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Congress gave a resounding thumbs-up yesterday to a motion calling on the TUC to “lead a major transformative project to create a new model of trade unionism.”
Moving, CWU general secretary Dave Ward said the “tide was turning” in British politics, giving trade unions a chance to “reassert our values.
“But we have to recognise that, last year, recorded figures show a loss of trade union membership across the movement of 275,000 people compared with the year before and the number of workers covered by collective bargaining agreements is at record lows.
“In contrast, Labour has trebled its membership under Jeremy Corbyn,” he pointed out.
The movement needs to demonstrate to young people that “yes, you can change society through Labour, but you can also change things through industrial work and trade unions,” Mr Ward argued.
Motion 72 on A New Model for Trade Unionism, which passed unanimously, calls for increased engagement with members and “a stronger focus for the TUC in co-ordinating solidarity and supporting workers in dispute.”
“We’re on our way back as a movement,” Mr Ward declared.
Paul Moloney of the Society of Radiographers praised the “groundbreaking” efforts being made by some unions to organise in difficult sectors, such as Unite’s work with Sports Direct employees, while also applauding his own union for increasing membership and its number of lay representatives. Sharing how these successes had been achieved would be crucial for a review of TUC work, he argued.
The National Education Union’s Gawain Little warned that if unions did not reverse the decline in membership, “everything else becomes meaningless.
“If we lack the industrial and political power to put our policies into action, they remain just policies,” he said.
The “endless struggle for control over work and wages” reveals the “fundamental difference of interests between working people and their employers” and the power relations in society, Mr Little argued.
Government attacks on funding for trade union education were “a blow to our movement” but presented an opportunity to “reinvent trade union education for a new model of trade unionism.”
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