UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Trade unionism alive & kicking in Durham

A large UNISON contingent took part in Saturday’s 128th Durham Miners’ Gala, with dozens of branch banners on display on the march as well as regional delegations from Northern Ireland, North West and the host Northern Region. The presence of Ed Miliband, the first Labour leader since 1989 to attend the Gala and address the rally, ensured that this powerful celebration of trade union solidarity received national media attention: http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/news/content/view/full/121454

The extended ovation which greeted Miliband prior to his speech was in appreciation of his decision to reach out to Labour’s core working class communities and move on from his ill advised decision to shun last year’s Gala.

Earlier the other Labour Party speaker, Tom Watson MP, had called on the FBU and RMT to rejoin Labour emphasising the importance of labour movement unity to defeating the Con Dem’s. The best passage of Miliband’s speech was when he attacked the divisive policies of the Government, notably its attacks on the public sector and when he condemned the excesses of the banks and the Murdoch media empire.

Regrettably, he did not make any reference to, let alone pledge to restore, trade union or workers’ rights, despite a fine speech by John Hendy QC outlining the scandalous lack of union rights in the UK, including no legal right to strike, in breach of international conventions.

General Secretaries of the GMB and PCS respectively, Paul Kenny and Mark Serwotka spoke for the trade unions and made wide ranging speeches with a common theme of fighting back against austerity. There were echoes of 1984/85 Great Miners’ Strike when two striking Spanish miners spoke movingly about their fight to save their industry from destruction as the Conservative Government cuts €190million in subsidies as part of an EU imposed austerity programme.

Shami Chakrabarti, the Director of Liberty also addressed the rally and spoke of the erosion of civil liberties.