76720 8/30/2006 17:08 06LONDON6324 Embassy London UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY VZCZCXRO2463 RR RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHDF RUEHIHL RUEHIK RUEHKUK RUEHLZ DE RUEHLO #6324/01 2421708 ZNR UUUUU ZZH R 301708Z AUG 06 FM AMEMBASSY LONDON TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8646 INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE RUCNMEC/MIDES COLLECTIVE RUEHSF/AMEMBASSY SOFIA 0289 RUEHBM/AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST 0386 RUEHED/AMCONSUL EDINBURGH 0603 RUEHBL/AMCONSUL BELFAST 0604 UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LONDON 006324
E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: ELAB, PGOV, PREL, UK SUBJECT: UK TRADE UNIONS CONFERENCE WILL OFFER SNEAK PREVIEW OF PARTY GATHERING
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1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Delegates to the upcoming TUC Conference will greet PM Blair with the question "When are you leaving?", Trades Union Congress (TUC) International Relations Department Head Owen Tudor told Lab Couns and ECON Asst Aug 30. The TUC will also debate recent moves to privatize parts of the National Health Service (NHS). On international issues, they will stress solidarity with Iraqi and Kurdish trade unions, denounce Israel's foray into Lebanon and push for continued free movement of labor within the EU, including Romania and Bulgaria, when they join. Tudor noted with regret that elements of the TUC have drifted left and suggested the US had moved right, resulting in a greater than ever gap between UK unions and the US. END SUMMARY
A FORETASTE FOR DOMESTIC POLITICS
2. (SBU) The annual TUC conference, September 11 to 14 in Brighton this year, relishes its role as the "rehearsal" for the Labour Party Conference a few weeks later, Tudor said. The trade unionists get first crack at the Prime Minister and will focus on the same internal issues that will grip the politicians in Manchester: when will PM Blair leave, and what will the next Labour leadership look like. Tudor said the first question Blair will be asked in the Q and A after his speech will be "When are you leaving?". Realistically, however, the unionists know these issues will only be discussed, not decided, at their gathering.
3. (SBU) The biggest domestic issue on the agenda will be government's efforts to privatize parts of the National Health Service. (The government has proposed privatizing the NHS Logistics service, for example.) Also, a recent bid by US healthcare giant UnitedHealth Group to provide medical professionals to the NHS has raised concerns of some consumers and trade unionists. "Do we really want to follow the American model of health care?" Tudor asked.
SOLIDARITY WITH IRAQ; SUPPORT FOR IMMIGRANT LABORERS
4. (SBU) The conference's international agenda will try to stay reasonably close to the Labour government's. Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett will address the conference the
SIPDIS morning of Sep 13 and international issues will be debated that afternoon. War horse issues like Cuba will offer no surprises, Tudor said, but he and the leadership will try to rein in the membership on Iraq. The TUC (like the AFL-CIO) maintains close ties to the Iraqi trade union movement and tries not to undercut them by calling for a military pullout from Iraq. Kurdish trade unionists are treated as a distinct movement, both by the TUC and their Iraqi counterparts, Tudor said. The TUC does not try to draw any conclusions from that distinction, however. On Lebanon, the TUC is likely to criticize Israel, although Tudor admits there is more passion than logic to their views on this issue. He argued that even traditionally pro-Israel voices in the UK did not approve of the Israel incursion and so a strong statement was inevitable.
5. (SBU) The prospect of Romanian and Bulgarian workers streaming into the UK when they accede to the EU, as did the Poles and others before them, is less of an issue for the TUC leadership than for the rank and file, Tudor explained. The TUC has always been "purer than pure" on labor mobility, he said. It should be allowed to occur as freely as capital and goods move. He questions analyses by the Bank of England and others that migrants from Eastern Europe have depressed wages in the UK, saying there is little statistical evidence to back it up. Free movement of labor, however, should be matched with strong labor protection laws, as Ireland has done, he said. The problem will be to convince the rank and file, who are reading the "bad analyses" in the UK press.
US-UK RELATIONS SHOULD MEND
6. (SBU) Tudor, a recent IV-grantee, welcomed outreach from the US Embassy and regretted that the UK labor movement had turned away from the USG and the US generally in recent years. He blamed a discontinuity between labor's post war leaders, who favored strong ties to the US, and their successors, who did not understand the strength of that tradition. The pull towards Europe and the impact of globalization had also caused many in the movement to turn
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away from the US. He hoped it would prove to be a temporary rough patch and that strong US-UK ties would again become the norm.
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