|Cllr Sarah Hacker of the RTUC with Labour Party leader,|
Jeremy Corbyn MP, at the recent Unite Conference
Monday, 25 July 2016
On 25 July 2016, the Reading and District Labour Party hosted the town’s two Constituency Labour Party leadership endorsement meetings. Following the circulation of statements by both Labour Party leadership candidates, Jeremy Corbyn MP and Owen Smith MP, supporters of each candidate were given fifteen minutes each to make the case for their preference.
The Reading Trades Union Council was well represented at the meeting, with James Parker, Billie Reynolds, Cllr Sarah Hacker, John Partington, Antoinette Solera and Arron Jones present. In line with the RTUC’s unanimous policy, John, as Communications Officer, spoke in favour of Jeremy at the meeting. His endorsement ran as follows:
In its general meeting of 12 July 2016, the Reading Trades Union Council unanimously voted to endorse Jeremy Corbyn MP for Labour Party leader. Earlier, on 28 June, the trades council’s Executive had done the same, organising a pro-Corbyn rally and sending an open letter to Jeremy urging him on and calling on Angela Eagle MP and Owen Smith MP to withdraw their challenges. The trades council salutes Councillors Woodward, Williams, Pearce, McElligott, Maskell, Livingston, Jones, Hacker and the two Absoloms for having the courage to sign a letter of support for Jeremy this week.
I believe Jeremy should be supported for his reintroduction of socialism into Labour Party policy. I would ask all present to ask themselves which of the following policies they reject:
- rail nationalisation
- nuclear disarmament
- real public ownership of the NHS
- council house building
- an end to austerity budgets
- the repeal of the Social Care Act
- the repeal of anti-trade union laws
Jeremy’s candidature last year and Labour Party leadership this year has brought hundreds of thousands of members into the party. His dignity and sense of principle attracts people who have for years distrusted politicians. And – perhaps most importantly – Jeremy wins elections and increases majorities, whether it be the mayoralties of London, Bristol and elsewhere, several by-elections in the past year, the council seat in Southcote or increasing Labour’s share of the vote in the May local elections as compared to last year – including in Reading. On the basis of all this – I urge support for Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader.
Jeremy has today won the endorsement of Disabled People Against Cuts and Sarah Champion MP, who resigned from his Shadow Cabinet in June, has today withdrawn her resignation. With characteristic good grace, Jeremy accepted her withdrawal and has reinstated her within the Shadow Cabinet. And of course, Jeremy gave powerful speeches to Unison and dozens of other organisations during the referendum campaign concerning British membership of the European Union, endorsing a reformed EU. On the basis of his policies, principles and proven track record of winning elections, I move the endorsement of Jeremy Corbyn for Labour Party leader.
It is a credit to Jeremy’s supporters at the meeting that all those who endorsed him did so on the basis of his policies and achievements. By contrast, the Owen Smith supporters focussed on attacking Jeremy and – with one exception out of six – Smith’s supporters did not mention any of his policies or political achievements.
As a result of the discussion for the two candidates, votes were taken by Reading West Constituency Labour Party members and by Reading East Constituency Labour Party members and the results were a Reading West endorsement of Jeremy by 37 votes to 23 and a Reading East endorsement of Smith by 51 votes to 42. The sum total of the result is that Reading and District Labour Party voted 79 to 74 in favour of Jeremy Corbyn MP for Labour Party leader!
The non-antagonistic spirit of the discussion during the evening was a credit to the Labour Party and goes some way towards correcting the media propaganda of Labour Party disharmony throughout the country. This is clearly a media bogey.
Tuesday, 19 July 2016
Supporting Unite the Union in their dispute with Capita
On 18 and 19 July, Unite members staged further strike action against Capita in their dispute over pay. In Reading, the dispute centred on Capita’s Reading Bridge House office, though this was part of a national action involving members in Bournemouth, Bristol, Belfast, Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester and Stirling. As with the earlier strike of 16 June, Reading Trades Union Council delegates fraternised with the strikers – some of whom are delegates to RTUC themselves – and took photos of the picket line.
Below are a selection of photographs showing Unite members from the RTUC in their dispute.
Joining the anti-cuts rally outside Reading Civic Offices
On 18 July 2016 RTUC joined Unison, RMT and other unions in protesting Reading Borough Council’s cuts to services in its budget. The Council’s Policy Committee has agreed £19.84 million in cuts to help bridge a £36.7 million deficit in Council spending. The Conservative Government’s funding allocation to local authorities is starving councils of money for essential services and the trade union movement assembled at the Civic Offices to say – ‘Enough is Enough!’ Cllr Jo Lovelock, Reading Borough Council Leader, said she would be writing to Prime Minister Theresa May to point out the devastating affects spending cuts are having on services.
Billie Reynolds, Branch Secretary for Unison, and Chris Reilly, RTUC Vice-President and RMT Branch Secretary, joined the protest on behalf of the Reading Trades Union Council. The protest was covered by GetReading on 19 July here: http://www.getreading.co.uk/news/reading-berkshire-news/reading-council-leader-write-prime-11633620#ICID=sharebar_facebook.
|Billie Reynolds (8th left) of RTUC and Unison and Chris Reilly (right)|
of RTUC and RMT [Photo courtesy of Lynda Bowyer Photography]
|Reading Chronicle, 21 July 2016, p. 4.|
Sunday, 17 July 2016
On 17 July, the 2016 Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival came to a finale with a march of trade unionists and political activists through the village followed by speeches from Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary, Jeremy Corbyn MP, leader of the Labour Party, and others.
|Frances O'Grady, TUC General Secretary, addresses the gathering|
The Festival celebrates the national campaign of the 1830s which successfully achieved the liberty of six Dorset labourers who, in 1834, were tranported to Australia for the ‘crime’ of forming a trade union. The actions of the ‘Martyrs’ and the national campaign to free them marks the birth of trade unionism as we know it and the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival celebrates the courage it took to form a trade union in the 1830s and the solidarity shown by the people of Britain to have the six farm labourers liberated. Those nineteenth century deeds feel just as current today, with blacklisting of trade unionists still a real phenomenon, anti-trade union laws still sitting on the statute books – and solidarity among working people still the life blood of the labour movement.
|Jeremy Corbyn MP, leader of the Labour Party, addresses|
Tolpuddle Martyrs' Festival to rapturous applause
The photos below show John Partington (RTUC and TSSA) and Keith Jerrome (RTUC and Unite) during the march through Tolpuddle.
|John Partington, RTUC and TSSA, at Tolpuddle|
|Keith Jerrome, RTUC and Unite, at Tolpuddle|
Wednesday, 13 July 2016
13 July 2016
Dear Jeremy Corbyn MP
We, the Executive Committee of the Reading Trades Union Council, are writing to you following a unanimous decision of the RTUC General Meeting of 12 July 2016 to declare our wholehearted support for your leadership of the Labour Party.
You were elected leader of the Labour Party nine months ago on the first ballot with 59.5% of members’ votes in a four-candidate race, a mandate for leadership far in excess of any other contemporary British party leader. We consider, therefore, the recent resignations from your Shadow Cabinet and the challenge to your leadership by Angela Eagle MP and Owen Smith MP as acts of gross betrayal.
Reading Trades Union Council urge you to remain steadfast in your determination to lead the Labour Party to general election victory. We urge Ms Eagle and Mr Smith to withdraw their challenges to your leadership and show loyalty to you, the overwhelming choice of Labour Party members for party leader.
We send you our solidarity.
The Executive Committee
Reading Trades Union Council
CC: Iain McNicol, General Secretary of the Labour Party; Duncan Bruce, Secretary of Reading and District Labour Party; Angela Eagle MP; and Owen Smith MP
[The Open Letter was reported in GetReading online on 18 July 2016 here: http://www.getreading.co.uk/news/reading-berkshire-news/reading-trades-unions-back-jeremy-11628559.]
[The Open Letter was reported in GetReading online on 18 July 2016 here: http://www.getreading.co.uk/news/reading-berkshire-news/reading-trades-unions-back-jeremy-11628559.]
|Reading Chronicle, 21 July 2016, p. 15|
Sunday, 3 July 2016
GMB, the Reading Trades Union Council and Unite the Union
would like to invite you to the
Centenary Picnic of the 1916 Huntley & Palmers’ Women’s Strike
Date & Time: 3 July 2016, 14.00-17.00
Location: Kings Road Gardens, opposite Prudential, Kings Road, Reading, RG1 3ES
In June 1916, a large group of women and girls employed at Huntley & Palmers' Biscuit Factory, Kings Rd, Reading, walked out on strike over the dismissal of 16 colleagues following a dispute with a forewoman. Soon after, and following the reinstatement of the dismissed women, the National Union of Gas Workers and General Labourers, buoyed by the militancy of the women and girls, successfully won higher pay for all grades - earning men 5 shillings a week increase and boys and women 3 shillings a week more.
In honour of the women's strike, defending sacked colleagues and prompting the NUGW&GL to organise for higher pay, the Reading Trades Union Council, the GMB union and Unite the Union are organising a picnic in Kings Road Gardens, opposite the former Huntley & Palmers' Factory (today, the Prudential Offices, Kings Road) - near the spot where the women allegedly threw biscuits into the river during the dispute.
Trade unions, sympathetic organisations and interested members of the general public are invited to join the event, setting up stalls, displaying banners and distributing information. All are welcome. Attendees are asked to bring their own lunch and join in and enjoy the songs and theatrics and the variety of stalls by cooperating trade unions and other organiations. For more information, or to get involved, email the RTUC on firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Reading Chronicle, 23 June 2016, p. 19|
Friday, 1 July 2016
Forbury Gardens, Reading. 1 July 2016, 18.00-19.00
Following the national referendum decision for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, and the immediate infighting in both the Conservative and Labour Parties around the question of party leadership in the referendum’s aftermath, the Reading Trades Union Council executive met on 28 June 2016 and unanimously decided to organise a pro-Corbyn rally. Despite Jeremy Corbyn’s mandate as Labour Party leader, elected by 59.5% of party members in a four-candidate contest in September 2015, the RTUC was shocked and outraged by the mass resignations from Corbyn’s shadow cabinet last week by MPs calling for his resignation.
With only three days notice, using social media, including the RTUC’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ReadingTUC/), and an article in the Reading Chronicle, around 60 members of the general public gathered in Forbury Gardens to show their support for Corbyn, listen to speeches and fraternise in a spirit of solidarity and socialist fellowship. Several trade unions, including the RMT, TSSA and Unison, brought banners and flags, and the Socialist Party set up a stall and distributed literature. Especially pleasing was the presence of a Labour Councillor on Reading Borough Council, Ashley Pearce, who - with Paul Woodward - signed a letter of support for Corbyn from hundreds of councillors across the country. As Chris Reilly, RTUC Vice-President, said in his speech, ‘We salute you!’
The event began with Chris Reilly welcoming all those present and bringing the RTUC to everyone’s attention.
Chris then introduced the first speaker, Jennie Formby, a member of the South-East Regional Executive of Unite the Union and also a member of the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee. Jennie, fresh from the large pro-Corbyn rally in London earlier in the week, emphasised the need for Labour to defend workers rights and resist racism and fascism in the aftermath of the ‘Leave’ vote in the EU referendum. She also highlighted the massive support Corbyn has from Labour Party members – so much so that MPs from the Labour right are wavering in their desire to challenge Corbyn for the party leadership. It is clear from Corbyn’s party support – and from the increase in party membership in the past week – that a challenge to his leadership would simply result in Corbyn’s re-election. But the disruption the shadow cabinet resignations is causing and the distraction which a prospective leadership challenge will cause is letting the Conservative’s off the hook – and allowing that party to consolidate its attacks on working people, the welfare state and the NHS. Jennie's full speech can be found here.
The second speaker was Chris Clark, a member of the national executive of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, an affiliated union to the Labour Party. Chris gave the background to the TSSA’s support of Corbyn in 2015. He backed Corbyn’s position on the EU – not a supporter of the EU ‘right or wrong’ but an advocate of a social Europe. Last year the TSSA put three questions to all Labour Party leadership candidates: 1) would they scrap the Trident nuclear weapons system; 2) would they restore the trade union powers stripped from workers since 1979; and 3) would they renationalise Britain’s railways. The only candidate to answer 'yes' to all three questions was Jeremy Corbyn and on that basis the TSSA threw their support behind his leadership bid. On the basis of democratic socialism – as clearly outlined in the Labour Party’s constitution (see Clause 4 and also the right of members to elect the party leader) – the TSSA continues to support Corbyn, given the overwhelming support he received in the leadership election and the support he continues to carry among the party’s membership. Chris finished by encouraging those present to join Labour if they haven’t already done so and – in the event of a challenge – vote for Corbyn's continued party leadership. Chris's full speech can be found here.
Chris Reilly, on behalf of both the RTUC and the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers’ Union, took the microphone as the third speaker. Chris explained that, in recent years, he has been a Green Party member but – with Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership – he has joined the Labour Party and urges everyone not already a member to follow his lead. In contrast to the Labour Party of pro-business and illegal wars, Corbyn has brought principle and ideas back to the party. Now – instead of voting for Labour as the lesser of two evils – we can vote for a leader of integrity in the confidence that a Corbyn government will follow through on its pledges. Corbyn is not engaging in the xenophobia and racism of the anti-immigration debate but instead has argued for a reformed, social Europe – a position that ensured 60% of Labour supporters voted ‘remain’ in the EU referendum. Chris did not advocate slavish support of the Labour Party but encourages a large party membership to hold the leader and its MPs to account. Now is the greatest time to engage in this role as a Labour Party member. And other people appear to hold this perspective. 60,000 new members have joined the party in the past week. The party is now larger than it was under Blair in the heady days of his first election victory in 1997. But many will leave is Corbyn is toppled – because only Corbyn and his socialist allies represent the views of working people in this country. Chris closed by reading from a letter by Labour councillors around the country supporting Corbyn’s leadership – and Chris paid tribute to the two Reading councillors whose names appear in the letter – Ashley Pearce and Paul Woodward. To the gathering’s surprise and delight, Ashley Pearce made himself known in the audience! Chris's full speech can be found here.
John Partington, as RTUC Communications Officer, closed the event by again thanking the speakers for their encouraging and informative words and thanking the audience for assembling to show their support for and solidarity with Corbyn. John also urged those present to follow the Reading Trades Union Council's Blog and Facebook page, where future events are publicised and debate engaged in. He also promoted the RTUC's next event - a picnic in honour of the 1916 women's strike at Huntley and Palmers' Biscuit Factory, which will be held on Sunday, 3 July, from 14.00-17.00 at Kings Road Gardens.
At the Executive Meeting of the Reading Trades Union Council on 28 June, it was unanimously agreed to organise a rally in support of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party and to uphold Corbyn’s principle of opposing austerity measures which are hurting the poorest, most vulnerable in society and seriously eroding our welfare state and NHS.
Jeremy Corbyn was elected as Labour leader by an overwhelming majority of Party members in 2015 (59.5% support in a four-candidate contest) and retains strong support in the country at large, including trade unionists and Party members. Indeed, he has brought many people who had become disillusioned with politics following five years of Tory-Liberal coalition and the election of David Cameron’s Conservative Government in May last year back into activism, with Labour Party membership increasing by 150,000 in the past year.
The pro-Corbyn rally will take place in the Forbury Gardens, in front of the Spanish Civil War monument, on Friday, 1 July, at 6pm. Chris Clark, executive member of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, is a confirmed speaker and other speakers are being arranged for the event. Reading Trades Union Council urges all those who support our NHS and oppose the Conservative Government’s attacks on the welfare state to join the rally. For more details, please email RTUC on email@example.com.
|Reading Chronicle, 30 June 2016, p. 6|