Wales Shop Stewards Network conference
prepares for action: Union reps call for a 24 hour general strike
02 July 70 trade unionists in 10 unions from all
over Wales, mainly reps and shops stewards, gathered in Cardiff
at the annual conference of the Wales Shop Stewards Network on
The conference was taking place at a time when there are dozens
of disputes taking place but while there is also a summer break
in the huge struggle between the government and public sector
workers over pensions and cuts. But it is a break before
potentially the biggest battle yet. While the dispute over
pensions continues public sector workers are also being
confronted with new cuts all the time.
All the way through the conference delegates repeated that only
20% of government cuts have been implemented 80% are still to
come. Another theme was the total lack of trust for Labour
leaders offering any way forward for trade unionists.
Katrine Williams, Chair of PCS Wales, opened the conference
looking ahead to these battles. As Cameron launches the campaign
to cut benefits further to the unemployed and low paid she
explained that PCS’s posters exposing the effects of government
cuts to benefit provision have been banned by management in DWP
(see picture below). She hailed the historic result of the
ballot of PCS members announced on June 29th that voted by 79%
to engage in political campaigning by supporting candidates who
oppose all cuts in national elections.
Les Woodward, national convenor of REMPLOY, whose
workers face the complete closure of all 54 factories, explained
how he has discovered why they had been picked on: it is because
"there is not one hedge-fund manager amongst them, not one,
venture capitalist, not one banker and as far as I am aware not
one of them has been found guilty of dirty dealing in the
financial sector. If they were then the government would have
bailed them out".
Ramon Corria, secretary of Cardiff Trades Union Council, called
for action that could kick out the Con Dem government but he
warned about Labour too: "there is no point replacing a
government of the rich kids with a government of the 2nd XI. We
need a plan B and a plan C." There is an easy solution to the
problem of the banks: "nationalise them."
This was echoed by Dave Bartlett (PCS MOJ group executive) from
the floor who summed up the mood of the whole movement when he
asked "Who are the markets? No more than a few thousand people,
economic terrorists holding the rest of us to ransom –
Cerith Griffiths, chair of FBU Wales, went further on Labour
"there is no difference between Tory and Labour". FBU members
across Britain are facing a sustained attack from the employers
trying to impose continual service up to 120 hour shifts and the
threat of dismissal with re-employment on worse terms and
Owen Herbert, South Wales and South West representative on the
RMT council of executives, explained how the McNulty Report
aimed to cut rail-workers on stations and trains putting
vulnerable people at risk. He disagreed with the idea that the
trade union movement just had to get Labour back to prevent the
cuts. "That won’t work – Ed Miliband and Ed Balls say slower
cuts, but we have to stop all the cuts".
Mark Evans, secretary of Carmarthenshire council UNISON and
newly re-elected Wales representative on the union’s Local
Government Service Executive, went further when he spoke from
the floor: "Workers need a workers’ party. None of the existing
parties represent workers in struggle, that is why I support the
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition". He reported that in his
union branch not a single member had supported the pension deal
negotiated by Prentis and the leadership.
John Hancock, south Wales and south west England representative
on the Prison Officers Association, to laughter made a point of
thanking Alec Thraves for his contribution at the Wales TUC
conference in support of the POA’s recent protest action an
unstated reference to Alec’s censure by the president of the
The POA has been threatened with an injunction by the government
if it did not promise that there would be no repeat of the
protest action when prison officers walked out on the May 10 at
the same time as PCS, UCU and UNITE members struck. But "we can
paper the walls with injunctions so one more won’t make a
He promised if Bob Diamond (Chief Executive of Barclays Bank) is
arrested or imprisoned as he should be for the fraud perpetrated
at his bank then "I'm sure we can find him a place at Cardiff or
John Watkins, Chair of the University and College Union Wales,
pointed out the pensions strike can still be won but it was
important to bring together the unions in dispute in action in
Claire Job, a nurse member of UNISON, called on trade union
activists in Wales to unite to defend the NHS in Wales. She said
the NHS is heading for a 'perfect storm' of attacks in Wales:
"The NHS in Wales now faces greater financial pressures than any
other nation of the UK. The Welsh Audit Office reports that, by
2014-15, Wales will have the lowest spending per head of the
population of any area in the UK and the seven Health Boards in
Wales have to find £300 million of savings, around 5% of their
budgets on average, every year for the next 3 years. Already £1
billion has been cut since 2005.
"They say a better NHS is one where: we lose hundreds of
hospital beds from every health board. But a recent RCN survey
of nurses in Wales highlighted the growing practice of patients
being treated on trolleys in casualty corridors.
"They say a better NHS is one where: The number of A&E/casualty
units is reduced. Never mind that this will lead to further
travel time for patients in need of urgent assessment at a
critical time – when every second counts.
"They say a better NHS is one where: Your local District General
Hospital is downgraded and centres of excellence are
established. Although this pools expertise, it removes people
from their communities and their support systems and does not
take into account patients’ preferences."
Claire called on the conference to "unite community campaigns
with the best activists in the health service unions to build a
campaign that can stop the Welsh government from passing on Tory
cuts and provide a health service in Wales to meet the needs of
all the people of Wales."
Ronnie Job declared that the Wales Shop Stewards Network
represented the rank and file leadership of the Welsh trade
union movement. He believed that as the Wales TUC had agreed to
call a bland slimmed down conference for 2013 only able to
discuss motions deemed important by the General Council of the
Wales TUC then the WSSN should step into the gap and call a more
representative conference immediately afterwards.
After a delicious lunch provided by the Cardiff and District DWP
PCS branch the afternoon session was broken up into workshops on
the NHS in Wales, trade unions campaigning in the community and
organising action in the workplace.
A statement of aims was agreed to:
Rob Williams, chair of the National Shop Stewards Network,
summed up the conference when he explained all the battles in
the private and public sector can be unified behind a campaign
for a one day general strike.