The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 2nd November 2018

New London trades council takes off

by Theo Russell

HAMMERSMITH, Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea Trades Council was successfully launched last week at its first AGM in West London. It was addressed by Manuel Cortes, the general secretary of the TSSA rail union, and chaired by Roger Sutton of the Greater London Association of Trade Union Councils.

Cortes is a member of the TUC General Council, with responsibility for liaising with trades councils nationally. Roger Sutton recalled “the long and proud history of trades councils in this part of London”, and guided the meeting through the essential business — most importantly ensuring that enough local trade union branches were affiliated to make the new body viable — and gave invaluable advice on how to conduct its future work.

Cortes gave an upbeat speech about the current revival of the Labour Party and trade unions, with the growing number of new trades councils springing up across the country just one amongst many positive developments.

He said that the Labour Party “is now committed to stepping up for the 99 per cent of the population — a huge, huge step from where we were a few years ago. Workers are getting together in trade unions and fighting back”. “The most important thing is to remove this government but it’s not going to be easy. We are going to have to fight for it, we are going to have to throw them out.”

Cortes said that 30 years ago when he organised a meeting addressed by Jeremy Corbyn in Edinburgh: “The hall was almost empty. Now, even if you arrive an hour early to hear Jeremy speak you can’t get in!” But, he said: “The Labour Party and trade unions need to get more young people involved, so they can carry on the work in 20 or 30 years’ time.

“Britain now has the worst regulated labour market in Western Europe. We need to return to strong regulations, a living wage of at least £10 per hour.

“It’s a disgrace that there is no Ministry of Labour in Britain, when even the USA has one. Labour is now committed to putting that right.”

He also pointed to progress already being made by some councils bringing services back in-house but said that councils face huge problems with years of cuts under the current government.

When asked about the new ‘pop-up’ unions that have recently organised highly successful strikes by cleaning, restaurant and pub workers, including in Kensington and Chelsea, Manuel said: “The IWGB [Independent Workers Union of Great Britain] has managed to organise workers in TGI Fridays, and Unite and BECTU [Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union; now part of Prospect] have also moved into cinemas, MacDonalds and Wetherspoons.”

“The IWGB approached me directly to discuss joint work with Unite” she continued, pointing out that: “These new unions have managed to attract many young people because they can see that they are working on their behalf.” The new trades council’s immediate focus is likely to be the Save Our Hospitals campaign to stop plans to reduce Charing Cross Hospital in size by 87 per cent and downgrade it to a ‘local hospital’ with no blue-light A&E.

Even before its launch, members of the new trades council have been actively supporting the Justice4Grenfell campaign and working with the fire Brigades Union and local community, and the trades council will continue to support the fight for justice for the victims of the tragedy in North Kensington.