Sunday, 22 February 2009

Public meeting: 7.30pm Wednesday 25 February - Brighton launch of Shop Stewards Network

Lessons of the Lindsey strike: How can we rebuild trade union power? Local launch of the National Shop Stewards Network with Bill Mullins, NSSN National Co-organiser

Building a network of trade union activists across the country

Why a Shop Stewards’ network?
Workers in Britain have taken a hammering over the last 25 years. After a decade of New Labour and a so-called economic boom, the attacks by both public and private sector employers get sharper by the day. Working hours - Europe’s longest - and workplace fatalities are up. So are top executive pay and pensions. The attacks on trade unions have paved the way to an ever more unequal society with 40 per cent of London’s children growing up below the poverty line even as City bonuses add up to billions a year.

Gordon Brown’s prescription for the public sector workforce is crystal clear. From the NHS, local government and education through to Royal Mail and Civil Service, it’s more privatisation, more jobs axed and more cuts in real pay, not just this year but straight through 2010.

To curb effective resistance the Government has kept Europe’s toughest anti-union laws that make any solidarity action illegal. But further defeats are not inevitable.

We say enough is enough. We can and must turn the tide. It is time we got together to organise the fight-back against the whole range of attacks and the laws that aid and abet them.
What we are doing?

With that in mind some 300 shop stewards and workplace representatives came together in July 2007 to launch the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN). The Network’s founding conference resolved to rebuild the strength of our working-class movement from the bottom up by creating local, regional and national networks to put elected reps and shop stewards from different unions in permanent contact with each other.

Organising mutual solidarity when trade unions are in dispute will be at the heart of our work. We will also share information to develop ways of successfully resisting attacks on our union rights, jobs, pay, conditions and pensions. We aim to build a movement that can help sweep the anti-union laws off the books and make them inoperable in the meantime.

Bringing new blood into our movement is vital so the NSSN will encourage younger workers, agency and migrant workers to join their unions, organise in their workplaces and become reps themselves.

What you can do?
Full membership of the NSSN is open to all elected trade union reps who are not national paid full-time officials. So if you are a shop steward, local rep, branch official, health and safety rep, trades council delegate or union learning rep, your place is in the NSSN as well as your own union. Of course, ALL union members are welcome to attend our meetings.

The NSSN does not interfere in internal trade union business but seeks to strengthen confidence, democracy and accountability at all levels of all our unions. We seek affiliations from all official trade union bodies, from local branches to national unions. We seek the co-operation and support of local trades union councils in building our network. In turn the NSSN can help revitalise dying trades councils and help to start new ones by putting known workplace reps in a town or city in touch with one another.

While the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union played an essential role in founding the NSSN, several other unions including the CWU, PCS, POA and NUM have already supported us at national and regional level.

A Brighton-wide Network?
The potential usefulness of such a network has been demonstrated time and again over the last few months in Brighton alone. The strike of Unite workers at Sussex University over an attack on their pensions; the strike ballot of bus workers over pay on Brighton & Hove Buses; the strikes in local government and the Civil Service by Unison and PCS members; the strike of the CWU Post Office workers last winter; the strikes of UCU lecturers in FE colleges; the action of the teachers in the NUT; the so-called ‘wild-cat’ actions of the GMB organised refuse workers. Every action was a triumph in itself but would have doubtless been strengthened by an organised support network which the NSSN aims to provide. We are calling this meeting, advertised overleaf, with an aim to share our experiences and to begin to develop the structures of the NSSN locally and beyond. Come along and get involved.

For more information come along to the meeting advertised above, contact Phil Clarke on 07709 696561 or visit our website at Thank you.