Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/809/18531
Usdaw conference - we need a fighting democratic union
An ADM delegate
From 4 to 7 May, around 1,000 reps and activists in shop and distribution workers' union Usdaw will meet for our Annual Delegate Meeting (ADM) in Blackpool.
Retail and distribution workers have been hammered in this recession. Tesco has continued its programme of closing distribution centres and opening new ones with workers on worse terms and conditions.
In stores, companies are using the slightly lower sales to squeeze workers even harder. They are increasingly failing to replace staff who leave - Morrisons' former finance director slammed it for this in a recent interview. Tesco has also unveiled a trial of axing team leader roles.
For many people this race to the bottom is summed up in the prevalence of zero-hour contracts. A number of branches submitted resolutions opposing this and a document has been prepared by the EC. Even Usdaw's general secretary, John Hannett, who usually toes the Labour line has been forced to criticise Miliband's plans to force workers to wait a year before having regular working hours translated into a contract guaranteeing them.
But even if such legislation is brought in, it will need the union to flex its industrial muscle as BFAWU did at the Hovis bakery in Wigan. Since then they have launched a public campaign, Fast Food Rights, against zero-hour contracts and to unionise fast food workers.
Delegates may notice that proposals on the living wage, which were carried last year haven't been enacted by Usdaw's leadership. If the bakers' union can do this, why can't we?
One issue that won't be on the agenda paper, but will be in the minds of delegates is that of the serious expenses allegations made against John Hannett by the usdaw.wordpress.com blog.
A previous Activist statement, on usdawactivist.wordpress.com, argues that, while these should be investigated by the EC, the blog makes no criticism of Hannett and the leadership's policies that have offered no fight back to retail workers.
The Activist will be hosting a meeting, not just to address issues of union democracy and accountability but all of the issues facing retail and distribution and how we can build a fighting union - particularly given the upcoming EC and presidential elections where we believe a broad challenge to most of the incumbents is necessary.
Activist fringe meeting - "We need a fighting, democratic union"
4 May, 6pm, Britannia Room, Ruskin Hotel, 55-61 Albert Rd, FY1 4PW. Speakers include: Amy Murphy, Usdaw EC, personal capacity, and Rob Williams, Socialist Party trade union organiser
In The Socialist 30 April 2014:
Socialist Party election campaigning
International socialist news and analysis
International workers' day
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist Party workplace news