Revolt against 'social partnership' at Wales Trades Union Congress 2021
Socialist Party Wales TUC 2021 delegates
Trades councils again played an important role pushing a fighting agenda forward at the Wales Trades Union Congress (TUC). Socialist Party members were prominent moving and seconding the key motions on the most important issues. Opposition to plans by the Wales TUC bureaucracy to reduce trade unions in Wales to mere cheerleaders for the newly elected Welsh Labour Government is building.
The overriding theme being pushed at the conference was 'social partnership' between trade unions and Welsh Labour, which is in government in the Senedd (Welsh parliament), relying on the politicians in Wales to deliver for workers in Wales.
But opposition to this approach of just tail-ending the Welsh Labour government cropped up again and again in the conference. Significantly, over a third of the conference voted for Swansea Trades Council's motion calling for a rejection of social partnership, despite it being opposed by the leadership of Wales TUC.
It was pointed out that teachers in Wales, just as much as teachers in England, had to act to force the Welsh Labour government to back down after the reckless rush to reopen the schools in January. The scandal of the lack of PPE from the outset of the pandemic was highlighted, and the impact of Covid-19 worsened as a result of deprivation in communities across Wales.
It is vital that the trade union movement in Wales develops an industrial strategy on what is needed to defend workers and improve conditions and services in our communities. These demands must be taken into negotiations across the public sector and with the Welsh government.
Alongside this industrial strategy, we need a serious campaign to demand resources in Wales to address the major underfunding of our public services so they meet our needs. Wales TUC already has a clear policy on these points, but it has not delivered.
Rather than trying to paper over the differences, under the cover of social partnership, we should be making a clear call to mobilise our movement to ensure that we fight for what is needed.
There was also determined opposition to employers using 'fire and rehire', and condemnation of Stena Line which scandalously withdrew its company sick pay scheme at the start of the pandemic, forcing workers onto statutory sick pay and putting them at risk.
Clear demands were put forward that the Covid legislation passed in Wales needs to have strong enforcement powers to be used against all employers contravening this legislation. This would include employers like DVLA, where PCS members were disgracefully forced to ballot and take strike action to protect their safety.
Trades councils have been to the fore in supporting the protests and struggles in our communities. After supporting the rallies called by NHS workers for a 15% pay rise, it was great to see the Swansea Trades Council amendment to include this demand in the motion on health and social care carried unanimously by the conference. We now have clear policy for the Wales TUC stating: "We call on the Welsh Government to immediately implement the justifiable demands of health and care workers for a 15% pay increase."
Despite the bland format of an online event, where none of the participants could see or hear each other apart from the speeches, it was clear there is anger building across our movement, and a determination that we will not accept going back to how things were before the pandemic.
- Read the full report at socialistpartywales.org.uk
In The Socialist 9 June 2021:
What we think
Lessons from history