Thursday, 12 April 2018

Reading Trades Union Council Affiliate Trade Unions, 2018

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Communication Workers' Union

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National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers

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Transport Salaried Staffs Association

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Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers

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University and College Union

Thursday, 15 March 2018

RTUC Backs Lecturers' Pensions Dispute

As university staff's pensions come under attack, the Reading Trades Union Council has joined the University & College Union's picket lines at the University of Reading to show their opposition to the dilution of workers' rights. The UCU has produced the following news-sheet laying out the facts of the dispute and putting the lie to the pension administrator's suggestion that the University Superannuation Scheme is unaffordable. In fact, the USS has reserves enough to ensure a healthy pension scheme for all members for years to come.

The UCU's strike dates are as follows: Thursday 22 February; Friday 23 February; Monday 26 February; Tuesday 27 February; Wednesday 28 February; Monday 5 March; Tuesday 6 March; Wednesday 7 March; Thursday 8 March; and then the whole week of 12-16 March. Picketing is occurring at all entry points to the University campuses at Whiteknights (5 entries) and London Road (two entries) from 7:45am to 10:30am.

UCU Information Leaflets
As well as showing solidarity at the picket lines, giving out leaflets as well as offering moral support, UCU encourages supporters to write the the University of Reading's Vice-Chancellor, Sir David Bell, expressing opposition to the proposed pension reform. A model letter (sent by email to by an RTUC member) is given here:

Dear Sir David Bell

I am writing as a doctoral graduate and former lecture in history and English literature at the University of Reading, with four years' contributions in the University Superannuation Scheme (USS), to protest at the proposed reforms to the USS - from a defined benefit scheme to a defined contribution scheme. I am angry to know of your personal support for this reform and aghast to learn of Sir Andrew Cubie's use of his casting vote (as Chair of the USS Board) to push defined contribution onto all members of USS. As I am sure you are aware, it is conventional for a casting vote to maintain the status quo when a body is in dead heat - not be used to force a decisive change of policy on a divided body.

The economic arguments for reform have not been made. On the contrary, the scheme's assets have increased at an average of 12% per year over the last 5 years and now value more than £5 billion, while projected income and expenditure for 40 years show that payments to pensioners are covered by contributions paid in without touching the assets.

As a responsible employer, I urge you to rethink your position on the proposed USS pension reform. A defined benefit scheme (even the career average earnings scheme which replaced the final salary scheme in recent years) allows your staff peace of mind to plan for their retirement with a modicum of understanding about the likely financial health of their pensions. A defined contribution scheme removes this peace of mind and leaves your staff vulnerable to the uncertain performance of the stock market - an institution which is prone to cyclical downturns and which has been returning poorer and poorer results for pensioners over the past several decades.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to your reply - and hope you will see the light and reposition yourself as a supporter of maintaining the defined benefit pension scheme. You would be joining such luminaries as your Warwick University counterpart, Prof. Stuart Croft, who went on record just last month supporting a defined benefit scheme.

RTUC delegates, Cllr Sarah Hacker (front left, UNITE) and Kevin Jackson
(front right, UNISON) support the UCU picket line on Shinfield Road
Week 1: After two strike days, RTUC support has been captured at both the Shinfield Road and Earley Gate entrances to the Whiteknights Campus. Nada Al Sanjari (NEU), John Gillman (UNITE), Cllr Sarah Hacker (UNITE), Kevin Jackson (UNISON), John Oversby (UCU), James Parker (UNITE) and Melani Schroeter (UCU) demonstrated the fraternity of workers across trade unions in defending the victories hard won over the decades of struggle for rights.

RTUC delegates, John Gillman (6th right, UNITE), Melani Schroeter
(4th right, UCU) and Nada Al Sanjari (right, NEU),
supports the UCU picket line at Earley Gate
Week 2: The second week of picket lines showed a continuation of UCU strength, plus strong solidarity support, with Keith Jerrome (UNITE) joining the aforementioned contingent from RTUC. In addition, Labour's Reading East MP, Matt Rodda, joined the protest - demonstrating his personal commitment to advance the Labour Party's policy of supporting strike action against austerity politics.

John Oversby (left, RTUC & UCU) and Matt Rodda MP
(7th left) join the picket line in week 2
Week 3: RTUC continued their support of the UCU strike with John Partington (TSSA) leafleting on Redlands Road, outside the Acacia Road entrance to the London Road campus.
John Partington (left; TSSA) joins
the Acacia Road picket line
UCU's 'Education Unlimited' Teachout - alternative education during
strike days. Melani Schroeter (RTUC & UCU) front third from left
Nada Al-Sanjari (NEU) at the banner-making workshop
Nada Al-Sanjari (third right, NEU) and Melani Schroeter (second right, UCU)
at a Teachout event at the Rising Sun Arts Centre (© Peter Kruschwitz)
Week 4: John Gillman (UNITE) of RTUC continued his support of the strike, backing the Reading students occupation of Whiteknights House, the administrative headquarters of the university.
John Gillman (UNITE) backing the student
occupation of Whiteknights House

RULCS defy RUSU - but back the NUS - in supporting striking academics

Thursday, 8 March 2018

RTUC at Reading's International Women's Day March and Rally

Nada Al-Sanjari (second left, NEU) leads the march
On 8 March 2018, the Reading Trades Union Council supported Nada Al-Sanjari's 'Walk with Women', a march and rally through Reading to mark International Women's Day. Nada, the Vice-President of the RTUC and a delegate from the NEU, organised the successful women's day event in 2017 and the turnout this year was equally successful.

Terrie Withers (left, UNISON) and Sue Taylor (right, PCS) on the march
The march began at 17:30 in the Forbury Gardens, sent on its way by Reading East's Labour MP, Matt Rodda. From the Forbury, the march went through the Market Place, down Broad Street and along West Street before returning to Town Hall Square along Friar Street.
John Partington (right, TSSA) with fellow marchers
Once the marchers assembled outside the Town Hall, Nada introduced ten speakers representing the diversity of the Reading population. Speeches covered such topics as the plight of disabled people under Conservative austerity policies, the experiences of migrants living in Reading from such places as Iraq, Pakistan and the USA and the fight for fair pensions by UCU members at the University of Reading - a part of a national strike action by university teaching staff.
Nada Al-Sanjari (NEU) introduced the speakers
Of the ten speakers, two were RTUC delegates. Nada (NEU), as well as introducing the other speakers, spoke on the effects on women of the illegal war in Iraq, waged by the USA, Britain and their allies in 2003. And Nikki Dancey (GMB), who gave a history of women's roles in the Reading labour movement and celebrated the high proportion of women in the present trade union movement - including Frances O'Grady, the current (and first female) General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress.
Nikki Dancey (GMB) speaks on the history of
Reading women in the labour movement
The event was wonderfully attended and is clearly an annual feature in Reading's labour calendar. Nada is to be congratulated for organising such a successful event and the speakers are to be thanked for their educative expositions on the plight of women in society, past and present - in Britain and abroad.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

RTUC marches to save the NHS

Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn MP,
addresses the closing rally by video link
On 3 February 2018, from midday to 16:00, a contingent from the Reading labour movement joined comrades from around the country to protest against the Conservative Government's wanton destruction of our National Health Service. Members of both the Reading Trades Union Council and  the Reading & District Labour Party gathered in London's Gower Street before marching via Trafalgar Square to Whitehall to hear speeches by politicians, NHS doctors and nurses as well as patients whose treatment has suffered as a direct consequence of Conservative Party policies. Whether it be restraint in health spending, outsourcing of NHS services to such failing businesses as Carillion and Capita or alienation of European Union citizens who are leaving NHS employment in droves, the Tories are showing themselves determined to fragment and sell off the United Kingdom's most precious of services. Virgin Health and Nuffield Health are just two examples of firms cashing in on the carve-up.

Reading & District Labour Party join the march, including Sue Taylor
(PCS) (left) and Cllr Rachel Eden (GMB) (third left)
A large group of foot-soldiers from RDLP marched behind a Reading Labour Party banner, including such regulars at RTUC meetings as Sue Taylor (PCS) and Cllr Rachel Eden (GMB).

John Partington (TSSA) with John McDonnell MP,
Labour's Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
John Partington (TSSA), joining fellow trade unionists and labour activists from Oxford and Luton,  bumped into John McDonnell MP, Labour's Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was moving freely among the rally, talking to fellow protesters and awaiting his leader, Jeremy Corbyn's address to the crowd. In marked contrast to other political parties' leading figures, John does not ensconce himself in an ivory tower. His place is among the people - energising his supporters and engaging in debate with those who oppose him.

Ginnette Hargreaves-Lees (UNITE) (right) sharing banner duties
Ginnette Hargreaves-Lees (UNITE) also joined the march, lending Jeremy Corbyn's constituency a hand in carrying their banner. Reading's labour movement continues to demonstrate the breadth of its reach, influence and fraternisation!

The event was organised by the People's Assembly and Health Campaigns Together and attracted tens of thousands of people from across the country. Local events were also organised, including a series of leafleting campaigns in Reading by the RDLP in the days before the event, bringing the protest to people's attention and encouraging people to head to London on the day. The turnout demonstrates the importance of the NHS to the people of Britain. The People's Assembly plans to arrange further such events going forward - and the Reading labour movement will be arranging its own protests and informational sessions to keep the local people informed about the damage the Conservative Government is doing to health and social care - and offering socialist alternatives.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

100 Years of Labour in Reading

Nikki Dancey (GMB), Cllr Sarah Hacker (UNITE), Chris Reilly (RMT),
Keith Jerrome (UNITE) and Ray Parkes (UNITE) - RTUC's
speakers at the Reading Labour Party centenary event
On 25 January 2018, members of the Reading labour movement - trade unionists, Labour Party members and fellow-travellers - assembled at the Reading International Solidarity Centre to celebrate 100 years of the Labour Party in Reading. Although Reading had a strong labour and socialist tradition stretching back to at least the early nineteenth century and while political organisations such as the Social Democratic Federation, the Independent Labour Party and the Fabian Society flourished from the 1890s onwards, it was in 1918 that individual membership of the Labour Party was created. Towns and cities across the United Kingdom - including Reading - founded Constituency Labour Parties which acted as local coalitions of trade unionists, cooperators and socialists with the primary objective of achieving labour representation in all elected bodies, from the Boards of Poor Law Guardians and Parish Councils to County Councils and Members of Parliament. The significance of the trade union movement in the formation of the Reading Labour Party can be noted in the party's original name - the Reading Trades Union Council and Labour Party.

Cllr Sarah Hacker (UNITE) [foreground], following her address
on the pre-history of the Labour Party in Reading
The evening began with Cllr Sarah Hacker, RTUC delegate from UNITE, speaking on the background to the formation of Reading Labour Party. Sarah told the story of nineteenth century workers' struggles, noting the significance of agriculture in the make up of Reading's social stratification and the importance of national events such as the persecution of the Tolpuddle Martyrs in the 1830s, the Merthyr Rising of 1831 and for the formation of the Trades Union Congress in 1868 for the formation of a Reading working class consciousness.
Nikki Dancey (GMB) telling the history of the socialist women's
movement in founding the Reading Labour Party
Following Brian Morley's telling of the foundation of the Workers' Educational Association in Reading, Nikki Dancey, the GMB delegate to the RTUC, educated the meeting on the importance of women in the formation of the Reading labour movement - a silent history only just being explored in recent years - giving special attention to the successful women's strike at Huntley & Palmers' Biscuit Factory in 1916. The strike broke with the industrial truce of the Great War and eventually led to wage rises for all factory workers - men as well as women.

Banner remembering the British volunteers in the Spanish Civil War
Commemorative attire for the Spanish Civil War
Two presentations, by Tom Lake and Cllr Tony Jones, looked at the significance of Dr Somerville Hastings, Reading's first Labour MP, and Thora Silverthorne, a veteran nurse of the Spanish Civil War, in the formation of the National Health Service.
Ray Parkes (UNITE) retells the history of Reading's
Spanish Civil War volunteers in flying the flag of socialism
abroad - as well as fighting for an NHS at home

Ray Parkes, a UNITE delegate to the RTUC, then spoke on Dr Reginald Saxton, another Reading veteran of the Spanish Civil War, who pioneered blood transfusions in the field hospital of Spain. Ray met Reginald and their correspondence was important in inspiring Ray - along with Keith Jerrome and others - to form the Reading International Brigades Memorial Committee. The Committee raised funds to pay for the creation of a memorial to Reading's veterans of the Spanish Civil War, presently situated in the Forbury Gardens and used as a gathering place for the Reading labour movement to this day. Ray also co-authored two publications - You Cannot Park on Both Sides (with Mike Cooper, 2000) and Defending Democracy: Reading's International Brigades Memorial (with Keith Jerrome and Mike Cooper, 2015).

Chris Reilly (RMT) telling the story of Labour's
nationalisation programme, 1945-1951
Following Ray, Chris Reilly, President of the RTUC and RMT delegate to that body, remembered possibly the Labour Party's greatest parliamentary achievements - the nationalisation programme of Clement Atlee's government of 1945 to 1951. Atlee brought the 'commanding heights of the economy' into public ownership, including the railway industry and such utilities as gas, electricity and water - a programme largely replicated in the current Labour Party manifesto.

Banner of the Reading Branch of the RMT
Following Chris, Christine Borgars spoke on Ian Mikardo, a much under-researched politician in Reading's history. Mikardo is, however, remembered nationally for at least one thing - Reading Pads! Multiple carbon copy lists of supporters used by activists to record voters and determine who to 'knock up' to ensure the maximum number of voters are encouraged to the polling station.

Keith Jerrome (UNITE) expatiates on the organisation
of the labour movement in Reading
Closing off the historical accounts, Keith Jerrome, a UNITE delegate to the RTUC, spoke of the organisations of the labour movement in Reading, including the Reading Trades Union Council and its affiliated and non-affiliated trade unions, the cooperative movement and the various socialist societies which antedated and have also affiliated to the Labour Party.
Martin Salter, former Labour MP for Reading West, cuts
the birthday cake with the centenary event's speakers
Bringing the story to the present, Cllr Jo Lovelock, the leader of Reading Borough Council, spoke about the current Labour council and its place in the history of the movement. Jo pointed us to the future, explained the challenges she and her colleagues face under the cosh of Conservative austerity cuts to local government funding and the daily struggles Reading faces in trying to delivery services whilst also living within its means.

The banner of the Reading South Constituency
Labour Party (in existence 1974-1983)

The evening was both educational and inspirational - though leaving attendees under no illusions about the struggles that lay ahead on both the industrial and the political fronts. The event was organised by Reading Labour 100 - a joint committee made up of delegates from the Reading Trades Union Council and the Reading & District Labour Party - and ably chaired by Louise Hill of RDLP. Reading Labour 100 will be organising more events during 2018 to mark the centenary of the Reading Labour Party - for details, follow RTUC's Facebook page here:

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

RTUC supports the GMB’s Eleanor Marx Day Event

On 16 January 2018, members of the Reading Trades Union Council joined Reading & District Labour Party members and interested non-affiliates to support and enjoy the GMB’s Eleanor Marx Day event, held at The Outlook, Kings Road, Reading. The event was superbly compèred by Nikki Dancey, the GMB Regional Organiser.

Nikki Dancey (GMB & RTUC) welcomes guest and introduces the speaker
Coinciding with the 163rd birthday of Eleanor, the event celebrated the political and industrial life of this co-founder (with Will Thorne) of the National Union of Gas Workers and General Labourers (a forerunner of the GMB union).

Dr Louise Raw on Eleanor Marx

The event was originally intended to host two illustrious speakers: Louise Raw, the author of 
Striking a Light: The Bryant and May Matchwomen and their Place in History (2011), and Rachel Holmes, author of Eleanor Marx: A Life (2014) – but unfortunately due to illness Rachel was unable to attend. Such is Louise’s knowledge of Eleanor, however, she extended her talk to 90 minutes and entertained and educated the audience with only occasional reference to her notes. There then followed 30 minutes of questions and discussion, plus additional conversation in a convivial environment.

The event was also a forum for leafleting, with topics such as saving the NHS, defending local mental health services and opposing the Conservative Party austerity agenda. Books relevant to Eleanor’s life and work were also available for purchase.

GMB Southern Region banner

The event was part of a joint initiative between the RTUC and RDLP entitled Reading Labour 100. The initiative, which has already organised the William Winterbourne Day at Kintbury, will be running a series of events throughout 2018 to mark the centenary of the foundation of the Reading Trades Council and Labour Party (the forerunner of the RDLP). Future events will be publicised on the RTUC Facebook Page ( or interested persons can enquire with the RTUC secretary (

Thursday, 11 January 2018

The Hanging of William Winterbourne

On 11 January 2018, Keith Jerrome and Ray Parkes, both of UNITE the Union, represented the Reading Trades Union Council at the annual gathering at the grave of William Winterbourne in St Mary's Churchyard, Kintbury.

Winterbourne was sentenced to death for his part in the 'Captain Swing Riots', a series of uprisings by agricultural workers in Berkshire and beyond against the increased use of threshing machines which was threatening the workers' livelihoods. The people of West Berkshire raised petitions of up to 15,000 signatures against the death sentences handed out to Winterbourne and his co-accused. Through representations to judges, the Home Secretary (Lord Melbourne) and the newly crowned King William IV, two of the accused were spared death, having their sentences commuted to transportation, but Winterbourne, referred to as the 'Captain', was hanged.

The Vicar of Kintbury, the Rev. Fulwar Fowle, was so affected by his visits to the prisoners that he brought back the body of  Winterbourne to St Mary's Church where he was buried in the name of his mother (Smith).

Kay Gough (MERL) and Rev. Mark Wilson (St Mary's)
at the grave of William Smith (aka Winterbourne)
Led by Kay Gough of the Museum of English Rural Life and the Rev. Mark Wilson of St Mary's, the commemoration of Winterbourne's judicial murder began at 12 noon, the time on 11 January 1831 when he was hanged on the walls of Reading Gaol. Other attendees included the MERL Players, trades unionists and Kintbury Villagers.

Following the event, gatherers took refreshments at the Dundas Arms, renamed from The Red Lion in favour of Charles Dundas MP who sat on the Judicial Commission that sentenced Winterbourne to death. Dundas had threshing machines from his own farm smashed in the name of 'Captain Swing' in November 1830.

This event was one in a series being organised or supported by 'Reading Labour 100', a joint initiative by the Reading Trades Union Council and Reading & District Labour Party to commemorate the establishment in 1918 of the 'Reading Trades Union Council and Labour Party' (now RDLP).

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

The Reading Labour Movement protests Rail Fare Increases

Morning crew, Darran Scully, Cllr Rachel Eden, John Partington, Chris Reilly,
Cllr John Ennis, Matt Rodda Reading East Labour MP
The Reading labour movement started the new year with a leafleting campaign at Reading Railway Station. 

Fraternising with the early morning commuters on 2 January 2018, activists from the Reading Trades Union Council and members of the Reading & District Labour Party discussed the effects of fare increases with the travelling public – a 34% increase since the Conservatives came to power (including a 3.6% increase this year alone). 

Jim Parker (UNITE), Chris Reilly (RMT), Darran Scully (ASLEF) and John Partington (TSSA) represented the RTUC in the morning, joining Labour Councillors, Rachel Eden and John Ennis, and Labour’s Reading East MP, Matt Rodda, as well as others.

In the evening, a second effort was staged, with Cllr Sarah Hacker and Keith Jerrome (both UNITE) from the RTUC joining other labour activists. Leaflets were distributed promoting the Labour Party’s rail policies, including capped fares and renationalisation of the industry. The demonstration attracted media attention, with publicity on the BBC’s South Today news bulletin.

Cllr Sarah Hacker, RTUC delegate, and RDLP activists