GREENS & TRADE UNIONS
P.Murry (Secretary, Green Party Trades Union Group 25/02/2007
In the last Green World Derek Wall called for Greens to join Trades Unions, so I just wanted to write a short piece because I support Derek’s suggestion and because I feel that sometimes, some Greens may have some misconceptions about Trades Unions and their politics.
I think that a proper Trades Union is an autonomous workers’ organisation, originally set up by its own members to represent them primarily in the workplace and primarily to improve and defend pay and working conditions. Since workplaces exist in economic, political and ecological contexts this leads unions to act as pressure groups in these areas.
Hence Trades Union involvement in the campaign against the Colnbrook incinerator, (workers at nearby Heathrow airport would be amongst those worst affected by the pollution), and Gerry Doherty of the TSSA’s * call for support for road pricing, coupled with a reduction in excessive rail fares, (Guardian letters page 21/2/2007).There are many other examples of where Unions would support the same policies as Greens, but there are also instances where the oppose them, the worst example probably being Prospect and the TGWU’s support for new nuclear power stations. Here Greens have to argue that such stances are short-sighted as they will damage workers and their families as well as everyone else and that the job creation involved in greening the economy and society could more than compensate for jobs lost in some industries.
It is possible for Greens to make such arguments within Trades Unions, since they are basically, (but not perfectly) democratic institutions. Currently British Unions are politically dominated by a conventional Left consensus, (ranging from Trotskyite to right wing Labour) AND then there are the entrenched, vested interests of Officers (elected) and Officials (paid) who derive power, prestige and remuneration from the status quo, this all means that being an active Green within a Union can be a very frustrating and isolating experience. Things could become easier with the current superficial ‘greening’ of British politics , but paradoxically more difficult for the Green Party if others can claim to be able to enact the same policies, however what some Unions are starting to realise is that there is a very close convergence of the Green and Union agendas on social and economic policies.
So I think Greens should follow Derek’s advice and become more involved in Unions; for those who already have and for those who are just thinking about it, there is the Green Party Trades Union Group, open to all GP members, to join the email list contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
* Transport Salaried Staff’s Association