This year’s TUC may be smaller in number and shorter in length but the issues to be discussed and the decisions to be taken couldn’t be bigger writes Carolyn Jones.

  Happily, it looks like unions are ready to step up to the plate.  A quick glance through the agenda suggests a high degree of unity both in an understanding of the problems facing members and a determination to fight back.   
And we’ve seen what can happen when unions stand together in resistance. Following resolutions passed at the 2010 TUC, workers in the UK took to the streets in their thousands. First, calling for alternative economic policies (TUC march and rally on 26th March 2011). Then standing in opposition to cuts in public sector pensions (30th June 2011). 
Since then we’ve seen people take to the streets again – only this time without the coordinating hand of the organised working class. In August we saw riots on the streets.   Clearly that action was not based on class conscious decisions. But nor was it simply criminal activities of a so-called ‘feral’ minority.  
Riots reflect feelings of alienation, anger and a desire to share in society’s wealth – a wealth created by workers but increasingly absorbed by the rich. This year’s TUC motions reflect that anger and if passed and acted upon, could herald a union-led fight-back against capitalism’s worst excesses.  
The TUC agenda starts with a strong call for radical, alternative economic and industrial strategies. It rejects the government’s ideologically driven debt-reduction policies,  calling instead for policies of growth including investment via state controlled banks in green manufacturing, in services and in infrastructure projects. Rejecting the notion that “there is no alternative”, PCS lead the call for coordinated industrial action against cuts and against the government’s destructive policies. 
But the strongest calls for coordinated action in support of alternative policies are inevitably found in the numerous motions relating to workers’ pensions. This is a fight that is not going away.  The hypocracy of those politicians who call for the full force of the law to be used against looters pinching goods worth £5 while at the same time pinching pensions worth thousands from the pockets of public sector workers, will no doubt come to the fore in this debate. 
More calls for coordinated action, civil disobedience and industrial, legal and political  strategies of resistance are to be found in the composite motion on rights at work and in the equal rights section. So will this TUC deliver policies that will result in the organised working class – the labour movement – leading a class conscious fight-back based on strategic, progressive, economic alternatives to the capitalist system? 
In case it is argued that such coordinated action is unlawful under UK labour laws, Keith Ewing and John Hendy from the Institute of Employment Rights have prepared timely and persuasive arguments* to show how days of action against Government austerity cuts are protected under international law via the UK’s Human Rights Act 1998.  Our Day of Action has come! 
Carolyn Jones, Director, IER This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
* Days of Action: the legality of protest strikes against government cuts by Keith Ewing and John Hendy QC from IER