20 July The North West Shop Stewards Network held its AGM on July 17. Thirty trade unionists heard Steve Acheson, blacklisted electrician, speak on the recent BESNA victory and the continuing battle against blacklisting. Many of those attending were construction workers and they lambasted the mostly unelected trade union officials in UNITE and UCATT for their persistent failure to lead a struggle for members and, in some cases, for collaboration with blacklisting.
Alongside these rank and file activists, including Mick Abbott of the Justice for Shrewsbury Pickets Campaign, were a UNISON NEC member, a PCS sector NEC member and the PCS regional Vice-Chair, together with members of UNISON, NUT and UNITE Health, plus two former Liverpool 47 councillors.
Several speakers made the link between trade union leaders winding down action when they should be escalating it, as in the pensions dispute, and Labour councillors who simply pass on Tory cuts. In Salford one UNITE official is now an Assistant Mayor charged with getting rid of mental health staff. There was warm endorsement of Tony Mulhearn’s nearly 5000 votes for mayor in Liverpool, and a welcome for the recent vote to establish a political fund in PCS.
The meeting heard a report from the NSSN Conference in June, with its call to turn the TUC demo on 20th October into a launch pad for a one day general strike. We also agreed to support the lobby of the TUC on September 9th, hopefully with financial support for transport from PCS. The evening following the meeting, Bolton Trades Council agreed to support the NSSN lobby of the TUC.
The meeting also agreed support for Campaign Kazakhstan and for the ongoing battles for reinstatement for Shana Begum of Bolton University Students Union, and Martin Hedges, a victimised TSSA rep.
Following the NSSN Conference’s Guide to Action we plan to meet quarterly from now on and really build the NSSN in the North West. (Paul Gerrard)