NISPA President Maria Morgan chaired the meeting and activists from seven unions turned out and endorsed the following very simple but important aims.
- The Network should act to build solidarity between workers in struggle.
- It should aim to unite trade union activists against all cuts, and attacks on our hard won terms and conditions.
- It should campaign to build fighting trade unions which are democratically controlled by the members.
Unite, NIPSA, CWU, PCS, UCU, INTO and Unison were represented with apologies from NUJ and FBU. Many of those present at this first meeting are long standing union activists all of whom have played an essential role in getting the YES vote out in their unions in preparation for November 30th.
Fighting ALL cuts
Opposition to cuts, privatisation and job losses featured heavily at the meeting. Activists argued that our position should be no to ALL cuts. Any other position would leave us fighting each other for the crumbs – “losing those jobs to save these, or cutting that service to keep this one open”. Our trade unions should be focused on fighting to defend jobs, pay, conditions and public services – not on helping the politicians manage the bankers and billionaire’s economic crisis. A position of no to all cuts is essential to prevent division and maintain the maximum unity among workers in order to resist this onslaught.
A number of people at the meeting spoke angrily about the fact that TUC leader Brendan Barber had secret meetings with David Cameron to avert the November 30th strike. Many activists feel that democracy has been eroded within our trade unions. We don’t want leaders making secret deals over our heads. The network will fight to establish real union democracy – this means, in the case of November 30th, workers taking ownership of the strike. Meetings in the workplace, where possible, should happen after November 30th to decide what we do next. We need to establish links in our own unions with other branches/workplaces, as has happened with NIPSA activists, to discuss what happens next while linking up with activists across other unions. In some unions it may mean fighting a battle to make sure the branches meet at all or meet at a time when members can actually get along.
The NTUA can play a vital role in organising solidarity action with workers in struggle. Part of building effective solidarity means challenging the anti-union laws, making them unworkable and ultimately fighting to scrap them. This Network must consciously act to encourage new fresh layers of activists to step forward, especially young workers. If a network can be successfully built it can challenge the pro-market consensus that dominates the leading bodies of the TUC and NIC-ICTU and give a credible alternative to the thousands of union members seeking a way to fight back. Through the NTUA we will be campaigning to commit the trade union leaders to action. If they are not up to the job we need to replace them with leaders that will fight in their members’ interests.
If you would like to get involved in the Network contact Susan Fitzgerald on 02890800266 or Brian Booth on 07771655853