Saturday, 28 September 2019

RTUC at the Reading Town Meal

Kevin Brandstatter (left, GMB), Tanya Wills and
James Watts (both Unite) at the RTUC stand

On 28 September 2019, Reading Trades Union Council joined other stallholders in the Forbury Gardens to support Reading Town Meal. Tanya Wills (Unite) arranged and managed RTUC's display, with books and leaflets to interest attendees. The need to spread the message of trade unionism at all local events is imperative and other RTUC delegates, James (and Suzie) Parker (Unite), Nikki Dancey and Kevin Branstatter (both GMB), as well as James Watts, a new recruit to the Unite Community union branch, assisted to make RTUC's presence felt. John Oversby (UCU) was also supporting the initiative, working with another of his causes, Global Justice Reading.
John Oversby (left, UCU) with the
Global Justice Reading team
Reading Town Meal is a free meal for over 1000 people, made entirely from fruit and vegetables donated by local growers and cooked by Reading College students. The meal celebrates and promotes home grown and locally produced food.
Alongside the meal itself, there were various interactive information stalls by a range of community groups, local traders, live music all day, workshops and a family activities area. There was also a Town Meal treasure hunt and a Food Waste treasure hunt.
John Oversby (UCU), Tanya Wills and James (both Unite)
The workshop themes were: Your role in combating climate change; Love Food Hate Waste; and Food Controversies.
Reading Trades Union Council was proud to stand alongside such a worthy initiative.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Reading Trades Union Council and the Climate Strike

John Oversby (UCU) of RTUC and Global Justice Reading
The youth is rising and its consciousness is beginning to rouse! Our house is on fire - and they're sounding the alarm! The time has come for multigenerational action against climate breakdown.

On 20 September 2019 from midday the people of Reading - as with protesters across the globe - followed the lead of young people and supported Reading's Climate Strike. Make no mistake, the event was populous, loud - with peaceful civil disobedience - and squarely spearheaded by youth!

On that day people everywhere walked out of their homes and workplaces together and joined young strikers in the streets to demand climate justice and emergency action to tackle the climate crisis. Governments won’t do it of their own volition; 
#climatestrike was required to show them what people power is capable of. There is no Planet B...

Reading Trades Union Council flew the banner for climate justice in solidarity with the strike's organisers, represented by RTUC Vice President, Nikki Dancey, Secretary, David McMullen, Kevin Brandstatter (all GMB) and Sue Taylor (PCS). Nikki tirelessly promoted the event among local and regional trade unionists as well as lobbying the Reading & District Labour Party's Trade Union Liaison Officer to do the same and her report back to the RTUC Delegates' Meeting in October was comprehensive.

Some employers - including Reading Borough Council - tolerated absences from work, allowing some of their staff to partake. But all the while such employers use excess packaging on their products, promote carrier bags to advertise their businesses and stock their staffrooms, coffee shops and takeaways with non-recyclable, disposable cups and food containers; supermarkets insist on photogenic fruit - round, smooth and shiny - thus letting masses of perfectly edible, tasty produce go to waste; and the world witnesses that contradiction of capitalism - overproduction alongside millions in want! Governments do little to compel the culture change needed to save our planet.

John Oversby at the Climate Strike
RTUC was represented in other climes too, with John Partington (TSSA) joining the student-led Climate Strike at the University of California-Berkeley. Anywhere that humans go, responsibility for environmental stewardship follows them.... and humans, of course, are everywhere.
John Partington (TSSA) joins the University of California
student-led Climate Strike in Berkeley
Reading Trades Union Council looks forward to more such events, pressuring businesses, governments and local councils to ACT DIFFERENTLY.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

RTUC joins the Labour Party and 'Change Through Solidarity' to STOP THE COUP

On 3 September 2019, Reading Trades Union Council co-organised an anti-Boris Johnson, pro-democracy protest to 'STOP THE COUP' - a rally of opposition against the Conservative Government's suspension of parliament for five weeks in September and October. Along with Reading & District Labour Party and socialists in the 'Change Through Solidarity' collective, RTUC joined calls for an end to threats of a no-deal exit from the European Union and instead advanced the need for a general election once political steps were secured to prevent no-deal.
David McMullen (GMB) delivers RTUC's statement
RTUC Secretary, David McMullen (GMB), delivered Reading Trades Union Council's statement on the prorogation of parliament by Johnson, opposing Conservative efforts to force a timeout on negotiations with the EU by running the clock down for a default Brexit on 31 October. David spoke in favour of the extension of Article 50, a general election and a negotiation of exit terms on the basis of mutual satisfaction for the UK and the EU.

He also presented episodes in the Conservative governments of 2010 to the present which revealed their untrustworthiness and showed that the Tories are no friends of working people.

Demonstrating the new wind which blows through the Reading labour movement, the RDLP speaker, Cllr Sarah Hacker (Unite), chair of the Reading Labour Party, proudly stood before the RTUC banner, declaring solidarity for the cause not only as a Labour politician but as an active trade unionist. This show of unity across the local labour movement epitomises the concept of 'Change Through Solidarity'.

Cllr Sarah Hacker (Labour & Unite)
The event was greeted with enthusiasm, defiance - but also a tinge of despondency at the perilous state British democracy has found itself in. But with parliament's legislation, demanding Johnson request an extension to Article 50 if he has not struck a Brexit deal by 17 October, there is all to play for. A Jeremy Corbyn government by Christmas, renegotiation of the UK's relationship with the EU and a referendum to stay in on new terms or leave on an agreed deal. This must be the direction to pursue.

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Reading Trades Union Council at Pride

On 31 August 2019, Reading Pride marched through the town and took up residency on Kings Meadow. As is customary, trade unionists assembled, lining up alongside political and social marquees and stalls, from the NHS to the Reading & District Labour Party.

Rob Sterling (GMB), Nikki Dancey (GMB) and Kevin
Brandstatter (GMB) in the RTUC gazebo
Reading Trades Union Council parked its gazebo alongside that of its affiliated trade union, the GMB, and members of the RMT, Unite, the Musicians' Union, Unison, NEU and other trade unions promoted their campaigns and fraternised with members, prospective members and other sympathisers.
Cllr Rachel Eden (GMB), Matt Rodda MP (Labour, Reading
East) and Paul Sony (GMB) at the GMB gazebo

RTUC distributed literature on the minimum wage, transport policy and workplace equality and held conversations to promote the power of collective strength in defending minorities and other groups and individuals striving for equality.

RTUC would like to acknowledge the fine work done by Plan C Reading, Abingdon Queer Action and other groups which led a protest against the presence of the Atomic Weapons Establishment, the Ministry of Defence and the Conservative Party at Reading Pride, despite their support for arms trading with regimes which persist in criminalising homosexuality. Plan C Reading wrote up the protest as follows:

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

RTUC Joins Protest at Frimley Health NHS Trust

On 21 August 2019, Berkshire County Trades Association, represented by delegates from Reading Trades Union Council and Slough Trades Council, supported Unison, GMB and Unite members of Frimley Health NHS Trust in a protest against privatisation proposals.

Margery Thorogood (left, GMB/STUC) and David
McMullen (2ndright, GMB/RTUC)
The Trust's Deputy Chief Executive, Janet King (, attempted to brief staff at Wexham Park Hospital on proposals to create a wholly owned, arm's length subsidiary which would see non-clinical jobs at Wexham, Frimley and Heatherwood hospitals transferred from the NHS to a new company, affecting around 1000 staff. Her attempt to exclude trade union organisers from the briefing, however, led to a walk out by trade unionist members.

RTUC banner greets workers assembling in protest

In addition to the principled opposition health privatisation, the trade unions, including GMB, Unite and Unison, fear the transfer will lead to job losses and worsened terms and conditions.

GMB members have staged lunch-time demonstrations against the plans and have launched a consultative ballot on the plans.

Reading Trades Union Council's banner joined the flags and banners of other trade unions, proudly sported by the RTUC secretary, Dave McMullen (GMB).

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Reading's Coalition of the Left Protests Universal Credit

The issues at stake!
On 1 August 2019, from 18:00 to 19:00, a protest of about fifty people, plus many more passes-by, assembled at Town Hall Square, Reading, to share experiences about the trauma of Universal Credit.

John Partington (3rd left, TSSA) and Chris Reilly (far right, RMT)
with fellow Reading Labour Party Executive members
Reading Trades Union Council was well represented, with delegates present including John Gillman (Unite), Ginnette Hargreaves-Lees (Unite), Dave McMullen (GMB), John Partington (TSSA), Chris Reilly (RMT), Sue Taylor (PCS) and co-organiser, Jim Parker (Unite).
Ginnette Hargreaves-Lees (Unite) addresses the protest
The event was co-organised by Berkshire Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and the Community branch of Unite the Union. Jim Parker took the lead in distributing leaflets while Merry Cross of DPAC opened the speeches and encouraged speakers to come forward.
John Partington (TSSA) speaks on Universal Credit and fear
RTUC provided two speakers, John Partington (TSSA), who referenced the fear Universal Credit applicants have in protesting or even being seen at protests in case their benefits are stopped, and Ginnette Hargreaves-Lees (Unite), who spoke of her own struggles accessing support.
Merry Cross (DPAC) leads the condemnations
With the new wind of change blowing through Reading & District Labour Party following its Annual General Meeting on 25 July, eight of its elected executive committee joined the protest, two of whom are RTUC delegates: Chris Reilly (RMT) and John Partington (TSSA).

Alison Peyton (ReadiFood) speaks

Cllr Rachel Eden, Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate in Reading West, also spoke against Universal Credit before being joined after the speeches by Cllrs Micky Leng, John Ennis and Sarah Hacker to pledge opposition to Universal Credit and offer support for its scrapping once a Labour Government is formed.

Cllr Rachel Eden (Labour) supports the protest
Alison Peyton of Readifood, Reading's primary food bank, gave anecdotal evidence of the increase in food bank use in the town since Universal Credit was introduced for new applicants. Austerity is - according to the Tories - over, yet Alison sees more food bank users now than ever before.
Rona Topaz shares her experiences
Two further Universal Credit claimants rounded off proceedings. Rona Topaz spoke of the difficulty in accessing support under Universal Credit tests.
John Hoggett expresses anger through
call-and-response poetry

And John Hoggett, in his unique style, used art - in this case poetry - to condemn Universal Credit and to dignify welfare claimants, reminding his listeners that the means to a basic existence is a human right and rather than stigmatise them, we should celebrate benefits claimants for their resilience in the face of extreme hardship and deprivation.

Reading Labour councillors, Micky Leng, John Ennis, Sarah Hacker and
Rachel Eden pledge to support the scrapping of Universal Credit

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Reading RMT Branch Social welcomes RTUC Delegates

RMT Branch members and RTUC guests assemble
On 27 July 2019, Reading Trades Union Council delegates joined the Reading Branch of the RMT as esteemed guests for the annual RMT branch social. The feast was staged at Wallingford Station before the teetotal attendees were invited to take a turn driving a steam train on the Cholsey and Wallingford Railway. Kevin Brandstatter (GMB), Nikki Dancey (GMB), James Denny (RMT), James Ford (RMT), Colin Masters (RMT), Dave McMullen (GMB), Jim Parker (Unite), Chris Reilly (RMT), Barbara Roberts (RMT) and Tanya Wills (Unite) attended from RTUC.
Taking a possession (of sorts) of the Cholsey & Wallingford Railway...
The event, while being a comradely, lighthearted social, nonetheless had a sobering, generous purpose to it: £247 was raised on the day (rounded up to £500 by the Reading RMT branch) for the families of Michael Lewis and Gareth Delbridge, the railway workers killed by a train near Port Talbot on 3 July. The railway fraternity and the trade union movement more generally must continued being social - but we must also never forget the sacrifices of those who have gone before.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Prime Minister Boris Johnson - Not Welcome in Reading

The National Education Union, supported by the Reading Trades Union Council, GMB, TSSA and members of the Labour Party, assembled on 23 July 2019 for the peak time rush at Reading Railway Station to protest the appointment by the Conservative Party of Boris Johnson as British Prime Minister - without an election. Johnson's record of deceit and racism - and his close bond with the misogynist, racist and homophobic American President, Donald Trump, makes his appointment both a disgrace and a national humiliation.

Johnson's commitment to achieving British withdrawal from the European Union by 31 October 2019 on any terms demonstrates a flagrant disregard - or ignorance - of the negative impact a no-deal Brexit (or Brexit on World Trade Organisation terms) would inflict on the British economy. Johnson's announcements of prospective tax cuts for wealthy individuals and large corporations signals an ideological shift rightwards, as he aims to distinguish himself from Theresa May by advocating more reactionary, regressive policies.

With a speech from the NEU delegate, leafleting of commuters arriving in Reading from the station and conversations between protesters and the public beneath the fluttering trade union banners, the message was loud and clear - Reading rejects the ideology of Boris Johnson!

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Love Pies, Hate Racism - the left at play

Reading Trades Union Council at play!
On 16 June 2019, Reading Trades Union Council joined other left activists at the Castle Tap pub in a social event and fundraiser for the diversity of causes supported by the town's comrades. Sue Taylor (PCS), Kevin Brandstatter (GMB), Nikki Dancey (GMB), Steve Geary (USDAW), John Partington (TSSA) and Tanya Wills (Unite) attended from RTUC.

A social on the initiative of Reading Red Corner
In addition to RTUC, Reading Red Corner (the initiators of the event), Reading Refugee Support Group, Reading Hunt Saboteurs, Plan C Reading, Berkshire Antifascists, Reading IWW and Reclaim Reading set up stalls, and all were entertained by musicians Lee Reed and Kay the Aquanaut.

RTUC spreading the word
The emphasis of the day was relaxation, kicking back, refreshing mind and body - and exchanging ideas and networks.

Antifascist Action's banner
The entertainment, food and drink was great - and the comradeship fantastic. One suspects more parties, hootenannies, rallies, marches and protests, comrades shoulder to shoulder, will follow as these networks expand and interact.
Hunt Saboteurs Association banner

Saturday, 1 June 2019

RTUC in solidarity with the Oxford NHS and Pride Events

Reading Trades Union Council joined Oxford Unison Health Branch's 'March for the NHS' on 1 June 2019. Having joined the event last year, RTUC were proud to again support comrades in a hospital city which offers such great care to its people as well as patients from the rest of Oxfordshire, Berkshire and beyond.

The March reaches St Clement's
The organisers publicised the event thus:

"Oxfordshire's NHS staffing crisis continues. Lack of staff is undermining services and patient care. Action is urgently needed to enable NHS staff to afford to live in the area to solve the staffing crisis.

"We also need to address the catastrophic drop in nurse trainees and the governments plan to de-skill nurses to bring down wages.

"Critical services such as diagnostic scanners for Oxford cancer care are being hived off to private companies. Scarce NHS resources are being siphoned off to profit fat cats."

March organiser, Ian McKendrick (Unison) 
The marchers demanded:

● An end to the staffing crisis - extend London weighting to Oxford - bring back bursaries;
● No to longer waiting times; and
● Stop cuts and privatisation - put patients before profits.

John Partington (TSSA) took solidarity from RTUC
In addition to John Partington (TSSA) from RTUC, trade union solidarity was offered by the North Central Postal Branch of the Communication Workers' Union.
The CWU joins the march
The march commenced on Cowley Road, crossed St Clement's to High Street before turning down Catte Street where it merged with Oxford Pride.

RTUC Joins Oxford Pride's Civic March,
1 June 2019

The Oxford Pride march was a great show of acceptance, friendship and fun - and RTUC was proud to be represented.

Oxfordshire Fire & Rescue Service support Pride

As well as the fire service, police officers, faith groups and students, trade unions were a visible presence.

Unison - Proud of Pride! 
Unison flew the banner for Oxford's trade unionists and John Partington (TSSA) represented the RTUC on the march.
Unison on the March

Next up - Reading Pride on 31 August!

Thursday, 30 May 2019

RTUC joins the SEND National March

Dave McMullen (GMB)
with the RTUC banner

Reading Trades Union Council joined other groups and individuals in Forbury Gardens on 30 May 2019 to protest the Conservative government's attacks on children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). 'Well done to Annabel Yoxall and her team for organising today’s march calling for an end to the SEND crisis', declared David McMullen (GMB) of RTUC. Annabel, Joolz Scarlett and Matt Rodda all gave informative and poignant talks about the state of the current situation, then led a march through Reading town centre. Friends of RTUC such as Angie Burnish, Cllr Sarah Hacker and Julie Sherratt were present too.
Labour's Matt Rodda MP
supports the movement

According to the 'SEND National Crisis March' Facebook Page (

"NATIONAL MARCH 30 MAY 2019 I have decided to act instead of repeatedly say the words 'we need a march or something'. I've been saying this for almost two years now and nothing has changed to the effect of making any difference. I believe it's time we all united and stood up to the powers that refuse to provide our young people with the education that is rightfully theirs! There are so many of us struggling and battling an unfair system for our children or the people we care for and it is an exhausting process that hammers us into the ground daily. If we do what we have been saying we want to do and march TOGETHER in our masses, then we can no longer be ignored. If you want to make a change then lets start here. We have a page with the same name and are linked to other groups and petitions circulating for the same cause. Our aim: we want the current SEN and EHCP legislation to be re-assessed and we demand continuity amongst regions, We are asking for independent parent governor boards to have enforcement powers to ensure appropriate actions by local authorities throughout the SEN / EHCP process. Thanks for joining us and being part of the process of change!"

RTUC was proud to have been there!

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

May Day 2019

Keith Jerrome (Reading International Brigades Memorial Committee)

Organised by Ray Parkes and Keith Jerrome of the Reading International Brigades Memorial Committee, the International Workers' Day commemoration took place in the Forbury Gardens. Staged at the Reading International Brigades Memorial, Chris Reilly (RMT), President of Reading Trades Union Council, introduced the event, calling on Keith to deliver the first oration. Keith reminded his listeners of the selfless sacrifices of the volunteers to Spain, committed to defeating fascism as soldiers, medics and administrators. He drew parallels to today's struggles, with the far right confident on the streets of Britain and elsewhere, and the left being called upon to continue the fight to keep society free of fascist violence and other oppressions.
Chris Reilly (RMT/RTUC) introduces the speakers
Chris himself spoke with passion about the modern far right in the European elections with the Brexit Party and UKIP garnering over 34% of UK votes.

Cllr Sarah Hacker (Unite/Labour Party)
Cllr Sarah Hacker (Unite/Labour Party) presented her personal history, entering the labour movement through trade unionism, confronting workplace obstacles to advance workers' rights before following her commitment for justice into the Labour Party. She successfully stood for Reading Borough Council in 2010 and has held the Culture, Heritage and Recreation portfolio since 2017.

Robert Wilkinson (Oxford & District Trades Council)
Bob Wilkinson spoke next, a guest from the Oxford Trades Council. He expatiated with passion about the international swing to the right, with Brexit extremists in Britain, Donald Trump's presidency in the USA and Alternative fuer Deutschland in Germany. He urged the left to not only refute right populism but to offer alternatives which address the lowering of living standards, the spread of misinformation and the privatisation drive in public services (including healthcare).

Cllr John Ennis (Labour Party)
Cllr John Ennis (Labour Party) reiterated the threat from the right and called on the left to unite behind the Labour Manifesto and avoid divisions which can weaken the labour movement.

Plan C
Bringing new enthusiasm and 'a plan' to May Day, a speech was delivered on behalf of Plan C, a group outside traditional party structures, organising in the community to engage the public around causes. Following his speech, and thanks from Chris, Plan C marched around Reading town centre, being seen off with ovations from the assembled crowd.

Plan C on the march

Just as the event was winding up, George Wills stepped forward, red flag in hand, a guest from distant Essex, and delivered an impromptu speech of fire and brimstone. Talking of the struggles, defeats - and victories - in his lifetime, fascism militant across Europe, its subjugation, the emergence of the welfare state - and now attacks from the right and the need for renewal. George appealed to young people - while asserting that all those who were gathered were young by his mature standing - and waved them onward in the fight for peace, freedom and justice!

George Wills wraps up with passion!

Following the speeches and Plan C's march, social time was declared with a move to the Outlook Pub and refreshments in a convivial atmosphere! 

Tanya Wills (Unite/RTUC) and Kathy McCubbing
(Palestine Solidarity Campaign)