Ryan on a south west trade union demo. Photo: Socialist Party
Ryan on a south west trade union demo. Photo: Socialist Party

Socialist Party members in Usdaw

The results of the Usdaw National Executive Committee (NEC) elections show the potential that exists for a shift in the shop and distribution workers’ union leadership, as the anger of members at eroding conditions looks for a fighting lead.

Ryan Aldred, a Socialist Party member standing as the Usdaw Broad Left candidate for the South Wales and Western NEC seat, lost by just 57 votes, polling 886 votes against a former NEC member.

Compared with the last NEC elections in 2021, membership in the region was down by over 2,500 and turnout even lower, which makes it even more significant that Ryan was able to increase his vote by more than 50%.

Despite a huge wave of strike action that has involved a large number of trade unions over the last 18 months, Usdaw has been one of the few which hasn’t seen major industrial action.

Given this, it is not surprising that there is a lack of engagement by members in the leadership elections. There were exceptionally low turnouts of 3.5-4.6% across all seven regions. Two regions had candidates elected unopposed, and nobody contested the right-wing incumbent president Jane Jones.

Fighting strategy needed

However, things can very quickly change and the prospects for building the Usdaw Broad Left and support for the Socialist Party’s platform are clear.

Ryan stood for a fighting strategy to secure inflation-proof pay rises, against store closures and job losses, and against ‘partnership’ approaches which only benefit the bosses.

We met a number of Usdaw members at the Trades Union Congress (TUC) demonstration in Cheltenham who were enthused by seeing a fighting left candidate on the ballot.

Delegates unanimously supported Usdaw Broad Left members’ call for a £15-an-hour minimum wage at Usdaw’s 2022 Annual Delegate Meeting (ADM), with growing support for industrial action reflected in propositions passed in 2023.

Now, with a potential dispute brewing as Morrisons bosses announce a major attack on pensions, it is clear that the leadership will very quickly be tested, especially as a future Keir Starmer-led government will be offering continued Tory austerity.