When the North West TUC meets for its annual conference in Manchester this weekend, we will be welcoming the TUC's first woman general secretary to our region.
It is a tremendous pleasure for me, as this will also be my first regional conference and I'm privileged to be part of a movement where women now play a significant role.
We will also be saying goodbye to Alan Manning after 36 years of service to the TUC in the north-west, 27 of those as regional secretary.
When he took up post in the 1980s, he faced the challenge of a political and industrial landscape characterised by high levels of inequality and unemployment, mass privatisation of public services and a trades union movement facing attacks on terms, conditions and rights from the Thatcher government.
Anyone reviewing our conference agenda this weekend may be mistaken for thinking we are back in that decade.
History repeats itself as we witness fresh attacks on workers and working people by a government with an ideological commitment to destroy the welfare state and public services, under the guise of a deeply flawed economic justification.
Our agenda this weekend highlights concrete examples of how workers in the north west are paying the price. Unison points out that despite the north-west region making the highest contribution to British manufacturing industry output, unemployment in the north-west remains higher than the national average.
The North West TUC will this year campaign for jobs and growth, using our charter for young people to push home the message that we need to directly intervene in the economy to create chances for young people to secure training, skills and employment.
The important role of the TUC in co-ordinating unions who are taking action is also highlighted, building on the successes of the public-sector days of action and supporting the European TUC days of action.
Child poverty and the impact of the cuts, particularly on women, are also highlighted along with the unfolding impact of the attacks on the fabric of our NHS.
The industrial issues raised by affiliated unions again show the spread and the depth of the attacks on workers' rights and collective agreements as well as the growing casualisation of the workforce.
PCS in its motion on living standards highlights the extent to which pay is being eroded and show how the workers share of the national income, paid as wages, has significantly reduced since the mid-1970s. The TUC-led campaign for a living wage is also highlighted as an important part of the campaign to raise living standards for workers and their families.
Ucatt highlights the role of payroll agencies in its sector, UCU spotlights the increasing use of zero hours contracts in education, while the NUT focuses on the refusal of employers to consider flexible working and its direct impact on families with caring responsibilities. The CWU draws attention to its continued campaign against the derecognition of unions by Virgin media.
The need for a united and co-ordinated campaign against the far right is of particular importance in our region, in particular an early call for trades unionists to play a leading role in the campaign to ensure Nick Griffin does not retain his seat in the European parliament in the 2014 elections.
And although international issues don't feature in this year's motions, the conference will hear from an international guest of the TUC. The Bahraini Teachers Association's Jalila al-Salman, who faced a prison sentence and torture after calling a teachers' strike in 2011, will provide a harsh reminder of why trades union rights are human rights and how important it is for us to support workers in struggle around the world.
Our other speaker, Ricky Tomlinson, will also highlight how attacks on workers closer to home are being challenged by the Shrewsbury 24 campaign.
Environmental issues also feature, with waste incineration and fracking two extremely significant issues for workers and residents in the north-west.
Underlying all of these issues, whether workplace or community, is the need for a strong and vibrant trade union movement in the northwest, with a strong voice in the workplace which allows unions to deliver on pay and conditions.
Unions must develop a firm connection to the communities in which they work which allows them to gain community respect and play an active role in campaigning.
The important role of young people in our movement is a priority and the North West TUC will continue to build strong and inclusive trades unions and provide routes into activism for all of those who want to play a part in our workplace organisations.
This is an incredibly diverse and wide-ranging agenda and we will have our work cut out over the next 12 months to make a difference to all of those affected by the attacks on jobs, wages and rights.
As a united movement, working together on common campaigns - while respecting different approaches and tactics - we can build a better future for working people in the north-west.
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