Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/992/27256
Usdaw conference 2018
Retail union backs zero-hour ban, leaders oppose rank-and-file coordination
Ryan Aldred, Usdaw conference delegate (personal capacity)
The left is making steps forward while the right-wing bureaucracy continues trying to hold back struggle at Usdaw's annual delegate meeting (ADM). The 22-25 April national conference of the retail and distribution union is still underway at the time of writing.
The union leadership opposed affiliation to the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) - a rank-and-file body established by transport union RMT and supported by nine national unions.
Every contribution to the debate supported the motion. The leadership admitted its opposition was because Socialist Party members play a leading role in the NSSN.
The vote was clearly 50/50 on a show of hands. But outgoing president Jeff Broome refused a card vote - despite numerous calls and general uproar. About 50 delegates walked out to complain about blatant breaking of the rules.
The protests made to standing orders forced a re-run of the vote. The final result was declared as 42% for, 58% against - a close defeat at the hands of a hostile and cavalier leadership, and clearly justifying the card vote.
The ADM did pass an emergency motion calling on the union's executive council to support workers at Shop Direct. Three distribution sites in Greater Manchester face relocation to an automated site - which could result in the loss of over 2,000 jobs.
The members are preparing for industrial action and were emboldened by the level of support. Socialist Party members called for no relocation, and a shorter working week with no loss of pay.
Usdaw has committed to a campaign to ban zero-hour contracts in favour of minimum 16-hour contracts, except for those who specifically request less. Socialist Party members pressed the importance of not just committing in words but seriously preparing a campaign.
I spoke in support of reintroducing the original, socialist 'Clause IV' into Labour's constitution, which the leadership opposed and defeated. But the ADM did pass a maximum income policy, on a card vote, after the leadership opposed it.
A number of important motions - including supporting the Refugee Rights Campaign - have yet to be decided at the time of writing.
It's apparent Socialist Party member Amy Murphy's election as next Usdaw president has emboldened the left in the union. Iain Dalton of the Socialist Party has also been elected chair of Usdaw's Broad Left, which continues to grow.
At the time of writing, we have sold over 70 copies of the Socialist. Full report to follow - but it's clear support for socialist ideas is rising in Britain's fifth-largest union.
In The Socialist 25 April 2018:
Local elections 2018
What we think
Socialist Party news and analysis
Labour and the unions
Workplace news and analysis
International Workers' Day