Some people might think that spending a gloriously sunny day sitting with hundreds of people in a huge, hot church hall would be madness, not to mention musty. But this Saturday’s emergency conference organised by Right to Work managed to draw around 600 activists and trade unionists from across the country to discuss how to build resistance to cuts and job losses.
It was an achievement to have pulled together so many people at relatively short notice—this conference had been built in less than half the time as was available for January’s. And it was clear from the off that support for Right to Work has broadened since January: the conference was addressed by Labour MPs John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn, deputy leader of the Green Party Adrian Ramsay, as well as representatives from NUJ, NUT, PCS, RMT, UCU and Unite and others.
The conference was also the place to be to hear first hand about inspirational struggles already under way. Tiana Andreou, a member of the Greek civil servants’ union, received a standing ovation when she told delegates that the best way to show solidarity was to make sure the BA strikers won, that we defended pensions and services here which could give confidence to workers elsewhere. A BA cabin crew worker received a similar reception.
Delegates divided into workshops at lunchtime to come up with concrete ideas for action that were then reported back to the final plenary—a full breakdown of the workshops and what they decided on will appear soon. I attended a session on “One Million Climate Jobs”, which called for a lobby of the energy and climate change ministry. The education session called for solidarity action with staff and students at Middlesex who have been suspended for occupying against departmental closure. What was striking was that plenary speakers got involved in the workshops—Jeremy Corbyn, for example, attended and contributed to the session on how we stop the cuts.
The two main resolutions put to conference were to organise protests on budget day on 22 June and to call a major demonstration at the Tory conference in Birmingham in October. The message coming out of the conference was to continue building up the networks of activists, trade unionists, students and pensioners who would be on the frontline of building resistance to the coalition of cuts.
Report from the Bunk Lenin’s Tomb