Saturday, 11 December 2010

It's time for the left to do a Len Murray

The leaders of Britain's trade unions will meet on Tuesday, with popular unrest at a level not seen for twenty years.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) general council has the chance to make history - or to complete a hat trick of missed tricks.
At September's congress unions backed a demonstration against youth unemployment before the end of 2010.
This psychic foresight would have put the trade union movement on the streets with the revolting generation.
The general council kicked the idea into the long grass - deciding to hold an indoor rally in Manchester on January 29 2011.
In October the general council met just before the government's spending review signalled hundreds of thousands of job cuts.
The council decided not to organise a demonstration until next March - despite calls for swifter action from some members.
Next week is another test of the union leaders' resolve and tactical acumen.
In 1983 the NGA print union - now part of Unite - had its funds seized by the courts over a dispute in Warrington that contravened new anti-union laws.
The employment committee of the TUC general council voted to give the printers their full support.
The then TUC general secretary Len Murray left the meeting and told waiting journalists he would not be implementing the decision.
If - as seems certain - the general council sits on its hands next week the left union leaders need to show as much bottle as Murray.
They should stand on the steps of Congress House and pledge their full support for the students, the lecturers and the wider anti-cuts movement.
They shoud call a day of action - a lunchtime walkout, occupations of public buildings all over the country. Something that gives confidence to the workers who want to join the popular unrest and builds towards more generalised industrial action.
Will anyone be as brave as Len Murray?
If so what action should they call?
Are the general council right to be cautious?
Please use the comments box below.


  1. Rather than calling a separate action, the unions just need to join the students, as I argued on my blog:

  2. Our take on this below.

    If the trade union movement is to be anything of value in the future they must act now.

  3. Be fair to Len Murray. When he retired he gave a remarkable interview to Robert Taylor of the Observer, in which he related how the NGA general secretary Tony Dubbins had begged him to turn the NGA request down. Dubbins, he said, was desperate to get out of the battle they were in and wanted a "no" so he could turn round and blame the TUC for selling out, which of course he did. Murray added in the interview that this wasn't the only time that such a thing happened - he said it was part of the TUC Gen Sec's job to take the rap for unions in trouble. I find the story perfectly plausible. Whatever his caution and 'moderation', Len Murray had a reputation as a decent and honest person - qualities I never heard anybody attribute to Tony Dubbins.

  4. Agree with Donnacha. Unions should be adding their weight - and their own perspective - to the existing struggles, the student occupations being one, the UK Uncut actions against tax-dodging being another. Not least because actions against tax-dodging shops and companies need to rally those companies' workers to our side. Usdaw, Unite and co should be engaging with this.

    Tom Davies

  5. Irrespective of the the bureaucratic etiquette of calling action, there should be a united front of trades unions, left parties and organisations physically and practically supporting the students, and any other dissidents. Leaving strategy aside (or to the TUC), the "right" time for action is any time you can help out, and at any place you can help out.


  7. I can't honestly believe how badly duped the populace is. IMO this is nothing to do with student fee's or cutbacks, or big society. It's stealing our pensions, our welfare and our childrens education - not because the banks 'made a mistake' or the banks 'gambled' - I worked for a bank. They knew about this 7 years ago. I saw an American Director frogmarched out of the building for bringing said bank to its knee's with toxic debt, years before it was public knowledge. If i'd have had the balls/intelligence to work out what the long game was i'd have blown a whistle or something!

    Said bank then went through numerous rounds of offshoring and redundancies and outsourcing to make up for its projected shortfall. Not once was a strike declared. Not once did anyone stand united depsite being in a union called 'unison'.

    The unions are misleading us. The coalition of 'no' resistance is misleading us.

    The bankers and ruling elites have STOLEN our money. They have sent our jobs offshore, our manufacturing to china, our state facilities are in third party hands. Even the feckin' football teams hardly have a brit in them, no matter owning them.

    The unions are part of the problem. They are unions only in name. More like shepherds for the sheep.

    The students aren't in any union (i wouldn't class the tripe NUS lead by Aaron 'candlelit vigil' porter as a union). Ergo, the students take to the streets, without leadership and do a damn fine job of it. We've not only left our children to fight the govt with no help from us, we're also leaving them with no future and no career.

    I'm going to the next student demo with my 15 year old daughter. I know its dangerous, but fuck it.

    We're not their slaves.

  8. Have to say it's looking very much to me as though Charles is right. Come on trade union people! The next student demo, we need to BE THERE. Openly organised and marching.

    Fluttery Camilla on every front page? A total insult to that kid in hospital with bleeding to the brain. Disgusting.

    If we can't get moving on supporting these children, and stand up against what's going on, then it's not a trade union movement at all.

    So. What are we actually doing about Tuesday, and demanding that the TUC general council get off their backsides and join the fight?