Thursday, 16 January 2020

RTUC protests Reading Borough Council Outsourcing Proposals

Reading Trades Union Council delegates, including Neil Adams (Unite), James Denny (RMT), Steve Geary (USDAW), John Gillman (Unite), James Parker (Unite), Ray Parkes (Unite), John Partington (TSSA), Chris Reilly (RMT) and Tanya Wills (Unite), were joined by members of Reading Socialist Party and Reading & District Labour Party, as well as unaffiliated individuals, to protest the proposals recently tabled by Reading Borough Council to OUTSOURCE ALL OF READING'S LEISURE SERVICES to one private management company. These services include Rivermead Leisure Centre, Palmer Park, Medway Sport and South Reading Leisure Centre.

RTUC, RSP and RDLP Members Protest RBC Outsourcing Proposals
The proposals, announced in the Reading Chronicle on 10 January 2020, would breach Reading Labour Party policy and show an utter disregard for trade union opposition by councillors of all political hues, including the ruling Labour Group. Reading Labour Party's policy to oppose outsourcing and actively pursue insourcing of council services was adopted in October 2018 when RDLP passed a motion which resolved:
  1. To affirm support for Labour Party policy set out in the 2017 Labour Party Manifesto and conference resolution of Composite Motion 6 on 27 September 2018, opposing the outsourcing of public services.
  2. To affirm support for the national agreement reached between the Unions and the LGA Labour Group.
  3. To instruct the Chair of RDLP to write to the RBC Labour Group requesting it abandon proposals to ‘market test’ Revenue and Benefits services.
  4. To instruct the Chair of RDLP to write to the RBC Labour Group requesting it reconsider proposals to establish charitable trusts to manage Children’s Services and Museums and Libraries.
  5. To instruct the Chair of RDLP to further request the RBC Labour Group to commit to working collaboratively with Trades’ Unions and other staff to undertake a comprehensive feasibility study into the delivery of all Revenue and Benefits services through in-house provision, taking account of wider economic, social and environmental considerations.
  6. To instruct the Chair of RDLP to respectfully request the Leader and Deputy Leader of RBC to report back to the next RDLP AMM on this matter.
Outsourcing Protest t the Civic Offices

On the basis of this resolution, Reading Labour councillors should oppose the RBC proposal, which would contract Reading's leisure services - including new swimming pools at Rivermead and Palmer Park - to a private management company for 25 YEARS. Such private finance initiatives have been discredited since the indebtedness incurred by the NHS following such deals in the 2000s became apparent in the last decade. Indeed, a similar arrangement to RBC's proposal was entered into by Bracknell's Tory council - and its poor performance has been such that the council is now discussing the service provider, Everyone Active's  progress! The current private management company at Rivermead - Greenwich Leisure Ltd - which may or may not be RBC's preferred bidder for the comprehensive leisure contract - has a poor track record as a service provider and an employer, and is currently in dispute with Unite the Union in Bromley over its abuse of workers' terms and conditions (including use of zero hours contracts) and its refusal to recognise trade unions. (Reading's Lead Councillor for Sport, Health & Wellbeing, is Cllr Graeme Hoskin, a Unite member, so one would expect him to take heed of his trade union's damning report in any dealings RBC has with Greenwich Leisure Ltd.)

RBC is due to decide on the Reading leisure contract at its next Policy Committee meeting on 20 January. The option to reject an outsourcing contract is still available to Labour Group; RTUC urges Reading Borough Council to opt for direct council management of Reading leisure services in line with RDLP policy and like many councils do throughout the UK.

A contingent of anti-outsourcing protesters, organised by the 'Save Arthur Hill Pool' community group and RTUC, will be present outside the Council Offices on 20 January from at 5.30pm to let the councillors and the public know that RBC's outsourcing of public services is not going unopposed and to encourage an eleventh hour change of heart.

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Remember William Winterbourne of Kintbury


On 11 January 2020 trade unionists from Berkshire and surrounding counties joined Kintbury villagers at St Mary's Church to remember the life and death of William Winterbourne. Buried as 'William Smith' in the parish churchyard, Winterbourne was executed in 1831 for leading the 'Swing Riots' in Berkshire - a movement of 'physical force' collective bargaining which offered landowners the choice of wage rises for their labourers or the destruction of their threshing machines.

Trade Unionists and villagers at William Winterbourne's Grave
Around Berkshire, several landowners paid the price for immiserating their workforce with the smashing up or burning of their technologically advanced machinery which was replacing many agricultural workers and driving down wages. Landowners increased their profits through greater productivity and lower labour costs - but were reluctant to share their increased wealth with their workers.

Keith Jerrome Expostulates Eloquently to Assembled Comrades
The 'Swing Rioters' sought to redress this injustice, with 'Captain' Winterbourne leading the aggrieved from village to village, farm to farm, seeking work for idle hands and improved pay for agricultural labourers. When Winterbourne was arrested, however, justice was merciless. He was identified as the ringleader, condemned to death and publicly hanged from the walls of Reading Gaol on 11 January 1831 under the gaze of the townsfolk, observing in silence according to contemporary reports. (Two others condemned to death had their sentences commuted to transportation to Australia; dozens of others received gaol sentences.)

The Grave of William 'Smith' Winterbourne
The day commenced with refreshments in the St Mary's Church Hall before Keith Jerrome (Unite) gave a graveside historical account of Winterbourne's campaign and death. He explained how the vicar of St Mary's brought the remains of Winterbourne to his church - an unusual practice for an executed person - and buried him as 'William Smith' (possibly to hide the nature of his death). Following Keith, a Winterbourne descendent recited a poem on her forebear's fate.

Reading Trades Union Council was well represented at the memorial service, with Kevin Brandstatter (GMB), Nikki Dancey (GMB), James denny (RMT), Steve Geary (USDAW), Ray Parkes (Unite), John Partington (TSSA) and Tanya Wills (Unite) attending as well as Keith Jerrome (Unite).

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

RTUC backs UCU Strikes in Reading & Oxford


During October 2019, the University and College Union held a double national ballot on proposed changes to the university pension scheme and on worsening pay, terms and conditions for university staff. Reading UCU comfortably exceeded the legislative 50% threshold on voting turn out and members backed strike action overwhelmingly (72% on the pension issue and 68% on pay, terms and conditions). In Oxford, 74% of balloted members supported strike action on worsening pay, terms and conditions. Across sixty institutions, more than 40,000 UCU members took industrial action.
John Gillman (far left) supports the protest at Whiteknights, Reading

UCU members walked out of their workplaces on 25 November for eight consecutive working days of strike action. In Reading, there were vibrant, creative picket lines based at London Road, Earley Gate, Pepper Lane and Shinfield Road entrances to the University of Reading. At Oxford University, pickets formed throughout the city, including on the High Street and at the Saïd Business School.

John Oversby (5th left) supports the Shinfield Road picket, Reading

As with last years' pensions dispute, Reading Trades Union Council delegates showed their solidarity with the UCU strikers. John Gillman (Unite) and John Oversby (UCU retired member) supported the University of Reading action, while John Partington (TSSA) fraternised with strikers in Oxford.

John Partington support's the picket at Saïd Business School, Oxford
Following student solidarity with the UCU dispute in Reading, a final-year undergraduate, Dorian McHale, has been suspended and banned from campus pending a serious misconduct investigation while Oliver Kent, a postgraduate student, has also been banned. While Oliver had completed his studies (his graduation ceremony was scheduled for 12 December), Dorian's studies at the university are now in jeopardy.

Letter sent to Dorian McHale (coutesy of thetab.com)

A group of nine students attempted to occupy the International Capital Market Association building at Reading University on 1 December in support not only of the UCU strikes but also divestment from fossil fuels and the arms industry.

In the face of  heavy-handed security, which led to two students suffering bruising to their legs, the university claims their security personnel were assaulted. The protesters claim that, at one point, they were “pushed back by a picked-up table and chased by security”.

Reading Trades Union Council sends solidarity to the suspended students, seeing the university's actions as an attack on the most vulnerable in the dispute. The university leadership and all of Universities UK need to sit down and negotiate satisfactory deals with UCU rather than bully students in a cheap attempt to discredit legitimate strike action.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Reading Labour 100: The Commemorative Book of the Century!

During a twelve month programme of events throughout 2018, the Reading labour movement marked the centenary of the creation of the Reading Labour Party (christened the 'Reading Trades Union Council & Labour Party' at its formation) one hundred years earlier. Now known as Reading & District Labour Party (RDLP) and working alongside the Reading Trades Union Council (RTUC) to defend and advance the rights of Reading residents, workers and visitors, the role of the party has grown in leaps and bounds over the century since its birth. Today it is the ruling party on Reading Borough Council and it holds one (Reading East) of the town's two parliamentary seats.


The centenary year did not simply celebrate the history of RDLP; it also demonstrated the party's contemporary power and organisation across the town: in the council chamber, through its Member of Parliament (Matt Rodda MP), in partnership with its affiliated trade unions and through grassroots organisation. Also apparent was the importance of the historical link between RDLP and the RTUC as political and industrial wings of the local labour movement.



Determined to capture the energy of the celebrations, campaigns and achievements created by a century of Reading Labour, the RTUC commissioned its TSSA delegate and Assistant Secretary, John Partington, to distill the history into a commemorative book. The result is Reading Labour 100!


At 119 pages, Reading Labour 100 presents the historical ingredients which went into the formation of RDLP, from the co-operative movement to agricultural trade unionism, from socialist societies to industrial trade unionism - and not forgetting the anti-fascist fighters for freedom who went to Spain in 1937, some never to return. The volume also identifies key moments in RDLP's centenary year, such as supporting striking university lecturers, campaigning to retain universal free bus travel for disabled residents and protesting inflation-busting rail fare increases. Labour celebrations and political education are not ignored either - with May Day and Women's Day marches, guest speakers and social events presented within the book's pages. The volume is rounded off with an anecdotal Afterword by a stalwart of the RTUC and RDLP, Keith Jerrome.


Despite the preponderance of Conservative Governments over the century of its existence - and Reading's red oasis among England's southeast sea of Tory blue - RDLP stands strong and proud and ready for a further century of struggle and commitment to defending and extending the rights of its residents, workers and visitors!

The book costs £10 (UK) and £15 (international orders). You can order the book by paying via PayPal to John Partington at J_S_Partington@hotmail.co.uk. For alternative payment methods, email John to make arrangements. There will be a negotiated discount for bulk orders. All profits from the sale of the book will be divided between the RTUC and RDLP.

Bibliographical details:
Author: John S. Partington
Full title: Reading Labour 100: The Centenary of the Labour Party in Reading, 1918-2018. Reading Trades Union Council & Reading and District Labour Party: Change Through Solidarity
Publisher: Reading Trades Union Council
Afterword: Keith Jerrome
119pp; 63 illustrations (colour and black & white)

Contents:

Introduction
The Reading Labour Movement Protests Rail Fare Increases
The Hanging of William Winterbourne
‘Labour 100’ Supports the GMB’s Eleanor Marx Day Event
100 Years of Labour in Reading
RTUC and RDLP March to Save the NHS
RTUC at Reading’s International Women’s Day March and Rally
RTUC Backs Lecturers’ Pensions Dispute
Chris Williamson MP comes to the University of Reading
Labour Party Rally in Park Ward
International Workers’ Day in Reading
Reading’s May Day Rally and March
A New Deal for Working People
RTUC joins DPAC to Oppose Attacks on Mobility
RTUC at the NHS 70th Birthday March
RTUC at Tolpuddle
RTUC Welcomes Reading Campaign Against Privatisation
RTUC backs DPAC against Attacks on Disabled Persons’ Rights
Celebrating 70 Years of the NHS
Reading Buses Open Meeting
Protesting Rail Fare Increases
RTUC at Reading Pride!
Protesting Rail Fare Increases in East and West Reading
Protesting Proposed Attacks on Disabled Travel Rights
Vote 90! It’s not 100 years for us
DPAC, RTUC and principled Labour Party activists fight for Disabled Bus Rights
Afterword by Keith Jerrome

About the Authors
John S. Partington is a Safety, Health and Environment Specialist in the railway industry, an Area Health and Safety Representative for the TSSA, Assistant Secretary of the RTUC, Trade Union Liaison Officer for RDLP and an historian of labour biography. His books include Building Cosmopolis: The Political Thought of H. G. Wells (2003), The Life, Music and Thought of Woody Guthrie: A Critical Appraisal (2011) and Clara Zetkin: National and International Contexts (2012, with Marilyn J. Boxer).
Keith Jerrome, a retired trade union official, is a long standing member of RDLP and an Honorary Life Member of the RTUC. He is a fount of knowledge about local labour history and has saved and archived a large volume of local material which would have been lost to future generations of historians and activists. His University of Reading Master’s dissertation, ‘Labour in “Biscuit Town”: The growth of a social movement to 1945’ (2001), remains the finest single contribution to the history of the Reading labour movement yet produced.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

RTUC & RDLP back GMB Cleaners' Action at Prospect School

Ray Parkes (sixth left, Unite), John Partington (seventh right,
TSSA) and GMB Regional Organiser, Nikki Dancey (third
right) of RTUC, with strikers and RDLP supporters
On 22 October 2019, Reading Trades Union Council and Reading & District Labour Party joined the GMB cleaners' picket at Prospect School to stand firm against the outsourcing ambition of the School Trust's management. With the announcement by Prospect School that Hayward Services Ltd were being appointed to take on the cleaning contract at the school - a decision taken without staff / trade union consultation - the GMB Regional Organiser, Nikki Dancey (RTUC Vice President), organised the affected staff. Nikki consulted with them on their views regarding the changes and - when it was clear the cleaners were solidly opposed to being outsourced - she called a ballot for industrial action, resulting in a 100% turnout and 100% support for strike action. With this mandate, the GMB has called for talks with the school in a bid to end privatisation of the cleaning service.

Cleaners' picket at Prospect School
RTUC and RDLP have long argued the merits of in-house provision of services by the public sector so this struggle was one they are keen to support. Since October 2018, RDLP policy has been against outsourcing (in line with national Labour Party policy) and in favour of progressive in-sourcing of services, with Reading Borough Council's delivery of the Revenues & Benefits Service and the Leisure Service both areas for the Labour Group to consider for in-house management. In line with the anti-outsourcing policy, the Prospect School dispute was supported by Cllr Sarah Hacker and Cllr Graeme Hoskin (both of Unite the Union) who will be looked to for support in the in-sourcing drive at Reading Borough Council.

Nikki Dancey (GMB) coordinates the picket
and protest at Prospect School's gates
The GMB handbill - all of which were distributed to parents and others collecting children from the school as well as neighbourly passersby and some staff - ran as follows:


"The cleaners at Prospect School are in a serious dispute about privatisation. The school wishes to outsource them to a private company - Hayward Services Ltd - but the cleaners want to stop this process and simply stay working for Prospect School. The cleaners have now been balloted for industrial action.


The school have said:

1. “They can’t manage the team” - This is because the team haven’t actually had a dedicated manager for many months and the school are refusing to simply reemploy a manager for them!



2. “Haywards is a good company” – But they have told the cleaners they shouldn’t even speak to the students and staff while they work. They are there to be “seen (cleaning) but not heard”. Good companies treat their staff like human beings, not servants.



3. “Their contracts and pay won’t change” – But Haywards gave all staff documents that they wanted the cleaners to sign that were essentially new contracts on far worse terms and conditions. If they hadn’t been in the union, they may have signed away their own rights. Haywards completely breached their trust and may have been deliberately trying to exploit them.



4. “Privatisation is the only way” - But the cleaners and the union have given numerous other potential solutions and have asked for time to see if they work, but all of them have been disregarded.



The GMB says :



• The school can stop this process very easily and for no cost at all. It is in their hands to ensure the school is cleaned and the workers are looked after.



• Prospect School have already told us that this privatisation will not save the school any money, so it won’t cost them a penny to solve this dispute.



• These workers, mainly women, and many who have worked here for over 20 or 30 years, just want to stay as part of the school and be valued for their work."


Reading Trades Union Council stands with Prospect School cleaners in their struggle. Congratulations to them and their trade union in so effectively organising! RTUC awaits GMB's next call to action when solidarity will again be willingly forthcoming!

Saturday, 19 October 2019

RTUC Stands Firm Against Homophobic Chicken Chain

Within a day of the opening of Britain's first branch of Chick-fil-A in Reading on 10 October 2019, Reading Pride, backed by Reading Trades Union Council (RTUC), Reading & District Labour Party (RDLP) and other supporters announced a protest outside the entrance of The Oracle Shopping Centre. The protest was staged on 19 October, the day after The Oracle announced the fried chicken business would be leaving the mall once its six month trial lease came to an end.
The Reading Pride leaflet
Chick-fil-A CEO, Dan Cathy, has been vocal in opposition to same-sex marriage and the firm has made donations to fundamentalist Christian groups which practice conversation therapy and have ties to homophobic regimes in which homosexuality is illegal, such as Uganda. When challenged on these positions, the firm's spokespeople have declined to retract the actions or apologise.
Paul Britt, Chair of Reading Pride, opens the addresses
The event involved a gathering outside the entrance of The Oracle, overlooked by the Chick-fil-A window, with speakers addressing the crowd and passers-by using a loudhailer and a mobile public address system. Speeches were punctuated by periods of anti-Chick chanting by the crowd and music from the sound system.
David McMullen (GMB), Secretary of RTUC
Once the protesters gathered outside The Oracle, Paul Britt, Chair of Reading Pride, outlined Chick-fil-A's homophobic track record and thanked the supporters of the protest for showing their opposition in such large numbers, estimated at around 150 people.
Stephen Ireland (UK Pride Organisers' Network)
Giving the event a national perspective, Stephen Ireland, the Communications Officer for UK Pride Organisers' Network, also spoke, rousing the audience in a series of calls-and-response, asserting Chick-fil-A's presence to be unwelcome and assuring the company that their six months in Reading will be their only presence in the UK.
Two speakers, Cllr Sarah Hacker (RDLP/
Unite) and John Partington (TSSA/RDLP)
Reading Trades Union Council provided two speakers. John Partington (TSSA), RTUC Assistant Secretary, entreated his listeners to not only hold their employers to their diversity and inclusion policies, but to ask them what practically they were doing to broaden the diversity of their workforce, what recruitment strategies and interview techniques they were using to welcome talent from all groups in society. John also encouraged workers to lobby their employers to sponsor and be active in diversity events such as Pride. He also suggested those assembled form community groups within their workplaces and ensure they influence employers' policies in the realms of inclusion and flexibility. Don't rely on employers to hand down policy - workers must be engaged in producing it themselves and seeing that it is implemented.

David McMullen (GMB), RTUC Secretary, responded to a challenge from John Hoggett who asked what trade unions were doing for the LGBT+ community. David encouraged the LGBT+ community to join and become actively involved in trade unions, working with others to ensure all workers receive fair treatment from their employers.

From RDLP, Cllrs Sarah Hacker (Unite) and Karen Rowland spoke. Sarah asserted her pride at being a patron of Reading Pride and was pleased at The Oracle's response to condemnation of Chick-fil-A. She said she was keen to work with The Oracle's management to put in place improved vetting processes for prospective lessees going forward and she hoped Reading Pride could play a consultaative role partnership with The Oracle.

Sarah's sentiments were also contained in an open letter published by the following Reading Labour councillors, questioning The Oracles exercise of due diligence but welcoming the steps being taken to end Chick-fil-A's time in Reading as soon as practicable: Cllrs Adele Barnett-Ward, Rachel Eden, Debs Edwards, Ellie Emberson, Paul Gittings, Sarah Hacker, Graeme Hoskin, Sophia James, Micky Leng, Emmett McKenna, Chris Maskell and Karen Rowland.
Kevin Brandstatter and Nikki Dancey
(both GMB), leafletting for the event
The protest was a testament to Reading's community spirit and overarching sense of tolerance and respect, with a range of organisations and individuals coming together to defend the town's culture of diversity and inclusion. With John Partington (TSSA), David McMullen, Nikki Dancey and Kevin Brandstatter (all GMB) representing RTUC, the trade union movement showed itself to be central to the struggles of the town.

Monday, 14 October 2019

RTUC Protests Turkish Militarism against the Kurds


On 14 October 2019, Reading Trades Union Council, represented by Nikki Dancey (Vice President), David McMullen (Secretary), Kevin Brandstatter (all GMB), James Parker and Keith Jerrome (both Unite), joined a rapidly organised anti-militarist coalition in Reading Town Hall Square to protest Turkish military action against the majority Kurdish region of north-east Syria. RTUC joined Plan C Reading, Kurdistan Solidarity Network, RiseUp4Rojava, Reading IWW and Reading Communist & Anarchist Society, as well as unaffiliated individuals, to hear speakers, display placards and stage a march. The march of around 50 protesters left the Town Hall through Market Place, down Broad Street and West Street and back to the Town Hall via Friar Street.


On 6 October, US President, Donald Trump, gave the Turkish President, Erdogan, the green light to invade north-east Syria by withdrawing US forces from the area. Run by a Kurdish-led administration on the principles of direct democracy, equality for all peoples, ecological justice, a cooperative economy and women’s liberation, it is the most peaceful and stable part of Syria.
The actions of the Turkish state threaten to destroy this peace and Trump’s reckless policy risks unleashing genocide and a new refugee crisis. Over 11,000 people gave their lives in the struggle to defeat ISIS, including 10 British citizens like Anna Campbell, killed by a Turkish airstrike in March 2018.
Reading did not ignore their sacrifices. #RiseUp4Rojava! All efforts must be made to stop the Turkish invasion and control of north-east Syria! The demonstration showed Reading's solidarity with the struggle!

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.
Tanya Wills and James Watts (both Unite)
discuss trade unions with a visitor
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

The Big J (and the NHS) vs. The Big C: Poetry and Comedy

Chris Reilly, Janine Booth (both RMT) and Abi Moorcock
Reading Trades Union Council, Reading & District Labour Party and Reading Socialist Club joined together to organise a night of reading, poetry and feminist comedy at Market House, Reading, co-hosted by RTUC President, Chris Reilly (RMT), and Abi Moorcock. The headline performer was Janine Booth, returning to Reading after successful RTUC events in 2017 and 2018. Janine read extracts and poems from her new book, The Big J vs The Big C. This was followed by local speakers talking and performing about Reading's fight to save our National Health Service.
Abi Moorcock
David McMullen (GMB), Secretary of RTUC, spoke about the plague of wholly-owned subsidiary companies mushrooming in the public sector, with Frimley Hospital being a local current campaigning focus. He also advocated greater accountability for the Care Quality Commission and, following Janine's promotion of women making regular checks of their breasts, he emphasised the importance for men to do the same with their testicles.

Abi Moorcock followed David with a great musical section and Debbie Watson (Unite) spoke about trade union struggles within the NHS. Kate Smurthwaite rounded the performances off with some rib-tickling feminist comedy.
Kate Smurthwaite
Janine was part of the ranting poetry movement in the 1980s, performing as ‘The Big J’. In late 2016, she discovered a strange indentation in her right breast and was subsequently diagnosed with breast cancer. Her new book is a collection of candid and enthralling journal extracts, poetry, meticulous research and substantive politics in which she details her journey from detection and diagnosis, through surgery, to ‘getting over it’.
Janine Booth (RMT)
Event tickets were sold for £5, with all proceeds after costs going to the Royal Berkshire Hospital Charity - a sum of over £150.

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), Sue Taylor (PCS), Ali McNamara (NEU), John Gillman and Neil Adams (both Unite & Socialist Party). 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.

John Gillman and Neil Adams (Unite & Socialist Party)
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 (Janet.king18@nhs.net), 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).