TUC Congress 2007
Verbatim report of Debate at TUC Congress 12 September 2007
European Union Constitution Reform Treaty
Motion 71 by GMB & Motion 72 by RMT
As published on TUC website
Motions before congress
EU Reform Treaty
Congress notes that:
i) the work to give effect to the June 2007 agreement on the EU Reform Treaty has begun with the aim of new draft legislation agreed by the Council of Ministers in December 2007;
ii) the target for ratification is before June 2009
iii) there will be a referendum in Ireland following the Irish Taoiseach's statement that 90 per cent of the previous Constitution is included in the new Reform Treaty;
iv) the Labour Party Election manifesto pledged that the UK electorate would be given the final say, in a referendum, on the ratification of the Constitution; and
v) the ETUC position prior to June 2007 was "no legally binding Charter of Fundamental Rights - no Treaty" and this demand has been satisfied for 26 EU Member States.
Congress considers that:
a) the Labour Party should honour this pledge and hold a referendum on the ratification of this new Reform Treaty; and
b) the pledge was right at the time of the election and is right now - Europe can only be developed with the wholehearted support of its citizens.
Congress is also concerned that the competition protocol in the Reform Treaty could be a Trojan horse to promote unfettered privatization throughout the EU.
Congress is bitterly disappointed that the Charter of Fundamental Rights will not apply to British workers and their trade unions and calls on the Government to show commitment to Europe's social dimension as this is necessary for British trade unions' support for the future development of Europe.
General, Municipal and Boilermakers [GMB]
EU Constitution/Reform Treaty
Congress notes the proposals in the new EU Reform Treaty are substantially the same as the EU Constitution rejected by the French and Dutch electorates in 2005. Indeed the French architect of the Constitution, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, stated the new EU treaty would be "very, very near to the original".
The Treaty includes:
i) changing the European Union from an intergovernmental arrangement into a state with a single legal personality and corporate existence;
ii) forming a centralised government including an EU President, a Foreign Minister called a High Representative, a diplomatic service and an EU Public Prosecutor;
iii) giving further powers to EU institutions, including the European Court of Justice and European Central Bank;
iv) reducing significantly the democratic power of member states to block neoliberal EU legislation;
v) giving the EU the power to change itself without further treaties or referendums;
vi) consolidating the single market and the drive to privatise public services;
vii) further militarising the EU; and
viii) abolishing Britain's veto over transport and many other areas.
At the 2005 General Election all three main political parties promised a referendum on such changes. Congress therefore calls on the Government to hold an urgent referendum on the EU Reform Treaty and for the General Council to also vigorously campaign for a referendum.
Congress also urges the General Council to campaign for a "No" vote in line with the Congress policy decided in 2005. Finally the General Council is also urged to campaign for this position within the ETUC.
National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers [RMT]
Verbatim report of TUC debate
The President: We move to Motion 71, and the General Council has decided not to adopt an attitude and to leave the motion to Congress.
Paul Kenny (GMB) moved Motion 71
He said: The GMB is not an anti-European Union and the GMB is not an anti-Labour Party union, but the GMB is a union that says that when you make us a promise, whether about Warwick or whether to the people at election time, you should keep it. This resolution is about two promises, now a dim vision, of social advances through European arrangements. The proposed Treaty clearly falls within the promises made by the Government to the electorate at the last election and to refuse to honour this by means of ducking and diving may cost the Labour Party at election time. The reasons for arguing against the referendum and used to attack some who call for the promise to be kept is that a referendum on the Treaty would be rejected by the British people. If that ever happens, those same voices would no doubt be lining up saying that the people have let the Government down very badly. The problem is we have never had a serious debate about Europe in Britain. Brussels and Europe has been an ideal kicking horse for successive British governments to get them out of political scrapes: if you are in doubt, give the EU a clout.
Many British workers have Europe to thank for real gains and benefits in employment and social justice, and pension victories. Let us not forget it was our membership of the EU which allowed us to legally enforce rights like TUPE, equal treatment for part-timers, health and safety laws, paid holidays, work contract information and consultation rights, and the list goes on; maybe we should not have had to go to the courts to use EU law. If there is a disenchantment with Europe blame the lack of political vision of MPs, but do not blame the trade unions for reminding politicians of promises they made to the British people. It is time to grow up and end the opt-out.
Now we come to the second promise, the promise to embrace the social Europe as well as the trade and business agenda. As a movement we have used European bodies, including the European Court of Justice, to extend labour laws and protection for UK workers. We should not have had to but Europe offered us that opportunity. The scandal that forced Aslef to use the European Court of Justice because our own government failed to repeal Tory laws, which shackled our ability to sling racists out of our own ranks, was a disgrace. (Applause)
The protocol attached to the Charter of Fundamental rights that this government has insisted on is specific about blocking any legal challenges or rulings from European courts against rights enjoyed by 26 other states, but not enjoyed by UK workers and which arise out of that part of the Treaty. Those protocols are blocking measures and more, and this very lunchtime on the World at One Gary Titley, MEP, admitted publicly for the first time the reason those protocols were put in was at the request of and with pressure from the CBI; they were put in for the CBI to ensure British workers did not get rights of access to European courts to enforce improved rights for British workers. Shame, and shame on the Government for giving way to them. (Applause) Now, I know some delegates in this hall have different views about Europe. Some delegates may feel by pushing this we may fear the end of the European Union. Let me say to all of you, if there is no social advancement how can there be a trades union supported EU?
Let me finish with these two small statements. Firstly, the GMB will not be threatened or intimidated by private equity tow-rags, or global predators, or politicians who think we should ask for nothing, expect less, and nor will you. Secondly, do you remember that advert for soap which said your best friend should tell you about BO? The GMB has been a good friend to Europe and if you think we will let our public services get chopped up and our members get shut out of access to trade union workers' rights, including the right to strike, then it is about time we told the CBI that BO means bugger off. (Applause) As for the mud-slingers, the mud-slingers who say that calling for politicians to honour their promises is lining up with UKIP and the 'little Englanders', it is not us screaming about jobs for British workers only. To all politicians: deal with Europe, no more pandering to bigoted nationalistic claptrap and the CBI. Please support 71.
Colin Moses (POA (UK) seconded Motion 71.
He said: I am not here to talk about prisons, I am here to talk about the way forward in Europe. What has made my union decide to second this motion is the numerous factors already mentioned by the GMB, and my comrade. One of the things is about broken promises. We have had a bellyful of broken promises and what we have here is another broken promise. I have been told just before coming up to this rostrum that for me to support this I must be a closet Tory: what, to support democracy, to support a referendum, to support an idea that my union is refused trade union rights? I want those trade union rights and Europe is the place I have to go to get them. If democracy is to mean anything and the promises are to mean anything, they should not be made in the heat of an election but they should be kept and they should be kept right through, and the Government should be brave enough to go to the people of this country and ask them.
I was doing some TV interviews the other day and I was being interviewed by a Japanese television company; they could not understand me either, by the way. (Applause) But in my best Japanese I answered, 'Do you believe having a referendum will bring about an election and let in Mr. Cameron?' My response was, 'Well, I don't think Mr. Cameron is ever going to get in, even if he had three referendums.' Let's not be afraid of this nonsense. Let's make them sit up to their promises. Let's talk about social justice and what is in it for our Movement. Let's move our Movement forward through Europe.
I was told earlier today that Europe is a curate's egg. Well, that might as well have been the Japanese telling me that. Whatever we may think of it, we have a set of beliefs and those beliefs should be built on democracy and that democracy should mean we should be brave enough to go forward, ask the people of this country what they want, and give them what they want. If they say no, that is the answer. Let's not back away. Let's not be afraid. Thank you.
The President: I am now calling Motion 72 and again the General Council has decided not to adopt an attitude and to leave it to Congress.
Bob Crow (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers) moved Motion 72.
He said: We support the motion moved by the GMB, excellently by Paul Kenny and Colin Moses, and I hope you can support this resolution as well. Both resolutions call for a referendum and for whatever views that we argue for a referendum following this decision - and it is going to go through, you are going to pass the referendum this afternoon, in my view - the first question your Executive Committee and, more importantly, your members are going to ask is, 'Which way should we vote?' It will be very hard to put a ballot paper out to members stating: 'We are asking you to take strike action but we ain't asking you to vote yes or no.' That is what the question is going to be here. I think we should give a view. The sole reason that we are calling a referendum is because there is not enough in the Constitution to allow us to support it.
Now, put this issue to bed about anti-European. I am not anti-European at all. Real European power is when dock workers in Liverpool go on strike and French CGC workers refuse to unload their boats. That is real European solidarity. (Applause) People get seduced into this European Union argument. There is no doubt, as Paul said, there have been a number of gains as a result of the European Union. Why were those gains put in there? They were put in there because they were frightened that with the presence of the Soviet Union they had to come up with a social model. Now that the Soviet Union has gone there is no need for a social model and Aslef's brilliant win in the court was on the basis it went through European law to overturn domestic law. Once this Constitution goes through, unless you throw it out, Aslef or any other union will not be able to go to Europe because it has to be domestic law. So, to go to Europe to overturn domestic law you are now going to have to go to domestic law to get what you want. Really, it is about having the right to strike. You do not have the right to strike unless it is in domestic law. Prof. John Hendy, QC - an eminent QC - makes it quite clear that you still will not have the right to strike unless it is in domestic law.
Now, we are supposed to have a progressive government that will tell you everything, and I accept the European Union is rather confusing, but do not get seduced. It is a bit like Alice in Wonderland when Humpty Dumpty said to the little mouse, 'Words will mean exactly what I want 'em to mean.' Do not get seduced by that argument. The fact is when the Scottish Parliament was set up and the Welsh Assembly, we gave certain powers away from the Westminster Government over to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. If it is good enough for our Scottish members to have a vote on that and it is good enough for our Welsh members to have a vote on that, and by the way our members in Ireland to have a vote because they are going to have a referendum, then it should be good enough for the British people to have a vote as well. What are they scared of? (Applause) I thought these were the people that told trade unionists they were frightened of the ballot box. What are they frightened of, that the vote might not go the right way? I do not think so at all.
The reality is this. I will tell you why my union is so opposed to the European Union and its directives. I have more in common with a Chinese labourer than I have with one of those stockbrokers in the City of London. Why are we building a fortress round Europe when I thought we stood for 'workers of the world unite'? All these people come to the TUC from round the world so why shouldn't there be upgrades in the standards for everyone throughout the world? The reality is this. The European Union directives have allowed for the privatisation of the railway industry, they have allowed for public services to be privatised, they are allowing now for the welfare state to be smashed, and on top of that they are allowing for the full wholesale privatisation of all our industries.
Now, whether you are for the European Union or whether you are not, I believe that people should have their say. Let's have the arguments on the floor. Let's have the debate. Let people decide their own destiny. Do not be seduced. I will come back to Alice in Wonderland for the final time because it is Alice in Wonderland you are living in if you are in this European Union with its Constitution. This European Union is just like the walrus, he brought its mates round for tea, the oysters, and then he ate them. That is what he did! You are going to get eaten up by this European Union and I will say to you, let's pass the referendum, let's pass GMB's resolution, but on top of that give a direction. I thought we were about leading workers, not just sitting there on the fence. If you sit on the fence, it is a very awkward position to be sitting in. I would ask you here today to pass the resolution, say there is nothing in the Constitution, and have a unanimous decision to vote no as well.
Bob Oram (Unison) supported Motion 71 and seconded Motion 72.
He said: Many people have asked me this week why Unison is supporting this motion and the answer is simple, because it is our policy. Our policy has been framed by our conferences over many years and it is the first principle of our Movement that you come here to reflect your union's policies. My first speech on Europe was in early 1990 when we opposed the Maastricht Treaty. Unison opposed that because it enshrined everything that Margaret Thatcher held dear: a rigid monetarist economic framework which promoted reduced public services and social benefits through privatisation and cuts in spending. Consistently we have argued our case over the intervening years in line with our policies agreed at our conferences. The EU project is more advanced now. Today we witnessed the attempt at creating a federal Europe with one currency, one government, one foreign policy, one military machine, one industrial policy, and a complete freedom of labour, capital, goods, and services, a free market which will include health and education. It is a slow incremental process happening in a way that we need to understand and need to recognise.
By some out there any opposition to Europe is criticised as right wing, rabid anti-Europeanism. That is a slur that is simply not true. Congress, it is not illiberal to expel the BNP from our ranks. It is not anti-Semitic to criticise the Israeli state for what it inflicts on the Palestinian people. It is not anti-European to say that this is the wrong direction for Europe and it is not one we want them to go down. We can and will play a full role in Europe but let us shape it ourselves on our terms. Yesterday in the public services debate you unanimously agreed to reject European attacks on public services; today you are about to call for a referendum on the Treaty. Whatever you call the new Treaty, everyone accepts that 97% of it is the same as the old Constitution. That stood on its own as a document but the new Treaty amends all the old treaties; the wording has inevitably changed but the substance is what we previously agreed to oppose. Let's not kid ourselves that nothing has changed. Nothing has been approved and there is nothing in it that we wanted. Why do we not stick with our previous position in line with the workers in France and the Netherlands who previously rejected the Constitution? They saw its real intentions and so should we. All trade unionists need to join together defending public services. If we believe that a majority vote will defend them in the new Treaty, then we are delusional, delusional believing that Jacques Dolores will deliver on his promise for a social Europe. Free market competition in all economic services across the continent is what this is about, a race to the bottom where our fundamental rights would be undermined and be put at risk of being lost.
Do not be fooled by the rhetoric, the doom mongers, or those that slur us as right-wingers. Do not be fooled by the duplicity of Labour ministers who talk up social Europe but boast of their silicone sealed opt-out from the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Do not be fooled by the bankers and the business leaders who have a letter in the Guardian today saying vote yes. Let's build a Europe that workers want to see and give us a real future for generations to come. Support 72 and 71. Thank you.
Tony Woodley (Unite - The Union, T&G section) supported Motion 71.
He said: It is a very important debate that we are having and an important decision we are about to take. In speaking in support of the GMB motion the T&G section of Unite, like most of you, has a little bit of a dilemma. On the one hand, as other colleagues have said, we are not anti-Europe and we certainly would not want to associate ourselves for any reason with UKIP or the anti-trade union Tories. But we also do not want to be part of a Europe that discards the social model that could bring benefits to working men and women. On the other hand, we certainly cannot support ducking a referendum, not because the Government has broken its promise to hold one as important as that is, but because our government is still pushing the European model with British workers as second-class citizens. I know we all agree this, we do not want more liberalisation, we do not want a further push to privatise our public services, and we do not want a European model that is lined up only for big business to take advantage of. That is what it is about at the moment and that is what people are obviously trying to push through.
Previous speakers are right when they said the protocol destroys the Charter of Fundamental Rights. It does destroy it, not just dilute it. With its opt-out it is not an exaggeration to say that it is a disastrous reversal on workers' rights that are, of course, human rights. In the Thatcher years we relied on Europe to give us some semblance of worker protection that we needed. It is sad to say that with this protocol it would be absolutely impossible for British workers to override British law to seek fair play from Europe, as Bob said. Be clear, we are not going to agree to this and if the Treaty becomes law with every opt-out that Richard Lambert and the CBI cronies have already negotiated, it would be mission impossible for British workers to ever get that level playing field that we campaigned for and we have worked so hard for.
Comrades, the case is simple here, if the Government wants to have a social opt-out then we must demand, must demand, a democratic opt-in. If anyone thinks (and I do not) that the British people want a free-market Europe with no protection for workers, then I say put it to the vote and let's find out. Support resolution 71. Thank you.
Joe Mann (Community) opposed Motions 71 and 72.
He said: I ask you to consider who would benefit if the motions are adopted and the campaign for a referendum gained momentum. The Tories would love it; it might even give the flagging David Cameron just the shot in the arm he needs after a summer of discontent in his party. The Daily Mail and the Express, and all the dirty dealers empire, would probably carry the TUC story for the first time this week. They would revel in the prospect of spinning even more lies and disinformation in a campaign before a referendum, in full knowledge that they are very well skilled in stirring up populism, reaction, and xenophobia. These are the qualities which would dominate a referendum campaign, not the concern which we share that the Charter of Fundamental Rights should apply here.
There are many employers who would rejoice too, not the likes of Honda which will not invest in the UK any further because of our existing detachment from the Europe Union, but the companies which want the freedom to make their employees work round the clock. They are well aware that nearly every social policy measure in the last 30 years which has helped workers and promoted fairness in the world of work stemmed from European Union initiatives, and often the directives have been introduced in the teeth of determined British government resistance. Think about our mission, as an international movement our representatives at the ETUC Congress this year fearlessly argued the cause against the Constitutional treaty. They were humiliated by the overwhelming rejection of their views by sister organisations. Building international solidarity and trade union strength involves mutual give and take and in the end acceptance of majority decisions.
Delegates, do you want the TUC to keep its back turned to deepening cooperation with our good and patient friends in the ETUC? If you do not, vote against the motions and deny the enemies of our Movement the field day they would undoubtedly enjoy if these motions are carried. Thank you.
Tony Richardson (Bakers, Food and Allied Workers' Union) supported Motion 72.
He said: Platform, delegates, in 2005 the French and Dutch rejected the EU Constitution. Their people spoke and to all intents and purposes it was dead, dead but not buried. In that year two other things happened: firstly, my branch brought a successful motion to the Bakers Union Conference against the EU Constitution and to campaign for a no vote. Secondly, this TUC also decided to oppose the Constitution and campaigned for a no vote. At our conference I made the point that we must still be vigilant. We must not take our eye off the ball.
Here we are, two years later, having to deal with this new Treaty. This new Treaty is over 90% of the old Constitution. It remains undemocratic. It is centralising. It is a privateer's paradise. It contains nothing that can be in any shape or form called the friend of the workers. The very least that the Congress can do is stick to its policies and Congress decisions, and if we do not do that we might as well all go home. I am absolutely sick to death coming to this Congress, coming to this rostrum, winning the argument and getting no action. I said it is the Bakers Union policy to oppose the EU Constitution and campaign for a no vote. I will say this, the Bakers Union stands full square shoulder to shoulder with the RMT in demanding a referendum and a campaign for a no vote. You know it is right, it is Congress policy, support the RMT, support resolution 72, and commit the General Council to do what is right.
Mick Shaw (Fire Brigades' Union) supported Motions 71 and 72.
He said: The TUC already has a policy on the draft European Union Constitution. The reality is that the European Reform Treaty is that draft Constitution dressed up under a different name, despite what those who will tell you otherwise would have you believe, therefore our decision should not be that difficult. The Fire Brigades' Union is not opposed to Europe. We are not opposed to the European Union. We are not opposed to greater European integration. We are not opposed to European Union enlargement. What we are opposed to is the European Union being used as a vehicle to force through privatisation, to drive down workers' wages and working conditions.
There has always been a tension in the European Union between those forces arguing for what has been known as the social Europe, the more progressive forces, and those forces arguing for a business Europe, a bosses Europe, a Europe of unrestrained capitalism. It is those latter forces, those arguing for the bosses Europe, who are the ones currently calling the tune in the European Commission and the other institutions of the European Union. That is what this European Reform Treaty is all about. It is a neo-liberal anti-democratic project. It undermines democracy and accountability. It undermines decent public services. It will undermine manufacturing. Increasingly open and democratic government within the member states will be replaced by secretive and unaccountable institutions which deliberately set out to exclude as many as possible from the decision-making process. That is why those who are the most enthusiastic supporters of the current direction of the European Union are those who are most opposed to people having the chance to have a vote on this topic.
The people of France and the people of the Netherlands have already had the opportunity to say what they thought of the draft European Treaty; they opposed it. Unfortunately, those who support this Treaty do not want to give the British people the chance to have the same vote. I think it is worth saying that it would be a huge mistake for those of us on the left and for the labour Movement if the only persons calling for the British people to have the chance to vote on this were the Tories. We should stand clearly for the right of the British people to be allowed a vote on this Treaty. As Bob said, it is no good calling for the right to have a vote but being silent when it comes to recommending which way people should vote in the referendum. There is absolutely nothing in the European Reform Treaty that is there for workers. The decision should be very easy, we should be opposed to it, and we should call on people to vote no. Support 71 and 72.
Mark Serwotka (Public and Commercial Services Union) supported Motions 71 and 72.
He said: Congress, when you actually analyse the question in front of us, we think the answer now is pretty simple. It is not simple because PCS is anti-European or anti-EU, in fact far from that. We do not believe that all our ills stem from the European Union; indeed, we believe that many of our most vital gains for workers in recent years have come in EU legislation. In this debate what we want to focus on, however, is the actions of our own UK government, the choices they are giving us, and how we put pressure on them. We have to recognise that it is our government in Europe who seeks to block workers' rights, supports the exploitation of agency workers, supports deregulation, supports privatisation of our public services, and now wants to opt out of the Charter of Fundamental Human Rights.
Congress, we should not let the villains in-chief off the hook and seek to blame all our ills therefore on Europe. In fact, our view is that what this Government is doing to us is cynically relying on the fact that our Movement's internationalism, our abhorrence of nationalism and 'little Englandism', will mean we will let them get away with anything because we are afraid of being described as an anti-European union. Indeed, the logic of succumbing to that position is they can do anything they like and we will sit by quietly because we could be described as being anti-European.
Congress, for my union the blocking of the Charter for Fundamental Human Rights was the final straw. It seems to us that the only way now to build a campaign and to put pressure on our government to reverse its decision is to say we want a referendum and we will campaign for a no vote if what is on offer is what they are currently giving us. Congress, that is why we believe our campaign must be separate and it must be distinct. We must be clear that our campaign is based on opposition to privatisation, for full rights for workers in the UK, and for full implementation of the charter. We want a referendum and we should say loud and clear the referendum we want is for workers' rights, for equality, for peace, and for social justice. That is why what we should be proclaiming is that we will link up in the true internationalist tradition with workers and unions across the whole of Europe to say we want a workers' Europe, not a Europe for big business.
Congress, if we fail to take that decision today the Government will read into that that they can carry on with their neo-liberal agenda and the Trades Union Movement will stay silent. We should have a referendum, we should say it is no to what is on offer, and force them to change course, otherwise we should defeat it which is the best way to stand up for workers' rights in this country and workers' rights across Europe. Support both motions.
Brian Corbett (Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen) supported Motions 71 and 72.
He said: First of all, I am a little disturbed at certain things because I thought we had a policy and the policy was made in 2005. We already have it, so what are we actually doing here? At least it is a decent debate for once. (Applause) Brothers and sisters, very little has changed indeed. I can tell you that our members certainly have not changed on the issue. Aslef members have not changed; certainly we have not been got at and nor has our Executive committee, and it is clear we are not anti-European. We are trade unionists just like our comrades over there are trade unionists. We oppose privatisation. This is what it is about. We oppose privatisation in any forms, any moves for privatisation. We oppose the charters from anywhere that take our rights away. It is funny that we support the ILO Conventions, which is where we should put all our focus; indeed, all of you just voted for 68, so that is quite clear as far as I a concerned, and so far as my union is concerned. We support the NHS as it has always been but no moves towards greater privatisation.
That is what it is really about, privatisation. Let's not turn this into a big union/small union fight. It is not about that. We know that. Let's put our members first, quite clearly first. That is what it is about. We ask you to support the motion from the RMT and ask Congress to do the same. Comrades, do not waiver. In your delegation oppose privatisation, oppose job cuts. That is what it is about. Please support.
Derek Simpson (Unite - The Union, Amicus section) stated that all sections of Unite supported Motion 71.
He said: Colleagues, to make perfectly clear it is not an anti-EU vote at all by Unite, in fact we are pro-Europe. We are concerned like all speakers have said about this Constitution which drives right against the social Europe that I believe everyone in this hall would support. Colleagues, when people speak about the problems with Europe what we need to understand is that one of the most regressive governments in the EU against the social agenda has been the British Government. Anyone who goes to Brussels will find that out. We are concerned about opt-outs negotiated by a British Prime Minister, opt-outs that cause the greatest concern about the direction. It is not Europe itself that needs to change, it is the attitude of the British Government towards Europe that dilutes all those advantages that other workers in Europe have and we are prevented from having. (Applause) We are clearly pro-Europe but we are very much concerned that this Constitution is all that the critics have said. I cannot add to that but I need to make that clear distinction. For those who believe that the answer is to walk away, to step outside, to pull back, remember that we have been pulling back to a position that is worse than what is in Europe. We do not walk away, we join the fight and the fight is to change the attitude of the British Government, to stop the opt-outs and to fight for social Europe. Let's be clear exactly what we are saying, which is what we did say and what was said by Tony Dubbins from this rostrum on behalf of Amicus two years ago, we are for Europe, a social Europe.
Paul Kenny (GMB) exercised a right of reply.
He said: I am sorry, I will not take up much time but I think it is important to make this point. The suggestion was made by the speaker from Community that by somehow supporting 71 you are lining up with the Tories. Let me tell you the point that you are making is that you are lining up with the CBI; that is what you are doing. I am not prepared to do that. (Applause) I am lining up with rights for British workers. They should not be blocked by the power and use of the CBI through the British Government. This is what Gary Titley said today on the radio. He was asked, was it a mistake for the Government to add on this extra protocol and were they doing it in some sort of sense of political window-dressing. Titley said, 'Mistake, no, it was the CBI that was pressurising to make this absolutely super, magnificently water-tight,' in other words, to make sure that there was no way British workers could go to the European courts to get access to things we had before, a complete blocking measure. I say to Community, I am not going to line up with people who are going to deny rights to British workers, and I hope you do not either.
Bob Crow (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers) exercised a right of reply.
He said: Apart from Community, I never see many people come to the rostrum and say vote against our resolution. Perhaps there has been a change of heart this afternoon while the good weather has been out in Brighton. The reality is I am not going to sit back and say because we have a different point of view about the European Union that we are anti-democratic and anti-European. My union stands shoulder to shoulder with anyone with its record on internationalism; 140 of our members went in the International Brigade to fight Franco; 10,000 lost their lives in World War II to end fascism. We do not need any lessons about internationalism in our union. We want to see the interests of everyone, every worker, get better in life.
My friend, Joe Mann, does the piloting at Tolpuddle. I have to say, Joe, you do a good job in that piloting but what you talked about was a kamikaze mission; I have to say that, an absolute kamikaze mission. We do not stand with UKIP. The question is about whether you believe that that Constitution, if it goes through as it says, gives you more rights than what you have now. I respect the position of those people who want to be in the European Union; I do respect that. We are honest about where we stand and we have had a clear policy for years. When the architect of the European Union, Schuman, actually said that what he wanted was a European Union to stop socialism spreading. That is what he wanted. There is no doubt that all those gains were put in there but now what you are seeing is the welfare state taken away because there is no Soviet Union to be a threat to them any more. It is liberalisation. What a dirty word 'privatisation' is. They will not even use the word 'privatisation' because people do not want it. They use the word 'liberalisation'. I thought liberalisation meant it was free. Pensioners cannot go and buy an industry. You cannot go and buy an industry. It is for the big businesses to buy the industry. I was proud of being in those demonstrations in Brussels with Transport & General Workers Union from this country and other unions from around the world and around Europe especially, when we stopped the port directive coming in to privatise ports throughout Europe. That is what European solidarity is about.
I have to say that you are going to pass a referendum here now, so pass 71 so there is no contradiction, but be clear as to the reason why we are asking for a referendum; it is the sole reason that you are going to vote no, because you do not like what is in it. If, of course, it changes between now and December, or whenever the Social Chapter or Social Charter is agreed, then there will be a different position but as we stand here today we should enforce the referendum and never mind what the CBI want, never mind what the Labour Party want, let's declare an agenda for British trade unionists. On that basis support 71 and also support 72.
* Motion 71 was CARRIED
* Motion 72 was LOST
See Democrat report of TUC debate