Wales Shop Stewards Network Conference

19th June 2013

Defend past gains - fight for the future!

At the Wales Shop Stewards' Network (WSSN) conference on 8 June, some of the trade union movement's most determined leaders discussed the austerity onslaught facing us - and what we're going to do about it.

Unlike the recent Wales TUC, the WSSN was clearly preparing to defend the gains working class people won through decades of struggle.

Cerith Griffiths, Wales chair of the Fire Brigades Union, said: "We've got to build for a one-day general strike and for action after that." Essential public services that form society's safety net are being ripped to shreds.

"Equipment is being downgraded: vans are being brought in that are cheaper but too heavy to carry as much water we could before.

"They also have fewer firefighters. These cuts undermine our ability to respond to emergencies - we are 20% slower getting to incidents now as a result."

Mark Evans, Unison local government executive member for Wales, in a personal capacity, pointed out that: "Wales now spends less per head on education than they do in England.

"The Welsh Local Government Association says 52% of non-statutory services will be wiped out in coming years.

"Labour councils and the Assembly should refuse to implement cuts. If just five or six did, or if the Welsh Assembly coordinated a campaign, that would send ripples throughout Britain, and we could defeat this government.

"But the leaders of Labour-affiliated unions act like a shield for Welsh Labour, protecting them from the anger of union members."

Speakers explained the damage privatisation will do to their industry. AJ Singh, South-East Wales CWU postal branch secretary, said: "The CWU demands that Labour pledges to reverse the privatisation of Royal Mail planned by the Coalition. If we can't get that pledge we'll be looking at our affiliation."

RMT national executive member Steve Skelly said: "Privatisation is a farce: private investment accounts for just 1% of the investment going into the railways.

"Meanwhile workers and safety are being hammered. The McNulty report will mean 20,000 jobs lost on the railways.

"The employers are pushing for agency workers to replace directly-employed staff. No sick pay, no pension, and bumper profits.

"We need a general strike. We'd have one if the TUC got its act together. If you don't agree with what your union leadership is saying, stand up and say so."

Delegates left the conference determined to do just that. WSSN plans a day of action to build support for a one-day general strike and transmit the militancy of the conference into society at large.

Ross Saunders
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