One of the oldest trade union organisations in the country celebrated its 150th anniversary at the TUC on October 23. The Greater London Association of Trade Union Councils (GLATUC) was founded as the London Trades Council and has been involved in every major trade union event in the capital ever since – from the Matchgirls Strike of 1888 to the battle over cuts today. This celebration event took place straight after the SERTUC Rally against the cuts and the march from the RMT HO.
The theme of the GLATUC event was practical organising at the rank & file local level to fight the attack on jobs, services and wages & conditions. This was chosen as the London Trades Council was set up to address the need to build solidarity action for unions in struggle, given impetus by the big builders strike of 1859.
The meeting was opened by TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber who announced the TUC date of March 26 for the national demonstration against Government policies. Other speakers were Linda Kietz (GLATUC President),John McDonnell MP and Steve Todd (RMT National Secretary).
The meeting got down to discussing the most effective ways of building solidarity action at the base level. All agreed that the only way to create a strong national response was to build from the base up. The comments of Mark Serwotka and Bob Crow about the key role of trade union councils were echoed by participants from trades councils and unions like PCS, RMT, UNITE, GMB, UNISON, POA, CWU, MU and NUJ.
Across London Trades Councils are organising local campaigns but a trades council is only as strong as the support put in by local union bodies. If trade unionists want really effective trades council campaigns it is in their own hands. Trades councils are a network of bodies uniquely placed to bring together trade union activities at the local level and engage with other community bodies.
GLATUC co-ordinates at the London level and brings a wealth of organising experience together and also has wider contacts. For example it has regular contact with trade union bodies in capital cities across Europe and the world and recently was in discussion with capitals like Athens, Madrid, Paris & Rome about the financial crisis created by the bankers.
GLATUC and the trades councils covering every borough are geared up to supporting unions like PCS as they prepare for what is likely to be a long and difficult battle. They can, for example, ensure the information about the real tax situation uncovered by PCS (which shows the cuts are not needed if full taxes were collected from companies and the rich) is spread to other trade unionists and local organisations. That is one important element in building a strong and confident resistance to the Government policies.
GLATUC produced a commemorative booklet 150 years of union struggle