At its June meeting the TUC General Council decided to invite David Cameron to speak to the TUC Congress in September.
The Cameron invitation was announced to the General Council by TUC secretary Brendan Barber, without prior notice to most Council members.
Billy Hayes of the CWU and Paul Kenny of the GMB immediately supported Barber. Apparently so did PCS left-winger Janice Godrich.
Matt Wrack of the Fire Brigades Union and Tony Burke of Unite objected, but the invitation went through.
Bob Crow of the RMT (which is not represented on the General Council) threatened to lead a walkout if Cameron spoke, and several other unions passed resolutions opposing the invitation. Even Dave Prentis, the right-wing leader of Unison and ex-President of the TUC, was also rumoured to have opposed the invitation and his pressure may well have contributed to Cameron’s climb-down.
Subsequently Cameron turned down the invitation, but he must still be laughing in contempt at the weakness of the unions’ leaderships. He has announced massive attacks on workers’ living standards and the official union movement fails to respond with demonstrations and strikes but do… invite him to speak at their conference!
Now the TUC has invited Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable to speak instead — someone whose capitalist credentials are almost as impeccable as Cameron’s.
Unfortunately opposition to him will be less sharp, as the Lib Dems are not seen so straightforwardly as a party of business.
But Cable has no place at our movement’s congress where we should be preparing to fight his Tory-Liberal government!
This sad story does reveal one further general problem for any activist interested in finding out what the TUC is doing: the decision-making process is thoroughly opaque. The TUC should produce minutes of its meetings; decisions should be made by recorded votes. Individual unions should make their representatives on the General Council accountable through mandates and written reports, available to members promptly following each meeting.
Activists from the RMT have organised an e-petition, available to sign at http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/no2coalitionattuc/.