The majority in the meeting, who were Socialist Party (SP) members, voted through a series of decisions despite the opposition of absolutely everyone else, of various political affiliations and none.
The meeting decided to propose that the anti-cuts conference being organised by the NSSN on January 22nd should set up an “NSSN All-Britain Anti-Cuts campaign” and the election of a committee at the conference, which would be separate from the existing NSSN structures. As supporters of the NSSN, we are aware that the NSSN and its supporters are already working, locally, regionally and nationally in opposition to the government’s attacks on our public services and jobs. The NSSN has an immense task in helping to build for effective action which can begin to beat back these attacks, although it is noteworthy that the original proposal put forward by the Socialist Party omitted any mention of the NSSN working to organise industrial action against the public sector attacks.
However, to agree that the NSSN has an important contribution to make to the anti-cuts movement is a long way from agreeing to the need for it to launch yet another national anti-cuts campaign. At a time when there is pressure for anti-cuts campaigns to work together – witness the protocol agreed between the Coalition Of Resistance and the Right To Work campaign; the forum on December 5th organised by Right To Work on working together; and the pending meeting called by the Trade Union Coordinating Group on December 14th – the creation of yet another group can only be seen as counterproductive. That the NSSN participated in the forum on December 5th and intend to take part in the meeting on December 14th stands in stark contrast to this move.
Attempts by non-SP officers of the Network to remove the most contentious aspects in advance of the Steering Committee meeting were unsuccessful. The proposals were the subject of a lengthy, heated debate. Attempts to delete contentious parts of these proposals were defeated by the SP majority, with no wider support. Attempts to make positive proposals to work constructively with other anti-cuts organisations were defeated in the same way. The only real progress was the removal of a proposal that the NSSN should support anti-cuts candidates in local elections in May, a proposal which would have immediately wrecked the non-party and cross-party nature of the NSSN.
Launching a further national anti-cuts campaign, while obstructing cooperation with other organisations, would be a retrograde step, as well as changing the nature and direction of the NSSN. If the NSSN becomes controlled by one political party which is unwilling to work constructively with any other shop stewards in the network, we would see no point in further participation. Confirmation that this is the way the the SP intends to proceed seems to be borne out by events since the meeting of the Steering Committee – the secretary has unilaterally announced that only SP members will represent the NSSN at 2 forthcoming meetings discussing left/anti-cuts cooperation, with not even a pretence at consultation with non-SP officers .
We therefore urge the Socialist Party to pull back.”
NB: A personal request from Dave Chapple, NSSN Chair: “We are circulating this statement throughout the trade union movement, especially activists in NSSN affiliated or supportive unions, to which, ultimately, the NSSN should be responsible. Please discuss it at your trade union branch or other union meetings. We need messages of support for this statement, but would also welcome questions and comments, sent to the address below. NSSN Officers and steering committee members listed are willing to attend trade union meetings to put our case, so please consider inviting us.
Finally, friends, our London conference on 22nd January gives us a chance to return the NSSN to a sensible consensus-based policy: please do your best to attend: a substantial turnout of mainstream trades union activists can ensure that the NSSN has a future: the Socialist Party alternative, as the ‘trade union wing’ of a small left group, has no future at all.”
Dave Chapple, CWU, Chair, NSSN Steering Committee;
1 Blake Place, Bridgwater, Somerset, TA6 5AU; 01278 450562; firstname.lastname@example.org
Jane Bassett, NUT, vice-Chair, NSSN Steering Committee;
Bob Archer, NUT, NSSN Website/Press Officer;
George Binette, Unison, NSSN treasurer;
Ray Morell, Unite, NSSN National Organiser;
Becca Kirkpatrick, Unison, NSSN Affiliations/Fund-raising Officer
plus the following members of the NSSN Steering Committee:
Brian Bamford, Unite;
Andy Reid, PCS;
Stuart Melvin, USDAW;
Glyn Harries, Unison
Ian Allinson, Unite,
Gerry Downing, Unite,
Helen Steel, Unison
Pete Firmin, CWU,
Steve Ballard, NUT
Paul Turnbull, CWU
Note: For clarification, we attach the 2 resolutions put forward at the Steering Committee meeting, one by Linda Taaffe, on behalf of the Socialist Party, and one by George Binnette, with the support of all non-SP members of the Steering Committee. There were 3 accepted amendments to the proposal from Linda Taaffe – to delete “Organise support for anti-cuts candidates in the local elections in May”; to add “do everything in our power to lobby for as generalised industrial action as possible…” as an addition to the “First tasks”; and to replace “produce an email organiser…” at the end by “develop a communications team to speed internal/external communications, using the website, website, textstream, etc. and make use of affiliated unions resources”.
(1) Resolution put forward by Linda Taaffe on behalf of the Socialist Party
ANTI-CUTS CONFERENCE PROPOSALS
Aim – To assist in the struggle to Stop ALL CUTS
Two sections are key to stopping cuts
a) Trade unions (local, regional and national, and trades councils) with potential power of 6 million organised workers
b) Anti-cuts campaigns -= as well as students unions, welfare claimants, tenants and pensioners organisations, all can initiate demonstrations, occupations and other direct action; or they can offer support to back up trade union actions to stop job cuts and save services.
Propose to set up
Elect a committee of 10, plus the Chair and Sec of NSSN, which can get things moving immediately.
Comprised of 6 from trade unions and 4 from anti-cuts campaigns – to be elected at the conference.
Invite affiliated national/regional unions to send representatives to Campaign Committee.
The first tasks
Relentless lobbying of councils and councillors, and other bodies, to persuade them NOT to vote for cuts
Organise support for anti-cuts candidates in the local elections in May
Organise a strong contingent for TUC demo in March
Produce a regular email organiser to assist and inform
(2) Resolution put forward by George Binette with the support of all the non-Socialist Party members of the Steering Committee
“The NSSN calls upon all its trade union supporters and affiliates to ensure the largest possible turnout for our national anti-cuts conference on January 22nd.
We re-affirm our commitment, as trades unionists, to work to build and strengthen the local, regional and national anti-cuts movement, between now and January 22nd.
Given our basis as an industrial organisation, the January Conference should concentrate on providing the widest possible debate on the tactics and strategy needed to ensure that trade union strike action against the cuts begins sooner rather than later, that it is co-ordinated at local and national level, and that if possible it is sustained rather than restricted to token efforts.
It follows from this that this conference should NOT declare the NSSN as THE lead organisation of a national anti-cuts movement: rather, that the NSSN Officers and Steering Committee do everything constructive, through discussions with Coalition of Resistance, Right To Work and other groups, to build and launch a single national anti-cuts organisation early in 2011.
Whilst Conference should allow time for a full and necessary debate concerning trade union bodies supporting anti-cuts candidates in 2011 elections, the NSSN will leave decisions whether to stand such candidates to our local and national affiliates.”
To move: George Binnette
To second: Pete Firmin