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From The Socialist newspaper, 8 May 2019

Usdaw conference 2019

Shop workers demand action on pay, jobs and the right

Usdaw conference delegates protesting against Tommy Robinson, 6.5.19, photo by Usdaw Activist

Usdaw conference delegates protesting against Tommy Robinson, 6.5.19, photo by Usdaw Activist   (Click to enlarge)

Socialist Party members in Usdaw

With almost a year since the departure of Blairite general secretary John Hannett, this year's annual delegate meeting of retail and distribution union Usdaw - ongoing at the time of writing - feels different.

In her address to delegates, Socialist Party member and Usdaw president Amy Murphy contrasted her approach with that of her predecessor.

She joked he used to like going to McDonald's during conference, whereas she only tended to go there to support McStrikers.

Similarly, the fraternal speaker from Blackpool Trade Union Council invited delegates to protest against far-right, racist Tommy Robinson's visit to Blackpool in the Monday lunchtime of conference.

The call for this protest was launched the previous day, by Socialist Party member and Usdaw Broad Left chair Iain Dalton.

This followed discussions with Usdaw members on Blackpool TUC at the union's well-attended Broad Left annual general meeting on 4 May.

Over 150 Usdaw delegates and visitors joined another hundred activists to march from outside the conference to where Robinson had been reportedly due to speak - with no sign of him once we arrived.

The conference itself has seen several debates so far. This includes support for an emergency motion, moved by Socialist Party member Scott Jones, on the union's parliamentary group - which four of the Labour MPs who split into the right wing 'Independent Group' came from.

Given their clear opposition to polices passed by Usdaw conference - including a 10-an-hour minimum wage, rail renationalisation, and so on - the motion demanded that Usdaw's parliamentary group should only include those prepared to support the union's policies.

Conference also passed a composite motion on domestic abuse, incorporating an amendment spoken to by Socialist Party member Isai Priya.

This demanded funding for domestic violence services for all who need them, called on Labour councils to use their reserves and borrowing powers to defend existing services, and for an incoming Labour government to pledge to restore any funds utilised for this.

Both of these motions passed unanimously.

Campaigning

The union's 'Time for Better Pay' campaign, launched in the last year, has featured heavily. There have been a number of demands to extend the campaign, with motions passing such as including 16 to 17-year-olds in the 10 minimum wage demand.

Another motion called for broadening the campaign to develop a charter for workers' terms and conditions.

The mover called for it to include defending premium payments and paid breaks, considering whether 10 an hour is still sufficient as a minimum, and calling for more sustained action to win.

This included pointing to the recent Stop and Shop supermarket strike in New England, USA, which defeated some of the attacks retail bosses had sought to impose on workers.

There was a heated debate around the onslaught of attacks on retail workers - particularly the job cuts in Tesco.

This, unfortunately, was not discussed directly to help formulate a strategy for fighting these attacks. Instead it found expression through a debate on restoring pay ballots within Tesco.

Members have grievances on this issue, particularly in light of Tesco's recent 2 billion profit announcement for the last year.

At the Socialist Party's conference fringe meeting, we attracted a number of new attendees. We discussed our strategy to fight attacks on workers, including that Usdaw take a leaf from the GMB union's recent protest outside Asda, and staging a campaign of protests to build support for industrial action if necessary.

Socialist Party members will be continuing to argue for the union to further develop a fighting strategy over the final two days of conference. A full report will follow. Delegates and visitors have so far bought 86 copies of the Socialist - and counting.

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In The Socialist 8 May 2019:


Socialist Party election analysis

Local elections: Tory meltdown but Labour loses ground

England council elections: socialist anti-cuts message chimes with voters

Leicester elections: "We planted a marker for the future"

Bolsover elections: Labour's cuts councillors punished by voters

Halton Brook election: support for our policies on doorstep


International socialist news and analysis

Spanish elections - new upheavals underline need for a revolutionary socialist alternative


Socialist Party news and analysis

Climate catastrophe looms: we need socialist change

Young and old, unite and fight!

Water bosses plan to undermine nationalisation: no compensation for fat cats!

Northern Ireland: Socialist wins council seat

Them & Us


Workplace news and analysis

Unions must back a general election and oppose bosses' EU

Doncaster NHS pay win shows: strikes can get results!

PCS union: listen to members, link the campaigns - we can win fight on pay

Usdaw union conference demands action on pay, jobs and the right

UCU general secretary election: fight for a left leadership!

Newham gas workers to strike

Hull dinner ladies protest against loss of week's pay

Asda workers protest against attacks on paid breaks and bank holiday working

Woolwich Ferry staff to strike over pay and safety

Radiographers' union slams professional costs


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Labour launches homelessness campaign

Socialist vision at Leeds May Day rally

Alternative housing awards shames bosses


Opinion

Sequel to 'A Very British Coup' - workers' struggle, not bosses' EU and media, is route to socialism

'Line of Duty' - twists and turns as organised crime meets police corruption

The Socialist Inbox


 

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