Judy Griffiths, CWU member
Following the sector conferences reported in last week’s Socialist, CWU conference met physically for the first time in three years. Issues discussed included equality, the environment, recruitment, and training for reps.
Five motions not admitted to the agenda raised the key issue of the union’s relationship with the Labour Party. Attempts to have these standing orders committee decisions overturned were lost, denying the conference an opportunity to discuss these vital issues in detail.
This debate came just before the local elections, when, following years of Labour councils implementing Tory cuts, there was a huge sense of ‘all politicians are the same’ amongst working-class people.
Discussion has taken place in several unions about what to do since Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity stance was ditched from Keir Starmer’s Labour Party.
The bakers union, BFAWU, has voted to disaffiliate from the Labour Party. Unite, under Sharon Graham’s leadership, has adopted the policy of calling for no-cuts needs budgets.
The experience of the brutal bin strike in Coventry has led Unite to withdraw support from councillors who attack their members.
It is clearly vital that the CWU also tackles this issue of working-class political representation.
One motion to conference called for the withdrawal of all funding until the Labour Party has a leadership that the CWU can fully support. Others called for the union to support members who wish to stand as anti-cuts candidates inside and outside of the Labour Party.
Motions not admitted
Motion 83 also pointed out that Labour Party members, including CWU members, who have supported CWU policies, have been suspended and kicked out of the Labour Party.
This includes Jeremy Corbyn, who supports nationalisation of BT and Royal Mail, which Starmer’s leadership does not have in its manifesto.
A motion from Coventry branch was not admitted to the agenda, and the challenge to that almost won the vote to be heard. The standing orders decision was based on the ‘fact’ that it encouraged Labour councillors to break the law.
The branch pointed out the actual words of the motion, which clearly stated “to call on Labour Councils to set legal, balanced, no-cuts needs-based budgets” and to withdraw funding from CWU-backed councillors who continue to implement cuts.
Labour councils have millions in their reserves that could be used to stop cuts and restore lost services to the community, such as youth centres and libraries, while mobilising a campaign and linking with other councils to challenge the government to restore the funding cuts they’ve made.
Many delegates were angry that the debate couldn’t even take place, giving branches an opportunity to fully discuss the issue.
The CWU has a record as a fighting union industrially, but for that fight to be as strong as it can be, it needs to re-evaluate its political stance.
After the challenge to the standing orders committee, a CWU member who is a Labour councillor approached me and said: ‘I agree with you but if I said it I’d be expelled’. I thought that said everything about Starmer’s Labour.
On 3 May, Post Office workers, members of CWU, held a day of strike action. The walkout was against the pay freeze in 2021 and meagre 2% pay offer for this year. Socialist Party members showed their support for the campaign for an inflation-busting pay rise.