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Harrogate Socialists attended the 8th Annual Conference of the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) on Saturday 5th July. The NSSN was initiated by the RMT union in 2006 and now has the official support of 8 national unions (RMT, PCS, CWU, NUM, POA, NUJ, Bakers’ union & NAPO), as well as the backing of many union branches and trades councils.

Over 300 attended the conference which took place at Conway Hall in London. Among the delegates were those who are currently taking strike action, including workers from Doncaster Care UK, Lambeth College and Tyneside Safety Glass. Speakers included Janice Godrich (PCS president), Peter Pinkney (RMT president), Ronnie Draper (Bakers’ union general secretary) and Ginger Jentzen (Seattle $15 minimum wage organiser).

NSSN (2)All out on 10th July!

Rob Williams (NSSN chair) highlighted that the public sector action on 10th July will be the biggest show of strength of the trade union movement since the pensions strike of November 2011. Up to 1.5 million workers will be on strike against poverty pay from across the public sector unions. However, this strike needs to be the beginning of a sustained period of industrial action and not a one-day protest to let off steam.

One of the main themes of the conference was that strikes get results, contrary to the lies of the government and the employer. The Hovis workers in Wigan won a tremendous victory against zero-hour contracts through strike action. The government has backed down on their proposals to privatise the Land Registry following strikes by PCS workers in May. 15,000 RMT workers effectively shut down London earlier this year. Imagine what could be achieved with a General Strike across the public and private sector?

Political representation

Workshops took place on a range of struggles, including fast food rights/living wage, fighting NHS cuts, housing workers fighting back and blacklisting in the Construction industry. Harrogate Socialists attended the workshop on political representation after the Collins Review.

Dave Nellist (TUSC chair) stated that there is now no serious mechanism inside the Labour Party to challenge the acceptance of capitalism and austerity from within. The Collins Review has removed any possibility that Labour could return to its founding purpose of being the political expression of the organised working-class. Even policy formation is now being outsourced to think tanks such as the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

The Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is laying the foundations for a future workers’ party, a process which is still in its early stages. TUSC achieved an average share of the vote of 3.4% in this year’s local elections, providing a left alternative in over 500 council wards. The RMT union voted unanimously at their recent AGM to continue their support for TUSC. The 10 July strikes demonstrate the need for a new party of the working-class, a party which unequivocally speaks for us and supports our struggles.

NSSN (1)

Support the NSSN!

Janice Goodrich (PCS president) summed up the NSSN with the words “struggle, solidarity and socialism.” The NSSN actively campaigns for co-ordinated strikes and supports all unions taking industrial action. The NSSN supports workers fighting victimisation for union activities and continues to build links internationally.

  • Sign up to the NSSN email bulletin – contact: info@shopstewards.net
  • There are regional NSSN activities in Yorkshire, including an annual conference in Leeds. If anyone would like to support the work of the NSSN locally, please get in touch via harrogatesocialists@gmail.com