Over a couple of days Theano Fotiou met over 50 people, including the most influential figures in the UK trade union movement, and deepened their understanding of the situation in Greece.
Apart from attending formal events, a TUC guest can make a great impact by informal introductions, meetings and discussions. It can be a bit hit and miss but is often where the best solidarity relations are formed.
Theano’s warm, open personality and her ability to explain the situation in Greece, in terms to which people could relate, made her an excellent ambassador for the people resisting austerity in Greece and, of course, her party Syriza. (Listed below are some of those Theano met.)
Theano’s role as Syriza spokesperson for education and social solidarity (including ‘Solidarity for All’ – www.solidarity-4all.gr ), against the background of anti-austerity debates at the TUC, was particularly relevant. The changes in the relationship between the TUC and Labour Party were also of great interest given the decline of PASOK and rise of Syriza.
Theano arrived on Saturday 7 September and stayed with GSC members. On Sunday, after lunch with GSC Officers who could make it, Theano spoke at a meeting of London Syriza members at the UNITE Offices, before travelling to Bournemouth. She stayed there at a hotel as a guest of the Fire Brigades Union’s TUC delegation.
On Monday 9th September, Theano heard the TUC General Secretary’s address and watched some of the austerity debate at the Congress. She then began an intense round of discussions and brief meetings – with key people such as the leaders of the biggest unions. Theano attended the lunchtime Fringe meeting organised by the recently-formed think-tank CLASS and met Christine Blower NUT General Secretary to discuss the teacher strikes in Greece and the UK. She met with GSC officers who were leafleting for the evening GSC/FBU fringe meeting, selling fundraising dinner tickets and badges.
In the early evening, Theano spoke at the FBU/GSC sponsored Fringe meeting attended by almost 40 people, in competition at the peak fringe time with six other meetings and union delegation caucuses etc.
Theano then went as an Official Guest of Congress to the TUC General Council Dinner in the Pavilion Ballroom. She received the loudest and longest round of applause when the names of foreign delegates were read out by the President.
On Tuesday 10th , Theano listened to Ed Miliband’s speech and then continued informal contacts until returning to London to catch the plane back to Greece.
On Wednesday am, the TUC debated Motion 78 in solidarity with the Greek resistance and specifically supporting GSC (see below). It was excellently moved by Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, seconded passionately by Manuel Cortes, General Secretary of TSSA, supported by speakers from PCS and UNITE and carried unanimously.
Theano was mentioned, not only in the Greece debate but also in debates on other motions – e.g. Billy Hayes, TUC European spokesperson, mentioned her in the debate on Europe.
All in all, this week has seen a great step forward for those organising solidarity with the Greek people. In this regard the Greece Solidarity Campaign must acknowledge in particular: the tremendous work by the FBU, TASS, UNITE and other unions; the help from Owen Tudor, the officers at the TUC; Frances O’Grady for inviting Theano as an ‘official guest of Congress’; the work of GSC Committee members; Syriza London comrades; and, above all, the fantastic spirit with which the fabulous Theano communicated her message to the labour movement in the UK.
Some of the People who met Theano Fotiou MP
Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary (55 affiliated unions – 6.5m members)
Lesley Mercer, TUC President
Owen Tudor, TUC International Dept
Tom Wilson, TUC Head of Union Learn
Wilf Sullivan, TUC Race Relations Officer
Ian Murray, TUC Union Learn (delegate to Cedefop in Thessaloniki)
Megan Dobney, South East Regional TUC (SERTUC) Secretary
Nigel Costley, South West TUC Regional Secretary
John Monks, former TUC Gen Sec and ETUC Gen Sec
Len McCluskey, Gen Sec UNITE (1.5m members)
Andrew Murray, Chief of Staff UNITE
Steve Turner, National Officer UNITE
Gail Cartmail, National Officer UNITE + 2 colleagues
Steve Hart, UNITE
Dave Prentis, Gen Sec UNISON (1.3m members)
Liz Snape, UNISON and TUC General Council
Rodney Bickerstaffe, former Gen Sec UNISON
Billy Hayes, Gen Sec Communication Workers’ Union (220k members) and TUC spokesperson on Europe
Steve Bell, CWU
Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary (45k members)
Dave Green, FBU National Officer
Other FBU Officers
Christine Blower, Gen Sec National Union of Teachers (300k members)
Alex Kenny, East London NUT Secretary
Roger King, Birmingham NUT Secretary
Chris Keats, Gen Sec NASUWT (280k teacher members)
Manuel Cortes, General Secretary TSSA (30k members)
Mick Carney, President TSSA
Janice Godrich, President Public and Commercial Services Union (300k members)
Mick Rix, GMB National Officer (former Gen Sec ASLEF)
Doug Nichols, General Secretary, General Federation of (small) Trade Unions
Zita Holbourne, Chair TUC Race Relations Committee
Glenroy Watson, TUC Race Relations Committee
Elizabeth Lawrence, UCU Vice-President
Kathy Taylor, UCU Past President
John McCormack, UCU President Elect
Lorraine Monk, UCU NEC member
Dot Gibson, National Secretary, National Pensioners Convention
Owen Jones, author + speaker
Hilary Wainwright, Editor Red Pepper
John Hendy QC, leading labour barrister
Carolyn Jones, Director Institute of Employment Rights
Carolyn Starr, Events Officer Institute of Employment Rights
Professor Keith Ewing, President Institute of Employment Rights
Dave Rogers, co-ordinator Banner Theatre
Harriet Harman MP
Angela Eagle MP
Jack Dromey MP
Daniel Trilling, Editor New Humanist (formerly Deputy Editor New Statesman)
Rachel Maskell, Unite Head of Health
+ NUJ Executive Member
Rachel Newton, Secretary GSC
James Youd, GSC Treasurer
Joseph Healy, Greece Solidarity Campaign (GSC) Committee
Bob Archer, Greece Solidarity Campaign (GSC) Committee
Cherry Sewell, Greece Solidarity Campaign (GSC) Committee
Paul Mackney, co-Chair GSC
Mya Pope-Wiedemann (Stop the War)
Marsha Jane Thompson (LRC)
+ at Sunday lunch
Andrew Burgin, Vice-Chair Coalition of Resistance, Left Unity
Kate Hudson, Chair CND, Left Unity