Wales TUC - A Tale of Two Conferences

28th May 2012

On the same day, in two different conferences of the trade union movement on May 23rd, two speakers made very similar comments in speeches.

While Mark Serwotka was warmly applauded and cheered by delegates to PCS Conference for attacking the likes of UNISON over their abandonment of the alliance to defend pensions that brought about the November 30 action, at the Wales TUC Conference in Llandudno, Alec Thraves, a delegate from Swansea Trades Council, was first asked to apologise and then, when he refused, was formally censured following a complaint from UNISON.

Alec’s misdemeanour was, while speaking in support of PCS motion about supporting further pensions strike action, saying that thousands of UNISON members had been frustrated that they weren’t on strike on May 10th because their “well-paid”, “pension secure” leadership had not given them that opportunity.

While Alec’s words were sharp and direct, as a UNISON member and shop steward with a LGPS pension, I support their accuracy. We voted overwhelmingly for strike action on November 30 and as a result in the weeks leading up to the strike saw a huge increase in new members; 163 joined in my branch in the few weeks from the ballot announcement to the strike.

I know that as a steward, I explained to members in my workplace that one day was never likely to be enough, so when members voted and took part in the action on the 30th they were quite prepared for further action on pensions. I have not had the opportunity as a member to inform the direction of the dispute since, either through a delegate conference or ballot.

Twice the branch stewards committee of which I am a member has voted for further action, once before and once since the signing of the heads of agreement by our full time officers (who aren’t members of any of the schemes in the dispute as Alec pointed out). There was a pensions summit in Wales, in January but there was little input from lay delegates from the floor and no consultative vote. Members are disappointed and frustrated, including the new ones who signed up to fight to defend their pensions, several members have told me in work that they have considered resigning from the union since the signing up to the heads of agreement.

When I refused to cross the picket lines of my comrades and work colleagues in UCU on May 10, it was without the support of my union. So, I have no difficulty in endorsing without reservation, Alec’s comments.

See also: Wales TUC - Unity Must be Based on Action
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