TUC Congress 2016, 11th to 14th September
My first time at TUC Congress was an opportunity to meet with trade unionists from across the country. Congress opened on Sunday with debates on the impact of Brexit and an emergency motion calling for zero tolerance for sexual harassment. NUT delegate from the South West Region, Karla Wheeler, described the impact of sexism on pupils and on our own members.
A full day of debates on Monday covered justice, postal services, fire and rescue services, housing, welfare and industrial policy. London NUT delegate Gerald Clarke made a contribution to the debate on affordable housing, highlighting the problems faced by teachers in renting or trying to buy in London. Mandy Hudson, of the NEC, but speaking on behalf of the TUC Disabled Workers' Conference, moved the motion on work capability assessments and links to suicide.
Congress can appear somewhat stage managed and there was very little dissent from the general council position until a motion on climate change. Amongst others things, the motion called for a halt to airport expansion and a rapid transition from fossil fuels. The TUC General Council position was to oppose the motion, but, in the NUT pre-meeting on Sunday, Jess Edwards (NEC) and Dave Harvey (NEC) and I had argued that we should support it and this was the position adopted by the NUT. In the debate the motion was opposed by UNITE and GMB who argued for members' jobs. Speakers from UNISON, FBU and PSC, supporting the motion, pointed out that there's wouldn't be any jobs on a dead planet. The motion was lost. Interestingly, the NASUWT voted against the motion, supporting the general council's position.
The education section started in the afternoon with an excellent speech from Kevin Courtney on the funding crisis in education. I was due to speak during the debate on 16-19 education, intending to point out the damage done by area reviews, but we ran out of time and the motion was moved and seconded without time for other contributions. Contributions from the NASUWT were always preceded by them describing themselves as NASUWT, the teachers' union. I would have been tempted to introduce myself as Ian Leaver, NUT, a teachers' union, so perhaps it was for the best that I didn't get to speak!
On Monday I attended a fringe meeting on fighting back against austerity addressed by Ronnie Draper of the Bakers' Union, Kevin Courtney, and Matt Wrack from the FBU.
Tuesday saw debates on employment and trade union rights, health services, pay, human rights, equality, union organising, H&S and creative industries. For the NUT, Jerry Glazier (NEC) spoke on the trade union act, Marilyn Bater (NEC) spoke about women organising again the trade union act, and Jennie Jones (London) spoke movingly on the the mental health and the well being of children. However, the highlight for me was shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, addressing congress and then speaking during the lunchtime education fringe meeting. She attacked the government's proposals for grammar schools and thanked the NUT for the support which had made her first couple of weeks in post much easier than it would have been otherwise.
The final morning of congress debated transport, learning and skills, migration and refugees which included a passionate contribution form Sally Kincaid (Yorkshire/Midlands). Unfinished business including a motion on the human rights act, and a motion on public sector pay which NUT President Philipa Harvey spoke to. An ATL/NUT emergency motion on selective education was moved by Mary Bousted of ATL and seconded by Louise Regan on behalf of the NUT.