The Socialist 10 June 2009
Step up the fight for a new workers’ party
CWU conference backs Youth Fight for Jobs campaign
THE COMMUNICATION Workers Union (CWU) conference is meeting with its members facing huge threats of mass job losses, pension cuts and post office privatisation. Many of these issues will come up at industrial group conferences later this week.
Conference voted congratulations to the unofficial strike of Lindsey Oil Refinery workers. Peter Keenlyside, supporting for the NEC, asked: "What happened to the workers for their illegal action? Nothing". Pointing out they achieved in days what had taken CWU members years not to achieve, and given the threat communication workers faced, he added there are lessons we should learn from that.
A resolution claiming that a recession is "better managed by a Labour government" and a resolution opposing Tory public expenditure cuts whose mover claimed that a Labour government is '100 times better than a Tory one' went by virtually without opposition.
But conference clearly felt the union leadership went too far when they tried to oppose a motion calling for CWU support for the Youth Fight for Jobs (YFJ) campaign. Kyly Wilson, Coventry branch, moving support, explained the campaign's demands of real apprenticeships and training, an £8 an hour minimum wage and opposition to university tuition fees.
She explained that because youth are the most vulnerable to job cuts, are often not unionised and rarely know their rights, the trade union movement has to do something and YFJ has started on this.
Earlier the deputy general secretary of telecoms had argued it is 'unrealistic' to call for nationalisation of the telecom industry. CWU general secretary Billy Hayes came forward to oppose support for YFJ, again arguing its demands are 'unrealistic'.
As the debate moved on, conference swung away from the executive and for a much more combative position and overwhelmingly supported the proposal.
Immediately after this debate, conference gave sacked Linamar convenor Rob Williams a warm welcome. Rob praised the CWU for support and his members for defending him when management tried to throw him out of the factory and police were called in to remove him.
Management broke the law in sacking him. So, it is illegal for trade union members to take action to defend him and legal for management to sack him illegally. Rob pointed out, to sustained applause, that after "twelve years of a Labour government, sometimes with a parliamentary majority of 150, it is still legal for employers to act in this way".
Following government attacks on postal workers in their dispute and the threat of privatisation, 2008 conference threatened to ballot over the CWU's continued link to Labour. Some hope that postal privatisation will not go through parliament but patience is running out with the Labour government and Labour MPs who fail to back the CWU.
Billy Hayes assured conference: "We won't support people who don't support us. We will carry out last year's policy. Anyone who hasn't signed our EDM (opposing privatisation), we won't help. There's something wrong, rotten, with the policies the government has enacted. The trade unions built the Labour movement. When you stop supporting labour values, we stop supporting you."
In this issue
Socialist Party election campaign analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party publication
International socialist news and analysis
Youth fight for jobs