Conference 2023

We are calling on all ‘troublemakers at work’ to join us for this important one-day event.

Troublemakers At Work

We need to bring together workers who have won improvements at work, taken strike action, and transformed weak unions into a strong voice for workers. Our event has a rank-and-file orientation: the labour movement is built and owned by the workers in it, not the paid officials or leaderships of unions.

Join this event if you want to:

  • Win a pay rise,
  • Change something about your work,
  • Start a union at work, or
  • Kickstart an existing union at work

Date: Saturday 29 July 2023      Venue: Friends Meeting House, Manchester

We will come together in participatory sessions led by activists and organisers. The event will have a rank-and-file orientation – focusing on building workers’ own collective power and how we can democratically control our unions. We invited proposals for sessions and other ideas to shape the event.

On the day of the conference there will be a rail strike, which we all support. The team are putting in place a number of options to ensure you can still participate, including car sharing, accommodation on the Friday and Saturday nights, and a Zoom options for the two largest rooms.

On the Friday evening before the conference Hazards are running a free session where you can learn how to build your own Covid air filter and help make the ones we’ll be using at the conference. This is at 6:30pm on Friday 28 July at Partisan, Islington Mill, 1 James Street, Salford M3 5HW. There’s a Facebook event with more details. Groups and individuals can make a donation and keep an air filter after the conference.

The programme will be:

Time Session Description
09:30 Registration
10:30 Building the rank and file today

Main hall (hybrid, Covid air filter)

In the opening plenary, the day will start by introducing the aims and objectives of Troublemakers. This is about bringing together workers who have won improvements at work, taken strike action, and transformed weak unions into a strong voice for workers, along with those who want to. It will introduce the idea of a rank-and-file orientation: by which we mean a labour movement is built and owned by the workers in it, not the paid officials or leaderships of unions. The plenary will be led by Harry from NHS Workers Say No! and Meg from Unite Hospitality. We will also hear from Sol Khan of the ongoing First Bus strike in Oldham. Following the introductory speeches, we will break into sectors to meet each other and make plans.
11:30 BREAK
11:45 Workshop 1: Organising from scratch

G3 (Covid air filter)

The aim of this workshop is to support new worker organising, whether you’re in the early stages or want to start from scratch. Taking collective action at work in unorganised or under-organised workplaces can face particular challenges. It will cover organising around a range of issues in the workplace, from demands around higher pay to fighting oppression. This workshop, hosted by Organise Now!, will provide basic advice and guidance, as well as a participatory activity designed to get you organising. The workshop can be followed up with coaching and support from Organise Now!. Come to this workshop if you want to:

  • Get organising in your workplace
  • Learn from others who have recently organised from scratch
  • Find out more about how Organise Now! can support you
Workshop 2: Building a campaign and winning a ballot

F11 (hybrid, Covid air filter)

The aim of this workshop is to build confidence and skills to start a campaign. A key part of causing trouble at work is building a campaign. While we can win some things informally, in many cases we’ll need to take industrial action and that means navigating the balloting process and winning the vote. This workshop, hosted by rank-and-file activists with recent experience, will explain how you can do this in your workplace. It will consider how to involve marginalised workers and build support for campaigns across the workforce with practical examples and success stories you can take away. Come to this workshop if you want to:

  • Understand how to start a campaign
  • Win an industrial action ballot
  • Learn from recent successes

Speakers including: Ameen Hadi (Chair, NW TUC Black Workers Committee) and Garfield Hylton (five year worker at Coventry BHX4 Amazon. One of a number of leaders in the Amazon Workers Branch, GMB Rep, and currently Branch Secretary. Campaigning for union recognition at Coventry).

Workshop 3: Fallen out of love with your union?

Main hall (hybrid, Covid air filter)

The aim of this workshop is to understand more about the role of unions. As rank-and-file organisers, we often push up against the union bureaucracy. You may have experienced obstructions to your action, faced discrimination, a sell-out, or feel frustrated with the union. This workshop, hosted by rank-and-file organisers, explains why we might fall out of love with our unions, and what we can do about it. Drawing on successful rank-and-file campaigns, it provides examples to encourage independent action. Come to this workshop if you want to:

  • Understand the role of the union bureaucracy
  • Learn about ways to build rank-and-file power
  • Fall in love with rank-and-file organising!

Speakers including: Ray Morell (Unite aerospace rep).

13:15 LUNCH
14:15 Workshop 4: Solidarity, the law, and coordinating action

F11 (hybrid, Covid air filter)

The aim of this session is to open the discussion of rank-and-file organising beyond the individual workplace. Protests and solidarity movements have played a crucial role in building support for strikes. We are all coming under attack from the government and building links from the workplace to campaigns over issues such as climate and oppression is crucial. This session, hosted by activists, provides a forum to discuss different forms of solidarity and how we can respond to new restrictions as a movement. Come to this session if you want to:

  • Learn about effective forms of solidarity
  • Connect battles at work to wider struggles
  • Understand how to fight anti-trade union laws
  • Organise together for coordinated action

Speakers including: Shaun “Bruce” Davies (Gig Economy MCR, Reclaim The Power, Extinction Rebellion Trade Unionists, Manchester People’s Assembly Against Austerity), Bianca Todd (Ron Todd Foundation) and Gary Walker (Unite rep and strike-leader at CHEP Trafford).

Workshop 5: Work makes us sick: strike for safety!

G3 (Covid air filter)

The aim of this session is to discuss the importance of health and safety disputes. The past year has seen many disputes over pay, but we have also seen workers walking out over health and safety hazards that could be a life or death situation. During the Covid-19 pandemic, workers have had to fight for even basic protections. This session, hosted by speakers from the Hazards Campaign, Blacklisting, and health and safety organisers, will discuss how we can campaign over these issues. Come to this session if you want to:

  • Discuss what rank-and-file organising around health and safety looks like
  • Learn from successful strikes over health and safety
  • Build networks around health and safety
Workshop 6: How to write a workplace bulletin

F13 (Covid air filter)

The aim of the session is to support new rank-and-file bulletins. A bulletin is a publication put together by rank-and-file workers and used to organise in their workplace. Bulletins can be an important way for workers to share their experiences and undermine management’s control over central communication. It will include examples that tackle a range of workplace issues, oppression, and wider political demands. This session, hosted by Notes from Below, will explain what bulletins can be used for and then how to make your own. It will include examples of bulletins used in healthcare, schools, universities and more. Come to this session if you want to:

  • Get help starting a bulletin
  • Find inspiration about practical steps you can take for organising a rank-and-file network
  • See practical examples of Troublemakers!
Workshop 7: Building the rank and file through our communities

F17

The aim of this session is to explore how we can build rank-and-file networks through and with our existing communities. We are all part of different networks and communities outside of the workplace and these can be an important part of building our power. This session, hosted by the Pan-African Workers Association and migrant farmworkers solidarity, provides examples and challenges to building these kinds of networks, particularly with racialised and migrant workers. Come to this session if you want to:

  • Hear about practical examples of building rank-and-file networks beyond the union
  • Learn from examples of organising so-called unorganisable workers
  • Meet organisers and build new networks

Speakers include: Francis Garikayi (Pan-African Workers Association, PAWA), Clark McAllister (Migrant Farmworker Solidarity)

Workshop 8: NHS Workers Say No! Experience of building a rank-and-file network

Main Hall (hybrid, Covid air filter)

The aim of this session is to analyse the experiences of building a rank-and-file network in the NHS. There are too few examples of effective rank-and-file networks, so it is important we hear from those that are having success. This session, hosted by NHS Workers Say No, reflects on the process of building the network and what other groups of workers can learn from it. Come to this session if you want to:

  • Find out more about building a rank-and-file network
  • Learn from the NHS Workers Say No campaign
  • Meet other organisers
15:45 BREAK
16:00 Where next for rank-and-file organising?

Main hall (hybrid, Covid air filter)

The closing plenary will provide a collective space to reflect on the day, hosted by Nina (NHS Workers Say No!), Meg (Unite Hospitality), with speeches from Clayton Clive (RMT Manchester South) and Vik Chechi-Ribiero (NEU). There will be time for feedback from the workshops and contributions from the floor. This final session will provide the opportunity to debate where next for rank-and-file organising, share experiences, and build connections that can be taken forward.
16:50 CLOSE
17:00 After party Free entry for conference attendees (hang on to your wristband!) at the Gig Economy Manchester Strike Fundraiser Extravaganza at the People’s History Museum, Bridge Street, Manchester, M3 3ER. All proceeds to RMT Manchester South branch. Non-attendees welcome too, £5+ entry.

Facebook event.

 

You can book tickets now, or register your interest. Places are limited and we want to involve a diverse mix of workers. Help with childcare is available and we will make our event as accessible as we can.

For more information and to add your organisation as a supporter of this conference, please get in touch here.

Our conference is organised by a democratic committee, without affiliation to political parties or particular unions. We are proudly supported by some serious organisations trying to build the most powerful workers movement possible, including Workers Can Win!Strike Map and Organise Now!

Strike Map, Organise Now! Workers Can Win