Walking the walk on building a broad based campaign against the cuts
The coverage of the debate on the first day of Congress that called for the TUC and unions to build a broad based campaign against the coalition government’s cuts – one that unites service users as a well as providers – was reasonably positive. Although of course most of the media coverage obsessed about the possibilty of large scale industrial action in the public sector with references to the ‘Winter of Discontent’ being thrown about like confetti (see even I’m mentioning it).
For those of us in the trade union movement who have long advocated the benefits of unions reaching out beyond our traditional confines and to other organisations who share our cares and concerns, the strategy endorsed by Congress is hugely welcome and in many ways a vindication of the arguments that have been made in favour of such a move.
The Organising Academy and the wider Organising & Recruitment Team at the TUC with which I have some involvement has over recent years been involved in a number of areas of work and initiatives that have sought to to take this concept forward practically.
In 2005, when I was Director of the TUC Organising Academy I wrote and delivered a course called Building Community Alliances for a group of union organisers and Industrial Chaplains from the Methodist Church. In 2009/10, the TUC “Active Unions Active Communities” projects supported links between unions and community organisations in Newcastle and Hackney and just last month the TUC launched “Swords of Justice to Civic Pillars” a report on the state of past, present and future relationships between unions and community organisations.
The challenge now for unions and the TUC is to turn the talk at Congress into a visible and viable reality that brings the campaign against the cuts not only into the wider public consciousness but also creates opportunities for them to be involved and add their voices.
The TUC’s role in all of this will be crucial. Our work will include arranging demonstrations, developing national links with partner organisations, lobbying MPs and possibly supporting unions asa they respond to the threats to the pay, conditions and jobs of their members. But there is another area in which the TUC’s is well placed to make a decisive contribution and that is, at a regional and local level, bringing activists from the trade union movement togther with the representatives of organisations with whom we are seeking to develop common cause in order to develop and learn new campaigning skills.
These sessions with the support of unions and other organisations, can be developed between the Organising Academy and Trade Union Education – two parts of the TUC that between them have an abundance of experience in training reps in organising and campaigning – and delivered at the level that is closest to where the real on the ground campaign activity is taking place.
The challenges and struggles ahead will require the movement, TUC and unions, to make the most of all of the resources at our disposal and our capacity in respect of training, at once one of our most valued and effective resources, should not be ignored.