Usdaw conference 2019, credit: David Owens (uploaded 15/05/2019)
Usdaw conference 2019, credit: David Owens (uploaded 15/05/2019)

Amy Murphy, former Usdaw president and conference delegate (personal capacity)

Following the first two days of shop workers’ union Usdaw conference, reported in last week’s Socialist, Socialist Party members continued to take to the rostrum to argue for the union to take a fighting stance on the key issues facing members. That met with opposition from the leadership.  

Most propositions that were opposed by the leadership were withdrawn, in all probability under pressure from the standing orders committee. This meant that key issues were not debated. Although this was the first time the Annual Delegate Meeting had taken place face to face for two years, and involved a number of new delegates, the conference was therefore pretty sterile.

Some important issues affecting the lives of low-paid, overworked members were discussed including mental health, the lack of social housing, the costs of childcare and many more.

There were some fantastic contributions on the continued attacks by the Tories on low-paid workers. The rise in the cost of living, the huge profits raked in by energy companies, and the need to have these companies brought into public ownership were all raised.

The executive was called upon to campaign for the £20 uplift of Universal Credit to be restored, followed by a fundamental overhaul of Universal Credit, and a reversal in the recent National Insurance increase. 

But when the conference was addressed by Labour’s Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, shadow cabinet minister for mental health, she said very little about what Labour would do for low-paid workers. Despite that, she encouraged delegates to get involved with the Labour Party. 

Kieron Murphy moved a proposition for Usdaw to affiliate to the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) which was previously brought to the conference in 2018.  Both times it was opposed by the leadership, this time citing it as ‘inappropriate’ and ‘not a suitable organisation’, as it was run by the Socialist Party. The wheels were out in motion by the right-wing leadership, and despite several speakers in support, it was lost. 

The last, but by no means least controversial, proposition to be debated was moved by Ryan Aldred. He asked conference to affiliate Usdaw to Youth Fight for Jobs, because of its campaigning against all job losses. 

Once again, this was opposed by the leadership, with another attack on the Socialist Party, and it was unfortunately lost. Ryan defiantly refused to withdraw the proposition from the agenda paper and there were some great contributions.

The anger of members and the huge pressures on low-paid workers mean the leadership will struggle to keep a lid on all these issues, and Socialist Party members will continue to lead the campaign for a fighting union.