Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/393/4467
Calls for an end to trade union passivity at Amicus conference
THE FIRST, and possibly last, conference of manufacturing and general services union Amicus took place this week. The union was formed from a merger of the old MSF and AEU union a few years ago and has since incorporated the GPMU print union and Unifi finance union into the largest union in Britain.
Now, the union is in merger talks with the TGWU and GMB to create a super-union which could have over 2.5 million members. Because of this there was an unusual mood to the conference with very few areas of genuine debate. Most delegates voted for broad resolutions which did not commit the union to any serious action.
The conference passed resolutions condemning the jobs massacre at MG Rover and Marconi but did not specify any action to be taken. Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist said it was time union leaders stopped just blaming the market. Instead he called for public control, ownership and planning. He said the composite was not everything that many of the delegates wanted and added to powerful applause: "There has to be an end to passivity... we needed a strategy that included things like occupation of the plant to stop the asset-strippers."
On the union's links with Labour, a broad composite stated that the union reaffirms its "commitment, solidarity and affiliation to the Labour Party."
Dave Nellist rose to challenge this, arguing for a genuine debate. Amicus general secretary Derek Simpson had called for the union to "keep faith with Labour" but Dave said that, although everyone was glad Howard and the Tories were not elected, Tory policies will continue under Blair and Brown.
Dave said that whatever promises or concessions had been given by Labour ministers at Warwick would be dwarfed by the attacks the Labour government was lining up on working people. The substantial applause that Dave got for this speech forced Derek Simpson to the rostrum. He argued that although Dave's arguments were "very valid" and "we needed that debate", delegates shouldn't "applaud Dave's speech" because that will only pave the way for a Tory government!
As a result of Dave's intervention 11% voted against the composite.
Derek Simpson also personally intervened to argue that the union shouldn't affiliate to the Stop the War Coalition (STWC), claiming union members did not know enough about it. He ignored the fact that he has spoken at a number of the big anti-war rallies! The motion to affiliate was lost by 52% to 47%.
In The Socialist 19 May 2005: