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Sunday, 9 September 2012

A Form Guide for TUC Congress

#tuc12 In a historic first the TUC this year gathers in Brighton and starts it deliberations on the Sabbath. The Presbyterian influence on our great movement must be waning and no one has mentioned the issue of double time for delegates. Plus ca change.......

Congress starts with trade union rights, replaying the same hymns of opposition to trade union laws but at least taking notice of the more recent threats like those of removal of facility time and representation rights. Following the President's address (Paul Kenny of GMB) Congress considers Health and Safety. This debate highlights that misguided ideology will be responsible for workers deaths.

On Monday the day begins with the anti-austerity agenda. As the cuts bite it is obvious that the general public want an alternative and the TUC alternative economic strategy is beginning to gain traction. It is vital that the excellent work in this area continues and that October 20 is a success. Part of this section of the agenda will be challenging the pay freeze and the hot air of rostrum rhetoric would manage that - unfortunately real change will mean mobilising members and that is the real challenge.

 For two weeks the paralympics have celebrated the efforts of our athletes. Next week those same people will be told by Atos they are fit for work and lose benefits
Congress then discusses public services and equal rights. The Coalition Government seems to believe that the appointment of Jeremy Hunt will sell their NHS changes but Congress will discuss how to frustrate their implementation. Jeremy is likely to be as successful in this job as he was in the last trying to ensure that the Tory government delivered for Rupert Murdoch.

While there is likely to be unanamous support for the rebuilding of a nationalised rail network, a motion on aviation policy may be more controversial. Another runway for Heathrow anyone?

Tuesday romps through energy and the environment where the usual TUC fudge will keep the coal and nuclear lobbies satisfied.

This will be followed by the international debate where solidarity with Palestine and Columbia is highlighted. However within this section delegates will also debate an RMT motion on the EU. Bob Crow will make an impassioned plea on the current state of the EU where the austerity pact condemns millions to poverty and asks the TUC to be part of the opposition. So far no problem but Bob goes on to call for the UK to leave the EU, many unions will consider that a step too far at this time.

The day will continue with education motions (we are in favour of education just not the Tory version). Also on Tuesday organising gets a look in - but just one motion and amendments. We can't spend too long on it - not when there are minor political scores to be settled (and while private sector union density is at 12%).

Wednesday sees debates on welfare cuts (we oppose them whoever makes them). Real questions need to be asked about how the Tory agenda can be challenged. For two weeks the paralympics have celebrated the efforts of our athletes. Next week those same people will be told by Atos they are fit for work and lose benefits. In the pensions debate the focus is back on the state pensions and the retirement age.

Somewhere during the week the media spotlight will focus on a debate about the practicalities of a general strike - an interesting question given the starting point of Congress - the UK's uniquely restrictive labour laws.

Will Congress change the world as we know it? Will the earth shudder? More likely the podium won't even wobble.