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From The Socialist newspaper, 20 June 2012

GMB delegates question link to Labour

Ian Harris
N30 - Millions strike back at Con-Dem government on 30 November 2011, photo Paul Mattsson

N30 - Millions strike back at Con-Dem government on 30 November 2011, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

The 2012 congress for the GMB general union, one of Britain's fastest growing unions, showed some successes in the private sector but also frustration from rank and file delegates over pensions and the union's relationship with New Labour.

Three recent successes stood out:

For the public sector, Kenny and other speakers lauded the 'day of action' (note not 'strike') over pensions on 30 November 2011. But no mention was made of the sell-out that followed in December, nor how the fight could be continued.

At a fringe meeting, the national pensions officer explained the attacks on state and public sector pensions. All attempts in negotiation and legal wrangling failed.

Platform speakers said that, across different branches of the public sector, members returned surveys clearly rejecting the pensions deal, which expects members to work longer, pay more and get less for their pensions. A question from the floor asked whether this meant further strike action over pensions. The answer was long and convoluted, but meant 'no'.

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25% of motions from branches called into question the union's stance towards the Labour Party. Though many of these motions were shot down pre-congress or ruled out of order by the standing orders committee, many got through.

As 2012 was not a 'rules congress', disaffiliation could not even be discussed, despite an impassioned point of order raised by a delegate from Leeds at the immediate start of the conference.

But motions condemned Labour's stance towards 30 November and public sector cuts. The political session that followed saw a three-hour hammering of the Labour Party, as delegate after delegate expressed their disgust at the weakness of the Labour leaders.

But none of the delegates called for the creation of a new party, or the possibility of supporting candidates other than Labour. This seemed to come more from a sense of traditional loyalties and the lack of a sizable alternative, rather than subservient attitude to Labour. Very few delegates mentioned the idea that Labour might have made 'nicer cuts' or stopped cuts altogether.

The GMB Central Executive Committee's special report, given by Kenny, criticised Labour including the party's lack of democracy. But Kenny still concluded that Labour was the only game in town, and made a plea for activists to get involved in Labour at a local level, in an attempt to reclaim the party.

Among many lay delegates however, it seems there is a search for an alternative to the GMB's official position, as shown by the manufacturing section's response to Tony Mulhearn's speech.

Socialists in the GMB should support the 'Student Worker' initiative to recruit more young workers to the union, as currently only 6% of members are under 30.

Many delegates took a Socialist Party newsletter, and 30 copies of the Socialist were sold.

Annoyance at the stage managing of congress was widely expressed. Despite the political views of the leadership, it is clear that there is the possibility for the left to grow within the GMB.

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In The Socialist 20 June 2012:

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2012 earth summit

British economy: "black cloud overhead"

Leveson inquiry - The 1%: "definitely in this together"

Flight of the rats

The child poverty mirage

Them & Us

International socialist news and analysis

Greece election - majority vote against austerity

Egypt's military instigates a 'soft coup'

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Join in the Austerity Games!

Gloucestershire: Countywide protests to stop NHS sell-off

Bus bosses can't stop the Socialist!

Support the final sprint to the fighting fund quarter finish line

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Five hundred food processing workers strike in Leicester

Packed Coryton refinery meeting backs action to win

Support the London bus strike

UCU: Time to fight on pay and pensions

Improved offer in Metro workers' pay fight

Workplace news in brief

Trade union conferences

GMB delegates question link to Labour

Unite needs strategy to step up fight against austerity

Unison conference: members show anger at pensions 'offer'

Fighting teachers' association network launched

Socialist Party review

Secret History of the Streets, Deptford High Street


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