frontline 14

dot.communism - Workers on the Web

PCS activist Kevin Leetion takes a look at what is on the web for trade unionists.

Following a series of industrial disputes, RMT affiliation to the SSP, FBU disaffiliation from New Labour, and the election of an ‘awkward squad’ of union leaders, the conditions for socialists in the Trade Unions appear to be healthier than at any time under this Government. However, any socialist union activist can tell you that it doesn’t always seem so rosy!

Many unions have suffered from years of bureaucratisation by right wing careerists and New Labour sycophants. While many of the unions have pages dedicated to specific campaigns, few have consolidated these into a strategy for promoting a general socialist alternative. This is reflected by the poor political content of their websites, despite many having dedicated ‘political’ pages.


Any socialist looking for signs of radicalism in the movement should probably stay clear of the TUC’s own website Not a lot of politics except for a reasonable International section (if you ignore the plethora of pro-Euro statements) which is, however, updated somewhat infrequently.

As with many union sites, there is some research work and a good number of press releases. Here you can find out about the TUC’s work on the public sector and public services; tellingly not updated for three months at the time of writing. There is some interesting employment research, for instance on US style union-busting techniques. However, resulting demands are often pretty weak: a minimum wage for 16-17 year olds should be ‘high enough so that it is credible and makes an improvement to a significant number of young people, but must not be so high as to damage their employment, training and education opportunities’.

The STUC site ( is certainly not as pretty as its English cousin but has a little more substance. There’s some interesting research under their ‘unions work’ campaign and you can find pieces on free school meals, asylum, and the minimum wage among others. However, while I’m sure their ‘inquiry into broadband’ is very important, why nothing about the nursery nurses?

Many union activists will be aware of the work of the Labour Research Department ( There is disappointingly little available to non-affiliates via their site although you can still view some of the articles in their Workplace Report, including its excellent summaries of recent employment tribunal decisions and their repercussions.

The Unions

Obviously, there isn’t room to review every union’s website here, and neither is there the need, as most tend to follow the same sort of formula: an infrequently updated news section, a short campaigns section, research, and information on membership services.

Perhaps the most interesting political pages can be found on ASLEF’s site ( Its politics section presents a case against the Euro which, while I wouldn’t agree with everything, gives a good argument from a left perspective.

The homepage opens with a link to the 20th anniversary of the miners’ strike above a link to join the Labour Party. This juxtaposition is extended into its main political site where the links to their good solidarity work with other unions (something other sites would do well to follow) share space with links to pages telling us to reclaim New Labour. Does Shaun Brady know about this?

However misguided such a call is, it’s easier to understand than the wilful myopia evident in Scottish Unison’s defence of the Labour link ( Apparently the success of the link is apparent in Labour’s ‘general recognition of the link between poverty and poor health’ and other generalities such as their ‘recognition of the vital work carried out by police civilian staff’. Well worth millions of pounds of members’ subs, then.

The site isn’t all bad. It has a style copied from the main Unison site ( featuring a large, easy to use index. It also has an extensive briefing section, including an MSPs’ briefing on the importance of a national settlement to the nursery nurse dispute.

The CWU site ( shows some signs of originality. It’s one of the few that tries to gauge opinion directly from its members online. Unfortunately, the opinion it was trying to gauge at the time of writing was how well Tim Henman would do at Wimbledon!

They also have an online shop where you can by a range of items from diaries to manicure sets. However, if you wish to show solidarity with the union that has taken the biggest steps forward in terms of political affiliation, visit the RMT’s excellent online store at

Left Alternatives

There are disappointingly few sites dedicated to the political organisation of the left in unions. The Left Unity group in the PCS, perhaps the most successful of these recent groupings, can be found at While trying to tie in campaigns and union democracy with a broader socialist outlook, the site doesn’t live up to the success of the group itself, with the ‘news and views’ section being frustratingly short on both. It would benefit hugely from more regular updating and discussion forums or members’ comments pages, as would, although at least you can download their regular broadsheets from here.


In terms of international sites I don’t know a better one than, which gives a daily update on union struggles all over the world. It’s very easy to use, allowing you search its extensive archives by date, country or region. is not quite as comprehensive as Labour Start but encourages contributions from readers to publicise their struggles and discuss issues

Also well worth a look is the impressive Cyber Picket Line at, a union directory with hundreds of links to trade union sites across the world, many of which have English translations. Even when they don’t, they still seem a lot more interesting than some of the sites closer to home.