Paul Summers: IS Network trade union caucus report

Category: Unions
Published on Monday, 16 December 2013
Written by Paul Summers
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Just a little personal anecdote from the recent trade union caucus:

I was pleased today to be able to attend the first of the IS Network's trade union caucus meetings. It felt good to talk with comrades from the IS Network and beyond about our modest efforts to change the world, to contribute to making it a better place for/with the mass of the population, our class. And it was NOT one of those "when this pub closes" discussions either...each journey starts with the first step.

Most of us talked about the effort and courage shown by students and low paid, precariat, zero hours contracted workers - and the need to engage with, relate to, and organise with them.

As one of the "68" generation ("old hacks"), we need to differentiate what is useful knowledge of our experience from what is currently no longer of much relevance or use.

Sometimes that can seem abstract - as a retired worker, I no longer have to contend directly with the pressures, demands and degree of exploitation imposed on younger workers.

But then I get home, and those impacts are hot on my tail: my daughter works in exactly those conditions, to assist her to make her way through university and reduce her debt. So she gives the managers a lot of notice that she cannot work next Saturday due to family commitments that she wants to take part in. Now I hear she is incensed with unsurprising rage, as yet again managers simply act like she has said nothing, and she's rostered for a shift next Saturday, despite offering to do a shift on another day when no one else wants to do it!

This is more evidence that managers simply ride us and ride on our efforts. To her credit, she shows some interest in joining a union, building a union - but like many of my younger comrades have said, and i do NOT make light of it, it’s hard - times are very hard!

We have to hope, we have to believe, that one of the points of organising together is that we collectively remember and learn from our history. Individually it makes sense that we do not always remember, but as a collective we need to remember and learn. If we are capable, it is because we stand on the shoulders of giants - those who went before us, and may well have faced similar problems, even if in different specific circumstances before us. We need to pass the lessons on and adapt them to new circumstances. We may only be able to make modest steps but I believe the effort is worth it.

So this is sent with solidarity greetings for all those who dare to struggle, dare to try, dare to win!

I post this with a musical link, because I also believe in trying to lift our spirits: