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Rebuilding Our Unions On Strong Foundations: Chapter 5

The top down bureaucratised nature of most trade unions today rarely serves the interests of the members.

With notable exceptions, properly organised workplaces and effective union branches have become a thing of the past.

To a large extent the trade union movement in Britain has slowed to the point where it is almost a monument, serving only the interests of those it employs.

The process of bureaucratisation, nepotism and cronyism the dodgy deals with the employers and the earth shattering disingenuous culture of self justification, that goes with it has reduced many unions to empty shells.

As part of this degenerative process we even have a separate language that our union apparatuses have adopted.

Partially this is done in a pathetic attempt to ape the employers and the shallow management speak we hear from pretentious human resource management that is replicated by our aspiring wannabes.

Adding meaningless platitudes to the end of sentences, like 'going forward.' The idiotic overuse of the word narrative. The icing on the cake of this imbecility is the repeated reference to growing things instead of building them.

It is easy to spot a right wing bureaucrat, just listen.

However as genuine unionism declined and the full timers managed that decline while protecting their vested self interest a much more sinister misuse of language was being used to neuter the stewards movement. It aimed to downgrade the significance of the shop stewards and to weaken branch organisation. The aim was to usurp the declining power of the unions and reshape the relationship to the employers to one of subservience.

The closure of union branches, ostensibly because of apathy and lack of activity, meant that there was no mechanism for ordinary members to exercise control over the union and it's full time apparatus.

It came to the point where major unions were even changing the name of the shop steward to that of workplace rep.

The role of the workplace rep is to 'sell' the industrial insurance society model of trade unionism to the employees. To recruit more subscriptions, (sorry, members), and to act as a go between for the employers and employees.

Is it any wonder that such a subservient, degrading and passive approach has earned the contempt of workers and brought our unions to the state they are currently in.

This has not been written to depress and put people off of becoming a shop steward. If it does, you would be no good as a shop steward in any case.

It has been written to be scrupulously honest. It is difficult enough trying to do the job properly. However there are the additional problems at this moment in time. That of self serving right wing union bureaucrats acting against you because genuine unionism, that ultimately holds this ilk to account, is the last thing the hired hands, whose wages are paid by our subs, actually want.

This is a very serious business and only those with heart and backbòne willing to make the sacrifice and put their necks on the line should consider becoming a shop steward.

If not enough working class people do this, then nothing will change.

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