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All change at the TUC

6 November 2012

This year's TUC marked the beginning of the handover of power to a new general secretary - and a more historic handover than most. The TUC’s first female general secretary began her introductory speech with the line, 'Well Brothers. You’ve been thinking about this for 144 years. Now...I don’t want to rush you but... Are you really sure?'

TUC floor

At Congress and since, Frances O’Grady, who assumes full responsibility in January, has been starting to stake out a more vocal role for the TUC, with a growing emphasis on organising the movement to act collectively.

The change of leadership also gives the chance to challenge preconceptions about the trade union movement, and with it, to more easily take on the government by serving as the natural voice of ordinary working people in Britain.

The over-riding theme of this year’s TUC congress was the fight for an economy that delivers jobs and wellbeing for ordinary people.

In the debate on the economy, TSSA treasurer Mick Carney highlighted the ‘excuses and lies’ of the Government’s refusal to support train manufacturing in Britain, resulting in the potential closure of Bombardier’s works in Derby, whilst other EU governments supported domestic industry.

Manuel Cortes spoke on the motion backing the Action for Rail campaign, co-sponsored by TSSA. Making the case as to why unions across the movement should be supporting the case for a publicly-owned railway, he told Congress, ‘This is a battle of ideas between the neo-liberal privateers and those of us who want public services for the benefit of the people. I am absolutely convinced that if we bring the railways into the public sector, you will be asking the very valid question: why not those other public services that have been privatised?’

Congress voted in favour of measures to force banks to support the real economy, including turning the government’s majority stake in RBS into 100 per cent ownership and transforming it into a State Investment Bank. There were calls for the democratisation of the governance and ownership of the financial sector which had failed the country so badly.

There was strong support for an increase in coordinated action by the unions to resist the government’s slash and burn policies, as well as, more controversially, the ‘consideration and practicalities of a general strike’.

UNISON leader Dave Prentis said ‘We are never stronger than when we coordinate action, when we speak with one voice... if the employers refuse to negotiate, if the attacks continue – we will deliver coordinated action.’

Carmen Mayusa of the Anthoc Health Workers Union in Colombia addressed Congress, describing how several members of her family – including her brother – were amongst the 3,000 trade unions who have been murdered in her country over the last 22 years. Congress carried a motion to support trade unionists in Colombia and backed the peace process.

The TUC also unanimously carried a motion calling for the lifting of Israel’s siege against Gaza and to work with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to send a delegation to visit the coastal enclave.

Manuel Cortes was elected to the TUC’s ruling General Council, once again guaranteeing that TSSA members have a voice at the heart of the TUC’s decision- making.

TUC delegates

TSSA's delegation of Fliss Premru, Mick Carney, Mitch Tovey and Harriety Yeo.

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