensions Protection Fund, Jeannie has other commitments, including being a commissioner for the Equal Opportunities Commission, a council member of the Open University and an employment appeals tribunal member.
Congress, Jeannie's obvious abilities, her proven track record and sheer hard work and determination demonstrate what an asset she has been to the trade union Movement, particularly during this year and what an effective advocate she has been on behalf of working people generally. Jeannie, on a personal note, I would like to thank you for the help and support you have given me as general secretary. I think today, Congress, her speech - I would say this, wouldn't I, because we are from the same union -- was one of the best speeches that I have ever heard in terms of where we should be focusing our future as to the trade union Movement. Your speech, Jeannie, was absolutely on the mark. It told us where we need to be going and what the issues are.
On behalf of the General Council, I am sure that Congress would like to join me in congratulating Jeannie on your Presidency and what I believe will be a successful week chairing this Congress. Thank you. (Applause)
The General Secretary: I now call on Denise McGuire, the President of Connect, to second the vote of thanks.
Denise McGuire (Connect): President and Congress, I am delighted and deeply honoured to second the vote of thanks to our TUC President, Jeannie Drake. Billy has mentioned Jeannie's amazing ability to multi-task and her immense capacity to do lots of things very well. Her intellect is razor sharp and it is always a joy to listen to Jeannie on the subject of the boardrooms of the UK, the companies, the white men who inhabit them and just how mediocre they really are.
Jeannie has campaigned on low pay and equal pay from her first days in the union Movement. A subject very close to Jeannie's heart was the double-whammy which hit women's pensions - low pay and no pay - whilst bringing up children. When Jeannie was pregnant she used to think by lying on the floor, and when she was heavily pregnant, eight months and three weeks along, in fact, Jeannie was leading in some pay negotiations. During one of the adjournments Jeannie lay down to think, not on the floor this time but on the table in the boardroom. The employers' side returned and they saw Jeannie, thought she was giving birth and, with the great presence of mind that you would expect from senior managers, they ran out of the room. (Laughter) They were terrified. They were completely intimidated. So desperate were they to conclude the negotiations and see Jeannie off the premises that they had no choice but to cave in and cough up.
As a negotiator, Jeannie is formidable and she builds excellent relationships with union colleagues. One example of this was in the CPSA Post & Telecoms group merger talks with the Post Office Engineering Union, which Billy mentioned. The merger had hit what you might call a bit of a snag because the POEU conference voted no. The challenge for Jeannie was that the CPSA conference was to take place the next day. Jeannie really did not want her conference to vote no, and she was also facing an executive which, as usual, was split for and against the merger. Jeannie worked tirelessly through the night, talking and listening, proposing and rebutting, waking up her executive members and sending them back to sleep. By 6 o'clock the following morning everything was in place. Jeannie had convinced them all and they all agreed to her plan. They opened the Conference and suspended standing orders. Jeannie then explained that their executive was going to 'chat' to the delegates. At the end of this chatting, Jeannie persuaded the conference to close without making a decision. However, because they were altogether they decided to have some fun, and I am told they had the most lavish dinner and disco in the union's history and everyone went home happy. If that is not impressive enough, Congress, you would like to know, I am sure, that the cost of that conference - the hotel, the lavish buffet, dinner and disco - were all paid for by the other union. (Laughter) Being cheeky, now that other unions know about that, Jeannie, maybe they will be making you an offer before the end of the week.
If Jeannie has one fault, and I am not sure that she does because that is what the CWU told me I had to say, it is that Jeannie is not exactly the most punctual person in the world, but Jeannie's reposte to that is, 'I may be late but I am always reliable'.
On a personal note, I would like to thank Jeannie for her friendship to me and to my union, Connect. We are sister unions in the same industry, and I am proud to call Jeannie a friend and sister. Jeannie has done us proud during her term of office as the TUC President, she is a credit to the union Movement and an inspiration to us all. Enjoy your Conference, Jeannie. I second the vote of thanks. (Applause)
The President: Thank you very much. I remember lying on the boardroom table when I was eight months pregnant. I had forgotten it temporarily. Thank you very much indeed for those votes of thanks. They were much appreciated.
Report of the General Purposes Committee
The President: Congress, I call upon Annette Mansell-Green, the Chair of the General Purposes Committee, to report to us on the progress of business and other Congress arrangements.
Congress, Annette is the first ever woman Chair of the GPC. (Applause) You have shown by your applause that it is an achievement that demands a special mention. Annette's position is a testament to both her own talents and to the continuing advance of women at all levels of the Movement. Many congratulations to Annette, and we look forward to her and the rest of the committee keeping us in order for the rest of the week. Thank you.
Annette Mansell-Green: Good morning, Congress. I am very honoured to hold this position as the first woman chair of the GPC. I believe it is important to say that this is not about myself but it is on behalf of all women trade unionists. (Applause)
Congress, I would like to begin by reporting on progress on the Final Agenda. Composite Motions 1 - 20 have been agreed. They are set out in the printed booklet entitled GPC report and composite motions, which also include the General Council's statement on the consequences of the terrorist attacks in London. On behalf of the GPC, I would like to thank all those unions which co-operated and worked together to reach agreement on the composite motions.
I can also report that the GPC has agreed Emergency Motion 1 on Gate Gourmet. This will be moved by the TGWU and seconded by the GMB, and it will be taken this morning in the Employment Rights debate. Copies have been distributed on delegates' seats.
The GPC has also agreed a collection for the Gate Gourmet workers which will take place at the end of this morning's sessions at the doors of the hall and at the main exit. Delegates should also note that the TSSA has agreed to the General Council's request to withdraw its Motion 52 in favour of the General Council's statement on the consequences of the terrorist attacks in London, printed at the end of the GPC report.
Delegates should also note that two nominations have now been withdrawn. These are the nominations of Steve Kemp for the GPC and Ian Lavery for section C of the General Council. Both of these withdrawals are noted in the printed final agenda.
May I remind Congress that, in order to complete our business expeditiously, delegates should be ready when called to speak. Would delegates who know they are scheduled to speak please move to the front and be ready to come to the rostrum quickly. Please also respect the limits on speaking times. These are five minutes for movers, three minutes for seconders and supporters of motions. However, in order to ensure that we complete our business, please come to the rostrum quickly.
Finally, I urge that you do not impede the progress of Congress and draw unwelcome attention to yourself by failing to switch off your mobile phones. Thank you.
The President: Congress, I now call on you formally to receive the GPC's report. Ca we agree? (Agreed) Thank you.
The President: Congress, I now invite you formally to receive the GPC's Report. Can we agree? Thank you. (Agreed)
Fairness at Work
Barry Camfield (Transport and General Workers' Union) moved Composite 1.
He said: Thank you, President. I am proud to be moving Composite 1. I think it would be wrong not to start this speech by welcoming all of our members from Gate Gourmet who are in the audience. (A standing ovation)
Congress, much more will be said about Gate Gourmet workers by my General Secretary, Tony Woodley, in the Emergency Motion. I want to deal with the broad issue of employment rights and to start by saying that we are in a new situation today which opens up the possibility of real change for British trade unions, our members and all workers.
Firstly, Tony Blair's term of office as the leader of the Labour Party is coming to an end. He is going. We need a new start under a new leader and the end of New Labour; a new leader who is proud to be a real trade unionist, not just a card holder; a new leader who will make a difference to those Gate Gourmet workers, who will defend them, stand up and speak in favour of them and all workers in struggle; a new leader who is proud of Labour's tradition, its history and its real cause and a new leader who is proud to be a Socialist on the side of workers, the unions, the poor, the majority.
Let us start the debate now about what kind of leadership we want for the Labour Party after Tony Blair departs and ask every candidate where he or she stands on trade union freedom.
Secondly, this could be an absolutely historic Congress for the British trade union Movement because today we are about to adopt a truly progressive policy by committing our Movement to work and fight for a campaign for our own emancipation, our own freedom and rights as trade unions. We are sending out a message to all those hard?working, under?paid and over?stressed workers of Britain that their trade unions are now ready to battle for trade union freedoms. These freedoms are for a purpose. That purpose is to provide workers and their families with freedom from poverty, long hours, the sack, low pay, pensions robbery, victimization, inequality, injury, ill?health and, yes, death at work, too, through corporate killing.
Composite 1 restates and calls again for the repeal of the anti?trade union laws, but, importantly, it calls for a new Trade Union Freedom Bill next year, which is the centenary of the Trades Disputes Act 1906, which first gave unions their freedom to act, to take strike action and to be protected in doing so, including solidarity action. We want a Trade Union Freedom Bill that will finally right the wrongs and the injustices of that Tory Government all those years ago; informing, educating and mobilising our members in common cause with sympathetic lawyers, academics, progressive politicians ?? a real campaign. We call for a huge mobilisation in 2006 to support our Freedom Bill. Critically, we call for the legalisation of solidarity action. Does the disgraceful treatment of the Gate Gourmet workers not show the justice of that case? (Applause)
We call for the abolition of restrictive and bureaucratic balloting and industrial action procedures; the right to have workplace ballots; the right to automatic reinstatement; the right to a strike; the freedom to write our own rule books free from state control; the right to decide on expulsions and admissions to our unions and, yes, fundamentally, the right to expel racists and Fascists from our union. (Applause)
I want to pay tribute to ASLEF for all its fighting work in this area and to the sisters and brothers in my own Union, the T&G, where we have sought and successfully expelled racists and Fascists, and to all those unions who are fighting to keep them out of our ranks and our Movement as we say with one voice: "There is no place for you in our Movement, no place all at all." (Applause)
In conclusion, in a world today dominated by capital, global corporations, free trade and the profit ethic, trade unions are the only real defence for working people. Our British trade union Movement is waking up. Let us organise to win. There must be no more fear about our rightful freedoms and no more threats about "Support Labour at any cost or you will get the Tories". I remember my mum saying that to me when I was a little kid! We are not children being lectured at by patronizing New Labour apparatchiks elected by no one. (Applause)
Comrades, it is time for us to stand up, to forge our future together and to end Britain's repressive anti?union laws. Let today be a new start for working people in Britain, for Gate Gourmet workers and many others. Let us give them back a free trade union Movement.
Bob Crowe (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers' Union) seconded Composite 1.
He said: I have absolute pleasure in seconding the resolution and composite excellently moved by Barry Camfield and the Transport and General Workers' Union. Well, there you have it. We are eight and?a?half years into this Government now. Where are all these laws which the Labour MPs said they were going to repeal when they came to serve in office? Nine lots of anti?trade union legislation were piled on the workers of this country in those dark, miserable days of Thatcher. To the eternal credit of the Labour MPs in Parliament when they were in opposition, they voted against every one of them. There were majorities of 160, 140 and over 60. Why can't they do the same thing, which they should have done when they were in opposition, and repeal every single anti?trade union law put on the books? (Applause)
Do you remember what Thatcher said? She was going to give the union back to the members. Well, where are the 6 million members who have left this trade union Movement since she said it? In 1978, in the last years of the Callaghan Government, 78 per cent of workers were covered by a collective agreement. Today that figure is 35 per cent. Two?thirds of workers now are not covered by a collective agreement. The Gate Gourmet workers, who we proudly saluted a minute ago, and quite rightly so, were told that they were acting illegally by taking unofficial action. What is the difference between unofficial action and official action? The argument should be: was the action they took effective or not? It was effective and we should be proud of what the Gate Gourmet workers did. (Applause)
It is harder to go on strike under Labour than it was under the Tories. They say it is about democracy and having a ballot. If you go to a low skilled workforce and you say to the employer: "Dear Guv, in eight days' time we are taking strike action", shall I tell what he will do? He will phone up an agency and bring in the scabs to do the work. I do not have a lot of time for Winston Churchill, but, thank God, he never deployed those tactics in World War II. Can you imagine him ringing up Hitler and saying, "Dear Adolph, my old mate, in eight days' time we are sending some Lancaster bombers over to bomb you in Dusseldorf; please put your Messerschmitts to one side"? Of course, it is about bringing scabs in to undermine effective trade unionism.
On the railways, we have a strike with one National Express company. What do they do? They bring scabs in as managers from other companies to run those services. If it is good enough for them to bring scabs in to undermine our trade union's effective action, it should be right for us not just to take secondary action, which I do not accept, but solidarity action, which is something that this Movement and every other trade union Movement was built on throughout the length and breadth of Britain. (Applause and cheers)
We need to start waking up to the concept of putting pressure on this Government. It is about time we called a national demonstration. We want that national demonstration to say to those new, up and coming leaders of the Labour Party: "You cannot just expect to have our cheque book every four years and we get nothing in return." All of the lobbying groups that go into No. 10 are lobbying for their piece of the action. We should be saying, on behalf of the trade union Movement, 100 years after the Taff Vale judgment fined my Union £26,000 and the same companies are trying to sue my Union for half a million pounds: "In 100 years' time, governments will have come and gone, but this trade union will still be here." They can put us in straitjackets, but workers like those at Gate Gourmet and other groups of workers throughout the world will stand up and fight. Repeal the anti?trade union laws and let us have a march on Parliament to define the freedom of every single worker who operates in Britain! (Applause)
The President: That woke us up, did it not?
Alan Ritchie (Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians) moved Composite Motion 2.
He said: This composite goes to the core values of the trade union Movement ? the rights of workers. Construction is an industry of extremes. Millions of people work in the industry, but most of the main contractors do not employ a single person who will build the construction projects in the construction industry. On most sites, if you do not sign a waiver on the Working Time Regulations, you do not start work.
With this background, you would not be surprised at the statistics. Every week one or more construction workers are killed on a construction site. Last year, 72 workers were killed for no other reason than they worked in the unregulated construction industry. By the end of this conference, another construction worker will have been killed.
This is what happens when you let market forces rule. We have had flexible labour working for more than 40 years. It means that the industry drives for more profits at the expense of workers' rights. The construction industry is now facing a skills crisis. How can we train craftsmen for the industry when employers do not employ anyone directly? It is no wonder that the industry has an image problem. We are selling a low cost model. That model consists of no respect for workers' rights; the worst health and safety record in the UK industry and inadequate training provisions resulting in an average age for the industry of over 50.
UCATT has known of these problems for a number of years. Contractors make their profits from using so?called flexible labour and the bogus self?employed. Up to 50% of the cost of construction output is labour costs, so keeping workers weak and divided is crucial to the employers. It means that workers really have a collective voice representing them.
These employers do not want to be tied down with redundancy selection or unfair dismissal claims. They do not want to be bothered with employment rights and contracts of employment. When we challenge sham contracts on site, we get the usual excuse from contractors that there is nothing they can do about the bogus self?employed. We believe something can be done.
In 2002, the Government launched a consultation paper on employment status. UCATT submitted an overwhelming argument to extend employment rights to all workers. It has now been nearly three years since that consultation closed. We are still waiting for a written response from the Government. We believe it is a disgrace to wait three years and still have no response from the Government. Now we have a third term Labour Government, which includes the commitments made at Warwick.
This composite tells the Government that the time is up. We demand employment rights for all workers. By extending employment rights to all workers employers will not be able to dodge their responsibilities; they will not be able to have tax dodges; they will not be able to avoid National Insurance payments and they will not be able to operate the biggest tax fiddle in the UK.
There is a mobile army of tax advisors who suggest contract clauses. However, these clauses bear no relationship to reality. Their sole purpose is to convince a tribunal chairman. All this is done by the employer to avoid giving workers their rights. In so doing, it denies workers the right of dignity and takes away the respect that they deserve.
What type of society are we living in today, in the year 2005, that denies workers the right to sick pay, the right to a pension scheme and the right to holiday pay? I am not talking about a few hundred workers, but hundreds of thousands of workers in construction in the UK. These conditions have been used to drive up the profits for the major contractors.
Finally, I realise that Congress has many important issues to discuss this week, but nothing is more important than workers' employment rights in this country, not only for the workers of today, but for the workers of tomorrow.
Martin Spence (Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union) seconded Composite Motion 2.
He said: We have just heard a very eloquent speech about many of the problems faced by workers in the construction and building industry. I want to talk about the problems faced by workers in film and television production. On the face of it, you would think that there could not be two more different industrial sectors. However, the fact that we have similar problems in these two sectors speaks volumes about how widespread these problems of insecure employment, casual employment, freelance employment and bogus self?employment are.
Film and television is seen by many young people as being a very glamorous and sexy industry. It is an industry in which people want to work. That is taken full advantage of by employers. In film and TV production we are now talking about an almost entirely casualised industry. The television programmes you watch at home, the films you watch in the cinema, on DVD, or wherever, are made overwhelming by freelance workers. There are freelance technicians in the Congress hall today recording our activities. I know that because I have had a chat with some of them.
This is a freelance industry. However glamorous it may look from the outside, it does not feel very glamorous from the inside for many of those freelance workers. These are people with no permanent employer, no permanent workplace, no permanent relationship with their employer and who are moving from contract to contract. A contract may be a day or two, it may be a few weeks or it may, if you are very lucky, be a few months at a time. It is chronic insecurity and chronic unpredictability within your working life. This poses two sorts of problems.
Structurally, those sorts of workers are always in a very weak bargaining position with their employers. The result is a long?hours culture which is absolutely endemic. We have members of our Union working in film and television production regularly working 12, 13 or 14 hours a day. Yes, I know that those are illegally long hours, but that is the reality. The pressure on those workers not to speak up, not to complain, not to insist on their rest breaks is enormous, because if you speak up in this industry, you do not just get a bad name with your employer, you do not get another job! You do not get another job because that is what casualisation is about. The 48 hours waiver is absolutely standard. It is written into your contract. Agreeing to the 48 hours waiver is a condition of employment for many thousands of freelance workers in this industry.
There are structural and legal problems because many of these workers are not actually clear what their legal rights are. Sometimes they are employees, sometimes they are workers, but "worker" is defined in different ways, and sometimes they are self?employed contractors. We are asking in this motion for three things. We are asking for a clear definition of "worker"; for clear opposition to the 48 hours opt?out, which has been in place for far too long and for continuing opposition to the European Services directive, which simply promises to make these problems even worse.
Andy Reed (Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen) supported Composite Motion 1.
He said: I am pleased to support Composite Motion 1. The buzz word for our society is "free". We are the "free" world with our "free" market economies and our "freedom of expression". We have freedom coming out of our ears ? individually, that is. Once we start being collective, the shutters start coming down and trade union freedoms are way down the list.
We do not have a legal freedom, as we see fit, to take industrial action, to use our money for political purposes, to take solidarity action or to decide on our membership base and our union rule books. That is why ASLEF offers its full support to initiatives within the composite. We especially welcome the positive aspects of the composite. It is not enough to condemn the restrictions upon us. We need to map out how we will end them.
The introduction of the Trade Union Freedom Bill could be a massive step in the right direction. It would involve government, people and the unions in an open and honest exchange about the rights, privileges and powers of trade unions. It would demonstrate some of the ludicrous restrictions placed upon us, like the incredible fact that we do not even have the right to decide who we can have as members.
Let me give you an example. A member of my trade union, ASLEF, also happened to be a member of BNP, so we "invited" him to leave. He refused to do so. We removed him from membership of our trade union. He then took legal advice. Legally, we had to re-admit him to membership. Whilst we were in the process of that, the individual ran court cases against various members of my trade union. Why on earth should we have in our membership someone whose desires, objectives and world vision are diametrically opposed to our very own objectives?
The BNP on its official website talks about "the failed multi?cultural experiment". Trade unions embrace the richness of a multi?cultural society. The BNP talks about "the threat posed by Islam to our traditions, freedoms and Western democratic values". Trade unions welcome the contribution that a multi-cultural society brings to our Western democratic values. The BNP calls for the repatriation of immigrants. Trade unions welcome the opportunity to enrich our society's experience. The BNP wants to insist that anyone who has completed National Service must maintain an assault rifle in their home. Trade unions want to see a society whose base is tolerance and understanding, not coercion and force. Yet the law says that we, trade unions, must admit people who pedal this kind of filth in our membership, count them amongst our number and embrace as comrades those committed to destruction of our Movement.
That is why we back TUC action; to demand a Trade Union Freedom Bill; to give us back the dignity that comes from self?regulation; to end the constraints that are not imposed on employers and to reassert our self?respect and independence. Thank you, Congress.
Judith Griffiths (Communication Workers Union) supported Composite Motion 1.
She said: Congress, the restoration of full trade union rights and the repeal of the anti?union laws is essential if we are to defend our members from the actions of anti?union employers and to build this Movement. Gate Gourmet may take centre stage for its vicious treatment of hundreds of workers who refuse to accept pay cuts. However, Gate Gourmet is not alone in its objectives, although most companies use a more subtle approach to undercut decent pay, namely, the hiring of migrant labour agency working, temporary contracts and the segregation of women, black and young workers.
This composite demands the strengthening of protection against discrimination and exploitation of these sections of the workforce for that very reason. As well as demanding legal protection for migrant workers, we must begin a mass campaign to organise migrant labour to protect them from Mafia gang masters and to ensure they are not used to undermine trade union rates of pay.
The composite seeks to ensure that workers receive proper compensation if an employer is declared bankrupt and seeks to add pensions and training to the collective bargaining agenda where unions gain statutory recognition. At a time when many companies are intent on closing final salary schemes and reducing pension contribution rates, workers need all the help they can to protect their pensions.
However, as vital as legislation is to provide a legal framework of workers' rights, ultimately, it is left to trade unions to ensure the enforcement of those very rights. The current anti?union laws protect bad employers. We need to step up the campaign and support the call for the lobby and march to demand a Trade Union Freedom Bill.
However, our members on a daily basis take solidarity action in support of their colleagues. In traditional industries, such as the Post Office, workers are often moved from office to office in order to undermine effective action. Of course, outsourcing has further exacerbated the situation in relation to solidarity action.
In this new climate, it will no longer be possible to continue just to demand that the Government unshackle the unions. As Gate Gourmet has vividly shown, the law is on the bosses' side. Trade unions and trade union rights were won through the struggle of workers against vicious employers, against casualisation and those very same issues have re? emerged today with a vengeance.
We celebrate annually, as a Movement, those who lost their lives fighting for what is right. As in the past, if struggle is required to defend workers' rights and regain free trade unions, we should be on board and rise to these challenges. If Labour under whatever leader it has refuses to put the trade unions on an equal footing with employers, those laws will have to be challenged and unions must begin, as some already have, to consider their relationship with that government and with Labour. Thank you, Congress.
Paddy Lillis (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) supported Composite Motion 1.
He said: Colleagues, we have come some way from 1997 towards a degree of justice and fairness at work and towards a better regulated labour market at or near full employment levels, better for workers and their families and better for the taxpayer. However, we still struggle at one of the last great frontiers, the regulation and management of working time, that is, putting workers at the centre of working time arrangements which promote their needs and not just that of business, be it as part?time workers looking for hours and patterns which suit their commitments or long?hours workers looking for a better quality of life without their living standards suffering. In each case they are trying to combine their private, family and working lives more successfully, not just as parents and carers, but as workers and citizens in their own right, pursuing a changing variety of needs and interests and developing and varying them over the years as their own needs and priorities change.
Through our bargaining activity and a variety of high profile campaigns, we have at least begun to make some headway. We have a degree of regulation around the 48?hour week, though often ransacked by the use and abuse of the opt?out. We have bargained for some time and with some success around term?time working, annualised hours and job sharing, for example. Those are real gains, in many respects, but too often too modest.
The fact is we are battling against a culture of "presenteeism", the view that a worker's status and value, though not necessarily his or her pay packet, are reflected in the hours he or she puts in, working longer but not smarter ?? long hours which are very often the product of poor quality management ?? and also a misguided belief amongst our own people sometimes that the more hours we put in, the less leave or holidays we have, the better workers we must be. It is a vicious circle and we need to break it.
As we move forward into the 21st Century, the working time challenge is going to grow. Our success in regulating and bargaining around working time will go a long way to determining our value and success as a Movement. The General Council's "It's About Time" campaign gives us a vehicle to go on campaigning for better regulation from Government ?? there is a long way to go on that front ?? and help guide and resource our collective bargaining efforts. Please support.
Jeremy Dear (National Union of Journalists) said: This week there will be much media speculation about whether our Movement backs Gordon or backs Tony. Every speech will be analysed, every motion, every handshake and every round of applause will be scrutinised to see whether at heart we are Blair?ites or Brown?ites. To many millions of our members, it does not matter. It is like asking us to choose between "Pop Idol" and "Stars In Their Eyes". It is the same programme, different presenters, different singer, but the same old tune. Comrades, in this composite, we are not just asking for a change of DJ, we want them to change the bloody record! (Applause)
Let us make it clear. We do not accept that it is a burden on business for workers to have employment rights from day one. We do not accept that casualisation, insecure employment contracts and bogus self?employed status represents the pinnacle of free choice. We do not accept it can be called fairness at work when it is all right for employers to act together to break a strike, but unlawful for our members to act together to show their solidarity in a strike.
The anti?union laws do not deliver fairness. They underpin a low wage and long?hours culture in which union rights are undermined and human rights abused. As Bob Crowe said, it is time for those who opposed such injustices in opposition to repeal the laws in government because otherwise millions of our members will rightly ask: "Where is the fairness?" In respect of my members at the Racing Post, in the face of an NUJ recognition application, on behalf of 70% of the staff, Trinity Mirror was able under the law to recognise a company union with not one single member. Where is the fairness in that? Add to that the situation at News International, where Rupert Murdoch coughs up quarter of a million pounds to set up his own union, voluntarily recognises it, provides it with offices, legal advice, human resources and, under the legislation, it acts as a block to legitimate, independent trade union recognition applications.
Such action reveals the truth behind the anti?trade union laws. They have nothing to do with democracy, nothing to do with handing unions back to their members and everything to do with seeking to destroy the ability of the unions to act effectively on behalf of our members. It is time they were replaced with a Trade Union Freedom Bill with automatic reinstatement, the right to strike and the right to solidarity. (Applause)
If the Government's mantra is choice, in the immortal words of Train Spotting, choose solidarity, choose fairness, choose justice, choose union rights and choose not just to pass this composite, but to begin building for the major campaign, mobilisation and march necessary to deliver that justice for our members. (Applause)
Brian Caton (Prison Officers Association UK) supported Composite Motions 1 and 2.
He said: I am pleased to be speaking in support of Composite Motions 1 and 2 and with specific reference to the much needed repeal of the Tory?inspired but Labour?maintained anti?trade union laws. One particular and specific piece of anti?trade union law introduced by the Tories and, despite the promises to remove it when coming to power, maintained by the current New Labour Government is the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and especially Section 127. This anti?trade union law was applied to criminalise prison officers throughout the United Kingdom.
For prison officers in England and Wales, this unfair and disproportionate act has been removed, but for our members in Northern Ireland, it has been retained because they have refused to sign a no disruptive action agreement because of their own circumstances and the constant attacks on themselves and their families.
The POA has such an agreement in place in England, Wales and Scotland, but if we are ever to take any form of disruptive action, it has been made clear that this Government would re?introduce Section 127 to criminalise the acts of prison officers. The POA seeks to avoid disruption in prisons and to the justice system. However, we are not convinced that prison managers or, indeed, the current Government are equally committed to good industrial relations at this time. We see an ever increasing prisoner population without an equivalent increase in trained prison officers.
Attacks on our pensions and the ludicrous suggestion to force prison officers to work until the age of 65 are all on the agenda of this Government. There is the continued threat of immoral and dangerous use of privatisation to drive down costs and with it the loss of care and security of prisoners, staff and the general public.
We know that the actions of this Government and the Prison Service will need to be challenged. The POA will challenge those actions. It is unacceptable to have a continuation of these anti?trade union laws, but it is also unacceptable for any worker to be threatened by Government to re?introduce Dickensian restrictive legislation. We add the POA's voice to the call to use our history under a 100 year?old Act to establish trade union freedom and liberty today and for this trade union Movement in the future. Please support.
Brian Garvey (National Association of Schoolmasters, Union of Women Teachers) supporting Composite Motion 1 said: Colleagues, in 1997 the Labour Party came into power ending 18 years of Tory misgovernment. Since then, unfortunately, they have failed to repeal any of the laws that the Tories brought in that limited and paralysed trade unions in certain aspects of their governance. These laws allow unwarranted interference in the self-governance of trade unions. Golf clubs, the Masons, even the Conservative Party have more power over their own governance than do trade unions. Fairness, where is it? This lack of self-governance potentially creates various problems for trade unions. There are those who wish to damage unions, disrupt the organisation, and undermine their very democracy. We are the most democratic organisations in this country. There is no getting away from that fact. These people try to use the current legislation to oppose the democratically agreed policies of trade unions. Attempts to discipline these members can actually result in applications to the certification officer with regard to so-called unjustifiable discipline. We have heard an example of that already.
Colleagues, the NASUWT is currently facing attempts by a small minority, two or three disaffected members who wish to challenge the internal union processes and who are costing the NASUWT thousands of pounds in legal fees. If we were a small union, this could actually damage and hinder our work with regard to the members, but we can actually cope with this.
This motion calls for a review by affiliates sharing their experiences, which has not been previously been done to any great extent in this area, to produce a report that would inform and support the TUC's campaign to repeal these laws. Colleagues, I urge you to support this composite motion. Thank you.
Allan Garley (GMB) supporting Composite Motion 1 said: The GMB believe that fairness at work demands an effective legal basis for collective bargaining. Trade unions bargain in the shadow of the law. The right to organise and bargain collectively needs to be positively protected by the law. This right was protected to some extent by the legislation passed by the Labour Government between 1974 and 1979. For example, in respect of union recognition most of that legislation was far from perfect but it was repealed by the Tories in the 1980s and 1990s and replaced by a legal framework which strengthened management discretion and weakened collective organisation. Since 1997 we have seen a return to legislation designed to promote good industrial relations but a lot more needs to be done to promote collective bargaining.
In recognition applications, for example, the Central Arbitration Committee is only under a duty to have regard to encouraging and promoting fair and efficient practices and arrangements in the workplace. Whatever that means it falls far short of a legal duty to promote collective bargaining. Another example, why is there no duty on ACAS to promote collective bargaining? There needs to be.
The introduction of laws positively to protect the right to organise and bargain collectively will protect essential social rights. We all know, colleagues, trade union busting organisations are taking advantage of Britain's employment law in their attempts to remove trade unions from the workplace. We know the tactics they use: they attempt to destabilise, demoralise, and then derecognise. Congress, the balance of forces needs to be changed.
Those people clinging on to the social partnership rhetoric and claptrap need to rethink their way forward. All affiliated unions and the TUC have a vital role in debating, formulating, campaigning, and then delivering a positive legal right to organise and bargain collectively. Thank you.
Bob Oram (UNISON) supporting Composite Motion 1 said: I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in the debate. Like all the speakers today, UNISON believes we have the worst employment rights in Europe. It is a disgrace that this continues under the watch of a New Labour government. I want to add our union's voice to all those supporting workers who have suffered because of privatisation or outsourcing and who are taking solidarity action.
Comrades, out in the lobby there is a stand promoting tourism in Southport, Merseyside. I have nothing against Southport, it is a nice place, but I do have a problem with its council. On Saturday, 14th May, six UNISON activists joined a small demonstration against a housing stock transfer being proposed for Sefton. The protestors were outside a shop that the council had rented in the shopping precinct in Sefton protesting against the launch of the campaign to encourage the tenants to vote for the transfer. On the Monday the protestors were suspended from work and today, 16 weeks after the event, two of them, Nigel Flannigan and Paul Summers, are still suspended and face dismissal.
Our union's position has not changed throughout that period. Within days we made it clear that the suspensions were a disproportionate response to what happened, or is alleged to have happened; the council had over-reacted. The suspensions are a political act and an attack on UNISON as a result of our support for the Defend Council Housing campaign, a campaign that spent £17,000 compared to the council's £5.5m and was successful in rejecting the privatisation of those council houses. Since May we have made every effort to resolve this dispute but Sefton refuse to move and intend to go ahead with gross misconduct hearings.
The branch has taken three days solidarity action and all 2,000 members have been out on strike; it has been solid and disciplined. The council know that the branch, the Northwest region, and UNISON nationally, believe this to be victimisation and will continue to support its members. This is not a complex dispute, it is very simple to understand: the employer has targeted two trade union activists for their trade union beliefs and intends to sack them. Of course, I would say that, wouldn't I?
I will quickly quote a couple of statements from the police officer who was actually at the demonstration: I did not see any of the protestors going up to the shop window, staring in, pointing at the staff, making them feel uncomfortable. I did not hear them swear at any members of the official party. No one from the transfer shop made any complaints about anybody shouting at them, at the time, to myself or my colleague who was there. There was no incident that they were aware of and was recorded in their notebooks. That is from the police.
This is a direct attack on trade unions carrying out legitimate trade union activity. I think it is a disgrace that the council intends to go ahead with their action. I know that everybody in this room is going to do something about this important composite. We must act on it in 2006. I also urge everybody to show support for the two comrades who will be down here this afternoon from Sefton; they are going to lose their jobs for undertaking genuine solidarity action with council tenants. I would urge you to do the same. Thanks very much, comrades.
The President: The General Council supports Composite Motions 1 and 2.
* Composite Motion 1 was CARRIED
* Composite Motion 2 was CARRIED
The President: I did intend to mention when Bob Crow came up to second Composite 2, and he may not know this, that he was nominated Player of the Match when the TUC cricket team finally, after 10 years, under the captaincy of Mike Leahy, defeated the might of the British journalist core. Mick and Brendan keep insisting that it was their runs that made the difference, but as I was there and as I am genuinely a dispassionate and independent president, I really do think Bob Crow was the Player of the Match. Thanks very much.
Congress, I now move to Emergency Motion 1. As indicated earlier, I will be calling the General Secretary during the debate to give the General Council's position. Could I invite the T&G to move the Emergency Motion 1 and could I ask the GMB to be ready to second. Thank you.
Tony Woodley (Transport and General Workers' Union) moved Emergency
Motion 1. He said: Colleagues, I will start at the outset by saying that there is no doubt at all that this is the most important debate we are going to have during this week. It is not just about policy, or indeed just about rhetoric, it is about a fight for justice going on right now for ordinary run-of-the-mill working men and women. These people need our 100% wholehearted support.
I will ask Congress again to pay tribute to the working men and women who are battling their socks off for their jobs, our people in Gate Gourmet, comrades. (Applause) That is what being in a trade union is really about, fighting for people, real people with a real problem, not worrying about mixing with the good or, indeed, the great. Let me say to my members and our comrades in the balcony, not just on behalf of the T&G but on behalf of the whole of the TUC, your fight is our fight and, as you can see, we are all genuinely with you and we are doing our best to help you here.
With this in mind I would just like to take the opportunity to thank Brendan Barber. The amount of time he has put in to try and help us find a resolution has been staggering. Brendan, thank you. I am grateful.
Many of us are used to stories of bad behaviour by big business and, indeed, bad bosses but at Gate Gourmet we have a renegade venture capitalist company, headed up by American union busting bosses, plotting for more than a year to sack low-paid workers, working behind the scenes to provoke a dispute to justify that sacking, secretly recruiting agency labour on still lower rates of pay, and locking out our members in the canteen on the day that they sacked them. They sacked them by megaphone on the orders of a cowboy capitalist from Texas, and I do not mean George Bush.
Comrades, this is truly the unacceptable face of globalisation, a man who insults our intelligence by saying that our members, ordinary working men and women just like us, are all acting like lunatic troublemakers, 200 militants in a small plant. If it was not so serious, I would say, 'Don't make me laugh.' It is unbelievable what they will say to justify their unjustifiable actions. Our members are just hard-working, decent men and women, set up, victimised, and sacked, for no good reason other than to cut costs at their expense. It is an absolute disgrace that this can happen in our country today. No decent boss, no worker, no politician, could ever support such bad behaviour in our country.
It is not good enough just to condemn the bad bosses, we have to ask ourselves, how can they get away with such bad behaviour in 21st century Britain? How can they conduct industrial relations on the basis of deceit and, indeed, intimidation? It certainly would not be allowed to happen in any other state in Europe. The anti-trade union laws that all previous speakers have spoken about on the statute book are clearly a green light for greed, a charter for this cowboy capitalist, and a licence for bullying. They should go; not tomorrow, they should go now.
When I mentioned solidarity action all the commentators and, indeed, the politicians who have nothing to say about exploitation, who will not lift a finger to help low-paid Asian workers from mistreatment, were outraged when T&G members at Heathrow Airport walked out in support of our sacked workers; even Lord Reece-Morgan at the time said I should be sacked or sent to prison. If solidarity is a crime, then send us all to jail, your Lordship, because that is what we may have to do to fight back for our rights in this country.
The Movement was built on solidarity and we know that is why Thatcher made solidarity unlawful, to make us ineffective. We have to be determined now, comrades, in this Movement to move on from the 1990s when our Movement was too weak to help colleagues in distress and difficulty. How can it be right that T&G members in Gate Gourmet cannot support their sacked brothers and sisters in struggle whilst at exactly the same time bosses can fly in scabs from any part of Europe with the full backing of the law? How can this be right in Britain today? We do need to redraft those laws, we do need to make solidarity action a basic human right, and we do need to campaign now.
Comrades, we are endeavouring to find a solution to the Gate Gourmet dispute but, be clear, you do not plan action like this to take people back to work just because of an argument. I would like to thank many of you for the support you have already given us but we do need further financial support for our sacked workers, and we do need to make sure that every MP and every part of our country understands what is going on here. It must be understood that in a civilised society this action cannot be allowed to go on. Colleagues, we have to show this government that the time for waffling over employment law is over. We have to stop these outrages happening again and turn round and make those changes. If we make the changes, then that is the response, the only response, that is worthy to obtain justice for our brothers and sisters who I am privileged to represent and who are here with us today from Gate Gourmet. Thank you, comrades.
Paul Kenny (GMB) seconding Emergency Motion 1 said: I was not sure, Tony, because of your Liverpool accent whether you said Brendan was seeking support for the 'revolution' or 'resolution' of the dispute! I hope it is the latter. I am honoured and somewhat ashamed, actually, to second Emergency Motion 1: honoured to stand alongside our brothers and sisters in the T&G from Gate Gourmet and ashamed as a Movement that, after nearly a decade of a Labour government, working people in this country can still be treated with such disrespect, be bullied, victimised, and sacked. I apologise that the TUC policy has not been implemented by government. We now see the victims of the failure in the last seven years to repeal anti-trade union rights and laws brought in by Thatcher, the result of inaction by a Labour government.
I know it has become popular to knock the TUC but the General Secretary, Brendan Barber, and the General Council, should be congratulated on their total and firm support in lining up to fight this injustice. There is a battle ahead, make no mistake about that. As long as the TUC is in the forefront of supporting struggle, its unity and its future are secure.
Texas Pacific own Gate Gourmet and for some time our international colleagues in Unite Here and SEIU have been warning us about the North American union busting agenda. David Siegel, the Chairman, accused those hardworking people, those men and women who were employees at Heathrow, of being militants because they wanted a job, militants because they wanted proper pay, militants because they wanted security at work, and that they are disruptive because they wanted and expected respect, dignity, and equality, from their employers. All I can say is that it is a pity there are not a few more million militants in this country right now. Respect, dignity, and equality, which we stand for as a Movement, are the values by which you judge a society. That is another reason to thank the Gate Gourmet workers for reminding us of the values we should stand up for.
At election time I am used to seeing Labour politicians holding up pledge cards telling us what they are going to do. I want to show them a pledge card, our pledge card in this Movement, our trade union membership card. It pledges that we will support and unite when our members, or the members of this Movement, or workers in this country, are under attack. I call on everybody inside the TUC to join together in the struggle to support justice for the Gate Gourmet workers. If the government does not understand, then they should talk to those workers who are being victimised and attacked day in, day out, for seeking to defend their jobs.
Tony (and I mean Blair, not Woodley), never mind about favours for the few, what about fairness for the many? Any dispute, colleagues, and those of you who have been in one know, is hard and lonely. Working people should not have to experience the trauma of dismissal by text, email, or megaphone. The choice is simple for government, it is about decency. We must have the freedom to show solidarity legally and restrict the abuses of employers like Gate Gourmet, Morrisons, Asda, Wal-Mart, and Sefton. The GMB is proud to support the courage of Gate Gourmet workers and ashamed that we have to do so in 2005. We pledge our solidarity in your struggle and the fight for justice. Thank you.
The President: Thank you, Paul. I am conscious that I was very generous with the timing there but I think the spirit of Congress was that Paul should have the opportunity to articulate the view of his members. I call on the General Secretary.
Brendan Barber (General Secretary) supporting Emergency Motion 1 said: President, Congress, I rise to offer the support of the whole General Council, and I am confident the whole of the Trade Union Movement, to the T&G in their battle for justice for the Gate Gourmet workers so cynically and cruelly sacked by their employers. Since the dispute erupted on August 10th the TUC has been in close and continuous contact with the T&G, backing in any way we could their efforts to get this company to accept that they simply cannot walk away from the sacked workers, and to bring them back into negotiations. Those efforts are continuing.
Over the days and the weeks since the megaphone sackings of August 10th, the dismissed workers have stood together with dignity and determination in the face of outrageous slurs and vilification and it is great to see them with us here today. Along with Tony, I have had the opportunity to meet the workers and their reps. Believe me, their courage is inspiring. Our top priority is, and must remain, winning justice for those workers. Of course, there are wider issues which we expect the government now to address. What this dispute has shown us is the grim fact that our labour law has left these workers absolutely defenceless. That is clearly unacceptable.
I say to the government, if you share our anger at this outrageous employer behaviour, then sit down and work with us to prevent this ever happening again. The T&G deserve all our support but, even more importantly, the Gate Gourmet workers need all our support. I urge you to carry this emergency motion.
* Emergency Motion 1 was CARRIED.
The President: Could I just reiterate, Tony did say in his moving speech that they were appealing for trade union solidarity, including financial solidarity. This is an important fight so there will be a collection for the Gate Gourmet workers as you leave this morning's session of Congress. Could I encourage you to give generously to ensure that their fight is a great success. Thanks very much.
Organising and Rights at Work
Jack Dromey (Transport & General Workers' Union) moved Motion 1.
He said: We exist for truly the most noble of causes, the freedom of working people in a free society built on solidarity and social justice. Power for working people springs from strong organisation in the workplace, but that power is in decline. Unless we reverse the decline, we will see a world run by rich men and the employers. For all of us there is no choice but to change, refocusing everything we do on organising to win in the workplace. We must not be defensive or complacent. We are all proud of our history, winning real progress for working people, and we survived the Thatcher winter.
In the T&G we are proud of our tradition of being an awkward independent progressive and fighting organisation standing up for our members. We should all be frank, workplace organisation is not what it once was. For the T&G two things are key: First, building with our friends the GMB and Amicus a new union 2.5 million strong. No one here should fear the new union. A strong new union will strengthen all working people; only bad managers or ministers who do not listen to the voice of working people need fear it. Mergers in themselves, however, do not create new members. Second, therefore, organising is key, organising built on the simple truth, that unless you build strong, self-confident, self-sustaining workplace organisation, you do not win in the workplace, you do not grow. Our hard-pressed officers are run ragged servicing a fragmented and declining membership.
We have started by seeking to reorganise the workplaces where we have 800,000 members through our 100% Campaign, strengthening workplace organisations and making sure that every worker is in the union. There should be no No-Go areas in future, no more workplaces where we have recognition but only a minority in membership, no more workplaces where the directly employed are organised but temporary, casual, and agency workers are not. All of us face the same task and all of us should learn from one another working together.
Next, we need to organise unorganised workplaces, always applying those organising principles of helping workers to help themselves. In the T&G we have established the national organising department, which I head, to develop and deliver in partnership with our regions major organising campaigns, from low-cost airlines to logistics we are going for it and growing in expanding areas of the economy. All workers need unions and no workplace is 'unorganisable'. Our message to Michael O'Leary and Ryanair today is, your time will come. In building services, too, we are organising an army of cleaners, most are migrant workers. We welcome them to our shores unlike the brain-dead boot boys of the BNP. These workers suffer, however, from super exploitation; from Canary Wharf to the House of Commons they have had enough. They want a living wage and respect, and they will win it.
Congress, we need a new generation of organisers who believe in old truths. In the T&G we have recruited the first 50 of our organisers, who include experienced shop stewards and convenors. We are also changing the face of the union. One third are women, two of them young Polish organisers. Our building services organising team is black and Latino and we are now joined by our Muslim brother who believes that all good Muslims should be good trade unionists.
Congress, in conclusion, this motion focuses on the future, on the need for solidarity and practical action. Welcoming the work of the organisation and the representation task group led by our General Secretary, Tony Woodley, we spell out the need for action on the following key five fronts.
First, unions must work together and never allow themselves to be used by employers. To be blunt, we have had sorry experiences of sister unions signing sweetheart deals where we have organised workers into the T&G. We as a movement must act to tighten our own rules, banishing from our ranks disreputable behaviour.
Second, good facilities agreements are essential for good workplace organisation. As unions we need to work together to negotiate better facilities agreements, and the government should get a move on with its promised review of the law strengthening the rights of shop stewards to enjoy better facilities in the workplace.
Third, capital is global but labour is local. We pride ourselves on international solidarity, and it can make a real difference. The time has come, however, to go one crucial step further. The new union will organise Europe-wide and at the T&G right now we are planning the first international organising campaign working with sister unions committed to the organising agenda. We will target multinationals in the continents and countries where they have the bulk of their work, acting together and moving at the same time.
Fourth, Labour's third term manifesto explicitly stated that a goal of public policy is to help unions grow. We now want to see practical action ranging from simplifying recognition procedures, including better rights of access, to removing the shackles on solidarity.
Fifth, our experience is that high quality research is key to effective organising. The T&G and the TUC together took a pioneering initiative in logistics developing our capacity to undertake qualitative research of workers not in the union and to find out why. We have a choice, we can either make history or we can become history. I, you, we, have not devoted our lives to the cause of working people to become a movement that future generations read about but do not belong to. The TUC must be relevant, working with us to refocus on organising and rebuilding our Movement. Decline is not inevitable. We can and will rebuild only if we organise.
Leslie Manasseh (Connect) seconding Motion 1 said: In seconding this motion I would like to focus on a key feature of the organising challenge that faces us, that is, the difference, as the President mentioned this morning, between the public and the private sectors. Therein lay some uncomfortable statistics. Of some 6 million public sector workers over 60% are in trade unions, but there are getting on for 20 million private sector workers and less than 20% of them in trade unions. Recognition is the norm in the public sector but the exception in the private sector. In short, Congress, while trade unions are part of the public sector landscape, we are barely visible in vast tracks of the private sector. In 64% of workplaces with more than 10 employees there is not a single trade union member. The situation is set to get worse if we do not correct it. The forecast areas of growth in employment in the private sector are precisely those areas where we are weakest.
I do not want to underestimate the importance of organising and campaigning in the public sector, nor the real problems our public sector members face but, Congress, that is not where the real organising challenge lies. There is a risk of trade unionism becoming, and perhaps more importantly being seen as, a public sector phenomenon that would make it even harder to organise in the private sector. It must make us think long and hard about our priorities and make sure we speak to the concerns of and on behalf of workers in the private sector. This means, quite simply, we must organise.
As the motion makes clear, there are no easy options here. Organising is hard work. It is about campaigning on the issues that matter. It is about speaking a language of the world of work which chimes with their experience. It is about putting organising near the top of our agenda when it comes to resources rather than near the bottom. It is about remembering that millions of workers have never had any real contact with a trade union and it is our duty to reach out to them. Although organising is hard work, the good news is that it works. It is a real challenge, no doubt, but it is not beyond us and, more importantly, nobody is going to do it for us.
Congress, unless we put growth and renewal in the private sector at the heart of our priorities, we cannot prosper. The sheer arithmetic of non membership is compelling enough but if we need a better reason we only have to look back at the previous debate. Who would speak up for, who would fight for, who would support, who would defend the 670 workers sacked so disgracefully by Gate Gourmet if they were not themselves trade unionists able to organise and act collectively in defence of their rights? Congress, we need more of them. Please support.
Paddy Lillis (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers): I want to express my union's support for the General Council's Report and the motion before Conference today. There can be few of us left nowadays who honestly believe that people will always join because it is in their blood or because their fathers or grandfathers were trades unionists or because of some commitment to the past. Some will but all too many will not, as Jack Dromey just said. We have long since learned the golden organising rule: people will only join us if they see the point here and now. It will not happen by magic. Recruitment has to be planned, managed and monitored. Organising takes resources, skill and training. Committed lay members are always best placed to recruit non-members, not the hard pressed full-time officers running on and off sites, dealing with disciplinaries, grievances and tribunals, and all the other areas of their work. But the local rep, or networks of them, meeting, winning over and signing up new members day in and day out, and then getting them involved, aware and organised and keeping them in the union, that is the prize and it has been the goal of the TUC's Organising Academy in recent years.
I want to pay tribute on behalf of our union for the groundbreaking work of the Academy staff and for the forward way they have opened up for all of us in this hall today. Following their lead, my union - USDAW -- opened our own Academy in 2003. Dozens of lay representatives have now spent six months each on secondment to the union -- in fact 54 in the three years -- undergoing extensive training, coupled with hands-on practical experience in a wide variety of workplaces, so that we now have now a large and growing group of skilled, knowledgeable active and competent lay representatives and organisers and it is really paying dividends.
In the last three years over 20,000 new members have been recruited directly by these 54 people, and well over 500 new shop stewards have been identified and brought on to ensure the sustainability of their workplaces. On top of that, we have a range of agreements with employers to second lay representatives, agreements to stand them down from their usual duties, to resource key organising initiatives, all in addition to the work and resources we dedicate through our full-time people.
It is not easy, and its front end cause is certainly there. but so too are the dividends and the vital lessons for the future -- dividends and lessons which are grounded in the work of the TUC Organising Academy. We owe them a huge debt of thanks. Please support the motion and the General Council's Report.
Kevin Kelly (Public and Commercial Services Union) supporting Motion 1, said: Congress, at last year's Congress I spoke about PCS's national organising strategy. Since then, we have been building a stronger healthier PCS. Since then, we have increased the number of our Branch Organisers from 150 up to 470. We now have over 1,000 learning representatives. We have increased the support for organising. We have trained all our lay Organisers, developed with the TUC a strategic training for lead lay Organisers, issued regular Organising Newsletters, we have more full-time organisers, to find, train and support lay activists -- all full-time organisers trained by the TUC Organising Academy. We built organising into our trade union education. We have held organising conferences in every part of our regions and on a national basis as well. We have produced more campaigning literature; we have increased the number of activists in our union to around 8,000. We have a growing network of young members with over 50 regional convenors.
Our membership now stands at its highest level ever, 325,000. We believe we are the fastest growing union in the TUC. Congress, an organising union that negotiates hard, backed up by campaigning, mobilising members and the use of industrial action as a last resort has been part of the cornerstone of our success, a cornerstone that has enabled us to win on members' issues. In an ironic way, New Labour has helped us. They have tried to slash our jobs, they have tried to relocate our work, they have tried to attack our pensions and they have tried to refuse to ignore our claim for fair pay. That has angered both members and non-members alike. It has strengthened their resolve to join PCS to get active and to fight back.
Last year, on November 5, when 200,000 of our members stood up for their jobs by taking industrial action, that showed the importance of being well organised. We recruited thousands of new members 1,000 on one day alone. We got members involved not only in industrial action but in the leafleting, the picket line, the petitioning that took place on that day, and that included especially young members. The threatened pensions dispute early this year also repeated that process and Tony Blair found that he did have a reverse gear after all.
There is still a lot to do. Organising is a long-term strategy. In PCS we have to tackle under representation, election participation, our communications structures and adopting an organising approach in every branch. If the trade union Movement is to make a difference for workers then every union has to become an organising one. The TUC can and must make this happen. This motion sets out clearly the work to be done. Support Motion 1. Support the amendment. Together let us build a stronger, growing, healthier trade union Movement, one that is campaigning, vibrant and involves members in its campaign, and a union Movement that wins on the members' issues of pay, jobs and pensions.
Bernice Waugh (NATFHE - The University & College Lecturers' Union) supporting the Organising motion and speaking specifically to bullet point (iv), and speaking from personal experience.
He said: I have two daughters; I am very proud of my daughters. One is a shop worker and is a young member of USDAW; one is at University. Like other single parents, and like every person in this room, I have a budget to work to. Like you, I have been involved in the labour Movement in my Branch for more years than I care to remember. Point iv) calls for improved paid time-off and facilities for workplace reps. This week my employer intends to dock four days' pay from my wages for attending this Congress, an 80 per cent deduction. When we hear Government Ministers talking about democracy, when we hear the CBI, the Tories, talking about fairness, when we listened last year, quietly, whilst Tony Blair talked of 21st century progress, well isn't there some irony here? Progress, what progress?
Last year, my first year at the TUC, I was very proud, I was paid; this year, a pay cut. Individual trades union members up and down this country are being penalised and victimised, paying out of their pockets and with their time to carry out their duties and their activities, the duties that every modern 21st century employer considers necessary for harmonious and effective industrial relations. Organising, fairness at work, freedom for trade unions, what price Warwick now? Alas poor Warwick!
Support the members; please support this motion.
The President : I wanted to take the opportunity of the first contribution of a speaker from NATFHE to send on behalf of Congress good wishes to Paul Mackney, who is the General Secretary, who had a heart attack and is now recovering, which is excellent. But he is still poorly although he keeps using his Blackberry and Email to make his views known to the TUC! Some people are simply irrepressible, are they not, whatever the odds, but I am sure collectively, on behalf of Congress, you would want me to send him our best wishes for a speedy recovery because he is a character and a half.
Thank you, Bernice, for allowing me to use you as the opportunity to do that.
Paul Tilbrook (AMICUS): I shall be brief in relation to supporting Motion 1. If we were to believe some of the media comments in the run-up to this Congress, about the decline of the trade union Movement and the membership, you would see this as a question of whether or not we have a future. We have all suffered; we all understand the effect of the last 25 years of neglect in the manufacturing sector, something that has done more to decimate trade union membership than any other single factor.
It is often the case that behind the headlines there are many, many good stories and I just wanted to say that, in relation to our own position, AMICUS last year recruited in excess of 70,000 new members. The net effect, of course, at the end of the day was considerably less than that, for reasons which I am sure we all understand -- reasons which are largely not under our control. But the positive message is that many of these new recruits were first-time trade union members. They came from sectors that, by and large, were considered to be non-traditional for the trade union Movement to be involved in. The number of women involved in the union has increased in the course of the last fifteen months, as has the proportion of people from professional and managerial backgrounds as well. Where the results remain disappointing is in relation to our ability to recruit young workers, and in that respect I suspect we are not alone. We also need to address the issue of people from ethnic backgrounds, of whom the proportion inside the union is extremely low.
However, we are tackling some of these issues, or at least we are attempting to tackle some of these issues. Our recent involvement in the Glastonbury Festival, our participation -- along with other unions here in the TUC -- in the Make Poverty History campaign in Edinburgh are all demonstrations of us trying to get the message across that the trade union Movement stands for principles, it stands for social justice, it stands for fair employment and it stands for good retirement security.
Where we do strongly agree with the movers of the motion is that a renewed effort must be put in to recruit people who are not currently members of the trade union Movement. That is a dedication that requires effort, requires money, requires people, requires time and innovation, not least of which -- in an age of 24/7 news coverage and mobile technologies -- requires good communications systems between the union and the members themselves. It can be done; we can demonstrate it can be done. Indeed, let me just take this opportunity to praise one of the individual members, Jessica Fagan, who is one of the joint winners of the TUC 2005 Organising Award, to show that with the correct attitudes and the correct effort and the support of the organisation on the ground, significant inroads can be made to recruit new members. It is campaigning, it is aspirations, it is using the legislation such as information and consultation, it is building sustainable work forces, and it is helping to train people to help themselves. In brief, where there is work there is a need for a trade union.
The President: The General Council is supporting the motion.
* Motion 1 was CARRIED
Union subscriptions and tax allowances
The President: I now call Motion 7, Union subscription and tax allowances. The General Council support the motion.
Martin Fletcher (FDA) moved Motion 7.
He said: I am well qualified to propose this motion as I am one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Taxes. I can say that with confidence because, when I say that at a party, I find people move to another room or sometimes they move off to another party. But today I am speaking to a captive audience. At least, when I wrote that I thought I was!
I fully understand the legislation on income tax. The general principles are quite simple. Tax is paid on a person's earnings after allowable expenses have been deducted, so if a person earns £15,000 but has expenses of £1,000 tax will only be paid on £14,000. However, expenses will only be allowed if they pass various tests that Parliament has laid down. Lots of payments do pass that test and the expense will be allowed, and that is fine. But the rules do not allow for trade union subscriptions to be treated as an allowable expense for employees. I personally regard my trade union subscription as a necessary and legitimate expense. Indeed, I do not see how I could earn my salary and not pay my union fees, although I understand that a small number of my colleagues do not take the same view. (Pause here for cries of 'Shame on them' and if no cries heard remember to reprimand the General Secretary later!)
I accept that the law on this subject is clear. Some years ago I was a member of the AIT, the Association of the Inspectors of Taxes. In 1981 the AIT tried to claim tax relief for a proportion of the union fees based on the amount of union money spent on professional activities as opposed to industrial relations. The Inland Revenue refused the claim and the AIT took the Inland Revenue to a tribunal to fight the case. Despite the fact that there were more senior tax inspectors appearing for the union than there were for the Inland Revenue, the union lost the case. The law did not allow the relief and that was the end of the matter. We continue to feel that while the decision may be right in law it is morally wrong.
I am happy to pay tax on my earnings -- well, I am not actually happy, but you know what I mean -- but what I pay tax on should be the amount that is left after my union fees have been paid. They are a legitimate cost of being in employment. The Inland Revenue guidance on the subject says this: subscriptions to trades unions and other comparable bodies are not deductible even where membership is required by the employer. The expense is not incurred in the performance of the duties nor is it necessarily incurred. But there is then a long list of professional bodies and learned societies where fees and subscriptions can be allowed for tax, and it is a large document over 100 pages long, listing the bodies to which members can make payments with full tax relief. Within the list there are 14 TUC affiliated trades unions, but the vast majority of unions are not included. The National Union of Mineworkers is not included but the Institution of Mining Engineers is. The National Union of Journalists is not included but the Institute of Journalism is. The Musicians Union is not included but the Royal Musical Association is, and so is the International Society for Music Education and the Institute of Music Instrument Technology. The FDA is not included but the National Association for Personal Secretaries is, as is the Institute of Directors. In this debate the FDA is aligned not with the professional unions but alongside the NUM, the NUJ, the TGWU and many others.
A couple of years ago the TUC made representations for a partial relief based on the amount spent by a union on training, but nothing came of this. The FDA is not asking for partial relief and we are not trying to justify relief based on professional work, training or any other single aspect of union life. We are seeking total relief for the whole union subscription based on the fact that union fees should be a basic employee expense and should be recognised as such. It beggars belief that in the third term of a Labour Government this fundamental relief has not been given. How can payments to the Institute of Directors be more worthy of relief than payments to the Fire Brigades Union, UNISON or Prospect? The law as it stands is unworthy of a Labour Government; indeed, it is unworthy of any government but especially unworthy of a Labour Government. The time has come to change it and I ask you to support this motion and support a campaign for change. I move.
Malcolm Cantello (UNISON) seconded Motion 7. He said: supporting and seconding the FDA motion on tax allowances on behalf of UNISON.
Congress, it is almost nine years since my union first approached the Inland Revenue to point out some of the anomalies of the tax allowance system. Our case at the time was that we should have parity with the organisations such as the Royal College of Nursing around tax relief on subscriptions for nurses and other healthcare professionals. After all, what is the difference between the RCN and us when it comes to offering the same services and opportunities for career development and support? To qualify as an approved body so that members can qualify for a tax rebate we were told that we had to meet the set of criteria set out in the legislation that cover training, education, and professional services. Well, if that is what the revenue want, we said that is what we can give you.
I do not have time to describe our work with other education providers, or the work we have done around the design of courses that link into the knowledge and skills framework which underpins the new Agenda for Change grading system in the NHS, and three minutes is just not long enough to tell you about the skills for life courses we offer that have encouraged tens of thousands of our members back into the education system, or the workplace learning programmes we have running that will provide new career opportunities to our members in sectors like health and social care. We do all this, like other unions, because we want our members to fulfil their potential and because all our work also improves workplace performance. Why else would so many employers be eager to work with us? Even as the Inland Revenue prevaricated over our role in providing training opportunities, employers were quick to appreciate what we had to offer. By 2003 we were working in 345 partnerships with employers to deliver paid courses during work time, so all in all you could say we do even more to qualify for the government's criteria than many existing approved bodies.
At the end of the day this motion is about fairness. We have already called for fairness in the union Movement in respect of employment law. We are now calling for fairness in the taxation system. As a Movement and as individual affiliates we are providing positive life and career changes as chances to our members, and we are often at the centre of reforming the workplace to make them efficient, effective, sympathetic and fair environments. The government tell us they are serious about life-long learning and creating a skills-based economy. Tomorrow Gordon Brown may even speak about building an industrial relations culture based on unions playing a positive role in partnership. If that is what they want then they must use the tools at their disposal to help us to grow and develop.
Therefore, Congress, I urge you to place pressure on the government to acknowledge the work that we do and the support we give to our members. We must call on the government to give us a level playing field in the taxation system and offer workers a financial incentive to join a union. Congress, support Motion 7.
* Motion 7 was CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY
The President: We are running short of time for this morning's session so I am not going to take paragraphs 2.1 to 2.3 of the General Council's Report or the presentation of the 2005 TUC Equality Audit now because I do not want to rush them in the next few minutes, so we will take them either this afternoon or later on in the week.
Congress, I am sure most of you will already know our next guest speaker, Baroness Prosser, who was formerly Deputy General Secretary of the T&G and a long-serving member of the General Council. I know from my own experience she was a positive powerhouse on women's rights and issues when she was on the General Council. She was President of the TUC in 1995 to 1996 and last year Margaret was appointed by the government to chair the Women and Work Commission, which was set up to address the difficult but persistent problem of unequal pay. Margaret is going to tell us about the important work of the Commission and I am delighted you could get here, Margaret. I invite you to address the Congress.
Address by Baroness Margaret Prosser (Chair of Women and Work Commission)
Baroness Margaret Prosser ( Chair, Women and Work Commission): Thank you very much, Jeannie. First of all, may I offer you my congratulations on your position of President of the TUC. I hope you have had a good year and I hope you have a very enjoyable week; I am sure you will.
May I also thank the General Council for asking me to address Congress on the work of the Women and Work Commission. I think I will just start by briefly explaining the background to the Commission. Following discussions between the trade union members of the Labour Party Policy Forum and members of the Government on, among other things, the trade unions' request for the introduction of statutory pay reviews, and acutely aware of the looming financial problems posed by equal value claims, particularly in the National Health Service and local government, the Prime Minister decided that there should be a thorough study of the continuing reasons for the gender pay gap. He therefore asked me to chair a Commission which would investigate the issues including -- and I quote here from our terms of reference -- 'Looking at the case for equal pay reviews to be mandatory and at measures necessary to strengthen equal pay legislation." and to report back to him with recommendations for action. The time frame given was twelve months.
The magnitude of the task did not escape me: 35 years of legislation and a pay gap still wide enough to accommodate the proverbial coach and horses, and we were given 12 months to solve it all! Still, nothing daunted, we set about our task last September. I can advise you that I have now written to the Prime Minister explaining that the sheer volume of work and the complexity of the issues have meant that 12 months has not been long enough. I have proposed a final report date of January 2006.
The Commission is comprised of 14 people with extensive experience of the world of work. The TUC representatives are Kay Carberry, our Assistant General Secretary; Debbie Coulter, Deputy General Secretary of the GMB; Liz Snape from UNISON; and John Hannett, General Secretary of USDAW. We have representatives from the CBI, the public sector, ethnic minority workers, education, training and, of course, the Equal Opportunities Commission. Our style of work has been much like that of the Low Pay Commission. We have received academic research, oral presentations from unions and business and from small innovative projects working, for example, to help women returners. Among others to present to us include those with experience of equal pay audits, union equality representatives, computer clubs for girls and Connections, the old careers service. We have been out and about to companies large and small and we have visited the whole of the United Kingdom in an attempt to find out about stumbling blocks as well, of course, as to identify examples of best practice.
So, what does all this tell us? Well, first and foremost it has demonstrated that the problems relating to women in the labour market, which leads to such unequal earnings, are multifaceted and quite complicated. There is no silver bullet answer to what is a multi-layered problem. Processes such as equal pay reviews may well have a part to play but the evidence shows us, for example, that educational choices, lack of available good quality part-time jobs and employment downsizing to fit in with domestic responsibilities impact very adversely on women's position in the labour market. Job segregation, the undervaluing of women's work, contracting-out under procurement rules, so stiffly written and applied that no account is taken of either good or shoddy equality practices, and managers at local level refusing for seemingly no good reason to implement helpful flexibility arrangements, all contribute to corralling women at the bottom end of the pay scales. We have received some interesting research from the LSE on the impact of moving from full to part-time employment. Even when staying with the same employer, to shift to part-time means that the woman will lose out over time both in salary and status. To move to part-time work with a different employer sees that salary and status reduction immediately.
Many women want to work part-time and the trade union Movement has campaigned long and hard for full employment rights for part-timers. But part-time workers are not taken sufficiently seriously by employers and there is a real lack of part-time opportunities at professional or management level. Job segregation within work places and workplace organisation generally are both issues over which we have some control in unionised companies. I would urge you all to give this aspect of the problem some serious attention.
I would also recommend that, if you have not done so already, you take a look at the ACAS Employment Relations Matters No. 3, issued this Spring, which sets out the many ways in which unequal pay actually comes about. I am advised by the people on the ACAS stall that they will have plenty of copies of this Employment Relations Sheet by tomorrow.
What other messages do I want to leave with you? Well, firstly let me correct something that was said in the Guardian Society article last Wednesday. I have never said that unions are responsible for the pay gap. That view would be patently ludicrous. However, 35 years of legislation and a pay gap of 18 per cent for full-time and 40 per cent for part-time workers does not reflect well on anybody, and we all have a part to play in fixing this.
The Commission has yet to complete its thinking on mandatory pay reviews. We are also still considering issues round the role of equality representatives. We have received evidence on current and serious problems within the legal framework. Any views we have on the Equal Pay Act will be referred to the Discrimination Law Review Group, which is looking at equalities legislation across the piece in preparation for a single equality act. I am impressed by the work being done, as shown in the Equality Audit. I urge those of you who have not yet read it to take a good look because it contains some very good ideas. It demonstrates a shift in emphasis, which is very welcome, but the Commission's work shows there is much still to be done, and I hope that we can work together to deliver a fairer pay deal for all those women who are relying on us.
Finally Chair, may I close by passing my best wishes to my union, the T&G, and particularly to wish them a successful outcome on the campaign for the Gate Gourmet workers. Thank you very much. (Applause)
The President: Thank you, Margaret. We are all aware of the enormous importance of the work you are doing and wish you well. I personally want to say it was the recognition of your credentials as a respected campaigner for women's rights that I am absolutely sure led to your appointment as Chair of the Women and Work Commission. Our thanks and good luck to those four TUC colleagues -- Liz Snipe, Debbie Coulter, Kay Carberry and John Hannett -- because I think the Commission gives a real opportunity to deal with some of the endemic problems around equal pay. That is a great team that has been charged with dealing with this and equally it is a great responsibility. Thank you very much indeed, Margaret.
If we could now move to Composite Motion No 3 on the Women and Work Commission, which is being supported by the General Council.
Women and Work Commission
Andrea Snowden ( Communication Workers Union) moved Composite Motion 3.
She said: The question of equal pay, and specifically how we deliver equal pay, remains central to the union agenda. Despite the passage of the Equal Pay Act over thirty years ago, women still face serious disadvantage in the pay stakes. Latest government figures show how full-time women still earn around 20 per cent less than their male counterparts. Another recent research by paywizard.com put the pay gap even higher at nearly 25 per cent. In recognition of the problem, and in the face of consistent union pressure, the government -- as you have heard, and as you know, -- set up the Women and Work Commission under Margaret to look at the question of equal pay and the position of women in the labour market.
While we still await the final report -- and that will now be in January as Margaret has just said -- the aim in moving this particular composite is to set out a clear programme of action to tackle the pay gap between the sexes and to support a raft of measures to overcome gender segregation in employment. Although women's participation in the labour market has increased over recent decades, particularly amongst those with school age children women, remain concentrated in lower level, non-manual occupations. Just 8 per cent of women work in managerial jobs compared to 18 per cent of men. If we are to avoid debating equal pay in another thirty years' time, we believe the Commission must recommend mandatory pay audits.
Like the EOC, we believe that equal pay reviews are the most appropriate method of ensuring that a pay system delivers equal pay, free from bias. However, while the EOC code of practice recommends employers carry out equal pay reviews, the majority of companies still do not see the need to carry one out. Sixty-eight per cent of employers surveyed by the EOC said they had no plans to carry out a review despite the obvious benefit of doing so, such as reducing the risks of litigation, cutting staff turnover and increasing employee commitment.
As well as mandatory pay audits, the composite also calls for business and unions to provide input into the Standards Board proposed by the Company Law Review to ensure there is a clear commitment to equal pay audits and that unions are involved in that process.
The motion calls for measures to overcome gender segregation at work. Despite girls out-performing boys in education, women are still generally found in lower skilled, lower paid jobs. To combat gender segregation, we need to look at a range of measures, breaking down cultural factors which reinforce gender stereotypes, and that means encouraging both sexes in all occupations, improving the careers advice to young people, so that both sexes are actively encouraged to take up subjects such as physics, mathematics and chemistry; encouraging non traditional jobs for women, especially where there is an acute shortage of skilled workers, and that means encouraging girls to take up careers as plumbers, gas fitters and working in the construction industry; actively engaging with employers to deliver good, family-friendly policies; and encouraging employers to create more opportunities for flexible and part-time work.
We also want to support measures to overcome low pay amongst child care providers. Despite the government's assistance to date -- like Sure Start and tax credits -- many families struggle to find good quality childcare and many still rely on family and friends to provide childcare at a low cost. That is why we must continue to push for more assistance for parents, to give them access to good quality early education and flexible and affordable childcare provision. Congress, let us ensure the Women in Work Commission delivers the effective action. We need to tackle equal pay and gender segregation. Please support the composite.
Maire Daley (NATFHE - The University & College Lecturers' Union) seconded Composite 3.
She said: In this motion we welcome the Women in Work Commission and we welcome the government's initiative. As ever, we remain unconvinced of its real value until we see more. More than thirty years after the Sex Discrimination Act was enacted, and even longer since the Equal Pay Act, together with all the recent legislation that we have around equality issues, we have more or less in place quite a sophisticated legal framework to protect women in the workplace, but we know from the mover of the motion that much of this has not been enacted. Much of it has no authority and using the law remains always a limited process for us. In the motion it calls for using class actions rather than individual casework to follow that, and I am sure that will happen.
What I want really to concern Congress about is the final paragraph, which calls for a proactive challenge to the continued dominance of male cultural norms within the workplace. This is a call for a socialist feminist agenda, to further develop an analysis of women's working lives, to expose the fundamental place that patriarchy plays in the maintenance of capitalism. It is a truth that in post-patriarchy there will be no place for capitalism and any call from the Labour Government or anybody else for that matter that we have already reached a point of post-patriarchy is a complete nonsense, clearly grossly exaggerated. Consider this single example from the government's recent agenda: an 8 per cent cut in Learning and Skills Council budget results in huge losses of places in adult education. That always has a disproportionate effect on women, and working class women in particular. In my college, for example, one of the first actions was to cut the nursery provision -- a clear case of the government's agenda saying one thing and doing something else. The Women in Work Commission will mean nothing if the government do this. For us, just flicking through our annual report, we can see that there is less than one member on every Committee that is named; on the Organising and Representation Task Group 7 out of 26 are women. That is on my count, I could be wrong.
We have to challenge our own approach, and to resist any cuts that may be proposed in our own equality work of the TUC. We have to oppose cuts, for example, in the Women's Conference. Further, we have to have more confidence in the women within this union and the Women's Committee and take their advice on many things, including not having Nestles here at this Congress.
Conference, we have to support the grass roots initiatives like the Charter for Women and to move towards those things. I second Composite 3.
Denise McGuire (Connect ) supporting Composite 3 and focusing on gender segregation in employment and the positive impact such as the computer clubs for girls. The first computer programmer was actually a UK woman called Ada Lovelace, but today only 20 per cent of the IT workforce is female and the current gender composition of technical graduates means that this position will worsen. Often when women move into a profession it becomes seen as women's work and the pay levels drop. In IT we saw the reverse: salaries rose and women seemed to have been excluded through both cultural and structural barriers: for example, an emphasis on technical qualifications instead of aptitude tests and the image of IT as being male and, to be honest, quite Dinky. Girls and young women do not think it is cool to do IT, but it is important for us all to realise that IT is an essential part of any career.
The computer clubs for girls was launched by eskills, the sector Skills Council for the Telecom and IT industry. The clubs provide compelling fun and educational activities for ten to fourteen year old girls, improving their image of IT and improving their IT skills. The girls use IT but on projects that interest them, things such as music and video, design, animation, fashion, dance. The projects are linked to key stages 2 and 3 of the National Curriculum and the engaging fun and the social approach of IT that increases the girls' confidence and their skills levels. By 2008, 150,000 girls and 3,600 schools will have benefited from the scheme. The clubs are effective, with 65 per cent of the girls saying they are more likely to consider a career in technology. In June this year, funding for the clubs was extended to the whole of the UK.
In drawing this initiative to your attention I also want to encourage you to get involved in it. The website is www.cc4g.net; log on and see whether you can start a club in your area. Do join in and make a difference for your daughters. Support the composite.
Jackie Darby (Transport Salaried Staffs' Association) supporting Composite 3. She said: Equal pay is fundamental to the work of the Commission. This composite asks for measures to pursue employers who discriminate against their female work force and offers practical means of redress. However, equal pay will not be achievable unless there is transparency. Inequality will thrive where it can be concealed and continuing to privatise public services will make it easy for bad practice to continue out of sight; doors will close on increasing numbers of our sisters. The private sector must be held to account otherwise all this good work, all these good intentions, will fail. We have lived with inequality for far too long. Congress. Please support.
Diana Holland (Transport & General Workers' Union): At last year's Congress I said that the Women and Work Commission must not just measure the pay gap but finally close it. One year on our message still has to be 100 per cent clear as set out here and in the fairness at work debate. We need mandatory equal pay audits and union equality representatives, the two areas agreed as priorities at Warwick: mandatory equal pay audits to check equal pay in every workplace and close the pay gap where needed. We already have the right to equal pay but audits help us turn that paper into reality without going to Tribunal time after time. We should also have equality representatives with rights to paid release and facilities, practical support to change our work places and prevent discrimination.
Last year at Warwick, the affiliated trades unions did have enough support across the Labour Party to force through mandatory equal pay audits, but we accepted the case that we needed a thorough examination in the Women and Work Commission of a whole range of issues facing women at work. However, we did not sign up to a strategy of delaying any action and CBI veto.
The TUC first agreed the principle of equal pay in 1888; 117 years later we still have the worst gender pay gap in Europe. It is not too soon to act. In 1944 a proposal on equal pay for women and men teachers nearly brought down Winston Churchill's wartime government. To avoid defeat he established a Royal Commission on equal pay. In Harold Wilson's words, it took minutes and lasted years: twenty years before equal pay was won for teachers and almost 30 years before the Equal Pay Act for all industries. We have waited long enough for equal pay.
In conclusion, you will have heard of the book Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. Yesterday I bought this interesting postcard. It says: 'Men are from earth, women are from earth, deal with it.' We do not want the Women and Work Commission to be remembered as the Women Still Waiting Commission. We want it to be the Winning for Women Commission and the Winning for our Workplaces Commission.
Conference, I support. Thank you.
* Composite 3 was CARRIED.
The President : Could I thank you very much, delegates, for your courtesy in giving up a chunk of your lunch time for an important debate and remind you that there are various meetings taking place over the lunch time, listed on pages 11 and 12 of the Congress Guide.
One final appeal: could you dig deep for the Gate Gourmet workers as you leave.
Congress adjourned until 2.15 p.m.
MONDAY AFTERNOON SESSION
(Congress re-assembled at 2.15 p.m.)
The President: I would like, again, to thank Norton's Hot Eight who have been playing for us this afternoon. I had a little dance on the platform when not many people were here. I think you are really good. Well done. Excellent. (Applause)
Delegates, at the end of this afternoon's session, there will be a collection in support of J-FLAG, an organisation to help lesbian and gay Jamaicans suffering discrimination. The TUC LGBT conference this year heard moving stories as to the extent of the persecution suffered by those in Jamaica on account of their sexuality. So the collection will take place at the doors to the hall and at the main exits. I have to say, having seen the badge, it is very beautiful and artistic. Thank you.
Childcare presentation, led by Guardian journalist Yvonne Roberts
The President: Delegates, we start this afternoon by returning to Chapter 2 of the General Council's Report, which is Equal Rights.
Childcare has long been an issue for the trade union Movement, as many of you here will know. In our role, we are uniquely positioned to represent both working parents and the childcare workforce. In 1978 Congress supported the General Council's groundbreaking national policy strategy for the under fives, and the Labour Government's ten year strategy, announced in December last year, set out the Government's vision for childcare. I was delighted to see that the Government have adopted almost every one of our 1978 recommendations. As ever, where trade unions lead, others will follow.
Just as an aside, I attended the Gender and Productivity Summit at No. 11 just a few months ago, and I heard Gordon Brown say that Labour politicians had to realise that women's issues were no longer a social policy add-on but a mainstream economic issue, which was, I thought, a very powerful statement and a final reflection of the reality of the economic world in which we live. But there is still much to be done, not least in improving the wages and working conditions of the childcare workforce. Childcare workers need unions no less than trade unionists need childcare. So I am please that on our agenda today we have a panel discussion on childcare. On our panel today we have Carol Ball, a childcare worker and union activist, who will talk about childcare workers' needs. I am also very pleased that we have, in a change to the printed programme, Philippa Thompson, Director of Development at the Organisation for Children. She is an expert on professional childcare issues. We are very grateful for her stepping in at the last minute. We are pleased to have both Carol and Philippa here with us today. Chairing the debate is Yvonne Roberts, a well-known journalist, who has long campaigned for better childcare provision. So, Yvonne, it is over to you.
Yvonne Roberts: Thank you, Jeannie. I cannot tell you how delightful it is to be at Congress and have the 'c' world actually debated. I know that lots of 'c' words are banded about but very rarely, in my experience, has childcare been so prominent on the agenda.
As Jeannie said, childcare is another word for social justice. It is so vitally important in tackling poverty, the problem of unequal pay, enabling more women to be involved in the labour market, in dealing with occupational segregation and, most important of all, it really makes such a huge difference to the development of children. For many children, childcare is the difference a future and no future. So the trade union Movement, in terms of what it can achieve in the childcare workplace, is so desperately important. I think these are two crucial years, really. If the trade union Movement can mobilise itself, it can make a truly massive difference.
First of all, we have to explain from the ground up, from the grassroots level, the situation. Carol Ball has been a nursery nurse for 24 years and, as many of you will probably know, is very active as a UNISON member in Glasgow. Carol, what changes, if any, have you noticed in the childcare sector in recent years?
Carol Ball: The Government now recognise the importance of providing high quality childcare and have been much more focused on the sector with more money and investment. That raises, quite rightly, the higher expectations of parents and it also raises the expectations of the workforce about what that will mean for them and the changes that will happen. As there has been a great expansion in the childcare sector, the emphasis now is on qualifications, and that is to be welcomed.
However, in the public sector, nursery nurses like me have always been qualified. Now we are finding that our training and development needs are being put on hold while the rest of the sector catches up, and for us that can be quite frustrating. I think we need now to move to an integrated model so that the workforce is able to deliver early years education and childcare across the full range. At the moment, that delivery is quite fragmented, with some nursery nurses working only with 3 - 5 year olds, for example, but who are well able and qualified to work with children to the age of 8. I think that is essential, particularly with the introduction of increased school hours.
Yvonne Roberts: What role do you think trade unions can take? What difference do you think that trade unions can make?
Carol Ball: I think that the trade unions can make a huge difference. Childcare workers in all the different settings that they work in do a vital job. Childcare workers, however, earn very little money and they often have poor terms and conditions. This is particular true of colleagues in the private sector. In the public sector our experience is not perfect but our terms and conditions are better, and that has a lot to do with UNISON's work. For example, last year nursery nurses took industrial action across Scotland against 32 local authority employers to try and improve their pay. They could not have done that without the organisation and support of the trade union Movement. Not only in Scotland but also in Brighton colleagues have won better pay through trade union action.
In Scotland, as a result of that action, I believe that we have been able to influence a national review of early years and the childcare workforce because we have been so active as trade unionists. This concerns not only pay and conditions but our view on how these services should be delivered, what the roles and responsibilities should be and what the qualification levels should be, so that has been a vital piece of work. A nursery nurse has been sitting on that Review which, I think, augers well for the future. So, yes, the trade unions can make a great difference.
Yvonne Roberts: Thank you, Carol. As many of you know, before renaming it For Children, it was Kids Club Network, which has truly been a pioneer in all sorts of areas, particularly in achieving the ideas of extended schools. Philippa, what do you think has been the main achievements in childcare in the past decade?
Philippa Thompson: I think there have been huge achievements in childcare during the past ten years, and plenty of challenges still remain, as Carol has outlined.
The first National Childcare Strategy dating back to 1998 provided us with a vital framework on which to build a genuine childcare infrastructure in this country, really for the first time in the UK. Since we have had this strategy, we have seen investment in key areas of social deprivation and we have been able to address some of the fundamental questions about child development and child based outcomes, which sorely needed to be addressed. Finally, we have been able to address some concerns about barriers to women returning to work and to education, to training and we have involved parents in formal childcare provision, all of which have been successes. We have been able to look at the childcare workforce, too, as well as settings for childcare.
The ten year strategy announced last December, however, coupled with the establishment of the Children's Workforce Development Council, is a hugely important step forward. That came out of the Government's Every Child Matters Green Paper, plus the extension, as Carol mentioned, into access to childcare through schools, through the Government's extended schools initiative, is really going to take the childcare agenda forward still further.
Yvonne Roberts: What role do you think that trade unions can play given that such a large part of the sector is in voluntary organisations and in the private sector?
Philippa Thompson: I think there are some really key challenges right now for trade unions. The priorities have got to be pay, conditions and a career structure for childcare workers. Without addressing those priorities, I would argue, the Government are just not going to be able to achieve the ambitious targets on childcare which they have set. That, frankly, would be a national disgrace.
There is a lot of evidence from other countries, for instance, for getting these three things right. Proper pay, conditions and career structure can really help to deliver childcare for the majority of children and to their parents when they need it, when they want it and in the form that they need and want it. For instance, based around shift patterns. However, there is still so much left to be done in the area. Real progress is going to present us with some absolutely key challenges. We are at a crossroads. We can either invest now for a first-rate service for both children and for the workforce, or we run the danger of ending up with a fourth-rate service which neither benefits children, parents or the workforce. There is no doubt that trade unions are going to be absolutely central to us in facing these challenges. We need to see the childcare workforce in all of the different sectors that are involved - getting organised.
Whilst I appreciate that a lot of childcare workers work in the public sector and they are already in trade unions, the vast majority of people working in childcare either work at home as self-employed childminders, for instance, or they work in small, private or voluntary run settings. These people are not so easy to get to. They are not so easy to reach. They are often young women and, as I understand it, they are probably not women who have had much interaction with the trade union Movement in the past and I think they would benefit enormously from the input of trade unions at this point, both in terms of training, development, understanding, organisation and giving them a voice really to put their perspective across, and also allowing them to integrate, as Carol said, into the wider agenda for children's services in the UK.
Yvonne Roberts: How urgent is the need to mobilise the trade union Movement in terms of recruiting in the childcare force?
Philippa Thompson: I think recruitment is a key issue and that need is very urgent. At the moment we do not see any training or development investment getting into childcare workers. The vast majority of childcare workers are working outside of children's centres and outside the existing local authority structures, and that situation needs to be addressed and addressed now if we are going to achieve those very ambitious targets that I mentioned earlier.
Yvonne Roberts: I think you can gather from what the two speakers have said that it is really, really, really vital that you start recruiting, organising and mobilising people in the childcare workforce. It seems to me to be an absolutely disgrace that a nursery nurse working with what is our most precious commodity, namely, children, earns less than a shelf stacker in ASDA. That cannot be right. It seems to me remarkable that in an affluent society like we have our poverty rate is 16%, compared with Sweden which has a poverty rate of 2%. Part of that poverty level is because people working in the childcare workforce are earning so little. We also have a huge problem with asocial hours. Many people in the workforce cannot get the kind of childcare they need because they are working outside the normal 9-5 routine, and we also have a huge problem with inflexibility in the workplace.
This Government, in the past eight years, have done an enormous amount. They have spent something like £13 billion, but that figure should not blind us to the fact that we actually need treble that amount and, without trade union voices, mobilising, pushing, argument and recruiting, we are not going to see anything other than a fourth-rate service and that, really, would be disastrous, not just for children, who are obviously very important, but for the well-being of society as a whole.
As Jeannie mentioned, Gordon Brown said that childcare is the new frontier of the Welfare State. We really need the trade unions to make sure that it is a fair and just frontier. Thank you very much, and back to you, Jeannie.
The President: Thank you, Carol, Yvonne and Philippa for what was a really interesting introduction to our next debate, which is on parents, carers and childcarers.
Parents, carers and childcare
John Hannett (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) moved Composite Motion 4.
He said: Congress, it is worth reminding ourselves of the foundations that this Government have already laid in support of parents and carers at work. They have introduced time off for fathers at a time of the birth of their babies; given adoptive leave of 26 weeks paid leave with the possibility of taking up a full year; the right to request flexible working for parents of young and disabled children; putting parental leave on the map; increasing statutory maternity pay by a staggering 37% and extending the period of paid leave from 18 to 26 weeks. They have introduced a commitment to further extent paid maternity leave from six to nine months rising to twelve months before the end of the next Parliament. That is real progress for parents and carers.
However, this composite is not just about justice and fairness for parents and carers, important as that is. It is not just about securing full employment and a fairer deal for the taxpayer, as important as that is, and it is not just about making sure that we, as a society, take care of the youngest, oldest and most vulnerable members of our society, as important as that is. It is about making business fitter, more productive and more competitive. It is also about ensuring that the business gets hold of the best people, keeps them and retains them. It is about ensuring that the talent, skills and experience of parents and carers are not lost to the economy. That is why it is important, Congress, that the commit given at the Warwick National Policy Forum to review parental leave and that the question of pay is pursued remains high upon our agenda.
Parental leave was altogether absent from the Government's recent proposals outlined in their consultation document - Choice and Flexibility - yet it is central to improve the work life balance amongst parents.
As parental leave stands, unpaid and inflexible, the vast majority of parents just cannot access this provision. The Government's own research estimates that the take-up of parent leave at present is only 3%. Without any element of pay, take-up is never going to improve. Yes, both employers and Government will need to do the maths it will cost. If you look beyond the cost, you will see the real benefit. The evidence exists. A recent DTI poll of four thousand job seekers showed that a third would rather work flexibly than get paid an extra £1,000 a year. Three-quarters of all employers who took part in Government research confirmed that the introduction of work life balance measures had led to more effective retention of staff and lowered the level of turnover. The Equal Opportunities Commission reports that nine out of ten employers, with family friendly working arrangements, think that they are cost-effective, and more than a third believe that their financial performance outstrips that of their competitors as a result. So it is good for business as well as good for our members.
So far-sighted employers use flexible working to meet their own and, an important part of the equation, their employees needs. It is not just about pay, Congress. Parental leave, as it stands, is inflexible. We live and work in a 24/7 society, and yet the law prevents parents from taking leave in blocks of less than one week. Members like ours often need a more flexible approach in meeting their requirements.
Of course, we will continue to promote the rights of working parents amongst our members and I am proud to say that USDAW's Parents and Carers Campaign is delivering real benefits in the workplace. We will continue to bargain for improvements with the employers both at local and national level but, in the end, the Government also have to rise to the challenge and make the provisions for paid, flexible parental leave by law. Productive workers, stable families and successful businesses increasingly are going to depend on it. I move.
Lesley Anne Baxter (British and Irish Orthoptic Society) seconding the composite said: President and Congress, I second Composite Motion 4 with reference to the childcare provision.
Trying to balance work and family life is not an easy task. In these days where parents have to work to pay the bills, flexible parent leave, as our previous speaker said, is essential. However, once back at work childcare becomes essential. Good quality childcare, well paid childcare staff and affordable for those who need it is also essential.
The published figures look good. Provision for childcare has doubled since Labour took office in 1997, but in many areas demand still outstrips supply and parents cannot find childcare that covers the hours they need and, even when they can, the cost is too high to make going back to work outside of normal hours not a reality.
Costs for a nursery place have risen by 5.2% during the past year, and the average cost in England is approximately £7,500, and this is just to cover normal working hours. At present childcare is provided in the main by the private sector with staff paid on average up to 35% lower than other part-time women workers and it is generally only provided within the normal working week. This means that those of us who want to work an early or a late shift, or those who want to work nights, are unable to take those jobs. That, in turn, puts pressure on our colleagues who have to cover these difficult shifts.
In taking the NHS as an example, improving working lives has involved greater flexibility to staff to manage a career and a family. However, this improvement has been seen by staff without children as a high cost. Flexibility for some means that others are expected to cover difficult hours. A better distribution of childcare provision would allow this sense of disparity to be diminished.
Whilst we welcome the recognition in the10-year Childcare Strategy: Choice for Parents - The Best Start for Children, that investment in childcare is the key to overcoming the shortages, it must be available to cover the UK's 24 hour economy. In this era of so-called choice, clearly, the private sector is mainly interested in providing childcare within normal hours and with a low paid workforce. There must be substantial investment in childcare workers' pay and career opportunities and they must be recognised for the excellent work they do. Childcare must be affordable for those who need it and available to cover our 24 hour society. Please support this composite.
Composite Motion 4 was CARRIED.
Janine Booth (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers) leading in on paragraph 2.7 of the General Council's Report, said: Statements made during the General Election campaign and since suggest that women's abortion rights could soon come under attack. One in three women in Britain has an abortion. Every one has her reason. For many it is a difficult choice, but it is her choice. The film Vera Drake reminded us of what happened before 1967 when abortion was still illegal. Women went to back street abortionists and some were injured or killed. In our society there will always be women facing a crisis pregnancy who choose to have an abortion. The choice that society faces is not between abortion and no abortion but between illegal, unsafe abortions and safe, legal ones.
Before 1967 rich women could usually buy their way around the law and pay a doctor to carry out a termination. It was working class women who suffered in the back streets. Recently, leaders of several religions, including a Catholic Archbishop, the Chief Rabbi and a representative of the Muslim Council of Britain, have called for restrictions on women's abortion rights and, despite the low level of religious observance in this country, politicians of all shades are willing to help them. This is not right and democratic. As a long-standing pro-choice slogan says: 'Not the Church, not the State, Women must decide our fate'.
We may well see an attempt in Parliament to cut the time limit for legal abortions from the current 24 weeks to 20 weeks. Relatively few abortions are carried out between 20 - 24 weeks but there are several good reasons why a woman might leave having an abortion this late. She may have been obstructed by an anti-abortion doctor, her circumstances might have changed, her partner might have left and/or started to beat and abuse her, a young woman might have been afraid to come forward earlier and an older woman might have mistaken the signs of pregnancy for the menopause.
The pretext for cutting time limits is usually that medical advances have made it possible for foetuses to survive outside of the womb at an earlier stage. These medical advances are welcome and should be used to help premature babies to spare parents the heartbreak of losing the baby they love and want. They should not used to force women to bear children that they do not want. The best way to reduce the number of late abortions is to reduce unwanted pregnancies and to improve access to earlier abortions. This could be achieved by better sex education, free and effective contraception and the removal of the need for the permission of two doctors for an abortion to be carried out.
Ironically, the religious authorities which attack abortion rights usually also oppose these measures. We have to reject their conservative agenda, defend women's rights and control our own bodies.
I would like to ask the General Council to confirm that the TUC will take the lead in fighting to defend and extend our rights against any attack in Parliament.
Address by General Secretary
The President: Yes, I can confirm that from the Chair. As you know, our overall theme this week is Together Stronger, reflecting the importance of unity in the face of terrorism, poverty and social injustice. Our General Secretary, Brendan Barber, has campaigned tirelessly during the past year for the values of solidarity and fairness, whether in Trafalgar Square, Whitehall, community mosques and temples, in factories and in offices. Brendan has passionately argued the case for trade unionism so, personally, I am proud to invite our General Secretary to reflect on the year behind us and look ahead to the vision we all seek of a fairer society. Brendan, as the General Secretary, I invite you to address Congress.
The General Secretary (Brendan Barber): President, Congress, it's been quite a year. The Tories in turmoil, England, perhaps, on their way to winning the Ashes - for those of you who are interested in these matters it is 199 for 7 - the General Council Cricket Team beating the journalists and Everton in Europe, at least for a couple more weeks. That is not a combination that you see that often, but long may it continue.
It has also been a year that has made me more proud then ever to be a trade unionist. Sometimes that has been in my day to day work, meeting workers, meeting activists, and sometimes it has been at the big national moments. Just two months ago I spoke from a platform in Trafalgar Square - not that unusual, perhaps, for the TUC General Secretary - but that occasion was different. That was when we said thank you to the capital's emergency and transport workers who responded with such quiet magnificence when their city was attacked. Tomorrow we will have a proper opportunity to say what a credit they are to the trade union Movement. But today let us salute their commitment to the public service ethos - an ethos so casually dismissed by the privatisers, the profiteers and the market testers.
Of course, the message that day in Trafalgar Square was not just one of appreciation. It was also one of solidarity and unity. We came together to say that we would not be divided. Every tube or bus passenger, whatever their colour or creed - people of every religion and people of none - came under attack. That's why we said an attack on one was an attack on all, and why we said no to the racists and no to the politics of hate.
In Trafalgar Square London came together to sign up to what we as trade unionists have always said: Together we are stronger. Let that message go out again today. Together, stronger in fighting race hatred. Together, strong in stuggling for social justice. Together, stronger in striving for opportunity for all. And it was not just after the bombs that we made our stand.
Let us also salute the trade unionists - like those in Ron Todd's old stamping ground in Dagenham - who for years have done so much to cut the ground from under the BNP.
Let us salute the activists who day in, day out strive to build links across their communities, sometimes in the face of vile intimidation from Far Right thugs. And let us salute those who have stood shoulder to shoulder in resisting the politics of hate. That is the message I have taken on your behalf to Muslim Communities in East London, Leeds and Birmingham just in the last two weeks. Together stronger - two words that sum up everything about our movement.
We know unity is what sustains people through the most difficult of times. It's what gives us the strength to cope with great suffering. It mattered here after July 7th, and it matters now across the Atlantic.
It goes without saying -- those affected by the hugely destructive natural disaster in the United States have our solidarity and our support, and I know the American trade union Movement has done everything it can to aid the response. But the catastrophe in New Orleans has in the most terrible way shown the consequences of a society where the individual takes precedence over the collective, where massive private affluence coexists with desperate public squalor, where the market reigns supreme. The result is gross inequality between classes, between races, between those who can look after themselves and those who cannot.
But we know there is a better way. In the aftermath of the attacks in London we took great pride not just in the response of our public services but in the philosophy that sustains them. From each according to their ability, to each according to their need. Together stronger. That, of course, is the lifeblood of our Movement, and that is something that I have seen time and time again over the past year.
I saw that when I visited the state-of-the-art union learning centres all around the country and discovered how our exciting work on skills is transforming people's lives. At one centre in Watford I met a young mother, out of learning since 16, enjoying new opportunities and a promotion at work - but what gave her most satisfaction of all was her role as a learning rep. She was ambitious, not just for herself but for her colleagues, too.
I saw that when I visited Leeds Prison, where POA reps, delivering a vital service that is so often invisible and under-valued, have negotiated new working arrangements that are making a real difference to their members' lives and transforming the service they deliver.
Wherever we work, whatever we do, we are all guided by one simple truth. Together stronger. And never have I felt that more powerfully than when I visited the workers at Gate Gourmet. Their experience, as we debated this morning, was a stark reminder about the realities of work in Britain here and now in 2005. Without question, making work better for all is one of the biggest challenges facing the Government. With lots of union help on the ground, Labour secured a historic third term with a clear majority. That's some achievement. But it's one that has to be qualified.
Other than the 1983 disaster, you have to go back to 1935 to find an election where fewer people voted Labour. Nearly 60 Labour MPs now have majorities under 3,000. If Labour is to win again, it must put back its 1997 coalition again. Yes, keeping and winning new voters, but also winning back those who have too often felt taken for granted.
In the second term we had important achievements, but a foreign policy that deeply divided our country. We have seen huge investment in public services, but tempered too often by a preference for private sector solutions.
We won important new rights at work, but heard too much sniping at social Europe. So this time, at the beginning of this third term, we need a new start - a fresh sense of purpose with, at its heart, a clear vision for the workplace.
We can build on the genuine advances that have been made during the past eight years, from the minimum wage to near full employment to the massive expansion of childcare we've just been discussing. Sometimes, perhaps, we do not give the Government enough credit for what they have done. But that does not mean we should not work for more, because so much more is needed.
There is a comfortable Britain - people in decent jobs, fairly paid, with a secure pension. Then there is the other Britain, the Britain where one in five workers earns £280 a week or less; the Britain where work is a struggle and exploitation is rife.
We've heard quite a bit about offshoring in recent months, but let us be clear. Far more people have been hit by outsourcing. There are few companies which have not practised it, companies that we would, by and large, recognise as responsible employers and with whom we could easily do business. But look at who cleans their offices or works in their canteen. They've outsourced the low paid jobs, and they have struck a hard bargain that too often leads to poverty pay, no pension and minimum holidays. Their directors can sign off an annual report that says they are good employers, but two hours later their boardroom is cleaned by people on nothing like a living wage. (Applause)
To those bosses who just want to turn a blind eye to this reality, I say simply: you may be able to outsource your business, but you can't outsource your conscience and you can't outsource your reputation either.
To Digby Jones, this is not about competition from China and India. You can't send your building to Beijing to have it cleaned, or order a take out from Mumbai. And outsourcing is not just about the private sector either. That is why we stand solidly behind the House of Commons cleaners who are demanding a living wage. (Applause) They are expected to keep the Mother of all Parliaments functioning - yet expected to get by on little more than £5 an hour in one of Europe's most expensive cities.
So what do the Government need to do? I want them to really work with us to eradicate these crude injustices. They should deliver proper protection for agency workers, and get the proposed European Directive back on track. They should deliver sensible safeguards on working time, to begin a real crackdown on burned out Britain. They should bring employment law into line with ILO standards, and they should face up to the urgent need for action to reverse the catastrophic slide in our manufacturing capacity.
So my challenge to the Labour Government - our Labour Government - is simple. Work with us to make work better. Never forget: Together stronger. To be frank, this represents a major challenge for us too. It is not an exaggeration to say that this is a critical time for our Movement. I know how effort unions have put into recruitment and organisation in the last year, and we have seen some increase in TUC membership. That's a real tribute to the innovation and energy of countless trade unionists around our country. But we are still probably losing as many members as we gain, and with growth in public services slowing in the years ahead, that challenge becomes more acute each year. There is a real sense of urgency about the organising challenge. More of what we are already doing is, of course, much of the answer, but that's not enough. We need to do more - much more - to face outwards, and we need to think hard about our structures and how best to make use of our resources.
Some people tell me that I ought to be worried about the prospect of three of our biggest unions merging. Well, I'm not. I've always wanted to see a more rational union structure and less inter-union competition. The merger could deliver real benefits, and if that is what the members decide, then I wish it well and would want it to be a success in the interest of the whole trade union Movement. But I never forget that mergers, in themselves, do not make a single extra member.
In 2001 Verdi was formed as Germany's largest union with around three million members. Now, four years later, their membership figures have fallen to around 2.5 million. In merger discussions, it can be too easy to get bogged down in the inevitable complexities of constitutions, rules and internal structures, with a risk that the eye gets taken off that crucial growth agenda.
Whatever changes come along in our trade union structures, this TUC - your TUC - must deliver a united trade union voice on all the issues that matter most to working people. And we do that by recognising, indeed celebrating, the diversity that we represent - bit unions and small, public sector and private too, niche unions that have unparalleled expertise and insights in the issues facing sometimes crucial parts of our economy, alongside general unions that bring members together from right across the workplaces of Britain, unions that affiliate to the Labour Party alongside others that have chosen a sturdy political independence.
For generations our Movement has spoken with one voice, and that is what has sustained us through good times and bad. Together stronger. At every twist an turn, let us remember why we are trade unionists. We are trade unionists because we believe the strong have an obligation to help the weak. We are trade unionists because we do not rest until wrongs are righted, and we are trade unionists because we know we achieve more together than we ever can alone.
Together stronger - for justice, fairness and opportunity. Together stronger - in workplaces and communities across the land. Together stronger, yesterday, today, and most importantly tomorrow, too. Thanks for listening. (Applause)
The President: Thank you, Brendan, for those stirring, thoughtful and inspiring words, reinforcing the powerful message of Together stronger. Sometimes it is something we can forget when we lose sight of the bigger picture.
Before I move on, just on one lighter note - I hope you do not mind me teasing you, Brendan - you referred in your introduction to the successes of the all male Everton football team and English cricket team, so I thought it was appropriate to mention that the winning TUC cricket team had one outstanding female General Council player, who positively put Rachael Hayhoe-Flint into the shade, namely, our own Alison Sheppard. (Applause)
Economic and Industrial Affairs
John Hannett (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) moved Composite Motion 11.
He said: Congress, it is time we dealt with the reality and not the fiction. We are told time and time again that people should be free to work for as long as they want. It means more money and a better standard of living, so it is said. We do not have a health and safety problem. It is not an issue of health, and government and trade unions should leave well alone. That is the chorus and we will go on hearing it whenever the 48 hour week and the opt-out hit the headlines. Let us get the facts right. The truth is that working long hours damages workers' health. The Health & Safety Executive in 2002 and the DTI in 2003 both reported that long hours meant an increase in heart disease, stress, mental illness and many other illnesses related to the long hours culture.
Only last month the British Medical Journal reported on a major US study which revealed exactly the same thing. The evidence is overwhelming and it keeps coming. Long hours mean workers damage their health.
Congress, we do have a health and safety problem and we need to continue to go on saying so.
Secondly, we are also told that millions of UK workers are content to put in long hours, yet the most recent DTI survey report found that nearly 60% of long-hour workers would be happy to have their hours pegged at 48. Barely a third had signed an opt-out and a quarter of the remainder were openly pressurised to put the hours in by their employers. Every enquiry reveals a catalogue of intimidation, abuse and sharp practice.
Our own USDAW survey or our white collar membership revealed that about a third of long hours workers had been pressurised to sign an opt-out, and barely a fifth had been explained their rights, and over a quarter had been given the impression that opting-out was a condition of the job. Again, the facts give a lie to the fiction of the contented long hours worker.
Thirdly, and in a sense one of the biggest issues of all, it is said that most long hour workers, it is true, do not even get paid for the total hours they work. About 3.6 million workers work extra hours but only 1.4 million workers actually receive a financial reward. So putting in long hours for money is, to put it mildly, a minority experience. The vast majority - 60% of long hour workers - slog through the hours and do not even get a financial reward. So much for the myth of the long hours UK worker who is happy to work all the hours the employer wants and is well rewarded for doing so. It is a total fantasy. Long hours often means poor health, abuse and exploitation and precious little else and nothing to show for it.
Then it gets worse. If you happen to be a woman with children, you have little chance of putting the hours in even if you wanted to. Only 15% of long hours workers and 3% of skilled manual workers are in fact women. The plain truth is that long hours working discriminates against women.
You can forget, Congress, about the work life balance. Fathers in the UK work the longest hours in Europe. More than a third routinely work more than 48 hours a week and 80% of their partners say they suffer for it. Long hours can wreck relationships, divide families and damage children.
It is important that we continue to do more. We have had a travesty of a debate in this country on this issue for too long. The facts have been ignored and the arguments rigged. So, Congress, we are urging the General Council to take the real debate forward to defend living standards and workers' incomes but never at the expense of health and safety, workers' well-being and their family security. Please support.
Adrian Askew (Connect - The Union for Professionals in Communications) seconded Composite 11.
He said: Congress, for many years we have been trying to get a very simple message across: long working hours are bad for you. That is a very simple business argument that really the Government and the employers have to acknowledge, because how can we ever hope to match the productivity levels of our continental neighbours whilst the UK's workforce stumbles on exhausted from overwork whilst society has to pay the costs of people falling sick because they are unable to cope with the pressures of modern working life? As John Hannett has just said, this is a straightforward health and safety issue.
We are all encouraged to lead healthier lifestyles, but our members are chained to their work and cannot find the time to do things like eat healthily or take exercise. Despite some good initiatives, such as the right to ask for flexible working, the Government still will not move on the most important question of all - that, of course, is the working time opt?out, which condemns thousands of workers to a dangerous long?hours culture.
We know all the arguments, including the ones that are thrown back at us all the time by the employers. That does not diminish the case that we make. We are told that people want to choose how they manage their working lives. The truth is everyone should have a choice about how they work. That is not the CBI's choice of long hours or low pay. For many workers, new technology offers real opportunities to find a balance. It could be homeworking, video conferencing or picking up emails on the move. There are plenty of ways to work smarter. Some good employers understand this and they will co?operate with the unions to help workers achieve a better work life balance. However, sadly, too many others fail in their responsibilities. They even fail to recognise the business benefit. If more people are able to use the technology that exists, they will have more time to lead a fuller and rounder life. If only employers would realise that, they would have a more productive workforce.
Fewer people, for example, will need to drive to or from work. That means a better environment and safer roads. Remember, almost 100 people are killed or seriously injured every day on Britain's roads. However, we do need to be alert. These new technologies present our members with opportunities, but there has to be a proper level of control and agreements with the unions. There has to be the ability to work when and where you want, which can be liberating, but it must be on work time, not your time.
As unions, we have to continue to put pressure on the Government to ensure that work time is not all the time. That means an end to the UK's opt out of the Working Time Directive. In short, Congress, we can use the technology to work smarter, but we also need to use the 'off' switch as well. Congress, please support this composite.
Bob Monks (United Road Transport Union) supported Composite 11.
He said: Delegates, the Working Time Regulations were put on the statute books as health and safety legislation to limit correctly workers to a 48?hour working week. At the beginning of April this year, these regulations began to apply to professional lorry drivers, which my Union represents. As a sop to the Employers Associations, our current Government ?? and I stop myself here from saying a "Labour Government" ?? introduced into the legislation what is known as "periods of availability".
For those of you who would not know what a "period of availability" is, this is where a driver will turn up and be in a queue of lorries ready to unload. He cannot freely dispose of his time. That is not classed as working time because he is just sat in his lorry and it is classed as a period of availability.
Martin from BECTU, in seconding Composite 2 this morning, spoke of the 12, 13 and 14?hour days that BECTU members are forced to work. You might be surprised to learn that in this country professional lorry drivers can work legally for 15 hours a day. Five months on, we are now witnessing systematic abuse of periods of availability with employers seeking to wring every last minute out of the working day by forcing my members to register their periods of availability for every single minute that is possible.
Congress, this was inevitable. We told the present Government so at the time. This legislation is fundamentally flawed. As this composite asks, Congress should mandate the General Council to seek an early review of this miserable excuse for legislation.
Sue Gethin (FDA ? The Union of choice for senior managers and professionals in public service) speaking in support of Composite Motion 11, said:
We all want work life balance. We all strive to achieve it, but how many of us can actually say that we have it? How many of us live in a perpetual cycle of guilt trying to juggle our work, our lives and not have the feeling that we are giving the best of ourselves to either of those? This is an issue that affects us all, regardless of gender.
One of the main reasons for our lack of work life balance is the hours that we have to work to do our jobs. The long hours culture is a huge issue across both industry and the Civil Service. What is the effect of working these long hours? It is increased stress levels and a detrimental effect on our health. In some areas, there is no additional pay. There is no time to spend the money that we have earned or enjoy the benefits that it could bring us. There is no time to take the holidays to which we are entitled. For women who work part?time or who have caring responsibilities for children or elderly relatives, the expectation that you must regularly work beyond your contracted hours is a key barrier to applying for promotion or progression as well as maintaining a senior position in an organisation. Resources are reduced, budgets are constrained and yet still we are expected to deliver without complaint and to continue to sustain ever increasing workloads.
We do it, but at what cost? At what cost is it to ourselves? It is at the expense of our work life balance. We need to achieve a sensible work life balance for all our members in order to ensure a diverse workforce and equality of opportunity for all. Work life balance should be a reality and not an aspiration. The action to seek the redress of this balance is set out in Composite Motion 11. Congress, I urge you to support this motion.
Chris Murphy (Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians) supported Composite Motion 11.
He said: Long working hours are endemic within the construction industry: Monday to Friday, 7.00 am to 6.00 pm, and quite often Saturday and Sunday working too. The culture has not changed for a number of years and the employers do not want it to change. They want to keep the flexibility that long hours gives them.
It is no wonder that the construction employers have been at the forefront of those lobbying for the retention of the 48?hour opt out. You would think in an industry that accounts for one?third of all work?related deaths that they should consider whether longer hours contribute towards the industry's health and safety problems.
The Working Time Regulations have had a great impact on construction workers. For the first time, hundreds of thousands of building workers have won the right to holiday pay. However, we have had to fight tooth and nail to enforce those statutory rights. Any chairman of a tribunal will tell you, UCATT has been knocking at the door day and night with these arguments.
However, when it comes to working hours enforcement, there is very little of it. That is why we want to strengthen the powers of the Health & Safety Executive to check that the regulations are being enforced. A greater enforcement will help the trade unions press the case for shorter working hours. If they know their regulations are going effectively to be enforced, they will start to look for new ways of organising the workforce. The employers have been concerned about upsetting workers by opting out. Another way of saying this is that they do not want to pay workers a decent rate of pay.
I finish by saying that on Terminal 5 they enforce the 48?hour working week. There is no dissent from the workers mainly because they are treated in a reasonable and fair way and get a good rate of pay for the job. Support this composite. End the tyranny of long working hours. Thank you.
David Wait (Society of Radiographers) supported Composite Motion 11.
He said: I want to start by congratulating the TUC on the work it has already done to deal with the UK problem of long working hours. However, there is still a long way to go, as the blocking of the changes to the directive lead by the UK Government show. This block occurred despite the evidence that shows excessive hours to be unproductive, unhealthy and ultimately dangerous. There is a steady stream of research which shows the links between excessive hours, stress, fatigue and an increased risk of injury at work. However, it does not stop there because, despite the fact that this is absolutely a health and safety issue, this issue also affects our families, our friends and our society. This issue is one that we must win.
One hundred and sixty five years ago, an historic figure from New Zealand, and, as it happens, an Englishman, Samuel Parnell, fought and won this battle in New Zealand. He argued that there were 24 hours in a day; eight of these should be for work, eight for sleep and eight for recreation. One hundred and sixty five years later, there are many in the UK who do not have this basic balance.
Of course, the proposed changes to the directive would have removed the opt out from the 48?hour maximum working week. However, trade?offs leading up to these changes would have seen health care workers who are on?call and expected to work at a moment's notice being considered on?call but inactive or not working at all.
The impact of this on radiographers and other workers within the NHS could be a dramatic rise in the actual hours spent at work. This is on top of the additional hours that they will be forced to work under Agenda for Change. Inevitably, this impacts on service delivery with hospitals struggling to find radiographers willing to provide immediate emergency services when they may not be considered working. Congress, for these reasons, I urge you to support this motion. Thank you.
Graham Stevenson (Transport and General Workers' Union) supported Composite Motion 11.
He said: Congress, our Government seems fixated on diluting EU directives, and the Road Transport Working Time Directive was certainly no exception. Its scope was narrowed to exclude many professional drivers, and the rules were twisted to make waiting periods classed as rest through this wonderful loophole of "periods of availability", as explained already by Bob Monks. The T&G, of course, would wish to associate itself with the original URTU motion.
Accompanying a vehicle being transported by boat or train, or waiting at frontiers, or delays due to traffic prohibitions, no matter how many hours you are stuck is all rest, apparently! We say out on the lonely road that the driver is the only person who can truly say if it is working time or not. But that would never do. It would not be flexible work to listen to the workers! But do not wait for the European Commission to come to the rescue. It has embarked upon a wider project to "liberalise" markets ? a race to the bottom by dominant transnational corporations.
"Light touch regulation" means that the enforcement agency, VOSA, has an "educational" rather than a prosecuting role except, apparently, where there is evidence of persistent offending.
It beggars belief. What next? That breaches of health and safety legislation should only be actionable if it results in real harm? Well, yes, actually, apparently! A chance to reform the long hours and low pay culture in the road transport industry was frittered away in the name of labour flexibility. Without standards, the reasonable employer is undercut by the shifty employer and he, in turn, is undercut by the downright criminal.
The UK is desperately short of professional drivers. Short of shifting the entire population of Warsaw to the UK, the employers and the Government seem to have few answers but the free market. When they can rely on pressurising or importing workers to do 50 or 60 hours a week to secure a living wage, why worry?
The deaths of professional drivers on the road are not recorded as occupational deaths by the Health & Safety Executive. If they were, it would be seen to be the most hazardous job of all. Long driving hours do not only ruin families and health, they kill! The drivers of ministerial limousines are encouraged to take a break every two hours. Well, what is good enough for them ought to be good enough for all professional drivers and the car passengers around them!
The review of the Road Transport Working Time Directive rules is well overdue and we would support the composite and ask comrades to do so and, in so doing, support decency for professional drivers. Thank you, Congress.
Elizabeth Donnelly (AMICUS) supported Composite Motion 11.
She said: Congress, of 25 nations in Europe, Britain's employees work the longest hours, yet we are not the most productive country. Excessive working hours leads to mistakes. Who amongst us wants to be operated on by a doctor who is too tired to see straight? Who amongst us wants to be flown in an aeroplane by a pilot too tired to fly straight? Who amongst us wants to work so many hours that we are too tired to think straight?
However, the Government are well aware of the problems of the long hours culture and tells us to work smarter, not harder, yet they are not smart enough to remove the opt out of the Working Time Directive. The CBI talks of flexibility, yet what they mean is long hours for the workers and long afternoons on the golf course for the bosses. Flexibility is a two?way street. Those companies that offer genuinely flexible work where employees do not have to work excessive hours reap the benefits in increased productivity and higher staff morale.
Britain is changing. More of our members want to spend time with their families. Young men want a greater part of their children's lives than just popping in to watch them sleep. Young women want more than just a pay packet in support from their husbands and partners.
I know there are those in this hall who will say that overtime is vital for their members' income. I say to you this: Your fight is not with an over?bureaucratic European Union that wants to limit your hours. Your fight is with the tight?fisted employers who do not want to pay an honest day's wage for an honest day's work. (Applause)
Congress, before the election, the unions used their influence with the Labour Party to produce the Warwick Agreement; a document that put working people and their families at the centre of Labour's manifesto for the third term. If Labour really wants to help hard?working people, then they must put their money where their mouth is and remove the opt out for the Working Time Directive. Please support the composite. Thank you.
The President: The General Council supports Composite Motion 11.
* Composite Motion 11 was CARRIED.
Report of the General Purposes Committee
The President: Comrades, I now call upon Annette Mansell?Green, the Chair of the GPC, to give a further report.
Annette Mansell?Green (General Purposes Committee) said: Thank you, President. Good afternoon, Congress. I have some further progress of business to report to you. The GPC has approved a composite of motions 43 to 46 and amendments on school education and inclusion. This composite has been numbered C21 and will be distributed to delegates tomorrow morning.
The GPC has also approved an emergency motion on rail safety in the name of the RMT. This motion will be numbered E2 and will be distributed to delegates as soon as possible. The President will indicate when these motions will be taken.
Finally, a reminder, as the President has already announced, the GPC has authorised a collection on behalf of J?FLAG, the organisation supporting lesbians and gay men in Jamaica. This will take place at the close of conference in the entrances to the hall and the main exit at the end of this session. Thank you.
The President: Can you receive that report? Thank you. (Agreed)
Opposing racism and Facism
Steve Davison (AMICUS) moved Composite Motion 5.
He said: President, Congress, I thought when Brendan gave his speech earlier that he was actually moving our motion. Many of the points that he has made actually deal with the issues involved in this.
The composite itself is very wide?ranging. I am hoping that the supporting union colleagues will pick up their specialities as far as this is concerned. It makes a number of very important points; the first one being that BNP membership and active support for the BNP is incompatible with TU membership. There is no place in our Union, in our Movement, for these people. (Applause) No if's, no but's, no way! (Applause)
Secondly, you cannot be a Fascist and deliver public services. How can you operate on an equal opportunities contract during the day, go home and have your tea and become a Fascist at night? You are either a Fascist or you are not. Therefore, it is about choices. "Stop being a Fascist and you will stay in work. If you persist in those activities, we do not want you." Changes have to take place within the public services and legislation for that is required.
The composite is calling for stronger legislation to oust the BNP members from the unions. ASLEF is dealing with that issue a little later on. The composite represents absolute support for our members, families and colleagues who our attacked, intimidated or threatened in any way shape or form by right wing organisations, including the obnoxious Redwatch website.
Finally, the composite is recognising the vital role of education, as far as the fight against racism and Fascism is concerned, and deals with concerns as far as the curriculum is concerned from the teaching unions.
The composite places four demands on the TUC. It demands a prioritisation of community?based campaigning in 2006 as the most effective way of actually dealing with the far right menace. It calls on the TUC to co?ordinate the activities of the affiliates at regional and at national level. It presses for the changes I have indicated, as far as education is concerned, and the securing of the legislation for public sector employment.
Colleagues, these demands all form part of the tool kit of the fight against the far right. The fight against the far right is not a one?off campaign. I am a veteran of the street fighting in the 1970s, as I am sure many people are in this particular hall, where there were some hairy?scary moments in London and in the northern cities. However, we did have the effect of kicking the then National Front off our streets. It is something that has created the basis of building this broad anti?Fascist Movement in Britain.
However, despite all that work, we have to accept that some of our members vote BNP. Therefore, we have to discover the reasons why. We have to engage our members on these ideas that they have. The reasons are many. However, they are generally rooted in unemployment, poverty and change both at work and within society where change appears to be for the worse. This is particularly true in the northern towns that once prospered and once had skilled quality jobs, but are now reduced to the minimum wage being the maximum wage.
In particular, in the northern towns with that strong allegiance to the Labour Party, as the jobs have disappeared, so has the trust of ordinary people in the politicians. It is in that particular climate where people feel disenfranchised, where people who have traditionally supported their aspirations and their beliefs seem to have abandoned them, that scapegoats are looked for as a reason for the problems. Fear takes root and mythology gains ground, as far as people are concerned.
Dealing with this mythology and dealing with these racist myths is an essential part of our task. However, we have also to discuss what really happens. It is not all just perception. There are things that happen in our society which are unacceptable and we have to address those issues as well.
To conclude on what is a big issue here, we need local campaigns run by the unions using traditional trade union methods which unite people and take on the right wing menace. I ask for your support.
Chris Keats (National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers) seconded Motion 5.
She said: A recurring theme in the debates today has been the repeal of the anti?trade union laws and the links that have come up constantly between that and trying to tackle racism and Fascism. I make no apologies in this speech for reiterating a number of the really important points that have been made today.
No delegate at this Congress considered the BNP, Combat 18, the National Front or other such far right organisations to be anything other than racist and Fascist. However, the ground gained by such groups in the recent General Election demonstrates that there are still too many people who remain to be convinced. They remain to be convinced despite the litany of violent offences associated with racist attacks, the setting up of paramilitary groups, the criminal convictions of their leaders for extreme violence, including bombings, desecration of synagogues and mosques, harassment of minority groups and a website dedicated to inciting violence against trade unionists and others who oppose them. The list of their vile activities is endless.
This composite motion asserts that those who publicly proclaim their affiliation to such organisations should not be able to work within the public sector. There will be those who will claim that this is a step too far, that it is an abuse of their human rights. I make no apologies for advocating the removal from public sector work of those who abuse the human rights of others on a daily basis. (Applause)
The views and beliefs of those who are active in the far right organisations are completely incompatible with the ethos and purpose of public services. Who would want those who perpetrate or support such pernicious evil nursing the sick, teaching children and caring for the elderly? Unfortunately, there are affiliates who have within their ranks those who subscribe to these views. They seek the cloak of respectability of belonging to a trade union. Steps to remove them from membership result in claims for unjustifiable dismissal and the potential for members' subscriptions to end up in their coffers funding their campaigns of hatred.
I want to add the congratulations of NASUWT to those affiliates who have made a courageous stand against those within their membership who subscribe to these views. NASUWT has been seeking to take action against a member who stood for the BNP in the recent General Election. Any affiliate who has pursued such a case will know the frustration of finding that the law is becoming a refuge for these people. They hide behind the Human Rights Act, the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act, the Employment Relations Act and even the Race Relations Act.
Congress, the message of this motion is simple. If the law protects such people in their activities, change the law. Repeal the anti?trade union laws of the Thatcher Government which deny unions the right to be self?governing and allow us to expel from membership those who fail to adhere to our rules and objects. Amend the legislation which enables them to remain in public sector occupations while publicly proclaiming their affiliation to and support for an extremist agenda.
This Congress rightly looks to a Labour Government to act now to strike a blow for social justice and to right these wrongs. (Applause)
Mary Bousted (Association of Teachers and Lecturers) supported Composite Motion 5.
She said: Last year Congress passed ATL's motion to close down the Redwatch site. This site aims to intimidate trade unionists who campaign against racism and Fascism. This year, ATL wishes to further the TUC's equalities agenda by focusing attention on the needs of ethnic minority pupils in our schools.
This is a key equalities issue because the proportion of immigrant and ethnic minority children in schools has increased dramatically. In 2004, 17% of the maintained school population in England was classified as belonging to a minority ethnic group. This general increase in minority ethnic pupils is accompanied also by an increase in the number of pupils for whom English is an Additional Language. Since 1997 there has been a 35% increase in the numbers of pupils classified as having EAL.
The Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant (EMAG) is a very important Government policy in the context of raising the achievement of ethnic minority pupils in schools, and ATL wholeheartedly supports it. However, ATL is concerned that many children from ethnic minority groups with additional needs, which can be attributed to complex causes, do not get adequately supported in your schools. This is because the current funding, the current EMAG system, counts each EAL, or minority ethnic pupil, as having the same level of need. Consequently, the funding provided to schools where multiple needs exist is insufficient.
For instance, many schools are only able to provide EAL support for asylum and refugee children, many of whom have several social and psychosocial needs. In some schools, where multiple languages other than English are spoken ?? and in the last school I taught at there were 67 first languages other than English spoken ?? schools can find it virtually impossible to give targeted support to the whole range of pupils who need it. Where resources are insufficient to meet multiple needs, schools face difficult decisions on where to focus their priorities.
ATL argues, therefore, that the funding support for ethnic minority achievement, EMAG, needs to be reformed to even better serve its purpose. EMAG funding needs to consider pupils who have multiple needs. The system must become more targeted, more strategic and more stable to avoid causing insecurity to school staff who are funded through it. The funding also needs to be more responsive to issues of pupil mobility that particularly affects asylum seekers and refugee children.
In addition, ATL calls upon the Government to provide clearer guidance and support to schools and local education authorities on the implementation of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act. In the long term, the Government should consider the pervasive influence of top down targets. Too often these targets result in much needed extra support being denied to those pupils most in need as teachers are forced to focus on achieving in SATS and GCSEs, rather than the individual needs of pupils.
Tackling ethnic minority under?achievement must be a top priority. ATL recognises that it is a huge challenge. It requires determined team efforts. However, together we can tackle it. So let us do it for our pupils, for our society and for our country.
Margaret Greer (UNISON) supported Composite Motion 5.
She said: We are right to be proud, as a trade union Movement, of our fight against the BNP and other far right parties and groups. However, sadly, it is a fight that must continue and one in which we cannot relax. The BNP, in particular, continues to be a threat to our multicultural society with its language of violence and messages of racial hatred. We know that where the BNP has a presence, racist tension increases. There should be no room for their politics in the UK political establishment.
UNISON, alongside our other brother and sister unions and local communities, has always campaigned against the far right and the BNP to prevent them from spreading their hatred on a more significant scale. This campaign has been successful to some extent as the BNP did not win any European Parliament seat nor any London Assembly seat in the June 2004 elections.
However, we are concerned that during the past 13 years the BNP's General Election vote has risen dramatically from 7,005 in 1992 to 192,750 in 2005. We know that they will be targeting those constituencies where they retain their deposit in next year's local elections.
The constant vilification of parts of the UK population by the BNP and others like them only serve to increase division in society and their sort of rhetoric has no place in Britain in 2005. Black and Minority Ethnic Communities - BMEC - have contributed significantly to all aspects of British society and this should be embraced and acknowledged by all. The BNP has always been quick to promote fear and was no less opportunistic following the London bombings of July this year. We deplore the attempts by the BNP to exploit these terrible and very tragic events.
Religious hate crimes, mostly against Muslims, rose six?fold in three weeks after 7th July with 269 hate crimes recorded as opposed to 40 in the same period in 2004, illustrating how dangerous the lies and propaganda of the far right can be.
It would be impossible to stop them from spreading their message of hate and violence if we do not continue to work together with established local community and anti?racist campaign groups to challenge racist and discriminatory actions. We need to campaign continuously, and not just in the run?up to elections, to defeat their hatred. The threat of the BNP and other far right political parties and groups should never be underestimated.
Unfortunately, it still remains necessary to point out that the media?driven frenzy to clamp down with get tough policies on asylum seekers rather than stealing the ground from the far right is actually playing right into their hands. All it does is provide a semblance of legitimacy for the Fascists to pedal their politics of fear. The BNP are racist; the propaganda they spread is evil and dangerous and we must not give in to this vermin.
Finally, it must be stated again and again that BNP membership is not compatible within membership of our unions. Courageous and highly commendable actions have been taken by some unions to attempt to deny the BNP a foothold within the Movement. We must ensure that all possible support is given to our part in the union Movement in doing this. Further legislation is needed to formalize such action to make sure that we exclude Fascists from our organisations with confidence. There can be no complacency in defeating the BNP and other far right groups whenever and wherever they raise their heads. Thank you, Congress, for your patience.
Mick Rix (GMB - Britain's general union) supported Composite Motion 5.
He said: President, Congress, it is right that we should thank the TUC for its work and its continual highlighting of achievements of the unions in pursuing an anti?racist and an anti?Fascist agenda since the growth of the Fascist BNP a few years ago. I think also it is right that we congratulate the swift response of the TUC in attending and helping organise that event in Trafalgar Square when people came together to mourn the bomb victims and to show that racism was not going to take place in our city as a result of people blaming these people for the atrocities that took place that day. It is right also to thank the unions and the many trade union activists who are turning out day in and day out working alongside anti?Fascist groups, working with communities in turning the tide and increasing the fight back against the Fascist BNP.
If I may, I would like to thank my own Union for the tremendous work it has been doing. Most notably, recently, in the London region, and especially in Barking and Dagenham, we had more than 30 branch activists from the local branch campaigning every night and at weekends. We turned that seat around and the BNP lost its only seat in the East End of London. It was a fantastic achievement when we at last rid them from London. (Applause)
The main thing about that, whilst the BNP have targeted this area, is they see it as the new Burnley of the south. Through the diligence of our activists, other trade unionists and the anti?Fascist groups, we have done some great work. However, the main thing about this motion is putting organisation into the fight-back. It is about co?ordination, pooling our resources, pooling our activists and pooling all our efforts to face this terrible scourge of the promoters of hate and hopelessness.
I believe, with the setting up of task groups in the regions, the setting up of a task group of the General Council of national trade unions, where we can actually complement our activities, we will have greater resources to actually defeat these people. Also, it is not just about attending at elections, it is not just about defeating the BNP at elections, it is about promoting positive policies, fighting for positive policies to regenerate our communities, which is causing the scourge of Fascism. We need to put that forward.
I would commend supporting Composite Motion 5. It has been an honour and a pleasure to do so, and let us take this forward. John Tyndall died this summer. I do not think many people are going to regret that passing, but by this organising, and co?ordinating, we can ensure that the death of the BNP will not be long too. (Applause)
Hector Wesley (Public and Commercial Services Union) supported Composite Motion 5.
He said: As a black trade unionist, I am proud to be part of a Movement which has had a long and distinguished record in fighting racism and Fascism. Thankfully, this composite recognises that the battle is far from over. If anything, it is time to redouble our efforts.
PCS believes that being a racist is incompatible with being a public servant. We, therefore, welcome the ban on BNP membership in the prison service. We are campaigning for this ban to be extended to cover the whole Civil Service.
We reject the argument that the BNP are a legitimate political party that public servants are entitled to join. Quite simply, the BNP are thugs. They like to portray themselves as the friend of the working man, concerned about public services, like housing, education and health, but if they really cared about those services, they would value the huge contribution that black people have made in providing them. The truth is as I have stated; the BNP are thugs. It is no surprise that in areas where they get elected there are increases in racist attacks.
PCS supports its activists whenever they face intimidation and racism. Recently, one of our members was threatened with dismissal for gross misconduct. His offence was that he was shown on a TV news report protesting outside Leeds Crown Court where Nick Griffin was appearing on various criminal charges. We supported that member and the disciplinary charges were subsequently dropped.
PCS is appalled at the recent decision of the Employment Appeals Tribunal in the Redfern case. It sets a precedent which means that employers who dismiss staff who are BNP members could potentially face claims of race discrimination from those staff. Congress, we cannot allow our race relations and human rights legislation to be abused in this way.
PCS is fully committed to playing its full part in implementing the terms of this composite. In doing this, we will fully involve our black members as we believe that black workers should be at the forefront of this struggle. I urge Congress to give this composite your wholehearted support. Thank you very much.
Peter Jones (NATFHE ? The University & College Lecturers' Union) supported Composite Motion 5.
He said: I have just heard someone talking about the New Burnley of the south. I am from the old Burnley of the north! In many ways, standing here and talking to you about this issue, opposing racism and Fascism, is almost like preaching to the converted. Even so, all of us, every one of us in this room, have to remain ever watchful because if we drop our guard, those racists and Fascists will use that and exploit it. We need to know that we will be ever watchful and they need to know that too.
They do not, and neither will they ever, applaud the stand that we take as trade unionists to defend workers' jobs and rights, such as those that we have heard about at Gate Gourmet today. However, they will try to drive a wedge between you and me, between worker and worker, between black and white and between brother and sister.
Who are these people? They are the dross from the scum end of the political spectrum. They seek to invade our communities like a virus; they seek to invade our trade unions like parasites and they are not nice people.
Working in Burnley, the BNP capital of Britain, I see these people close up. We have the councillors in our council chambers. These are the very same councillors who are charged with domestic violence for beating up their wives. These are the very same councillors who get their mates to hold down their very own members while they attack them with broken bottles. These are the kinds of people we are talking about; these are the kinds of people who are being elected to councils. Their supporters too are the kind of people who make a night out in Burnley a very, very fearful experience for many of our members.
I have said before in other forums, particularly in my own Union, that in the council chambers, on the terraces of the football club, in the pubs and the clubs, I can hear something in the very dark corners and in the recesses. What I can hear is the march of the jackboot and the sound of that march is getting louder and louder for people like myself.
Individually, collectively, as trade unions, we must continue to fight to ensure that we can throw the racists and Fascists out of our unions. We should not, we will not, give them a forum; we should not, we will not, let them have a voice; we should not and we will not have them as members in our trade unions. Thank you.
Mohammad Taj (Transport and General Workers Union) supporting Composite 5 said: I welcome this composite, in particular I welcome its wide scope and temperate tone. We must be clear, and some of you may be shocked to hear this from me, we cannot demonise everyone who has voted for the BNP. All of those people were misguided, a lot of them are simply stupid, and far too many of them are plain bigots, yet I refuse to see them all as evil. It is our role to work with these people at a community level and bring them back to the world of reason, tolerance, and respectable politics.
With the BNP's leadership and active members we are dealing with a different situation. The BNP is a party that is founded on hate and division. The BNP is a party that promotes hate and division; due to this, BNP activists have no place in public service. You can make an intellectual argument for this, but I will not. I will just ask you to consider a couple of examples. How would you feel about an isolated black pensioner being reliant for medication and food on a care worker who believes that someone with a darker skin is a subhuman? How would you feel about a disturbed and vulnerable Jewish child having to rely on a key worker who denies the holocaust and has a collection of Nazi daggers in his bedroom?
BNP activists can have no place in our Movement. Whatever they may say in public the BNP, like all Fascist parties, would destroy trade unions. To be committed to the BNP is to be opposed to the very purposes of trade unionism. The BNP is about division, hatred, and tyranny, not about unity, equality, and democracy. We must keep a sense of proportion. The BNP is tiny, ineffective, and full of splits. It is not a tiger about to devour us. The BNP is a nasty, poisonous insect of a party. We do not like nasty, poisonous insects in our country so it is time we put on our big trade union boots and crushed them for ever. Delegates, I commend this composite to you.
Colin Moses (Prison Officers Association UK) supporting Composite 5 said: I have spoken on this subject at Congress on many occasions. I find it actually sad that we are here again today discussing this subject, but we must. Do not forget where we are now. 'Islamaphobia' rages, but stoked by whom? It is stoked by mainstream newspapers, not members of the BNP. Members of the BNP use the events that took place on 7th June as reasons for their terrible actions. They are wrong.
Could I just ask you to think on this. You will pick up newspapers in the days and weeks ahead which will be full of the sentencing policies in this country. How many BNP members, wearing their BNP badges, carrying their BNP leaflets, are stopped and searched? Whilst the BNP is allowed to behave as it does without challenge, people will live in fear. We supposedly have a war on terrorism. Congress, racism is terrorism; we must have a war on racism.
We will not stop the BNP by words alone. Support this composite, but this composite will not stop the BNP, it will not stop the racists in our society. We can stop them with real deterrents. If you racially abuse, if you racially attack, then you should be sentenced to prison. This is from a man who leads a union that in the days ahead will talk about reducing our prison population. If you check on the 77,000 people we have in prison and find out how many of them are in prison for racist attacks, it is a very, very small minority.
What is happening to the racists who go to court? What is happening to those who perpetrate the fear on our streets? Are they being supported by Mr. Howard and his Conservative Party? Do not forget Mr. Howard's views during the election on gypsies. He could be a member of the BNP. As I said earlier, we will not stop Fascism with talk but we will stop it with action, we will stop it by standing together, and we will stop it by saying there is no place in our society for racism. Racist attacks should be dealt with severely, not by just saying we can convert racists; we cannot convert those who perpetrate racist attacks and create fear on our streets. Please support this composite.
Chris Tapper (Communication Workers Union) supporting Composite 5 said: It has been mentioned previously that the next eight months are going to be the most important eight months that we will have in fighting Fascism, in particular with the local government elections. Between then and now what we do as a trade union movement, together with other people, will be vital. The BNP will be expecting to make gains. In the last General Election they quadrupled their votes. It was absolutely disgusting but, as previous speakers have said, some people were misled by these horrible, disgusting people.
The CWU believe there is only one way of dealing with Fascism, that is, via unity. Unity is the message put out by Brendan Barber, Together Stronger. Unity is the way we can deal with this. Unity has become the theme of a lot of organisations and bodies over the past number of years. We have united against the war. We have united against poverty. We have united against racism, and we must continue to unite together with all organisations.
The organisation, Unite Against Fascism, has played a crucial part in getting together all religious trade unions, organisations, NGOs, in fighting racism. The CWU believe that it is important to continue this as one body with the UAF playing a vital role. I am proud to say that my union has been involved with the UAF in organising events, organising to get rid of the BNP. We have done this in several forums. We have done this at our own conference, and our youth committee organised a social, mixing politics together, to get the message across. The youth committee is getting the message out to all of our younger members. The problem is that we have to make sure this message is clear to everybody.
Finally, Congress, I will leave you with one name. Somebody mentioned earlier the death of Stephen Lawrence 10 years ago. I am going to mention another person who has been murdered by Fascists, Anthony Walker, the young student in Liverpool. Remember that name, Congress, Anthony Walker. What did he do to deserve to be murdered by these people? He did nothing. He deserves for us to go out and campaign to ensure this does not happen again. The first place you should do this, Congress, is in Leeds on November 2nd. Nick Griffin will be there in front of a court. Go there and rally. Go there and demand that this man is put in prison, just as the previous POA member has stated.
With that, Congress, I wholeheartedly support this composite.
Val Salmon (Fire Brigades Union) supporting Composite 5 said: In Hampshire we had a fire-fighter that used his position of trust in his community to stand for election as a BNP candidate. Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service are quoted as being a beacon for equality and justice with their core value statement; they sat by and did nothing. When one of the Fire Brigade Union members complained, as a result he and his family were bullied and harassed by this individual, with his name and personal details appearing on the BNP website. Hampshire Fire & Rescue Service did nothing. Unfortunately, the BNP candidate was not a member of ours, otherwise we would have expelled him; that is our policy and we will see anybody in court over it.
Gloucester Fire & Rescue Service almost got it right but they have belatedly watered down their policy regarding membership of the BNP being incompatible with working in the Fire & Rescue Service to it only being incompatible if they are active in the BNP. After the Police Chief Officers Organisation made it clear they will not employ members of the BNP, we lobbied their counterparts in the Fire & Rescue Service for the same commitment. The silence is deafening. The BNP have targeted FBU officials who have campaigned against them delivering their programme of filth and hatred. Regardless, we will continue to fight them wherever they crawl from under their rocks. There is no room in the FBU for the BNP members, active or not, and we demand that our employers and the Government move against them, too. Support the composite.
* Composite Motion 5 was CARRIED.
Jeremy Dear (National Union of Journalists) speaking to paragraph 2.8 of the General Council Report said: I welcome the motion we passed last year on Redwatch and the progress that was made immediately following it, the letter that went from the TUC to the government asking them to take action against Redwatch. There was then the delegation meeting that was organised where a number of unions who were involved in the motion, along with Frances O'Grady, went to see the Home Secretary to ask what action the department was taking. At that meeting, we were told that they would consider what appropriate action could be taken to close down the Redwatch website. It seems that since then there has been a deafening silence. I wonder if we could have some progress update. I also wonder what extra pressure we can bring to bear on the government to get the Redwatch site closed down before more trade unionists have to face the attacks from the Fascists.
The President: Could I invite Gloria Mills to comment for the General Council, having had absolutely no notice. Thank you very much. Gloria.
Gloria Mills (General Council): The General Council has been actively pursuing what more can be done to close down the Redwatch website. As indicated in the General Council Report, in March this year, and as Jeremy has said, the Deputy General Secretary led a delegation of a number of unions, including the NUJ, to see the Home Secretary on this issue. This was a constructive meeting. We made the strong views of the TUC and the unions on Redwatch and other Fascist websites known. We followed up the meeting by supplying a dossier of evidence collected from our TUC affiliates showing how Redwatch is organised to intimidate trade unions and trade unionists. We recognised that the Home Secretary has a particularly full agenda to address at present. However, following our meeting with him we wrote again to urge that the prosecution of the individuals running the website be prioritised. We stressed the urgent need for a government response, especially given the imminent local elections in Spring 2006. It is vital that campaigning against far right parties should not be hampered by intimidatory websites.
Congress, I want to thank the NUJ for their intervention but I also want to say that you may rest assured we will continue to press this issue until we get the Redwatch website closed down, and we will continue to follow this up with the Home Secretary. Thank you.
Amendment to Equality Bill
The President: The General Council support Composite Motion 6.
Alan Jarman (UNISON) moved Composite Motion 6, an amendment to the Equality Bill, on behalf of the LGBT Members Conference. He said: Congress, we all recognise the need for laws, they are a vital tool in helping to build and maintain a just, equal, and fair society. The laws that we have in relation to combating discrimination , however, make a mockery of the concept of equality. Take for example, a lesbian, and we will call her Marigold, who lives in Bromley and applies for a job at a hotel. She cannot be legally discriminated against on the grounds of her sexual orientation yet that same hotel can refuse her and her partner a room for the evening on the grounds of their sexual orientation. How can this be right or legal?
For members of the transgender community, the Sex Discrimination Act was extended in 1999 to make clear that discrimination on the grounds of gender reassignment is sex discrimination but only in employment and vocational training. This, we believe, highlights the need to ensure that all legislation that deals with discrimination and equality are given equal weight, as well as gravitas, and fully enforced by the law. The government this spring launched a review of equalities legislation which may eventually lead to a single equality bill. In the meantime, the equality bill that is the subject of this motion is to be debated in the House of Commons in the next few weeks. This will seek to create a new commission for equality and human rights.
Congress, consider that this bill will introduce protection against discrimination in the areas of goods, facilities, and services only on the grounds of religion and belief but for some reason not on the grounds of sexual orientation. Why is it that this government believes that there is a hierarchy to discrimination? The TUC LGBT Committee has already made the point that it would have been appropriate to ensure that this anomaly is covered in the current equality bill to send out the message that all forms of discrimination are not tolerated in our society.
Congress, from December 2005, lesbians and gay men all over the UK will have the right to register their same sex partnership, which I am sure we all welcome, but some local authorities, for example, Bromley in London, and Lisburn in Northern Ireland, have already come out - do excuse my turn of phrase - and said that they will bar some couples from even having ceremonies on council property. Comrades, hoteliers or restaurant managers who hold bigoted or contrary views will be allowed to discriminate against those couples who merely wish to celebrate the formalising of their relationship in law. This, Congress, we believe is nothing short of a travesty.
As a result of lobbying by the Trade Union Movement, the matter of this anomaly was raised at House of Commons committee level leading to the government agreeing to look into this over the course of the summer. To look into what, Congress? They say they are looking into technical problems but we would ask, are there any technical problems in outlawing bigotry? Congress, although we may not wish it so the summer is almost over and now we are asking all of you, and the General Council, to question the government as to what they have found in this review, in this 'looking at'. We can only hope that there are some concrete answers and proposals. Congress, this must be done speedily to ensure that questions are raised when the bill comes back before the House of Commons this Autumn.
The TUC LGBT Conference believes that there is no reason to delay further an amendment to the current equality bill. Be in no doubt that we must ensure that all of you today lobby for an amendment to this bill. It may be, as the government has already acknowledged, that a future equality bill can provide the protection that we are seeking. Congress, we do not want to and why should we have to wait for more crumbs falling from the table of government.
Congress, at the beginning of my speech I told you about Marigold from Bromley and her partner who may suffer discrimination. We all represent workers who are LGBT and those workers also partake and participate in our society. We must ensure that when they celebrate their civil partnership in December we did something to make certain their day is special, even in Bromley.
Jonathan Baume (FDA) seconding Composite Motion 6 said: I am proud to second this motion but also disappointed that this motion has to be on the agenda. We all welcomed the introduction two years ago of the regulations outlawing discrimination at work on the grounds of sexual orientation. The government were congratulated for implementing what has been landmark legislation but there have been no plaudits whatsoever for their clumsy and confused handling of the current equality bill. The bill itself has a number of positive features. I am sure we all recognise the value of the changes that will make it illegal to discriminate in providing goods and services on the grounds of religion and belief. Why on earth should it be illegal to refuse a hotel room to someone who is a Muslim or a Siekh but perfectly legal to refuse that same hotel room to someone who is gay or a transsexual?
The FDA was proud to support Unison's emergency motion at the LGBT Conference in July. However, that motion in focusing on sexual orientation but not on gender identity potentially suggested that we were opposed to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation but would be content for such discrimination to transsexuals or transvestites. That was not, of course, Unison's intention and I am glad that they have accepted the amendment. What we do now need is a concerted campaign to confront the government's refusal to tackle the deficiencies that Alan has just set out. Frankly, the government's explanations of why it is refusing so far to do so veer between the bizarre and the insulting. There has been an argument that it is too complex. That is, frankly, nonsense. I do not think we believe that and I cannot imagine that seriously the government does either. It should not actually be for the other political parties to come forward with that amendment. The government itself has made a series of commitments over the years to offer full protection to the lesbian and gay community and it is the government who should act.
Tolerance and respect in Britain have travelled great distances since the 1960s but there unquestionably remains a strong element of active homophobia or at the very least discreet contempt. The government's equivocation and evasion on this issue simply helps to reinforce that. As a trade union movement we have a duty to continue to challenge homophobia wherever it is manifested. I should add that that includes its prevalence amongst the faith and religious communities. We have said that we give full support to the religious communities, that we respect their beliefs and their right to live free from discrimination, but I think equally we can turn to them and say that we expect their respect for the lesbian and gay community to live equally free from discrimination. Whether it is some Muslims, Christian Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Rastafarians, it does not matter what your religion says, if your religion is telling you that gays are evil or that gays should be murdered, then frankly your religion has got it wrong and we should not hesitate to send that message, and neither should the government. Get off the fence and act. Support the motion. Support the lobbying, whether at national or constituency level. Thank you.
Tim Hoyle (Nationwide Group Staff Union) supporting Composite Motion 6 said: I am pleased to be supporting this composite. As you have already heard from both Alan and Jonathan, it is essential that this equality bill is amended to include provisions in relation to sexual orientation. I would like to focus in particular on paragraph 6 of this composite in relation to the make-up of the board and committees of the commission. The challenges that the board, committees, and the commission will face in fulfilling the duties outlined in this Act will be immense, but they must face these challenges if the expectations of so many of our society who continue to face prejudice and discrimination in their daily lives are to be met. They must meet these challenges head on and they must do so quickly and effectively.
It is important, therefore, that the commission can call upon the resources of people who have real experience in tackling issues of equality, people who understand how destructive and divisive prejudice and discrimination can be, people who have experience of working within communities and promoting the value of diversity and of shared respect for equality and human rights. These people are trade unionists and it is vital that our experience is represented within this commission from the outset. We have the experience of tackling these issues as we work with and support our members. The contribution that trade unionists can make to the commission, the board, and its committees, is clear. The only way to guarantee that our experience as trade unionists is utilised to the full, the representation on the board and committees that will look at the activities, the provisions, the services, must therefore ensure that the bill enshrines trade unionists as a full part of this new body. I therefore call upon Congress to support the composite. Thank you.
- Composite Motion 6 was CARRIED
The President: I now call Motion 17, Disability and employment. The General Council support the motion.
Disability and employment
Richard Reiser (National Union of Teachers) moved Motion 17. He said: I am pleased to move this motion on behalf of the TUC Disability Conference. This was a prioritised motion because, not surprisingly, we are still in the same position that we have been when we have come to this rostrum before. This is not down to our colleagues here, it is down to the employers, it is down to everybody, really, that we have the same position on unemployment and lack of employment for disabled people of working age that we have had for a very long time, that is, 50% of us are not working. If that was a fact for non disabled people, it would be top of our agenda but because it is disabled people - and in our society there is something called disablism, which is a form of oppression which thinks of people differently because they have an impairment of one sort or another - we have to challenge and change our own practices, as well as putting pressure on government to change in order to end this shameful situation.
It is not about compulsion, it is about creating real jobs and security for people in work who acquire impairments, as well as recruiting disabled people. I suppose it is not strange that our society is riven with very strange ideas. If you have been at the cinema any time in the last few years you will have seen some very strange ideas; it may be the remaking of Marvel comics, Batman, or the X-Men, Dare Devil, all of which have disabled superheroes or villains in them. The message that is coming out from this is that we are just not ordinary, we are not the same as everybody else.
Of course, we are all of us, including all the non disabled people, non disabled people waiting to become disabled. The reality of life is that by the time we reach 80, 80% of us will be disabled people, so get used to it; it is just that some of us have to live our lives with it all the time. Should that preclude us from actually having access to work, being trained, and getting higher qualifications? No.
In order to challenge this we are putting forward a strategy that each and every union has to take this much more seriously. We have been taking it more seriously. This excellent report, the TUC Equality Audit, points to the increase in unions taking up disability issues: 98% of membership is covered by you here, 73% of unions reporting say they are taking up disability issues, and 52% say they are taking forward negotiations, and negotiations are what we need. We need, for instance, to distinguish between sick leave and sick monitoring, and disability leave, and leave which it is necessary to take because of an impairment should not count in sickness monitoring schemes. That is a simple thing for everybody to negotiate but it is not the reality in many workplaces, therefore disabled people are segregated in these systems and discriminated against.
One of the ways to deal with this will be actually to have an audit in every workplace. The Transport & General Workers Union led the way, according to this audit, in that in the Year of the Disabled, 2003, they initiated 115 audits in workplaces all over the country. We need audits in every workplace to see how accessible it is, and not just in terms of ramps, lifts, and loops. Do not forget, only one in 13 disabled people are wheelchair users; the vast majority of us are not visible.
I was at a fringe meeting at lunchtime on HIV-Aids which has gone off as a major issue. We must remember that people with HIV and Aids are disabled people and they have the same rights to employment as everybody else. Many many people with mental health issues are excluded from our system of employment for no good reason; with simple adjustments people could actually carry out a useful job. Many employees who are disabled are a benefit, as the Small Employers Federation have stated. If you want to check it out, look at the Disability Rights Commission website.
Really, we should not be relying on the Disability Rights Commission to make this fight, it is our fight actually to improve the employment position for disabled people across the country. Therefore, we need more access to work money, we need to have the right to be reinstated if we win discrimination tribunals, and we also need to introduce legislation which will give new leave arrangements. As for ourselves, we need equality reps in every workplace, and we need training.
The last thing we need to gear up is by no means the least, the law is changing and for the good, for all public sector bodies, including private companies that carry out public functions, from December 2006 will have to have an equality plan which will be robust and monitored. We can play a key role in developing that but we have to start now with the training all of our reps and challenging our employers to get these schemes under way.
Donna Duncan (British Dietetic Association) seconding Motion 17 said: I work in the health service as a dietician and this brings me in contact with colleagues with disability every day who have been supported through Access to Work. Legislation has opened up the world of work for people with disability, or for some people. To illustrate this I am going to tell you Paul's story.
I want you to imagine on a sunny beach in Portugal, you are Paul, aged 40, setting off for a swim. Imagine the waves are so strong they bowl you over. Imagine being flown back to the spinal injuries unit in the UK after an emergency operation. Imagine recovery is slow but you regain some independence. Imagine your employer making changes to enable you to return to work part-time in a role where you can use the knowledge and skills you gained over 27 years in the job.
The support Paul received has been made possible because of the changes in the Disability Discrimination Act but even so the information he was provided on his rights under the Act were minimal. His accident was in September last year. Until this July it was uncertain if his employment would be terminated or he would have to be pensioned off when his sick pay ran out. This brought worries about financial insecurity on top of the physical changes he had experienced. Paul was supported by his trade union to make the necessary adjustments to help him return to work. His employers already knew how to support disabled workers and knew the benefits if they could use, not lose, the knowledge, skills, and experience, of their staff. They were able to see Paul's ability and not his disability.
Paul's story demonstrates the key role of trade unions, working together we can make it possible for all categories of employees to return to employment, not just those who work in areas with strong traditions of supporting disabled workers. Finally, imagine Paul's employer granting paid disability leave to enable him to achieve the maximum physical recovery he can achieve. Imagine the difference this would make to Paul's contribution and productivity at work. Imagine the impact on his dignity, financial independence, and ability to support his wife and daughter.
The TUC on behalf of us all are best placed to champion the appropriate use of disability leave in the place of sick leave where there are substantial long-term effects on an individual's abilities. You can now stop using your imagination. We urge Congress to raise the employment issues at the top of the disability agenda. In addition, we ask Congress to seek the introduction of legislation to provide paid disability leave for all those with new or changed impairments. Please support.
Lynne Chambelain (NATFHE - the University & College Lecturers' Union) supporting Motion 17 said: I teach visually impaired people at the RNIB College in Redhill. We train or retrain people for work on a range of courses, including information technology and administration, which is the one I do. Many students have attended the college victims of sheer discrimination in the workplace due to their sight difficulties. Some may have been to employment tribunals seemingly on the up and winning the cases, only to find they have been completely stitched up by the bosses who have not offered reasonable adjustments, or they have even downgraded the posts without compensation. This is outrageous.
Any one of the students that I teach, whose ages range from something like 18 to over 60, would be an absolute asset in the workplace. It is the sight that has gone and, as tragic as that is, it is not the intellect, not the IQ, and so on. With access technology they are as able, if not more able, than non disabled people to work and produce equally first-class results. The problem with Access to Work is that it is too inflexible, it can take months to get the right equipment into place for somebody, by which time the job is in jeopardy. Recently, a student of mine was offered two jobs over three days but was told that he could only have one assessment for one job. That would not happen to an able-bodied person.
I want to link this up with pensions. Part of the introduction to the TUC solving the pensions crisis states, 'We believe that increasing the employment rate amongst the working age population has to be a key part of the solution.' Absolutely, yes. We say the working age population should include people with disabilities. We need to ensure these workers are part of the solution, as has been said by the first speaker, bearing in mind that once we are over 50 many of us will have a disability, over 70% of people in the UK between the ages of 18 and 65 may have one, and so on, four out of five workers may develop a disability once they are over a certain age.
I know we do not have a lot of time but I need to mention the case of one woman who is supported by NATFHE and UNISON, and some other unions. This woman is called Violet Pethiyagoda, she is registered blind, and an asylum seeker. She fled from Sri Lanka a few years ago. Violet is an excellent IT worker. She speaks five languages and, like other people I have just mentioned, will be an absolute asset in the workplace. This government wants to send her back to Sri Lanka to certain persecution instead of allowing her to work here. Her sin in Sri Lanka, she is Sinhalese, is that she married a Tamil. Her brother and husband were murdered by the Tamil Tigers. Violet and other people who are registered blind, are disabled, or are asylum seekers, would be a real boon to this economy.
Congress, we must pressurise the government and tight-fisted bosses to provide full and meaningful employment for disabled people. Thank you.
Gordon Rowntree (Public and Commercial Services Union) supporting Motion 17 said: It is quite correct when the motion says that the employment prospects of disabled people remain bleak. It is therefore no surprise that when a disabled person finds his or her job under threat it is going to affect them more than an able-bodied person.
This can be demonstrated by a recent sad case that occurred in the Inland Revenue and was subsequently the subject of a successful employment tribunal hearing brought by PCS. One of our members, a man named Nigel Osborne-Clark, a married man with a young family who was profoundly deaf from birth, started work in the Revenue in January 2003. He had been performing fully up to standard and was a popular member of his team but in October of that year he was summoned to see his manager over an alleged incident of computer misuse. His crime was actually accessing his wife's file. Although he admitted to this, he was unaware that it was a gross misconduct charge under the department's computer misuse policy.
He became extremely distressed when he found out about it. He took the next day off on the sick and was feeling really really depressed from there. The Inland Revenue supposedly has a strong diversity in equal opportunity policy yet the human resources department did not take responsibility for ensuring that appropriate arrangements were made, and the area disability officer did not make contact with Nigel or his manager. He had filled in an Access to Work application and indicated that he would need a British sign language interpreter for meetings or reviews. In the response from the Access to Work they indicated as well that he would need interpreter support for team meetings, job reviews, training courses, etc.
Because his manager did not get any support he was not aware that this was an automatic right so it was only agreed that the interpreter would attend formal training courses and job reviews. Because the disciplinary procedure takes time Nigel was left in a state of uncertainty about his future for months. Tragically, last February Nigel hung himself. The tribunal said his distress was connected with his deafness because he was married with a child, he had another child on the way, and his family were dependent on his earnings, and his disability meant that the number of jobs available to him was limited. The tribunal found that the Inland Revenue breached the 1995 DDA by failing to ensure that Nigel was given a VSL interpreter for an induction process relating to the organisation's policy on computer issues. They were ordered to pay £15,000, plus interest and damages.
Thankfully, tragedies like this do not generally happen too often but in the present climate with job cuts, particularly in areas like the public services, an increase in this type of incident is only too likely. I am sure Congress is appalled as much by this event as PCS, and we are going to continue to support others to raise awareness and to ensure that dignity and fairness in the workplace is upheld. We call on Congress wholeheartedly to support this motion.
The President: The General Council supports the motion.
* Motion 17 was CARRIED
Pam Tinsley (Amicus) speaking to paragraph 2.10 said: I am a Congress virgin; please bear with me.
I want to know what Congress is going to do under this motion to secure the needs of people within the Remploy factories. We want to work. Recent government policy has delivered a lot of improvements with 50 per cent of disabled people working, but a lot of them are working in jobs that are totally unsuitable for them. They are working where they are not protected. They are not working in the factories that were set up to protect people with disabilities. Having a job, being able to work, having adjustments made for you -- as has been said by other speakers -- is terribly important. I work for Remploy, which is meant to be a caring organisation. Five years ago our Remploy management gave out something called Remploy 21 and promised that the workforce would never fall below 6,000. There are 5,100 in the factories. If you ask Remploy they say 'No, we have 6.000 people working', but these include outsourced workers, people who are not working in a protected environment. Please, will Congress help to protect these people? Will they help to keep Remploy factories open for people who cannot hope to work in outside industry?
Rehana Azam (GMB) speaking to paragraph 2.10 of the General Report said: I am speaking in support of paragraph 2.10 of the General Council Report.
GMB welcomes the disability section of this report. We thank the General Council for its continued support for our members working in Remploy. We are pleased that this report backs the GMB campaign to achieve the higher level of disabled factory-based employees to which Remploy had agreed. GMB will continue to apply pressure until those agreed levels are reached. No doubt you have already seen our committed Remploy activists. They are calling on your support to preserve the viability of the Remploy factory network, so please continue to show your support.
I would now like to turn to the last section of this paragraph, which mentions the improving life chances of disabled people's report. Overall, that report is to be welcomed as a major step forward, but let me spell out a warning for, hidden away in that weighted report, is a single innocuous but potentially damaging recommendation. Recommendation 7.13 proposes withdrawing funding from programmes that are deemed not to integrate disabled people in mainstream employment. Instead, funding will be directed to programmes that progress disabled people towards open employment. Progression can mean different things to different people, so how that recommendation is implemented is critical. That is why the trades unions must be involved in these discussions.
Let us take a reality check. Ninety per cent of employers regard blind or partially sighted people as either difficult or impossible to employ. Small surprise then that three out of four people with visual impairment are not in work. It is paternalistic to suggest that disabled workers must always be progressed into open employment. Are disabled people to be denied a choice in where they work? Where their supported workplace is not at fault for failing to progress, it must not be penalised. The problem really lies with mainstream employers who refuse to shed out-dated prejudices. Nearly a decade after the DDA became law disabled people are still denied real employment opportunities that are available to their non-disabled counterparts. The GMB calls for some joined-up government thinking to create quality jobs for disabled people. For example, why create a public sector disability equality duty if the public procurement regulations do not require public bodies to reserve contracts for supported workplaces?
The President : I call Mark Fysh to respond for the General Council.
Mark Fysh (General Council): Let us make this perfectly clear: the TUC's position is that you will be supported in your employment in Remploy and other areas. What we want to see is proper, well-paid jobs, the end to the glass ceiling, the end to second class citizenships, no more second-class jobs, and we will fight for that and get that. I hope that situation is perfectly clear.
I would want to make one further point and it was made earlier. All of you at some time will become disabled, so this is not a sideline issue, this is not an add-on, this is real and it will affect you, so help us to help you.
The President: I call Composite 7 on age discrimination. The General Council support the composite motion and I will be calling the Deputy General Secretary, Frances O'Grady, during the debate to explain the General Council's position.
Peter Pendle (Association for College Management) moved Composite Motion 7.
He said: ACM welcomes the fact that finally we are going to make age discrimination unlawful. This is long overdue and will benefit people of all ages. However, although we are happy with the principles of outlawing age discrimination, we are very concerned about some of the practices. In particular, we believe the draft regulations are too technical and too employer-focused. A key difference between the draft regulations and most other areas in employment law is that employers can justify direct age discrimination in order to avoid liability and, as the composite motion clearly shows, there are a number of specific issues with which we have concerns. None is more important than the retirement age.
It may seem strange that we are saying that workers should be able to work longer in life. Of course, everyone should have the right to retire at or before the normal retirement age with a proper pension, but more and more people want to work on. People are living longer, professional workers no longer work for the same corporation for all their working lives. Gap years and career breaks are becoming more and more common. People choose to start families later in life, or have second families. Forty-year mortgages are common and, even now, some people just cannot afford to retire because their pensions have been stolen.
So what do the regulations say? They introduce a national default retirement age of 65 and the concepts of planned and unplanned retirements. They will also make retirement a fair reason for dismissal, at the same time removing the 65-year age limit for claiming unfair dismissal. Retirement before age 65 will only be lawful if it can be justified, and working on after 65 will be allowed. That sounds simple enough. The problems can be seen in the small print. What is supposed to be a flexible approach to retirement age is really only flexible if you are an employer. There is too little in the regulations for the workers.
Firstly, an employer will still be able to force someone to retire simply by giving six months' notice. In the regulations they call this planned retirement, although the upper age limit for redundancy payments is also being abolished. The key concern here is that employers will use the new fair reason of a retirement dismissal to avoid making future redundancy payments. A worker can challenge whether it was a genuine retirement dismissal but they will need to submit a grievance and then perhaps follow the tribunal route. In their consultation document the government say there will be a heavy burden of proof needed to show that the dismissal was not a genuine retirement. Many employers will use this to sack their oldest workers, save some money and get away with it.
Secondly, we have what is known as the duty to consider. This is to be about choice: the choice to consider working after the default or employers' justified retirement age. It is a procedure enabling workers to make a request to remain employed. According to the consultation document, it is modelled on the existing right to request flexible working but that is where the similarity ends. The employer has a duty to consider but has absolutely no obligation to do this in any meaningful way. The employer can say 'no' without even explaining why, and there is nothing the worker can do. Clearly, there needs to be some further duty on the employer to justify properly a 'no' decision.
Thirdly, we have the default retirement age itself. It is currently set at 65, but the government were originally looking at a default retirement age of 70. Unless there is a radical change of thinking, we would not be at all surprised if the default retirement age were raised. It certainly is not going to come down. Then there will be extra pressure on occupational pension schemes to raise their own retirement ages.
Colleagues, the way that the age regulations affect retirement is very complex and, although well intended, they have some serious shortcomings. We fear a very big increase in employment tribunal applications. I have concentrated on the retirement age, just one aspect of these regulations. The speakers who follow will deal with other points. Please support the composite.
Barry Camfield (Transport & General Workers' Union) seconded Composite 7 on Age Discrimination but coming at it from quite a different angle. Unions must fight for the right to retire with dignity, a decent pension and retirement while we are still young enough to enjoy it. We have to be very careful not to send the wrong message about individual choice in retirement. Employers and government want a larger and more flexible labour force. They talk of individual choice; they do not talk about collective bargaining. This composite calls for retirement policy to be framed within retirement age limits that are agreed by collective bargaining.
The composite also recognises the need to avoid workers being coerced into working beyond their normal retirement age and recognises the implications for the whole workforce. We demand collective and not individual solutions: the right to retire with dignity, a decent pension and, as I said, while we are still young enough. Otherwise, it is the thin end of the wedge. Once they have softened us up and people are working past 65 in large numbers, it will be much easier for them to defer payments on pensions, give us the choice to work until we drop or being forced out through sickness to live the rest of our days in poverty.
We have made many of the same arguments about the Working Time Directive here today. We do not want individuals working themselves to death under the guise of choice. We hear a lot about the ageing population, but it does not mean we can all work longer. On average, a male professional -- and you have to listen to who is speaking today -- lives to 79, an unskilled worker to only 71. For unskilled women workers life expectancy actually decreases. Overall, nearly one in three men will die before they are 70, one in five before they are 65. Also, we are living longer in poor health: nine years of ill health for the average male.
So where is this clamour for working past 65 coming from? Only 5 per cent of the population want to, according to a survey by the Employers Forum on age; three-quarters want to retire by 60. Half of the respondents said a fixed retirement age lets people retire with dignity, and a similar number said they were worried that if there were not a fixed age they would be forced to carry on working. We do not accept that the answer to unequal pay for women is for women to work longer. People should retire by 65 or younger.
Be very careful not to allow retirement ages to go up and read this resolution very carefully. On the basis of our amendments to it we second.
Jonathan Bourne (FDA) supporting the motion said: The forthcoming age discrimination legislation will be among the most important employment law for many years, and crucially it affects every member, however young, however old. Much of the argument and debate has, as Barry has just explained, focused on the implications for retirement, but in practice there will be an impact at all stages of people's working lives. We will need to systematically re-negotiate the considerable swathe of personnel practices and staff handbooks. Any agreement, any working condition, that might have directly or indirectly a bearing on the age of the worker will be up for review. The time is quite short. The government had promised that the regulations would be ready by October 20O4. In fact, we have only just seen the drafts, currently out for consultation, and responses are due by 17 October. Therefore, the final regulations will be unlikely to be published until the beginning of next year so we will have nine months, not two years' notice.
The reason for the delay, the key reason, has been this argument over whether or not to have a default fixed retirement age or no national retirement age at all. The government, under heavy pressure from the CBI, opted for a fixed age of 65 supported by some -- though not all -- unions. It is important to emphasise that the arguments we have had about retirement age are, in my view, tactical; they are not about principles. The FDA, the transport workers, other unions, share a common aim, to maintain a state pension age of 65 and allow workers dignity in old age. We have had differences -- and Barry has just explained them -- about how best to achieve this, but we do have agreement about our goal.
I am sure that there will be clear agreement as well on the issue of redundancy payments. There is a real fear that employers will use these regulations to level down conditions where there is an age criteria, not level up, and we quite clearly want to see a levelling up. The statutory redundancy payment scheme is important for very many workers. Whilst most FDA members are covered by more advantageous arrangements in public sector schemes, some of our members actually have to rely on the statutory redundancy scheme. At the moment in calculating payments as a multiplier with age bands the government propose starting to level this up between half a week and a week and a half to one week but have not reached a final decision. They have emphasised that any changes must be 'cost neutral' and that means some workers will get higher payments and others lower payments if the government's proposals stand.
Every union must respond by 17 October. Argue for a levelling up of the redundancy payments agreement, argue for an increased generosity in the weekly payment and get in early to ensure that national and local negotiations maximise the benefits to all of our members of these new regulations.
Tracy Clarke (Community) speaking in support of Composite 7 said: The motion deals with a form of discrimination that can hurt all of us whatever age we are. I want to focus on the impact of the discrimination on young people, which is built into the national minimum wage regulations and could be made even worse by the new employment equality regulations that will come into effect next year. We are asking Congress to affirm that paying people in the 18 to 22 year age band less than other workers on the national minimum wage is unjust and divisive. People working together doing the same work are being paid different rates. No one ever forgets an injustice and the regulations presently can turn young people off from the world of work permanently. Therefore, we start off by saying that all working people over the age of 18 should be entitled to earn at least adult minimum wage.
Far from righting the wrongs in the national minimum wage, the draft equality regulations would make them even more unjust. The present rules do allow unions to negotiate with employers so that people are paid the full adult rate from the age of 21. Under the new proposals employers will lose the possibility to see that the adult rate applies to 21 year olds. Those responsible employers who now pay the adult minimum rate from the age of 21 would be acting in breach of the age regulations if they continued to do that. To comply, an employer would either have to abandon the idea of paying the adult rate at 21, and either pay it to all workers at the age of 18 or to all workers from the age of 22. Delegates, we know which option they will choose.
I am glad that this Congress enables Community to expose this serious flaw in the proposed regulations and I urge all delegate to add their voices to that of the Low Pay Commission and call for a full adult rate to be paid from their 21st birthday as a first step to ending all age discrimination.
Frances O'Grady (Deputy General Secretary): The General Council supports this composite motion and has asked me to explain their position briefly. The government have now published their final proposals following a consultation on the European Directive that requires Member States to implement new age equality laws. We believe that the government's proposals fall well short of true equality in a range of crucial areas and we will continue to argue that case.
Firstly, we believe that employers should be explicitly prohibited from using age equality laws as an excuse to strip away pension benefits or other benefits from workers. There must be no levelling down.
Secondly, we believe that the government must act to protect young workers against discrimination. The youth development rate in the national minimum wage has become a byword for blatant exploitation, and it is time for that to go.
Thirdly, we want action to tackle the disgrace of statutory redundancy payments. We do not want a re-distribution of peanuts. All workers who lose their livelihoods should be entitled to a decent rate, again levelling up not levelling down.
Finally, as you know, the state pension age and the state retirement age are often confused but they are two different things. The government have decided to introduce a national default retirement age for the first time in this country. In discussions with the government and the CBI, we argued that there was no need to introduce a new retirement age. The only age that mattered was the state pension age, because that is the age on which most people base their retirement decisions and on which many collective agreements are based. While some people may genuinely want to work beyond the state pension age the majority of those who do do so not out of real choice but quite simply because they are poor.
When the government made clear their determination to introduce a new statutory retirement age, we made our conditions clear. In particular we said we would only accept this if the statutory retirement age was pegged at the state pension age and that we would not brook any attempt to raise that retirement age and then use that to raise the state pension age by the back door.
Congress, let us be clear, yes we are in favour of real choice and real protection in the lead up to retirement, but we will oppose any attempt to force people to work longer and harder for less. So, Congress, in the light of this explanation please support the motion.
* Composite Motion 7 was CARRIED.
A DELEGATE speaking to paragraph 2.11 said: I think there was an important point made in the last debate about the issue of redundancy being cost neutral. I do not think that unemployment can be cost neutral when the British workers are the cheapest and the easiest to sack and the age discrimination regulations and the way that they are drafted give a green light to employers to use them as an excuse to level down our redundancy packages. The Labour Government made a manifesto commitment to increase redundancy payments as a step to making it less easy and less cheap to sack British workers. I cannot think of any place better to start to deliver this commitment than levelling up the statutory redundancy payments with the age discrimination regulations. It is an ideal opportunity for this government to demonstrate that the social dimension of Europe will deliver decent job security and equal rights at work. We must work together to convince this government that in transposing European legislation we would like to see more job security for older workers and not less.
Britain's Olympic Games - London 2012
The President: I now turn to paragraph 4.12 on the 2012 Olympics. Last year Seb Coe told Congress of his vision for London's 2012 Olympics and the importance that he attached to trade union involvement in that project. Seb is not able to be with us today but we are joined by two other members of the team that won the Olympics for London, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Tessa Jowell, and the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. In a few moments Ken and Tessa will be contributing to this item in discussions with the Congress TV presenter, Steve Levinson, but first of all let me invite the General Secretary to move the General Council's Statement and introduce a video taken from the presentation in Singapore which helped bring the Games to London.
Brendan Barber (General Secretary): Thank you very much, Jeannie, and let me join you in welcoming Tessa and Ken and congratulating them on the crucial parts that they both played in winning the Games for London for the first time since 1948.
My job is very briefly to move the General Council's Statement. The Games are a huge economic project. They will mean jobs -- jobs in construction, in manufacturing, in transport, in entertainment, in the service sector. They will give an enormous boost to the economy of East London but with the benefits stretching far beyond the venues with new jobs and growth potentially right across the country. Our task is to make sure that these are quality jobs, with high levels of training, best health and safety standards and, of course, union representation too. At the 2000 Games in Sydney, our Australian counterparts showed what can be done.
But none of this is going to happen of its own accord. As a country we have something of a mixed record on major projects. We know the problems with the Wembley Stadium project. We are determined that this should be a project that we get right. To do that we need to ensure that unions are central to the organisation, involved right at the heart in determining the procurement process. We need to press our employers too to look at the opportunity the Games are going to present to bid for contracts, to plan ahead, ensuring that the manufacturing jobs also come to this country on the basis of the best bids. We need to press the training bodies, including the Learning and Skills Councils, to ensure that we have the skilled workers who will be needed at every stage of this project. We need to ensure too that we have the best equal opportunities policies, reflecting that diversity of London about which Ken in particular spoke so eloquently in Singapore. So we need to work together, and I have already invited the construction unions to come together to discuss how we can make sure that we put the most into this project and, equally importantly, how we ensure that we get the most out.
The Games, of course, will take place in a part of East London famous for the birth of new unionism in the 1880s. It was the area where the dockers made their voice heard, where the gas workers got together for the first time, the birth place of many of the unions represented here today. It can also now be a place for us to give a real new boost to trade unionism. The Olympics are a massive global event, with world-wide implications for unions too. We have already played a prominent part in the Play Fair at the Olympics campaign, pressing for fair treatment for those involved in the production of sportswear world-wide, and we will build on that campaign too in the run-up to the Olympics over the next seven years.
I hope that the Games will inspire and challenge unions, just as they inspire and challenge young athletes around the world. Inspiration was the theme of the London 2012 bid. So, before we hear from Tessa and Ken, let us now just see a short part of that bid, in a video suitably titled 'Inspiration'.
(The Video was shown)
The President : Thank you very much, Brendan. That is some video.
I now hand you over to Congress TV Presenter, Steve Levinson, who will be putting some of the issues raised by Brendan to Tessa Jowell and Ken Livingstone, so over to you, Steve.
Steve Levinson : Great video. If they ever had an Olympics for propaganda that is going to get the gold.
Ken Livingstone : We could get them working on the next election campaign!
Steve Levinson : I would like to pick up one of the points that Brendan made here, which was that obviously these Olympics are going to produce jobs, hopefully lots of jobs, but it is the quality of jobs that people are interested in. Maybe the first question for both of you, but to Tessa first, is how do we ensure that these are quality jobs?
Tessa Jowell : First of all, we are absolutely determined that they will be quality jobs. We estimate that something like 7,000 jobs will be created in the course of the development of the Olympic site and the infrastructure, with the prospect of about 12,000 permanent jobs servicing the site and the legacy afterwards. We have gone on and on about the importance of legacy in relation to these Games. We know that the construction industry, for instance, in London is heavily under-skilled. The scale of construction investment that the Olympics create the possibility of in London creates also the possibility of altering the training strength, the capacity of the construction sector. So training is a prerequisite for jobs being good jobs, but that is a principle that all of us who have been involved in developing the bid, those of us who are now taking forward, will support unequivocally.
Steve Levinson : Ken, obviously it is a good idea but how do we put it into practice?
Ken Livingstone : We have drawn up an initial statement of principles about the things we want built into all the contracts, not just environmental sustainability but recognition of trades unions, acceptance of a minimum wage and in London they effectively recalculate you need to spend about, pay about, £6,70 an hour to achieve what we call a living wage. We are fighting against many of the backward employers who are paying their cleaning staff well below that. This will be something that ratchets up over the next seven years.
I have been pleasantly surprised to discover -- because you can look at me and realise I have not spent much of my life in the company of the international sporting community -- that none of them wants an Olympics on the cheap, they want an Olympics they are proud of; they do not want a series of horrible exposes about someone doing clothing or footwear manufacture exploiting sweatshop conditions, and I think we will establish a new set of yardsticks by which all Olympics are to be judged on this.
Steve Levinson : Are we going to formalise this in any way? If you look at the Sydney experience, there were very, very strong agreements written down and adhered to? Are we going to formalise it?
Tessa Jowell : I know when Seb was here last year he talked about the Sydney framework, but if you look at the procurement principles that we published last week and which are out for consultation -- and you should all take some time to take part in that consultation -- you will see the kind of principles that defined the Sydney agreement and then within that, when the tenders are let, principally by the Olympic Delivery Authority, you will see (as Ken has said) the principles of employee representation, fair and ethical employment standards, a London living wage and so forth, written into the criteria that will apply in tendering for the Games.
I just underline this point that bidding for the Olympics for London is intended to transform our country, and so everything we do is with an eye to the legacy that it creates, way beyond the point at which the Games close in August 2012.
Ken Livingstone : We are working now on these details and until Parliament passes the Bill that creates these authorities next year the good news for the trade union Movement is that the contracts are all let by the London Development Agency, which is under my direction, and Transport for London, and we are drafting contracts now that I think will set new standards for ensuring local recruitment, and also all the basic things that the trade union Movement has been fighting for so we will get the organisation into working that way before the new structures are set up. We have government on board and the British Olympic Association. Nobody wants a Games that will be an embarrassments in terms of exploiting the workforce in Britain or internationally.
Steve Levinson : There are two important bodies involved here, a development agency and an Organising Committee. The Sydney experience again was that there should be union representation on those bodies. How far are you along that road?
Tessa Jowell : In relation to the Olympic Delivery Authority, which is the body that will deliver all the infrastructure, I certainly hope that when we appoint the board for the Olympic Delivery Authority we will have trade union representation on that. It will be very important to provide guidance on contracting and good employment practice, and in relation to the LOGOC, which Seb chairs, I know that he will also want to work closely with the trade union Movement in the development of the work of the LOGOC.
Steve Levinson : May I raise one more issue, which is skills. Obviously in London there are loads of projects going on. There is the Wembley Stadium project, there is Cross Rail possibly, there is Terminal 5, there is already a shortage of skilled people, skilled engineers. How much drain will these projects be putting on our skill base?
Ken Livingstone : The London Development Agency is already working with the Learning and Skills Councils recognising -- we have known for years, with or without the Olympics, all the big transport projects we are pushing -- that we have to up-skill our workforce. I am in negotiations with the government at the moment about extending the powers of the Mayor. One of the areas we are looking at is bringing the Learning and Skills Council under the Mayor so that they can be integrated with the London Development Agency so that there is just one body for London.
Tessa Jowell : To go back to your first question, which is about both skills and quality jobs, because quality jobs are jobs for which people have the opportunity, we look at the legacy potential at the Olympics in East London. The unemployment rate now is more than twice the national average; the unemployment rate among young Bangladeshi men in East London is 40 per cent. It is a fantastic legacy for a Labour Government to see quality jobs and unemployment fall by virtue of the Olympic development.
Steve Levinson : We will leave it there and I will hand back to the President. (Applause)
The President : It was a wonderful achievement to win the bid and certainly the trade unions look forward to being part of delivering a great success, so thank you very much indeed and thank you for addressing us today. Thank you.
Economic and Industrial Affairs
The President: If I could now move to the debate on the General Council's statement and paragraph 4.1 and the GMB have indicated that they wish to speak.
Richard Ascough (GMB) speaking to paragraph 4.1 (4.12) said:
Supporting the General Council's statement on the London Olympics. I am sure, like me, you were all over the moon, even the non-Londoners amongst you, on the night of 6 July when we knew that we had won the Olympics for London. I believe that we have to thank the work and foresight of the Labour Mayor -- and it is important to say again the Labour Mayor -- of London, Ken Livingstone, the government and the bid team who always thought this was possible. But I am sure you also remember how quickly that euphoria came to an end on 7 July with the four terrible explosions on the tubes and the number 30 bus. I would like to pay a tribute to all those trade union members of the emergency services and Transport for London who worked so hard for all the people of London during that crisis.
To return to the Olympics, obtaining the Olympics is such a wonderful opportunity that we must not squander it. We have the ability to create a great exhibition to the world on how we in the U.K. can stage a world class event. This gives an unprecedented opportunity to provide investment in the infrastructure and peoples of East London, one of the poorest parts of the UK, and I should like to add at this stage that the GMB are proud to see the Olympics coming to a part of London where our own union was born.
However, it is essential that the trade union Movement is involved in this. I welcome the steps the TUC have already taken to ensure this happens. It is also important that the massive construction and infrastructure works are done safely. We heard this morning from UCATT about how many accidents there are, even while we have been here, and how many deaths there will be on building sites. Far too many workers -- both Greek and immigrant -- were sacrificed through injury and death to ensure the Athens Olympics went ahead on time. Safety was compromised time and time again. These large projects will attract workers from many parts of the UK, other EU states and elsewhere. The TUC and trades unions must ensure that the contractors and employers recognise trades unions, pay the proper rate of pay to all workers and do not try and undercut the rate for non-UK workers. GMB warmly supports the work the TUC is doing in this area and we look forward to working together in the trade union Movement to make 2012 a resounding success.
(The General Council's Statement on London 2012 Olympic Games was adopted)
Congress adjourned for the day.
Issued: 3 October, 2005