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From The Socialist newspaper, 30 April 2014

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 blog.

A previous Activist statement, on, 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

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In The Socialist 30 April 2014:

Socialist Party election campaigning

Vote for a working class voice

Getting under Labour's skin in Southwark

Your financial support is vital

Election Appeal: 2,148 raised so far

International socialist news and analysis

USA: reviving working class traditions

Ukraine: skirmishes threaten wider conflict

Socialist history

A South Wales miner remembers

International workers' day

May Day 2014 - Step up the fight for a socialist world!

May Day: Remembering Bob Crow and Tony Benn

May Day greetings in The Socialist 2014 - pdf

Socialist Party news and analysis

Cost of living crisis: Scrap zero-hour contracts!

UKIP - a pro-cuts party for the 1%

Them & Us

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

United against the far right in Brighton

Save Leicester Race Equality Centre

Fighting Library cuts in south Wales

Newsnight - socialist teacher demands right of reply

Why I joined the Socialist Party

Socialist Party workplace news

Defending pensions, jobs, pay, services... Back the strikes!

Workplace safety: It's big business as usual

Usdaw conference - fighting democratic union needed

Care UK strike: Miliband shows workers can't rely on Labour

Workplace news in brief


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