Around 300 people attended the 26 February Scottish TUC anti-cuts rally in Glasgow’s Pavilion Theatre. It would be unfair to be overly critical of the event.
If anyone from another planet had been in the audience, for example, they would doubtless have found the glittering array of eight platform speakers all saying the same thing in not particularly different words an illuminating event.
Any alien visitor would also have learnt that education cuts are bad, as too are local authority cuts, health service cuts, civil service cuts, Ministry of Defence cuts and the closure of RAF bases in Scotland. Attacks on public sector pensions are very bad as well.
But if these cuts are so bad, an extra-terrestrial life-form would surely ask, what is being done by trade unions to stop them? The answer to that question was not particularly clear.
The Unison Scottish Secretary referred to unions “bringing hope in the face of uncertainty.” The Unite Scottish Secretary, who attacked the Tories for “cutting too much too soon”, called for a tax on financial transactions (the Tobin tax). And the EIS President, slightly more positively, talked briefly of “collective organized action”.
In campaigning against privatization of Royal Mail the CWU would “consider industrial options”. The PCS would also be “prepared to take industrial action”. Cuts needed to be opposed through “industrial and political channels”, said the STUC General Secretary.
But apart from the UCU, which was already balloting its members on industrial action, no-one mentioned any timescale for when industrial options, industrial action and industrial channels would actually be brought into play.
The one thing that all speakers were agreed upon was the need for trade unionists to turn out for the TUC’s 26 March anti-cuts demonstration in London. “See you in London on the 26th,” was the closing comment of every speaker’s script.
That trade unionists should mobilize for 26 March is true enough.. But is sitting through one and a half hours of platform speakers really the best way to enthuse people to make the trek down to London?
Especially if the speeches at the TUC demonstration are only a repeat of last Saturday’s performance at the Pavilion Theatre...