TUC: Why the unions must raise their game

brendan barber -more than fiery rhetoric needed. Pic courtesy Daily Telegraph

 Expect the standard sound and fury at the TUC Congress next week.  Union leaders’ rhetoric will be at fever pitch as they denounce the planned biggest cuts since 1945. Threats of another “spring of discontent” and co-ordinated strike action across the public sector will abound. But will it amount to little more than fierce words and a damp squib when it comes to the point?

 True the TUC has started well, releasing well researched reports on the cuts already announced, and promising a lobby of Parliament next month and a march against the cuts next March. Individual unions are certain to draw up strike plans to protect jobs and there is embryonic co-ordination between unions representing civil servants, fire fighters, journalists and rail workers. But there is a real issue that the effect of any strike action will be to alienate the public and play into the hands of the coalition.

So hasn’t the time come for union leaders to raise their game and think outside the box.

There are two good reasons to do this. One is that they will be daft to think that the coalition will sit idly by while they organise. The recent release to the Guardian of all the secret Cabinet committee papers (both ministerial and officials)on the 1984-85 miner’s strike show s an extraordinary resolve by Margaret Thatcher, William Whitelaw, Leon Brittan, Norman Tebbit and Peter Walker to co-ordinate action against the miners, using the law, the courts, the police , media and pit  and power station management. Often they could pre-empt and weaken the NUM’s action.

It’s not beyond the wit of the present Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O’Donnell, to follow his predecessor Lord Armstrong and set up a small Cabinet committee to co-ordinate action against protestors and unions should the opposition become really serious.

 This is why the unions need to be savvy. 2010 is very different to 1984. We now have mobile phones, the internet, social networking sites and an alternative festival network. The scope for instant protest abounds and with the coalition planning a small state, the resources David Cameron and Nick Clegg have at their disposal to monitor and control protests can only diminish as they cut back.

 Why can’t Bob Crow, the RMT leader and Gerry Doughty, the TSSA leader, organise a more popular free travel day as well as one day strike? If the unions asked all the members to deactivate the barriers at every tube and Overground station, will Transport for London want to prosecute thousands of its staff? The public would love them and Transport for London would lose as much revenue. Could Mark Serwotka, the PCS leader, decide to programme the VAT and Income Tax computers to refuse to send any demands out?

The mobile phone is also a brilliant for organising instant protests at any venue you might want. With Googlemaps pinpointing locations how about a “flash mob” protest when Nick Clegg  publicly announces his next constitutency surgery? Or put some fun into protest by organising a “Rock against the Cuts” festival  preferably applying to hold it in the grounds of the country estate of  one of the  millionaire Tory Cabinet ministers.

So how about it, Brendan Barber? You need a bit of imagination as well as fiery rhetoric. With luck and public support you really could turn the Big Society into the Big Protest.

2 thoughts on “TUC: Why the unions must raise their game

  1. What started as a cursory glance at my email after returning early from a dinner party due to a nasty cold quietly rolled on; a stone gathering mosses of incredulity at the obdurate self righteous, malinformed barking from the braying pack of Pootereque Hounds seeking approval from their masters….
    Graft the new police powers onto the oak heart or tin can of ConDem social and economic policy and this country will find themselves enthralled by a truly three dimensional dystopian future as realised by Joel Schumacker; only this time the audience are the actors.
    Oscar Wilde said, ‘ A nation gets the government they deserve.’
    Updated reads like. ‘ a nation voted for x factor will get a government they didn’t vote for.’ But the government will include all of us in the epic blockbuster next Summer, where we will all be starring on CCTV cameras or waiting for our close up down some overcrowded police station with 48 million other wannabies.

    This time next year the magistrates courts across the country will be groaning under the strain of eviction notices. The government will oblige by streamlining the eviction process with a brutal clutch of new laws, amending the’ 97′ Housing Act, and building 15 New PPP run prisons to hold the ‘undeserving poor.’
    Applauding from a mobile gallery the squalid self righteous hurl rotting vegetables at HB fraudsters living 8 families to a 4by4 picked up in a layby near Penge as the disenfranchised without jobs are now criminalised under the new unemployment act making employment mandatory. Anyone found without a job gets life hard labour working in burger franchises.
    Eviction order enforcement is privatised. Bermondsey Dave and the Estuary Mob out bid wheel clampers’ coalition in a round of controlled intimidation. The ConDems are so impressed they outsource the police force to the Albanian Socialist Party. In a rare accusation of sleaze Pravda accuses david c’s mum with using underaged child labour to make Hubris and Artichoke scented candles for her Glib range of ambient candles carried in all good stockists of Oka eliteware; the furher’s preferred interior design company….
    Scanning many dozens of political blogs for comments on Housing Benefits these past eight hours I counted over 57 comments from people who thought only those on HB rent.
    Go to the ONS and look up the year on year income quantiles.
    Like Pareto quantiles obscure the truth with a vague truth.
    One can still see quite clearly that up and including the average family – statistically looks like this. Average family £15000 for each parent. £10000 per child. A nuclear family with two children enjoy an income of £40k a year. Now playing fast with quintiles fast and loose really only works if you are aiming to paint a very optimisitc or darn right misleading picture of the average household.
    The truth is that including our average family everyone excluding the top 1 1/2 quintiles rely very heavily on benefits of some kind,
    The average middle class family relies on the government handout ( benefits ) for 20% of their income.
    Please check for yourself.
    David didn’t those people preaching extremely brutal solutions to these hordes of unshaven Housing Benefit fraudsters lurking at the bottom of Acacia Drive do so with your blessing?
    The Condoms channel the fear and frustration of the middle middle and the lower middle classes focussing this powerful source of negative energy into a death beam aiming at the weak, poor, disabled and the unlucky.
    Yet without exception all those self righteous braying voices leaving their comments written with such assurance and moral rectitude –
    talk of hands outs.
    What do you call your 20% hand out?
    How can your benefit be different from others’?
    Can you not see how the level of kindness and compassions in this country has diminished?
    We used to be a fair, just nation. I am ashamed and very unhappy. Everyone who judges another human being, remember point a finger and three point back.
    What a wonderful idea – The TUC get my backing if they take your advice David ( Hencke ) and play Robin Hood.
    Brendan Barber in a pair of tights. Now that alone is worth the spectacle.
    Most of what I wrote here is true. I lied about the future.
    The CondDems are making organ grinders monkeys out of so many people. Good people being led astray for the simple truth it is easier to apportion fear and call it hate than it is to put self interest aside and look up and round about at all the other people.
    To them their world is the most important in their world.
    A nation that slanders so many weak and vulnerable people will suffer dire consequences. What they will be I have no idea. One cannot fathom Karma.


    • I’ve no idea how did I get to your blog, but I’m so glad I did because I love your ideas for turning the Big Society (what the heck does it mean, anyway?) into the Big Protest, particularly, the free travel day. I’m very sure it’s ‘doable’ (I wanted it to be, it must be, there’s no other way, etc, etc… :). The only requirement is, it has to be put into motion, someone has to start it. Since you had the idea why not start a campaign on twitter, facebook etc calling on the RMT and the TSSA’s leaders for a free travel day? As you say, I don’t know a better way of gaining public support for a strike.

      Joana Santos
      Ps. Why your blog is all black? Could you make it pink or lavender or something lighter? 🙂 It’s hard on the eyes.


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