Chelmsford TUC

Annual Reports

Annual Report 2010

Chelmsford and District TUC held ten General Meetings and ten Executive Committee Meetings in 2010. Our affiliations now number 21 representing approximately 18000 affiliates. All branches and delegates are sent minutes of our meetings and, where e-mail addresses have been provided, copies of the Executive Committee minutes. Regular e-mails are sent to branches and delegates to keep them informed of events and activities. Our website is also used to promote activities.

Delegates fully support the Trades Union Councils’ Programme of Work and have endeavoured to fulfil its objectives, including fighting fascism and the far right, and developing green TUC’s.

The Trades Council was officially represented at the South East Region TUC, SERTUC Trades Councils’ Conference, Essex County Association of Trades Councils (of which Andrew Coburn is Chairman), and the Annual Conference of Trades Councils where our motion on co-operatives was accepted. Delegates also attended a number of events at the TUC and participated in the October lobby of Parliament against the cuts.

It is pleasing to record that one of our delegates, Marion Wilson, (Mid Essex NUT) is a member of SERTUC’s Women’s Committee, the NPC Council and its Executive, and is Chair of its Women’s Committee.  Marion also serves on the SERTUC Public Services and Pensioners’ Committees, and represented the TUC at an international women’s meeting in Brussels this year. Andrew Coburn represents the Council at SERTUC.

The following speakers have addressed the Council at General Meetings: Steve Kelly on blacklisting, and Alun Morinan on the work of the Campaign against the Arms Trade. Despite the bad weather, nine delegates sat down to a dinner in The Orange Tree following the December meeting.

It is sad to report that a former delegate to the Trades Council, John Johnson, died at the age of 51 on 26 August. John was a stalwart of the local branch of the UN, an active environmentalist, and a gifted artist. John organised a UN display table at our May Rally for many years. The Trades Council was represented at his funeral and our condolences were sent to his mother, Jean.

The Trades Council wishes to place on record its thanks to Greg Grant, who will be retiring as our Treasurer at the AGM. Greg has been a delegate to the Council for many years and its Treasurer since 1991. At the December meeting Greg was presented with the TUC’s silver medal and a certificate for his services to the Trades Council. This is the third such award since the Trades Council was established in 1899.

David Freeman is also retiring. David, who has been our auditor since 1979, is a former member of the National Union of Bank Employees. Another active member of the Trades Council who has retired is Andy Window, a member of the FBU. Andy has been a Vice-Chairman of the Council for many years and was a delegate to the County Association of Trades Councils. Last, but by no means least, we say farewell to William Seymour who has moved on in his career with Thompsons Solicitors to their Wimbledon office. We thank them all for their dedication and work for the Trade Union Movement.

CAMPAIGNING AND PUBLIC ACTIVITIES On 28 April we held a Workers’ Memorial Day event at our cherry tree which we had planted in Central Park a few years ago. This took a different format from those of previous years and was the best attended to date. Led by our Chairman, and with the participation of trades council delegates and employees from Thompsons Solicitors, we heard a number of readings about health and safety, and a prayer was read by Chris Bishop, the Stansted Airport Chaplain. Wreaths were laid at the tree by the Trades Council, Thompsons Solicitors and a team of building workers from Broomfield Hospital to commemorate the death of one of their colleagues during the construction of the new wing. We also held a Health and Safety Exhibition in the public square at the Central Library. A similar exhibition took place during European Health & Safety Week. An exhibition was also held to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Once again we were able to hold our Rally on 1 May. The speakers were Steve Hart (Unite) and Peter Dixon, Labour Party Prospective Parliamentary Candidate; music and songs were provided by Geoff Williams. Then, on 3 May, we participated in the One World Event in Central Park with a display table promoting trade unionism and anti-racism. We were pleased to participate in this very popular and successful event which combined the cultures of many ethnic communities in Essex with those of traditional English crafts and activities.

During the General Election we purchased approximately 7000 anti-racist leaflets from Unite Against Fascism and Hope not Hate and distributed these throughout the constituency. We also distributed some of the leaflets, along with our May Day leaflets, at the Love Music, Hate Racism event in the Bar House on 23 April. During Black History Month we had a stall in the High Street to promote trade unionism and to show our opposition to racism; this was promoted by Chelmsford Borough Council on its website. We also held an anti-racist exhibition in the public square of Chelmsford Library. It is of concern to the Trades Council that the Essex Racial Equality Council, to which we were affiliated, has been disbanded.

Following on from our very successful public meeting last year on Climate Change we were asked to organise a further meeting with a view to establishing Chelmsford as a Transition Town. This took place in June and, although it did not attract the numbers that we had hoped for, representatives from the Co-op Party, Green Party, Labour Party, Trades Council, Chelmsford Star Co-operative Society and some individuals attended. A group was formed and it was agreed to establish an email network and to build contacts. The group’s objectives were to focus on pollution, traffic congestion, buses and taxis. It was confidently expected that when progress was made other specialist groups would be formed. This did not take place at the pace we would have liked but a few months later we were approached by the recently established Royal Society of Arts in Chelmsford who wished to be involved. Since then significant progress has been made. It is not the intention of the Trades Council to become heavily engaged in this work but we do wish to retain an interest and to further the objectives of the group when possible to do so.

Through the interest of one of our TSSA delegates we supported a Peace Walk in support of the soldier, Joe Glenton, who was in prison at Colchester. This took place from 27 June to 1 July from London to Colchester. We met the fifteen marchers at an excellent meeting on 29 June at Friends Meeting House before they continued their march.

Once again we were present at the Burston School Strike Rally on 12 September. We also attended, with our banner, the picket lines at Chelmsford’s Job Centre during the PCS strike. We were represented at a meeting of the Coalition of Resistance in September, participated in the vigil outside the US Embassy in support of the Miami 5 in October, and attended the AGM of Mid Essex Hospitals Trust at Broomfield Hospital.

The Council purchased three shares, valued at £60, in the Fairtraders Co-operative. We are kept up to date with its activities and we are delighted with its progress. Delegates celebrated Fairtrade Fortnight with a Fairtrade tasting donated by Chelmsford Star and the Co-operative Group.

After reading the TUC’s pamphlet A Trade Union Guide To Ethical Trade we were concerned at the tone of one section relating to Fairtrade. We wrote to the TUC setting out our views and received a response explaining that although Fairtrade was making a positive difference there would appear to be issues around the recognition of trade unions in some companies, certification and the premium process. As a result it was agreed that we should refer this to Chelmsford Fairtrade Town Campaign and to write to the Fairtrade Foundation seeking their comments. The Fairtrade Foundation has thanked us for the work we have done to promote Fairtrade and has assured us that they accept that challenges still remain but that it is working hard, in conjunction with trade unions, to resolve issues. It is currently funding a programme of workshops in four Latin American countries in order to bring together Fairtrade auditors, producer staff and trade unions in order to build stronger relationsships to address the best way to improve workers’ rights. The Fairtrade Foundation has also been in touch with the TUC to work internationally to help improve processes for dealing with infractions of labour standards and to identify ways to expand worker benefits from Fairtrade.

We have written to Simon Burns MP outlining our concerns that cuts could be made to the Health & Safety Executive; he responded by saying that although it has a vital role to play, all Government departments will have to adjust to the economic situation. He was, however, much more positive in replying to our letter on Cuba stating that he wants better relations between the USA and Cuba and is confident that the Obama administration will continue to do this. We also wrote to him seeking his views on voting systems and the “Power” debate; he told us that he was totally opposed to PR and fully supports the first past the post system. He supported scrapping ID cards and voted in the House of Commons to this effect.

For some time we have been expressing our concern at the development of academies and trust schools and, following an article in the NUT’s The Teacher, we wrote to a Board member of Chelmsford Star Co-operative Society who is also Chairman of the Co-operative Trust school, St. Clere’s, detailing our concerns.

We sent letters to all the Eastern Region MEPs regarding the proposed EU trade agreements with Colombia and their responses were passed to Justice for Colombia. Following the publication of a TUC leaflet regarding the boycott of goods produced in Palestinian settlements, we wrote to W. Hague MP, N. Clegg MP, H. Harman MP, S. Burns MP, and the Israeli Ambassador condemning the attack on the aid ships. We also called for a full independent enquiry and the end of all restrictions on the movement of people and goods from and to Gaza. The only responses came from H. Harman MP and N. Clegg MP, both of whom responded positively and stating that they had called for an end to the blockade.

Following a request from the Labour Party to send a member to our meetings it was agreed that this was acceptable under the following conditions set out by the TUC: "The council shall not subscribe to the funds of any political party. The council may cooperate with the local Labour Party, providing that no part of the funds of the council derived from the general funds of affiliated trade unions shall be applied directly or indirectly in the furtherance of the political objects specified in Section 72 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. The fraternal or sororal delegate is not a full delegate, cannot vote in the decision making processes of the council and has to speak with permission of the meeting.”

In September we held a public meeting to “Save our Public Services”. This was assisted financially by the TUC’s Development Fund and we wish to place on record our thanks to the TUC for its donation. Working with the Public Services Not Private Profit Campaign the meeting took place at Christ Church on 22 September. The speakers were David Powell (GMB), Jon Rogers (Unison) and Mick Patrick (Defend Council Housing). Approximately 70 people attended, and during the meeting it was agreed to form a Chelmsford Against the Cuts group. A further meeting led to a website being opened at http://chelmsfordagainstcuts.wordpress.com/

Since then the group has purchased a banner and has been leafletting and collecting signatures on a petition against the cuts on Saturdays. Leaflets have been distributed at several workplaces including the bus station, fire station, Anglia Ruskin University, Benefit Office, County Hall, Chelmsford Borough Council, mail depots and FE Colleges. Immediately after the Chancellor outlined his policies we distributed a leaflet in the High Street.

The group is very positive and we all work well together. Meetings are held every two weeks and Unison’s Regional office and its Essex County branch, along with Thompsons Solicitors, have been very supportive by printing leaflets. We have received donations for our activities from the Co-operative Party, the Labour Party, and union branches. In November the Trades Council agreed to assist the cuts group by using its Solidarity Account for banking expenses. All donations are paid into that account with a member of the group appointed as Treasurer.

The Trades Council and members of the “Cuts” group were invited by the Essex Chronicle to participate in “soapbox” event and we have had a lot of positive publicity. We have had all our reports published and been quite successful in getting our press reports used by two newspapers and BBC Essex.

In conjunction with Chelmsford Against The Cuts we held a public meeting in Friends Meeting House in December. There were speakers from the NUS at Colchester University and cuts groups at Southend, Harlow, Colchester and Chelmsford. We agreed to give support to other cuts groups in Essex when they hold meetings and we attended the Southend Rally on 12 December.

The Trades Council developed a model letter which was sent to all Essex County Councillors by all cuts groups and this has been sent to colleagues throughout the county. We organised, along with Chelmsford Against The Cuts a lobby of the Council on 14 December with approximately 150 supporters including trade unionists, school students, pensioners and members of the public.

We would like to place on record our thanks to all those delegates and colleagues who worked hard to make our campaigning work such a success.

MEDIA ACTIVITIES A report of every General Meeting has been published in the Community News section of the Essex Chronicle and on our website where our Annual Report can be read. During the year we have also used our website to promote the campaigns of a number of unions and this year we introduced a new page featuring short videos.

As part of our campaign against the cuts we have had press releases published in national, regional, local newspapers and announced on local radio and two interviews took place on BBC Essex. All of these gave us excellent publicity for the campaign.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Thompsons Solicitors and the Red Lion for their assistance during the year.

Chairman: Andrew Coburn, Secretary: Malcolm Wallace, Treasurer: Greg Grant

CHELMSFORD TUC 2010 AFFILIATIONS ASLEF Bishops Stortford. CWU Essex Amalgamated. FBU Chelmsford. GMB London Stores General, GMB London Central General. National Association of Probation Officers (Essex). NASUWT Essex Federation. NUT Mid Essex. PCS DWP Essex. RMT Colchester & District. Unite Amicus Chelmsford Central. Unite London Construction 0555. Unite TGWU ACTS Staffs Branch (Eastern Constituency 1/372). Unite TGWU LE/1/1400.2. Unite TGWU LE/1/699. TSSA Anglia 1. TSSA Anglia No. 2. TSSA Network Rail East Anglia. TSSA Underground Infrastructure. Unison Chelmsford Borough. Unison Essex County. Unison Mid Essex Hospitals.

ORGANISATIONS TO WHICH THE COUNCIL IS AFFILIATED Essex Pensioners’ Action Association, National Pensioners’ Convention, Chelmsford Fairtrade Town Campaign, Chelmsford Society, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Cuba Solidarity Campaign, Essex County Association of Trades Councils, Labour Research Department, Hazards, Trades Union Congress, Unite Against Fascism, Seachlight, Justice for Colombia, Charter for Women.