Wednesday 20 June 2007

The Real World Intruding on Coronation

Over the last week I have been out there speaking at various meetings including Saturday's Morning Star successful conference on "Politics After Blair,", the standing room only "Public Services Not Private Profit" Campaign meeting and the Broad Left fringe meeting at Unison conference, last night's RMT Cuba Solidarity night and today's packed RMT seminar in Parliament on the future of the railways.

What they all had in common was that they reflected the issues and concerns of people living in the real world. At Unison conference the real world means the next wave of privatisation of its members' jobs and this year's pay cut. For the RMT the real world means demonstrating solidarity with the people of Cuba in preventing the US blockade undermining their economy and also for RMT's rail workers the real world means dealing with the chaotic consequences of a privatised railway.

Representatives from PCS spoke at the Unison meetings and explained that the real world for their members meant 100,000 job cuts, a wage round of pay cuts, a continuous process of new privatisations and now the introduction of local pay rates linked to local labour market conditions.

Has the real world permeated into Gordon Brown's speeches at the Labour party hustings or into the Deputy Leadership statements for that matter? In Brown's case of course not. With the Deputy Leader candidates, some real world issues have been raised but it is difficult to take seriously any of them as they have all for last ten years been supporting the very New Labour policies which have privatised services, cuts jobs and undermined wages and conditions in the public sector. I have to say that I smile at the greatest irony which is to listen to the deputy leadership candidates pronounce on the vital need for restoring democracy to the party when they all refused to nominate to allow a democratic leadership election and some actively intervened to prevent nominations securing a leadership election.

Over the coming weeks and months Labour MPs, the media and many others will be falling over themselves to celebrate the glorious first 100 days of the new Prime Minister. However in time the real world will innevitably intrude. For Unison members, no matter how hard the Unison leadership seeks to prevent it, Unison members will want to take action to protect their jobs and living standards. PCS members with the full backing of their union's leadership have already recognised that there is no other way but to stand up and fight. CWU members have clearly taken the same view.

Each of these campaigns deserve our fullest support and I will do all I can to back these trade unionists whether in Parliament or on the picket line. Each campaign could be strengthened greatly if action was co-ordinated across the disputes to maximise their impact and to secure an early settlement.

The secret discovered by the first trade unionists was that their strength came through solidarity. At a time when Gordon Brown has put the whole of the welfare state under threat of privatisation and pay cuts there is no more important time to remember the lesson of solidarity.