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Introducing Frances O’Grady

Last night I introduced and chaired the sixth annual Jimmy Reid memorial lecture given by TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady. Here is what I said:

Lord Provost, Reid Family, sisters, brothers, comrades and friends. I would like to welcome you all to the sixth annual lecture organised in the honour of the late Jimmy Reid and to remember his legacy.

I am Lynn Henderson, President of the Scottish Trades Union Congress and a national officer for the Public and Commercial Services Union. I will be chairing tonight’s lecture.

Our annual lecture is intended to carry on the spirit of radical political discourse and debate, in the spirit that Jimmy enjoyed throughout his life.

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Jimmy was one of this small nation’s greatest orators. His rectorial address to the University of Glasgow still makes hairs stand on end today.

… But Jimmy was more than just a good speaker, a great writer and a cool guy with stage presence. A son of Govan in this city, Jimmy Reid grew up in the labour and trade union movement. He was a union man, an activist, a rabble-rouser and a proven leader.

As a wee girl, whenever I saw Jimmy on the telly, I thought it was my Uncle, …. Jimmy Henderson, another dark, handsome docker, who worked at Henry Robb’s yard in Leith.

We remain proud today of the international recognition afforded to our movement by the successful Upper Clyde Shipbuilders work-in June 1971 and October 1972.

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The political journey Jimmy chose, is not unusual for many Scots. First a Communist, then a Labour member and latterly a member of the SNP. His principles throughout remained solid. Jimmy believed in the collective power of working class people in their workplaces and in their communities. His desire for socialism and an independent Scotland was not a contradiction, and one that lives on in the hearts of many of our peoples.

How we wish Jimmy were here today to witness the Left-led Corbyn Labour leadership, to participate in the ongoing debates on Scottish Home Rule, independence and of course the current Tory Brexit omni-shambes.

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In the five annual lectures that have come before, we have heard First Ministers, the Labour leader and union General Secretaries. This is the first time we have had the honour of welcoming the most senior trade unionist in Britain to our lecturn.

2018 marks the 150th anniversary of the TUC, and there has been year-long celebrating and events marking this achievement.

It is a very great honour for theReid Foundation to welcome Frances O’Grady to give our lecture tonight in this very special year for the British Trades Union Congress.

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Most people here will know that the Scottish Trades Union Congress is a completely independent and autonomous trade union centre for Scotland. It is not a Scottish regional organisation of the TUC.

The STUC was established in 1897 largely as a result of a political dispute with TUC over political representation for the Labour movement

From the outset, the STUC was not in competition with the TUC. And still today, we exist side by side, fighting for workers.

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Earlier this month, the TUC Congress re-convened in Manchester, where it was born at the Manchester Mechanics Institute in 1868. At that time women made up around 10% of union membership.

Frances’ address to Congress highlighted that the last century was one in which we won the weekend for workers, and that now in the Two-thousandths it is time we won a four day week.

Frances is the first woman GS of the TUC.

As I observed in my article in the TUC special edition of Scottish Left Review, oftentimes women in senior positions in our movement and in society more generally are judged harsher than their male counterparts.

Because women are judged by their gender, rather than their acts.

Frances has been TUC general secretary for just 7 of the 150 years of the TUC’s life, so if anyone wants to lay the limitations at this woman’s door, perhaps we can consider that for 143 years, men have directed the TUC’s institutional power. Never once has there been a peep about their gender.

Please give a warm welcome to our speaker for the 2018 annual Jimmy Reid lecture, Frances O’Grady.

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