The TUC Congress, which started yesterday (Monday), is taking place against a backdrop of disquiet in the labour movement.
There are rumours that some of the union leaders meeting in Brighton are unhappy with the direction the union body is taking and its close relations with the Labour government.
The merger of the Transport and General Workers' Union, Amicus and the GMB in January 2007 poses questions for the future of the TUC as the umbrella body for union activities.
Sources said the super-union could be too big for the TUC and could challenge it for leadership of the labour movement.
In the meantime, the TUC will continue to press the case for improved employee rights.
It has stepped up its campaign for compulsory employer and employee contributions to pensions with an attack on the "top 10 myths" about compulsion.
The TUC argues that the only way to halt the retreat by employers on pension provision is to phase in compulsory contributions, as happened in Australia.
The plan is opposed by some employer organisations and MPs. But many of their criticisms were based on myths, said the TUC.
It cited a study by employers' group EEF earlier this month, which disproved the commonly-held belief that employers do not support compulsion.
The EEF was the first business group to call for mandatory pension contributions from employers and employees.
Adair Turner, who heads the Pensions Commission, and trade and industry secretary Alan Johnson, will speak at the conference tomorrow (Wednesday).
Other topics for debate include equal pay, parental leave, age discrimination, working hours, childcare and climate change.
Dispute sparks employment law debate
The Transport and General Workers' Union (T&G) is demanding changes in employment law in an emergency resolution to the TUC Congress in Brighton this week.
The move follows the union's bitter dispute with airline caterer Gate Gourmet last month, during which it accused the company of provoking industrial action.
T&G general secretary, Tony Woodley, said the dispute highlighted areas where the law favours bad employers over the rights of workers.
The union wants changes in employment law:
- to give striking workers equal protection if the employer provokes industrial action
- to ban the use of temporary workers on lower pay than full-time staff
- to make secondary strikes b