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Transport to the fore at 'the ordinary people's Parliament'

1 November 2011

Report from TUC Congress by Joel Kosminsky (London South Western & Middlesex Branch Chair)

TUC voting

PRESIDENT HARRIET YEO, General Secretary Gerry Doherty and I represented TSSA at this year’s TUC Congress. 281 delegates from affiliated organisations were present to debate major issues for the movement. This was my first Congress and I enjoyed it enormously, feeling a real part of the ordinary people’s Parliament. This was the first year of a smaller Congress (which will alternate with the larger conventional event), and while I was absorbed by the procedures and debates, I was aware of doubts others held about these changes. This year’s Congress was ‘streamed’ live via the TUC website but was poorer for lack of coverage on the BBC Parliament channel.

The usual range of motions were debated; TSSA spoke on pensions, multiculturalism, economic fairness and the evil McNulty Report. Emergency and main motions also reflected major transport issues, notably Bombardier, whilst we also met a delegation of workers from Derby. Our delegation worked well with ASLEF and RMT colleagues, and we spent one enjoyable evening with RMT. Other emergency motions included concerns over the recent EDL fiasco in East London and on women’s reproductive choice.

We were addressed on Tuesday by the Labour leader, Ed Milliband – these occasions are always sharply-focused, not helped by the press & TV doing their jobs - and often obscuring the speaker from his audience! Delegates reflected the wide range of opinions present and showed this on a couple of occasions.

The biggest debate was on the last day, about Pensions and the unfair hammering ordinary people are taking – as I said in my speech – “if you want to know what this is really about, it’s telling an 87 year old widow that the promises made about her late husband’s pension were lies.” We know using the CPI inflation measure is unreasonable and has been imposed unfairly, we know many employers can afford their pension schemes but don’t want to hurt profits, we know some schemes are artificially in deficit, and we know pensioners have to pay rising bills but have no means to earn extra money when the spending power of their pensions is decimated. But we are telling those who won’t listen and ‘days of action’ seem inevitable.

Congress unanimously supported us on the transport issues raised, especially Bombardier – it is clear this ill-informed government doesn’t understand industry and supply chains. It doesn’t want to. The Bombardier fringe meeting was standing room only; ourselves, RMT and UNITE led the debate, with comprehensive rebuttals and technical answers to the bland and inaccurate rhetoric of those making disastrous decisions about our jobs. On the last day, Gerry was awarded the TUC Gold Badge for his work on the General Council.

We face political doubts toward trades unions but this week showed we are a determined body of men and women, young and old, of all cultures. The delegates were a superb mix of ages, industries and regions – almost every UK accent was heard, speaking for their members everywhere. I am delighted to have been elected for this opportunity to speak for my Union.

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