CSC TUC fringe report
Campaign News | Wednesday, 30 September 2009
Liverpool was the venue for the 2009 TUC Congress where delegates heard from special guests from the Cuba trade union confederation, CTC and the British trade union movement.
The CSC fringe meeting on the Monday night of conference was standing room only as over 300 delegates crowded into the Liverpool Convention Centre. The first speaker of the evening, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) declared her ‘huge congratulations and great admiration for the enormous and wonderful work that is being done in the education system’. Speaking about the recent NUT delegation she told the packed meeting that ‘this May was my first visit to Cuba and I can assure you it will not have been my last visit to Cuba’.
’50 years where the country and its system have not kowtowed, have not bowed to the pressure, have never been defeated’ declared the Joint General Secretary of Unite, Tony Woodley. To warm applause Tony commented on developments in Latin America and made clear to the audience that ‘Unite and its leadership and its International Department will play whatever supportive role we can, not just in Cuba, but right across Latin America’. Finishing his speech, Tony paid respect to the families of the Miami 5 in their struggle and declared that ‘visitation rights are a humanitarian right’.
‘My first visit to the island and indeed the first occasion on which a General Secretary of the TUC had visited Cuba’ Brendan Barber told the 300 strong meeting about his delegation to Cuba in May. Brendan paid tribute to the wives of the Miami 5: ‘these are absolutely inspirational women. They conduct themselves with such dignity and with such courage in the face of such a manifest injustice’. Brendan went on to tell the delegates that the case of the Miami 5 meant ‘you can’t help but come away inspired and determined to do everything possible to get that wrong righted’. In a tribute to Ken Gill, Brendan said ‘Ken was one of the best friends that Cuba could have had; a tremendous servant of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign. I suspect wherever he is, he’s looking down tonight and hoping the work is going to go on and the work is going to deliver justice for the people of Cuba and justice for the Miami 5 and their families’.
‘It’s about time that a Foreign Office Minister gets on the plane, gets over to Havana and starts having real proper constructive discussions with Cuba’ Rob Miller, Director of CSC told the meeting from the Chair. Rob reminded the meeting that so far 216 MPs had signed EDM 1171 calling for the Foreign Secretary to visit Cuba and urged delegates to write to their MPs to get them to sign the motion. ‘The failed policy of blockade coming out of the United States’ should be rejected by the British Government declared Rob.
‘The Cuba Revolution is the most historic popular revolution in history, made by the people, for the people and with the support of the people’ Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON told the meeting. ‘The Revolution has inspired oppressed people around the world and demonstrates that a small poor country can stand up to a mighty superpower in defence of its people and also in defence of its social justice and internationalism’ he declared before going on to say ‘for me and for UNISON, Cuba demonstrates how much nations can do with resources they have if they focus on the right priorities - health, education and fairness. And for me and our union it’s Cuba’s internationalism that inspires us’. Dave, like other speakers, praised the courage of the Miami 5 and their families and told the gathering that ‘what we’ve got to do is fight for freedom for the Miami 5 so they can return to their families’. In closing his remarks Dave reiterated ‘we have got to make demands of our government, we have go to make demands of David Miliband. He should be calling for the end of the blockade; he should be making sure that the Miami 5 can return to their families. He should be doing things instead of sitting back and doing nothing’.
The special guest speakers at the meeting were the General Secretary of the CTC, Salvador Valdes Mesa and the Head of International Relations, Raymundo Navarro.
‘On behalf of all Cuban workers, on behalf of their unions I want to pay the TUC all fraternal greetings of all Cuban workers’ Salvador told the meeting. ‘I have been so impressed by the solidarity expressed by you all’ he told the packed audience.
‘Solidarity is a principle’ explained Raymundo Navarro, and ‘the leadership of the CTC considers that we should be here to express our infinite gratitude and we are here precisely as an example of our brotherhood and to see that the relations between our organisations become stronger’.
‘The CTC today maintains relations with almost 1,100 organisations in 136 nations and the special relation that we have consolidated is with the United Kingdom, with their unions, with all those who perform solidarity towards Cuba’ the Head of International Relations explained to applause.
The final speaker, Bob Crow, General Secretary of the RMT issued a challenge to the President of the United States, Barack Obama; ‘the first thing that Obama should start doing is let the Miami 5 out of prison. If they really want to stop terrorism around the world then these five people have contributed to the end of some of that terrorism taking place’.