On Friday 9 July 2010, a group of local political and trades union activists and other interested parties from community and faith groups met together to hear two guest speakers, enjoy a vibrant discussion, and to resolve to set up the Cambridge People’s Charter Committee as a focal point for resistance to the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition.

First guest speaker was Willy Brown, Montagu Burton Professor of Industrial Relations in the University of Cambridge and Master of Darwin College. Willy used his long experience of industrial relations to analyse how those relations have changed in recent years and how much more they are likely to change under the coalition in the immediate future.
Second speaker was John Hendy, QC. John has frequently represented trades unions in court, most recently securing Unite’s notable victory for its cabin crew members over BA in the Court of Appeal.
One common theme from both speakers was the increasing use of legislation in order to weaken trades unions, particularly in the private sector. Disputes are now scrutinised by lawyers acting for employers, and judgements often given in their favour on what sound, to the lay person’s ears, to be the most petty and absurd grounds. Several of John’s examples brought wry smiles and hollow laughter.
Willy described a fascinating recent invitation from the Chinese government to visit Beijing to advise the All-China Federation of Trade Unions on dispute resolution, a real sign of the times. After a successful first visit, Willy has been invited back in September. John took the meeting very briefly through the six principles of the People’s Charter.
A wide-ranging and lively discussion followed, with contributions from many present, and a number of questions to both speakers.
The meeting closed with a resolution to set up a broad-based Cambridge People’s Charter Committee, to have at least a monthly Saturday Charter stall in the Market Square, and to co-ordinate resistance to the coalition in and around the City.