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Usdaw conference shifts left and demands "backbone"
Socialist Party members at Usdaw conference
Against a backdrop of attacks on supermarket premium payments and retail job losses, the conference of Usdaw, the shop workers' union, took place in Blackpool on 24-27 April.
On day one, conference passed a motion committing the union to fight to keep these premium payments in the future. As one delegate said: "Let them (the companies) try to impose these changes and we'll show them this union has a backbone!"
A backbone that was decidedly missing during recent pay deals when Usdaw negotiated away these premiums for thousands of workers.
The conference was one of the most eventful in recent history and showed a marked move to the left in the union.
This was heralded even prior to conference when the union's executive overturned Usdaw general secretary John Hannett's recommendations on a number of international propositions, including against Trident.
That Hannett at the conference then went on to give his own view of opposition to these, barely paying lip service to the position of the executive council on the matter, sparked outrage among delegates, including those who agreed with the arguments Hannett was putting.
The Trident proposition was lost but Hannett's actions will have repercussions in the union and will help further opposition on the executive council to the union's democratic defects under Hannett. Branches have written to the EC on the issue.
There was also significant support for the junior doctors' strike as the union was pushed into paying for transport for over 40 delegates and visitors to support the local picket line in a marvellous and unprecedented display of solidarity.
The conference also passed several motions we had written including for a £10 an hour minimum wage and on the anti-union laws and supported other motions such as on renationalisation and tax avoidance.
We sold 84 copies of the Socialist and raised over £50 fighting fund and held our fourth consecutive conference fringe meeting which was the best attended yet.