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: https://www.facebook.com/ReadingTUC.

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 (https://www.facebook.com/ReadingTUC/) or interested persons can enquire with the RTUC secretary (readingtradesunioncouncil@gmail.com).

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

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Reading Trades Union Council Affiliate Trade Unions, 2017

We are pleased to report that, in 2017, the following trade unions are affiliates of the Reading Trades Union Council:



Amalgamated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen
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General, Municipal and Boilermakers' Union

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National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers
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National Union of Teachers


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Transport Salaried Staffs' Association
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Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers
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Unite the Union
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University and College Union

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Unison

Monday, 20 November 2017

Reading Trades Union Council: Supporting Trade Unions in Dispute



Comrades!

Reading Trades Union Council is committed to supporting comrades in the trade union movement during times of dispute as well as during their campaigns in the workplace or the local community.

Please let us know about your activities and how we can support you. In the first instance, please post information to our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ReadingTUC/. 

And - crucially - email information and requests for support to the Reading Trades Union Council Secretary at readingtradesunioncouncil@gmail.com. The Secretary will then forward your communications to our mailing list - reaching those not using (or regularly using) social media and circulating information about your campaign in easy-to-print formats among local comrades.


Unity is Strength! Together We're Strong!

Sunday, 19 November 2017

RTUC's Activities Roundup for November 2017

On 2 November 2017, Reading Trades Union Council Vice-President, Nada Al-Sanjari, joined RTUC delegates from UNITE, Jan Bastable and Sarah Hacker, on strike against Capita's proposed pension reforms. Neil Adams and John Gillman of RTUC/UNITE Bracknell, also showed solidarity with the Reading picketing.

Jan Bastable (UNITE), Nada Al-Sanjari (NEU) and Sarah Hacker (UNITE)
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On 8 November 2017, RTUC delegates were pleased to support USDAW's 'Freedom from Fear' campaign, represented on RTUC by Steve Geary. The photo below shows Neil Adams (UNITE), John Partington (TSSA), Jim Parker (UNITE), Nada Al-Sanjari (NEU), John Gillman (UNITE), Steve Geary (USDAW) and Ray Parkes (UNITE) sporting leaflets and a banner for the campaign.

RTUC Delegates support USDAW's 'Freedom from Fear' campaign
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On 19 November 2017, John Partington (TSSA) and Sarah Hacker (UNITE) of RTUC joined members of the Labour Party, Reading-Düsseldorf Association and Reading Civic Society, as well as peace campaigners, to unveil a plaque to the late Phoebe Cusden on her former home in Castle Street, Reading. Phoebe had been a postal workers’ trade unionist, Labour council and mayor, and pacifist.

The unveiling party, headed by Reading's Mayor, Cllr Rose Williams (in red)

John Partington (TSSA), RTUC attendee at the unveiling

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Reading Trades Union Council at Reading Pride

RTUC Vice-President, Nada Al-Sanjari (NEU), at the Reading Pride March

Reading Trades Union Council had a stall at this year's Reading Pride and delegates, including Nada Al-Sanjari (RTUC Vice-President/NEU), Ruth McEwan (RTUC/Unison) and James Parker (RTUC/Unite) played an active part.

The following text is from Nada's speech from the stage:

"The motto for this year’s reading Pride is ‘Love Unites’. The motto of the trade union movement is ‘Unity is Strength’. Unity not just with the LGBT+ cause but solidarity with any group or individual facing persecution or injustice. An injury to one is an injury to all.

"I speak as a trade unionist and a committed activist for equality. Trade unions have been fighting for LGBT+ people for decades. I want to remember the solidarity shown by the LGSM – ‘Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners’ – during the Miners’ Strike in the mid-1980s. This act of unlikely solidarity contributed to the changes in the law that support LGBT+ rights. We owe them a few cheers.

"While we enjoy the rewards of resistance against oppression, we have to ask what we are doing about the oppression of people of colour, people with disabilities, both physical and mental, within the LGBT+ community and beyond. When the party is over, when the facepaint and glitter are washed away, we have to return to campaigning and continue the work.

"Join a trade union and have a voice. Belong to something that will fight for your rights to equal opportunities and equal pay, for your rights to participate in public life without fear of bullying or harassment. This is your basic right as humans.

"Trade unions are joining the ‘Schools Out’ campaigns to bring LGBT+ education to schools. Join us. Be heard all the time – not just at the party. Be seen as you want to be seen, whenever you want to be seen. This matters. You matter.

"The Reading Trades Union Council is committed to this cause. Not just here but internationally, we recognize the struggles of our comrades and organise with them to offer our support to be free from persecution for identifying as LGBT+.


"Governments change, Pride organisers change. But the trade unions have and will always be here to champion workers’ rights and equality for all. Let them wear their prejudice with shame as we wear our solidarity with Pride. I will leave you with this quote from the inspiring Audre Lorde: ‘I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own’. Solidarity Reading!"

Nada addresses Reading Pride