Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/392/4452
Amicus conference: Size isn't everything
ONE OF the most important issues to be discussed at the forthcoming Amicus conference is the recent proposal for a merger between the Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU), Amicus and the GMB. Amicus members may already feel in a state of perpetual mergeritis and a little jaded with rules revisions. But the merger is being enthusiastically promoted, particularly by the leaders of the former two unions.
Kevin Parslow, TGWU and Mick Cotter, Amicus
The leaders believe the size of the new union would be an attractive recruitment vehicle and allow them to regain their industrial muscle. But sheer numbers in the trade union movement is not enough. What counts are how those workers are organised, their determination to struggle and whether that is matched by their leaders. Most important of all are the policies and programme upon which any union fights.
A merger would help to break down inter-union rivalries that are present in some workplaces. But that could be possible today if unions worked closely together, with measures like joint workplace committees to fight for common demands.
The decisive votes for industrial action in the ballots over public- sector pension cuts are an example of the power of inter-union co-operation. Faced with such huge majorities and the anger of the workforce, the government backed down, for the moment at least, from implementing their attacks.
More than ever we will need a fighting leadership. The debacle at Rover shows this; not one trade union leader was prepared to call for occupation of the plant to prevent its closure, or of nationalisation to save the plant.
It was left to Socialist Party councillor and Amicus member Dave Nellist to raise these demands at meetings and in the press. A similar crisis is developing at Marconi.
In the public sector, the looming problems with the budget deficit will force the government to try to implement cuts. We need unions and a leadership that will fight to defend its membership.
Socialist Party members will fight for a democratic constitution of any merged union.
In particular, we will campaign for:
- Annual lay member conferences.
- Regular election and accountability for all officials.
- The retention of industrial trade groups.
- Lay member control at all levels.
- The democratic rights to organise within the union, except for fascists.
- A political fund - members to decide where the money should go.
- Use the union as a fighting body on behalf of the members.
In The Socialist 12 May 2005: