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2.2.09

Cornish Jobs for Cornwall's workers

On finding this Times article about a rise in industrial action in the UK I was prompted to return to an old idea I've had boiling on the back burner. So lets say 'Cornish jobs for Cornwalls' workers', and note I'm careful to say 'Cornwalls' workers'.

In the UK we're used to Trade Unions i.e Unions related to one particular sector, but this is not the whole story. Ignoring the BNP connected Solidarity, which may have more to say about the article above, Plaid Cymru has the associated UNDEB - Plaid Cymru Trade Union (website out of action at the moment), and equally in Brittany we find the Sindikad Labourerien Breizh - Breton Labour Union. These Unions are not ethnically based but simply defend the jobs of workers within their respective territories whilst also lending some support to the struggle for greater self-determination. So a Cornish Workers Union to defend all the low paid and exploited in the Duchy? Wouldn't it be good to see all the disposable workers in Cornwalls' tourist industry unionised and fighting together to improve pay and working conditions? Perhaps a specific Cornish Union is not really on the cards but if you are part of the Cornish movement and live and work in the Duchy are you in a Union? Could you be a voice for Cornwall within a larger UK wide Trade Union?

It should be remembered that Unions played an important role in Irish liberation and the campaign for Scottish devolution.

Below are two responses I've had on this subject in relation to the Cornish question. One from the TUC and the other from an Anarcho-syndicalist.

The Anarcho-syndicalist

To start off, I'd simply say that nominal political independence means nothing without economic independence, and political liberation means nothing without economic liberation. The only path to economic independence and liberation is via syndicalism, e.g. worker self-management and ownership of our firms and industries. Also the syndicalist method of "direct action" is the only one capable of achieving genuine liberation and fighting for and securing real change. Our rejection of parliamentary routes means we aren't susceptible to the corruption and opportunism of, say, much of the Left.

The Trade Union Congress

Thank you for your enquiry that has been passed on to me.

The policies of the TUC are determined by trade unions, mainly through the TUC Conference. There has not been a specific discussion on Cornish identity and so different trade unions may respond differently although none support Mebyon Kernow.

The TUC has always supported the richness and benefits of diverse cultures. This includes minority languages, including Cornish. Our campaign around the National Minimum Wage was entitled Gerber Tek Rak Kernow (from memory so I hope it still says Fair Pay for Cornwall). We have worked hard to bring together unions in Cornwall and to campaign against low pay and workforce development.

We have a small team based in Cornwall College who help workers access training opportunities. There is a Cornwall Trades Union Council (sadly no website, CD) open to local unions to affiliate.

We believe in devolving power and that Britain has long suffered from a centralised economy and governance from London. That is one reason why we supported the establishment of Regional Development Agencies and the Regional Assembly. There are clearly issues beyond the boundaries of local government but that are better dealt with below national level. The major transport routes, the environment, economic development, strategic planning, etc are obvious examples that cannot be handled within the confines of Cornwall. A good example is the lobbying we have been doing around investment in the rail track at Dawlish that is critical to all trains into Cornwall.

We argued and lobbied for the statistical separation of Devon and Cornwall in order to win Objective One funding and have been pressing for maximum support for the new round of European funding from 2007. I personally have argued for a strong unitary authority across Cornwall. This was rejected by the last Conservative Government and this Government are reluctant to take on the can of worms that local government restructure would involve.

I hope this helps explain our position.

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