Sunday 29 June 2008

National Shop Stewards Network conference

I took part in the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) conference yesterday, which I felt was another useful step in getting union activists together to exchange news and ideas, build links and promote solidarity. I helped run a workshop on organising in the workplace, which had a particular emphasis on young workers.

The anger and gradually increasing confidence over inflation and pay was very apparent, as was the enthusiasm for united action across different unions.

It was also clear that employers in public and private sector alike are trying to victimise good union reps - shooting the messenger rather than dealing with the issues. It is vital that there is a robust response to victimisation because that is the only way to stop it. Though the law bans victimisation for union activity, employers are not obliged to implement tribunal orders for reinstatement, and can merely pay compensation instead. It is a disgrace that this legal position continues after so many years of a supposedly Labour government. There's also a second reason why a robust response is important. Whether or not we are successful in stopping the victimisation, we can prevent it leaving union organisation in tatters. The purpose of victimisation is to smash the union - strong resistance (as in the case of Karen Reissmann) can leave the union strong even though she still isn't reinstated yet.

The frustration with New Labour and lack of an effective political voice for working people was also a recurring theme.

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