18 April 2011

SERTUC – South-East Region TUC Abandons the Unemployed

SERTUC’s ‘Communist Leadership’ Under Megan Dobney Demonstrates its Loyalty to the TUC Hierarchy

SERTUC is the biggest of the 3 TUC Regions in England. It stretches from Ipswich to Brighton and includes London. Each year it puts out a handbook which lists trade union addresses and details as well as information on other ‘useful’ organisations such as the Engineering Employers’ Federation.

Up to this year SERTUC has also listed those Unemployed Centres within the region – Brighton prime amongst them. This year – nothing. Unemployed Centres had disappeared.

I therefore e-mailed the Secretary of SERTUC, one Megan Dobney, to find out why the decision had been taken to eliminate all reference to such Centres. No reply was received. I sent a further e-mail. Again no reply. The Secretary of Brighton Trades Council wrote to Dobney. Again no reply.
But Brighton Unemployed Centre and its Trades Council are clearly seen by Dobney, a member of the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain, as a thorn in the side. When I wrote to her regarding the fact that our own Centre had been omitted from the TUC’s own handbook she sent an e-mail to an assistant telling him not to reply to me. Unfortunately, being one of the more spectacularly incompetent bureaucrats the TUC has spawned, she sent me a copy too!

At the AGM on Saturday I therefore put out a leaflet and asked a question to Dobney as to why, when unemployment is at a record high and when benefits are being slashed has she decided to omit all reference to unemployed centres from SERTUC’s handbook. Faced with no option but to reply she stated that there was no need as Centres were listed in the TUC’s own Directory. Which is true but they have always been listed in both publications, so why now eliminated them? No reply. On benefit cuts and the TUC’s lethargy and support for New Labour, again no response. We were told that she had met a group of the unemployed from Kilburn and that a Centre might be established somewhere else in London (there is no unemployed centre in the whole of London), in which case why not include this in the Report.

However SERTUC, which largely consists of second tier union bureaucrats, regional officials and a smattering of trades council delegates, numbering about 100 in total, including it has to be said many retired officials, wasn’t it has to be said particularly interested. The fact that their members, down to 7 million from nearly double that under Thatcher, and likely to fall further didn’t seem of great concern. The fact that 4.5 million people on Disability Living Allowance are under threat of having it removed, having already seen Incapacity Benefit abolished (under New Labour) was not of great concern to delegates.

As was to be expected many were the references to the 26th March demonstration in London, when the TUC became the first organisation in history to provide estimates of the number of marchers which was nearly twice as low as that of the Police! Usually you double police numbers. The reason? Because the TUC is more afraid of the possibility of success and the struggle that entails than the failure that it is more normally associated with.

Tony Greenstein


  1. At one time the trades councils were the backbone of trade unionism within local communities, however as you point out independent thought has always proven disturbing for the TUC's bureaucratic elite, even the smaller minnows.

    Even in the 1980s the Regional TUCs hampered the growth of unemployed workers centres by tying their funding to the Thatcherite MSC. I remember arguing with one of these bureaucrats, who at the time belonged to the faction in the CP which went on form the CPB, after he condemned Livenstone's GLC for offering centres in London an independent source of funding, as far as the creep was concerned much better to accept MSC cash, even if 'officially' it meant carrying out no political work.

    Of course many of the centres refused this edict, but gradually the best of theses workers were picked off by fair means or fowl, often with the active support of figures within the regional TUC and local Labour party's.

    Without the commitment of these activists, who had been paid just above the dole money, most of the TUC centres carried on as a poor mans CAC and then withered and died.

  2. thanks Mick. This was exactly the situation in Brighton in 1981. I can remember the debates about whether to accept money from the Manpower Services Commission. We refused and only got funding from the Council in about 1988 when Labour took power in Brighton.

    In retrospect we shouldn't have done that either as Labour became New Labour and tried to use its funding to control the politics of the centre.

    The Council progressively cut the money and when we got Lottery money the Council and right-wing 'anarchists' combined to in the end force the political part of the centre out and I was sacked after bogus charges of corruption. But despite their howls the secret account we set up, which at one point the Charity Commission froze (yes we had them to fight as well - we had opened a secret account to keep our true assets hidden from the Council!) containing over £20K was enough to set up a new, overtly political centre which has never sought Council funding.

    Today Brighton Unemployed Centre is the base for the anti-cuts coalition in Brighton and is also there with its banner on most demonstrations, anti-racist/fascist/cuts etc.

    The CPB and Morning Star group is the worst because they purport to be left-wingers when in reality their politics are little different from traditional right-wing officials when it comes to self-organisation.


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