What is Hackney TUC?

Submitted by Janine on Fri, 16/12/2005 - 18:27.

It’s a shop stewards'/reps/index.html' network for the borough.

Hackney TUC brings together trade unionists who live or work in the borough to share knowledge and experience, to build solidarity, and to provide mutual support. We meet once a month, largely informally, but we also occasionally hold large public meetings. We are particularly keen for trade unionists who live in the borough to get involved and to bring fresh ideas and energy which can be shared and developed.

Unionising the community

We know that many people in Hackney are forced, due to poverty, racism and social exclusion, into marginal jobs, paying at or below the minimum wage, with little or no access to employment protection. Alongside the TUC Education Centre at Tottenham (CoNEL) and the Hackney Law Centre, Hackney TUC has established an introductory training guide to rights at work, which can be delivered at workplaces or community centres. This course is delivered free to community organisations in the borough and we would welcome contact from any groups who would like to discuss how this training could be tailored for particular groups of workers.

Promoting union organising

We are closely associated with the London union organisers network, and we work with local trade union branches and union organising campaigns to promote trade unionism in the borough. This can involve supporting organising initiatives in ‘green field’ sites where the union movement has not previously had a presence, or in areas where unions formally existed, but are currently dormant. We have experience and expertise that we are keen to share with other trade unionist seeking to strengthen their organisation.

Challenging racism and discrimination

For many years, Hackney TUC has prioritised campaigning against racism, discrimination and social exclusion. We fully supported the campaign by Hackney council workers, led by the Black Workers Group, against council racism. When Hackney Unison officers were suspended for drafting a report into council racism, Hackney TUC called a large public meeting and built an effective campaign of support.

Supporting unions in struggle

Hackney TUC provides support to trade unionists in struggle, when unions are forced to take strike action. Recent examples include council workers, rail workers, fire fighters, airline catering workers, postal workers and civil servants.

Defending trade union activists

One of our key objectives has been to defend trade unionists facing victimisation at work because of their union activities. Trade union members have legal protection for their trade union work, but this is often not respected by their employers. In these circumstances, Hackney TUC provides support through its connection with local networks up and down the country, where calls for solidarity are often met with a huge response. Delivering this level of solidarity can be very effective at challenging employers who think that no one will notice if they victimise trade union members. In the last three years, we have defended six trade union activists who have been victimised and in all but one case, we were successful in seeing their re-instatement.

Encouraging dialogue

Hackney TUC seeks to promote dialogue and discussion in the belief that there is more that unites us than there is to divide us. In 2004, we held a debate on ‘the crisis in working class representation’ where a Labour Party NEC member debated with various representatives of other parties who aspire to represent working class interests. In 2005, if a referendum is announced, we plan a debate on the EU, with speakers from within the labour and trade union movement who share our core values but disagree over the impact the EU constitution, continued membership and the single currency will have on our lives.

Challenging the BNP and the conditions that give rise to them

In June 2004, the BNP hoped to make a breakthrough in London. One reason for their optimism was that the traditionally low turnout in inner city boroughs like Hackney made their minority support appear more significant in percentage terms. However in Hackney, the TUC held a large public meeting and worked closely with community organisations to mobilise people to vote to ensure the BNP were not successful at peddling their race hatred. We also stressed that such measures were very much a ‘short-term’ response, and that we need to tackle the conditions of hopelessness, and the officially sanctioned racism (particularly against people seeking asylum) that the BNP thrive on.

Internationalism

We recognise that we live in a globalised economy. We seek to promote international solidarity with trade unionists around the world. Whether its campaigning against war, or publicising the oppression of trade unionists in many parts of the world, we see our struggle for justice here as inextricably linked with that of workers throughout the world. We have actively promoted the TUC appeals for financial support for trade unionists in Iraq and in the countries affected by the Asian tsunami.

Why don’t you get involved today?

You do not have to be an official delegate to Hackney TUC to get involved, any trade union member who lives or works in Hackney is welcome at our meetings. However, delegates from trade union branches are key to our accountability to the wider union movement. So, if you are in a trade union and you would like to be a delegate, then please take this leaflet to your branch secretary with a request that your branch affiliates to Hackney TUC; many trade unions will pay the small affiliation fee from central rather than branch funds. If you would like further information about Hackney TUC, then please do not hesitate to contact us (you can also visit our website). We are also willing to come along to groups of workers or community groups to talk about the work that we do.


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