All posts by leighwilks

No To Austerity – Yes To Workers’ Rights: TUC demo at the Tory Party Conference 4th October 2015


Just months after the re-election of a Conservative Government – and without the restraining hand of their previous coalition partners, the Tories are pushing full speed ahead with their anti-trade union, neo-liberal and Right-wing agenda. Following one of the most vicious budgets in living memory, and an administration which singularly failed to get the deficit or the economy under control, they are attacking everything from those dependent on tax credits, to students and the disabled, to the fundamental rights of our members to engage in legitimate industrial dispute.

As the TUC meets this week, and following the election of a Labour Party leadership far to the Left of anything that has been seen in decades, politics is polarising people like never before. The Trade Union Reform Bill, currently working its way through debate in the Commons, is the most vicious piece of legislation we have seen against our movement for decades. From attacking the check-off system and enabling agency workers to break a strike, to forcing unions to reach turnouts which many parliamentary elections do not achieve as a matter of course, the Conservatives are engaging in their usual union-busting skullduggery, with a venom that we have not seen since the Miners’ Strike. At the same time, they have reached a new low with their attacks on the labour movement itself, going as far as to describe the Labour Party as a threat to “our economic security”.

Few of us will know what kind of “security” they are talking about, considering the collapse in wages – and the simultaneous sky-rocketing rise in the cost of living – we have seen since the Tories took office in 2010. Certainly, trade unionists do not feel any level of security at the moment. Not content with driving down conditions and subjecting our members to the most vile and outrageous propaganda, they wish to attack the trade unions’ most fundamental right – the right to withdraw our labour.

This is not something we should allow them to get away with. The TUC has called a national demonstration at the Tory Party Conference in Manchester on 4th October, and it could be the biggest the North has seen in a very long time. York & District TUC are organising coaches to the event from the Memorial Gardens near York Station and we would encourage you and your members to come along. Information about the day can be viewed on the national TUC website at the following link:

While you can purchase tickets (at a cost of £13 waged and £7 concessionary rate) at the following link:

Members of Unite and Unison who wish to access subsidised tickets, should enter codes UNITE1 or UNISON1 in the appropriate field.

Tell your friends and work colleagues about this demo. It is important that we send them a message they will not forget – we will not be criminalised in this way, and no other nation in Western Europe is pursuing such a rabid Right-wing agenda against the labour movement. The Conservatives’ mandate is slimmer than ever – and the public do not agree with them on this Victorian-style attack on our civil rights. It is up to us to remind them of that fact – loud and clear.


York trade unionists to honour the workplace dead

steps of York Minster, 12pm noon Tuesday April 28th
Commemorated on 28th April each year, International Workers’ Memorial Day encourages us to “Remember the dead and, fight for the living”. Trade unions remember all those killed through work, while at the same time seek to ensure that such tragedies are not repeated. Workers’ Memorial Day is commemorated throughout the world. Representatives of York & District TUC will be holding a vigil outside York Minster and calling on trade union members as well as the general public to join us in remembering those workers who went to work one day and never returned.
The vigil will take place at 12 noon on Tuesday 28th April and will begin with a small number of speakers including Karl Stephenson of construction union UCATT, whose union has to deal with health and safety much more than most. Leigh Wilks (York TUC President & Regional Executive) and others will speak about the historic battles to gain safety in the workplace and the need for that safety to not be sacrificed on the altar of profit. After the event, a delegation of TUC representatives will proceed to the memorial site of the railway carriage works on Holgate Road to leave flowers in an act of remembrance for those who have been lost.
Whether union member or not, we welcome everyone to attend who wishes to pay their respects to those, who often in the service of great and historic projects, lost their lives. There are still horrific cases of injuries of death and injury in UK workplaces every year. Workers Memorial Day is about not just commemorating the lost but also raising awareness of the dangers of work so families don’t have to go through the horror of losing a loved one to a workplace accident.
If you are on your lunch hour, come along and pay your respects. It is only through the sacrifice of previous generations in the working class and trade union movements that we have the legal protections we enjoy at work on so many fronts – with health and safety being no exclusion.It is makes perfect sense that we honour those who had to die to afford us those rights.

Huge TUC March Brings the Issue of Poverty Pay to York

Young anarchists and Antifa make their point about the "system"
Young anarchists and Antifa make their point about the “system”

The massive Trades Union Congress (TUC) demonstration in London on 18th October, which attracted around 100,000 trade unionists and community campaigners from right across the country, was the opening salvo in the campaign by the TUC for the abolition of zero hours contracts and the campaign for employers to implement a Living Wage.

The statistics that back up what we have been saying since the financial crisis make sobering reading. Well over a million UK employees – and rising – now face the prospect of uncertain working hours, and as a result uncertain pay – and among those, it is students and the young who have been disproportionately affected. In the public sector alone, workers have seen a net reduction in their disposable income of a staggering 20% since the Coalition Government took power in 2010. Zero hours contracts – touted by unscrupulous employers as a “flexible” means of employment (meaning flexibility for them and misery for everyone else) have been a driving force in the cost of living crisis which is blighting communities up and down the country.


Trade union speakers in London repeatedly called for the introduction of the Living Wage right across the board, with some leaders calling for £10.00 per hour being a more realistic figure for living in a country which is among the most expensive to live in and yet has one of the worst gaps in wealth between rich and poor in the Western world. The TUC slogan for the march: “Britain Needs a Pay-Rise” indicated the correct analysis that the wage collapse since 2010 is not the way to go about stimulating economic growth. To stimulate growth disposable income must be put into the hands of those who actually spend it – namely the working people who are being hammered by poverty pay and zero hour contracts.


Prior to our trip to the London march, York & District TUC had already decided to start a “York Needs A Pay-Rise” campaign in collaboration with our many supporters and affiliated campaign groups. A rolling campaign of conducting a pay review of the city centre, allied with the opportunity of employees to tell their story about living on less than the Living Wage and on zero hour contracts, will being the issue to attention of the public that it deserves. Naming and shaming the worst employers is not something the TUC will shy away from – this is the 21st century, and there is no place in the opinion of our unions and their members for conditions and contracts that belong back in the 19th century. For all the talk about “flexibility” there are a dozen other tales of misery and insecurity at the hands of employers who cannot even guarantee work or decent pay. The anger of people is palpable – and who can blame them, when they cannot guarantee that they are going to be able to make ends meet at the end of every month.


The “York Needs A Pay-Rise” campaign is being backed by the Regional TUC, whose Campaign Officer Neil Foster, Regional Secretary Bill Adams and Council leader James Alexander all attended a meeting in York in recent days to pledge their support for York TUC’s work in bringing this issue, along with students, charity and community groups, to the wider attention of the public – a public who is overwhelmingly opposed to the draconian “work” legislation that this Government is inflicting on hard-working people.

Neil Foster (TUC Campaigns Officer), Bill Adams (TUC Regional Secretary) and Cllr James Alexander (leader, Labour Group) support the pay-rise campaign
Neil Foster (TUC Campaigns Officer), Bill Adams (TUC Regional Secretary) and Cllr James Alexander (leader, Labour Group) support the pay-rise campaign

(c) all photography by Leigh Wilks. Not to be reproduced without permission.