GPEx Trade Union Liaison Officer candidates respond to GPTU questions

your-party-your-voice-right-columnContenders for the post of Trade Union Liaison Officer on the Green Party Executive (GPEx) have answered questions sent by the Green Party Trade Union Group, as voting begins in the party’s 2016 Leadership and Executive elections.

The Green Party Trade Union Group has asked each candidate to respond to a standard set of four questions, to gauge their attitudes to the Trade Union movement and how the Green Party should work with it. Their responses are set out below.

 


Lee Williscroft-Ferris

huffingtonpost.co.uk/lee-williscroftferris/

LEEWILLISCROFT-FERRISHow do you think the relationship between the Green Party and the Trade Unions should or could be improved, and what do you intend to do to improve it?

I feel that it could be improved by more intensive lobbying of Trade Unions who adopt policies at odds with the principles of sustainability, the prime example being the renewal of Trident. We should also endeavour to make it clear to Trade Unions just how compatible I would also like to develop our party’s visible presence at Trade Union conferences and events. This would include having a stall at such events to enable us to deliver our message to a ‘captive’ Trade Union audience. There is clearly a job of work to be done to disseminate our key messages to Trade Unionists given that many conversations I have with colleagues reveal that there are widespread misperceptions about exactly what we stand for and just how powerful our policies are in terms of workers’ rights and the concept of work in general. In addition, I would, as TULO, encourage Green Trade Unionists to make their presence felt at conferences. For example, at both my union’s annual conference and the TUC LGBT Conference, I and others do just that, encouraging Trade Unions to work with all progressive parties for the common good.

In your view, what is the importance of the Trade Union movement in our present society, and what will be its importance in the type of society we in the Green Party would like to build?

The Trade Union movement plays a more important role than ever at a time when workers’ rights are so drastically under threat from this government. There has never been a more important time for workers to join and be active in a Trade Union. The Green Party’s policies on Workers’ Rights and Employment make the links between the Trade Union movement and wider society abundantly clear. In a society built on collectivism, rather than individualism, Trade Unionism is a vital component. This forms part of the reason why we must fight the Trade Union Bill with all of our collective might as even though we have succeeded in fighting off some of the more extreme elements, there remains a job of work to be done.

Some Trade Unions have adopted positions on environmental issues which are fundamentally opposed to ours. How do you think the Green party could persuade these Trade Unions to change their views on such matters?

As mentioned above, some Trade Unions do indeed sometimes find themselves on the wrong side of the debate, not least on issues such as Trident renewal. All too often, a narrative of ‘jobs at any cost’ prevails, which the Trade Unions must be dissuaded from. I would envisage this being achieved through a relationship based on the principle of the ‘critical friend’. We have the benefit of not being funded by Trade Unions. We are therefore freer to lobby more honestly and intensively on issues where Trade Unions show themselves to be less progressive. I do believe that local Green Parties could be very powerful in this regard. By establishing links with local Trade Union branches, local parties would be in a very strong position to influence the position of TUs on crucial issues such as local planning.

What is your view on current Green Party policy on Trade Unions and workers’ rights, and what changes or updates would you want to see, if any?

Our policies are robust, comprehensive and, most crucially, developed by members. I have to say, I am entirely happy with our policy in this area. In fact, this is the main reason I left the Labour Party in 2012 and joined the Green Party shortly afterwards. I believe that our policies on workers’ rights and trade unions are incredibly powerful. They encompass a global, national and local view of Trade Unionism based on building a sustainable world. Reading through the policies enables you to envision exactly what kind of world the Green Party is trying to build and precisely what role Trade Unions and workers’ rights will contribute to that world. As the discourse around Basic Income becomes more and more mainstream, we could perhaps consider being more specific in terms of how Basic Income would be implemented but ultimately, we are unique in committing to this concept in principle.

 


Kieron Merrett

kieronam.net

KIERONMERRETTHow do you think the relationship between the Green Party and the Trade Unions should or could be improved, and what do you intend to do to improve it?

I’m proposing two strategies for improving our relationship with Trade Unions. The first is a more traditional ‘lobbying’ approach, which can we can apply to those unions where we’ve had some support in the past. Unfortunately, right now we’re in a tricky time for our relationship with these unions, as Corbynism has seen some Trade Union activists and leaders turn towards Labour. We need to work twice as hard in the next few years to remind these unions just how much we support each other’s aims. I’ve been doing this by bringing Green candidates to meetings of union members and by ensuring we have Greens showing support for their major disputes. I want to use the GPEx Trade Union Liaison Officer position to do this on a much bigger scale, engaging Greens from across the country to join in with these efforts.

The second strategy is the long-term strategy, aimed across the entire Trade Union movement. The aim is to build up a Green voice within the Trade Unions. To do this, I first want to get a picture of who in the Green Party is active in their union, form a network of these activists, and encourage more Greens to take a more active role in their union; I’ve started this work from the Green Party Trade Union Group, but I want to use the GPEx Trade Union Liaison Officer position to survey the party membership on a bigger scale and build up this movement. I also want to attract more Trade Unionists to support and join the Green Party; I’ve been doing this by setting up stalls and presences and creating banners and displays for the Green Party and the Green Party Trade Union Group at major Trade Union events, such as the Tolpuddle Festival and TUC Congress.

Fundamentally, I believe that one person alone can’t liaise with all the Trade Unions at all the levels. My aim as GPEx Trade Union Liaison Officer will be to build up a movement of Green Trade Unionists so that we have a strong Green voice in the Trade Union movement.

In your view, what is the importance of the Trade Union movement in our present society, and what will be its importance in the type of society we in the Green Party would like to build?

Fundamentally, Trade Unions are there to make the relationship between workers and employers more equal – enabling the two sides to negotiate as equals, rather than the employers having all the power. So not only do unions allow working people to take greater control over their own lives and livelihoods; but they also lead to a more equal society, one in which working people’s wages rise relative to those of their bosses, in which discrimination and exploitation can be stopped, and in which more urgent concerns than the profit motive can be considered.

We can’t achieve this kind of society without Trade Unions. The Green Party has policies to put new laws in place to raise wages and create new employment rights, but legislation alone often makes no difference when workers are unorganised. In non-unionised workplaces, employment rules can go unenforced, health and safety can be ignored, and discrimination can go unaddressed. And whilst raising the minimum wage would be an enormous boost for many working people, without Trade Unions, workers could become perpetually dependent on the government for their next pay rise – and they would always be vulnerable to future governments changing the policy.

So the importance of the Trade Union movement lies in what kind of society we want to see. Certainly, the world is changing, and the role of Trade Unions will change over the years too. But if we want to see a society based on equality, solidarity, diversity and putting people before profit – one that stays that way for the long term – then we need to help more and more workers to become organised by joining or forming Trade Unions.

Some Trade Unions have adopted positions on environmental issues which are fundamentally opposed to ours. How do you think the Green party could persuade these Trade Unions to change their views on such matters?

We should remember that only a minority of Trade Unions have taken opposing policy positions to ours on issues such as fracking, Trident, airport expansion and nuclear energy, although these have included some larger unions. As a general rule, Green Party policy and Trade Union policies and campaigns overlap enormously.

To persuade them to change, it’s no good shouting at the unions from the outside. We need to create a strong Green voice in the Trade Union movement, by creating an organised movement of Green Trade Unionists and focusing on the many areas where the Green Party and the Trade Unions agree. Some of these have only lukewarm support from Trade Union members, and simply by beginning to build our Green network we can begin to push this support back. When these policies come up for debate at the Trade Unions’ various congresses and conferences, I want Greens to be present and ready to stand up and persuade their Trade Union sisters and brothers to think again.

What is your view on current Green Party policy on Trade Unions and workers’ rights, and what changes or updates would you want to see, if any?

In general, the Green Party has the best policies for working people and for Trade Unions, and this is one of the main reasons I joined and became active in the party. Trade Unions are already embedded in our party’s vision for society, which is something I’m immensely proud of.

I’d like the party to flesh out its plans to enable a Trade Union ‘fightback,’ setting out the changes it would make to enable Trade Union membership and activism to return to growth and to start making society more equal. Along with the Green Party Trade Union Group, I’ve proposed two such policies for this year’s Autumn Conference: one confirming the party would repeal the Tories’ Trade Union Act, passed this year; and the other proposing a new right for Trade Unions to access non-unionised workplaces, which is already a successful policy in other countries.

There may eventually be scope for a full review of the party’s policies on employment and workers’ rights. I’d like our policies to set out more explicitly why organised labour is central to achieving our aims for working people, and how we can achieve many of our goals as Greens by enabling Trade Unions to organise workers more effectively.

 

2 thoughts on “GPEx Trade Union Liaison Officer candidates respond to GPTU questions

  1. I think that all the candidates standing for all GPEx positions should have been asked these questions. These questions are not just relevant for the leadership team and the TU liaison officer. All those elected onto GPEx will be sitting around a table at its meetings, making collective decisions on matters which might be relevant to worker’s rights. So, for the future, please include all the candidates up for election when asking these questions. Is it too late to ask the others now?

    1. Hi Martin. GPTU committee took the decision to just ask Leader, Deputy Leader and TULO candidates as we thought these would be the most relevant. For future elections we could always consider including all other candidates if it might be useful and if the amount of work involved isn’t too great. And of course our meetings at Green Party conference and our monthly committee meetings are open to all GPTU members and you’d be very welcome to attend. Best, Kieron

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