We have continued our traditional public work and tried a new feature - a regional conference. Since January 2000 the Council has increased the number of its affiliates from 16 to 20 which, compared to 1997 when we only had 11, is a reflection (we would like to think) of growing interest and activity within branches, and a recognition of the role that our Council has played in the community.
We have held nine formal General Meetings during the year and one informal meeting took place in July. The Executive Committee has met on nine occasions.
As a reflection of our increasing workload delegates decided to reduce our invitations to speakers. This resulted in four people addressing the Council in 2001: John Allenby, MSF Retired Members’ Association, who spoke on Pensions, Ann Vinden who, on International Women’s Day, addressed the Council on issues affecting women in the Trade Union Movement, and Peter Medhurst, Regional Industrial Organiser TGWU, who spoke on “Current Issues in the Countryside and their Impact on the Workforce”. In November, PCS colleagues addressed the Council; this is referred to below.
We published one edition of our newsletter Chelmsford Searchlight, and our website has been continuously updated, with reports of the Council’s activities being displayed on the site. The website now has 45 different headings. We asked branches to promote Trades Councils through their national union websites and we are aware that at least one has already responded positively - the TSSA.
We have also had reports of our General meetings and public events published in the Essex Chronicle and occasionally the Yellow Advertiser and Essex Weekly News. We have also had a number of press releases published in the Morning Star. In December we received an invitation from the Editor of the Essex Chronicle to attend a “Thank You Evening” for our contribution to the paper during the year; this was the first time the Trades Council has been recognised in this way.
By means of the internet we have been able to show our solidarity with trade unionists in other countries. We have written in support of employees at the Zimbabwe Standard Chartered Bank and employees at Unilever (India) which was imposing intolerable conditions on its workforce. Following the horrific events that took place in New York on 11 September, we also sent our condolences to trade unionists in the USA. Working in conjunction with Chelmsford College, we sent a parcel of cookery books to Eziko Catering College, Cape Town, a college that has been established to train the underprivileged within the Langa township of South Africa. Unfortunately, our two attempts to make contact with trade unionists in Annonay, France, one of our twinned towns, have not received a response.
For several months we worked with Tenants Against Privatisation to oppose the sale of Chelmsford’s council houses. This campaign was not successful and tenants voted to place their trust with a private housing association. However, it is worthy of note that during our campaign Braintree Borough Council decided not to proceed with the sale of their housing.
With the NHS and public services still a high priority within our work, the Council has been represented at nearly every meeting of the Mid Essex Hospitals Trust, and several issues have been raised at public question time. We have also responded to consultation documents that have been issued by the regional health authorities on the Broomfield Hospital development and Chelmsford Primary Care Group. We also gave our support to the chemist situated at Westlands who was seeking to obtain premises at the new estate on the site in Writtle Road.
We did not get as many invitations to speak to schools as last year; nevertheless, our Vice-President, Geof Lynn, did visit Plume School on their Safety Day, spoke to the students and distributed a wealth of trade union material.
Continuing the successful format of years, the Council held a number of exhibitions in County Hall to mark Workers’ Memorial Day, International Women’s Day, and the European Health and Safety Week. During the period that the exhibitions were on display (5-6 days) a considerable amount of trade union publicity was issued. We also campaigned during the year to have Workers’ Memorial Day, International Women’s Day, International Workers’ Day and International Co-operative Day included in national union diaries. UNISON and the TSSA has done so and we have been advised that three others are intending to follow suit.
This year the theme for our traditional May Rally was Global Poverty, Global Solidarity, Global Solutions; the speakers were Jean Lambert MEP, Rob Cartridge from War on Want, with Tom Mahon from Tenants Against Privatisation also making a contribution. Although the event was a success, numbers have dropped slightly over the years and the Mill is not entirely suitable. The collection was shared equally between TAP and Unison members who were on strike against the Private Finance Initiative being imposed at Dudley Hospitals.
During the General Election we asked branches to send us questions that they would like us to put to all the candidates. The exercise was not as successful as we hoped and only five questions were received. Furthermore, only two candidates responded, the Liberal Democrat, Dr. Jane Jackson, and Eleanor Burgess representing the Green Party. To make matters worse, their responses arrived too late for us to advise branches of their views.
When, in November, PCS members employed in the Benefits Agency were obliged to take strike action, the Trades Council immediately offered its support. After the local branch made their case at our November meeting, the Chairman, Andrew Coburn, promoted the union’s cause at our November Conference. The Council was represented at all local branch strike meetings and participated, with the Council’s banner, at a picket in Southend. We joined the picket line at the Chelmsford Benefits Agency on most mornings and wrote to the Minister responsible for causing the dispute, Alistair Darling MP, asking him to change his policy. The Council is delighted that the local PCS branch has affiliated, as this renews a relationship that commenced as long ago as 1936. Since that time a number of branch members have been Officers of our Trades Council. At the time of writing those on strike at the Benefits Agency have been asked to return to work by the Executive although further action is planned for the New Year.
Both the Secretary and Chairman of the Trades Council have attended meetings of the Essex County Association of Trades Councils and play a full part in its affairs. The County Association accepted our motion on Ethical Investments which was moved at the Annual Conference of Trades Councils by our Chairperson, Andrew Coburn; it was accepted unanimously; the TSSA’s Ethical Investments Charter on which the motion was based can be seen on our website.
In addition to supporting our colleagues in Dudley, we also gave our backing to those on strike at Friction Dynamics. One of our colleagues, John Bailey, attended the lobby of Parliament in support of those in dispute at Friction Dynamics; we also asked our two local MPs to attend but they were otherwise engaged. Once again a small group went to the Burston School Strike Rally. We asked Essex County Council what it is doing to promote the UN’s Decade for a Culture of Peace for Children and when we received a poor response, we encouraged Labour Councillors to take the matter up. Just before Workers’ Memorial Day we asked the Borough Council to mark the event by issuing a statement of commemoration, but this was declined. Through the press we promoted the TUC’s campaign on asbestos, and drew the attention of branches to the TUC’s report on the dangers of latex.
A totally new venture for the Council was our conference “Trades Unions After the General Election”. This took place on 10th November with seventy-five people attending, many of these representing trades unions, co-operative groups and various political organisations from Kingston to Stevenage and Essex. The speakers were Gareth Thomas MP, Andy Love MP and Mick Rix, General Secretary ASLEF.
In conclusion, the Trades Council would like to register its thanks to the Red Lion for the use of their premises for Council meetings during the year, and to Unison for the use of its premises for Executive meetings.
Amalgamated Engineering Union (Chelmsford Central)
Fire Brigades Union (Chelmsford)
GMB (Food & Leisure No.1)
Manufacturing, Science, Finance (0012)
Manufacturing, Science, Finance (1103)
National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (Colchester)
National Union of Teachers (Mid-Essex)
Public and Commercial Services Union
TGWU/Administrative Clerical and Supervisory (UNISON)
Transport and General Workers’ Union (1/699)
Transport and General Workers’ Union (1/1400.2)
Transport and General Workers’ Union (1653)
Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (Anglia No. 1)
Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (Anglia No.2)
Union of Communication Workers (Essex Amalgamated) V. Thurnell
UNISON (Chelmsford Borough Council)
UNISON (Essex Ambulance)
UNISON (Essex County)
UNISON (Mid-Essex Hospitals)
Organisations to which the Trades Council is affiliated
British Pensioners’ Trade Union Action Association, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Chelmsford Pensioners’ Action Group, Chelmsford Society, Cuba Solidarity Campaign, Essex County Association of Trades Councils, Labour Research Department, Liberation, Trade Union CND, Trade Union Review, Trades Union Congress.