The Socialist

The Socialist 3 February 2021

Launching a political alternative to cuts, poverty and job losses

The Socialist issue 1119

Launching a political alternative to cuts, poverty and job losses

Why I am attending the TUSC local elections online conference

South Yorks TUSC ready for electoral fight


Workers' rights and safety: Trade union mobilisation could force more Tory U-turns


Socialist Students open letter to Rent Strike network

Children in care: Privatisation is not working

Multimillion-pound rental firm demands thousands from homeless asylum seeker

Covid outbreak at Kent asylum detention centre: Napier is not fit for purpose

New anti-protest law: State forces want more power to crush the protests that are coming


Usdaw conference stripped of democracy by leadership

Usdaw Broad Left rally brings together those campaigning for a fighting union

Strong union lead needed to stop DVLA Covid spread

HMRC: We demand a pay rise without cuts to terms and conditions

Workers fight British Gas 'fire-and-rehire' plans

Vote Steve Hedley for RMT general secretary

The NEU's 'big announcement' - lessons need to be learned

Yorkshire aerospace workers strike against pay disparity

Workplace news in brief


The Communist Manifesto - A guide to understanding society, and how to change it


1971: Rolls-Royce crisis - when the Tories nationalised in order to secure the interests of British capitalism


GameStop: Billionaires hurt at their own game

The Socialist Inbox


Covid 'vaccine wars' underline failure of capitalist nation states to deal with the global pandemic


New members meeting in the South West - preparing for the battles to come

Why I rejoined the Socialist Party

Help us raise the funds to fuel the working-class fightback

Save our square: we need social housing and public services

Stop Labour council's eviction of Stratford Circus arts centre

 
 
 
 
 

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Usdaw union conference stripped of democracy by leadership

Usdaw conference 2019, photo David Owens

Usdaw conference 2019, photo David Owens   (Click to enlarge)

Ryan Aldred, Usdaw South Wales and Western EC candidate

The executive council (EC) of Usdaw, the retail and distribution workers' union, agreed at its January meeting to strip back its conference, the annual delegate meeting (ADM), in 2021 to a two-day event with union democracy being the main casualty. The left minority on the EC opposed these proposals. A circular issued to branches gives no justification or explanation for shortening the ADM in this manner.

The ADM in 2020 was cancelled with no online equivalent being offered. No provision has been offered for the propositions put forward for that ADM, and with branches only able to submit three propositions it severely limits the issues that members can raise. With the number of propositions likely to be resubmitted from last year, as well as a whole swathe of issues thrown up by the coronavirus crisis, a full union conference is needed to face up to and respond to serious challenges in the retail, distribution and allied sectors.

Plans set out by General Secretary Paddy Lillis in the circular are an attempt to turn the ADM from being the 'parliament' of the union, into a rubber stamp for proposals emanating from the EC. So ADM will be able to debate EC statements, which can't be amended, as well as rule changes, including the EC's controversial delayed proposal from last year, to close the lower subs rate for part-time workers to new entrants.

But motions submitted from branches face a huge curtailment of debate. Instead of being moved by the branch and then debated by delegates, Lillis' proposals graciously still allow delegates to vote, but the only things delegates will have to go on as to how to vote will be the text of propositions and an accompanying document setting out the stance of the EC with an explanatory note.

Emergency propositions (which usually can be submitted up to a week before ADM) are banned altogether. But the last date for initial submission of propositions was 9 November 2020. There have been thousands of redundancies since then, the collapse of the Arcadia Group the threat of job cuts in Sainsbury's, the firing and rehiring tactics employed by a Tesco distribution centre in Livingston - to name but a few issues in these past few months.

Even just this week it was announced that Debenhams has been bought out by Boohoo at the expense of all stores closing, meaning further job losses for workers and Usdaw members. Yet, a proposition can't even be brought to call the union into action because of the severe curtailment of the ADM procedures.

Lillis' proposals also include plans to issue a revised temporary code of standing orders (the rules by which the ADM is conducted). It will be drafted with no clear indication as to who is going to write this code or how, or even if members will have the chance to scrutinise this revised code ahead of the ADM. Any such proposals should be put to a vote, with the opportunity for branches to debate and amend, at the beginning of the ADM.

The lack of foresight being shown by Lillis is astonishing in rushing ahead to initiate the ADM proceedings, then changing tack part-way through when it was clear that an in-person meeting of around 1,000 delegates and visitors was unlikely to be feasible, even before the second coronavirus wave took full hold.

In September 2020, the EC initially voted to temporarily suspend union elections citing their concerns about union democracy with a number of branches not meeting due to the pandemic. Paddy Lillis went over the heads of the EC and wrote to all branch secretaries after this decision was made, threatening to seek legal counsel if the decision was not overturned, trying to pose as a defender of union democracy. With the effective silencing of proposals emanating from the lay membership at the ADM, Lillis and his supporters on the EC certainly don't come across as accountable and democratic.

In the letter, Paddy wrote: "I advised the EC that they did not have authority to act in a manner inconsistent with the rules and that if they did so, I would be seeking legal advice." If it's good for the goose it must be good for the gander, so should branches be seeking legal advice seeing as Paddy's proposals for the ADM are equally "inconsistent with the rules"?

The decision to suspend elections was quickly overturned by a narrow majority at a subsequent emergency EC meeting with union elections now taking place in the midst of another lockdown. However, no provision has been made to extend the length of the ballot to account for delays in postal ballots going out and being returned.

Given the rapidly spreading new variant of Covid, the only way an ADM could take place when scheduled in April would be online. But the proposals of how to conduct such an online ADM, especially given it will be first meeting of the union's delegate body in two years, should prioritise the voice of the membership, especially over inviting guest speakers into debates on EC statements.

This underlines the importance of building the Usdaw Broad Left to challenge the current leadership of Usdaw, because there has been a concerning trend of undermining union democracy under Paddy Lillis's leadership. Branches should pass resolutions condemning the proposed changes to the ADM and call on the EC to restore the ADM back to the full four days in line with the rules.

A specific call for all propositions to be debated properly should also form part of that resolution. Members should also use their votes in the ongoing union elections to elect a fighting, democratic leadership that is prepared to face the bosses while remaining accountable to the membership.


Socialist Party members in Usdaw have written the following motion for branches to use:

This union branch notes:

  • The ongoing challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic and the need to make alternative arrangements to facilitate the going ahead of the union's Annual Delegate Meeting (ADM) in 2021
  • The need for members to participate in a full ADM to shape union policy, particularly in light of challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic
  • The limited increase in technical demands posed by having an ADM over four days instead of two
  • The alarming curtailment of ADM length, the denial of branches being able to formally move their own propositions and the removal of debate and the right of reply set out in Paddy Lillis's Circular GC 07/21
  • The refusal to allow emergency propositions considering the pace of developments in sectors Usdaw represents set out in Circular GC 07/21
  • The statement that "A revised temporary code of Standing Orders will be drafted. These will be used for this year only and are not a permanent change to the Standing Orders." set out in Circular GC 07/21

This union branch therefore resolves:

  • To call on the General Secretary and Executive Council to restore the 2021 ADM to a four-day event as laid out in the Rule Book
  • To call on the General Secretary and Executive Council to restore full speaking rights and the right of reply to branches and delegates wishing to move and speak on ordinary propositions put to ADM 2021
  • To call on the General Secretary and Executive Council to restore the ability of branches to submit emergency propositions in the usual manner
  • To call on the General Secretary and Executive Council to submit proposals ahead of ADM 2021 for a revised temporary code of Standing Orders which can be scrutinised and where necessary challenged with a vote being taken at the beginning of ADM 2021 to adopt, amend or reject the proposed code of Standing Orders
  • To reserve the right to seek legal advice along with other branches if the General Secretary and Executive Council continue to act in a manner inconsistent with the Rules

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 28 January 2021 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.


In this issue


Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

Launching a political alternative to cuts, poverty and job losses

Why I am attending the TUSC local elections online conference

South Yorks TUSC ready for electoral fight


What we think

Workers' rights and safety: Trade union mobilisation could force more Tory U-turns


News

Socialist Students open letter to Rent Strike network

Children in care: Privatisation is not working

Multimillion-pound rental firm demands thousands from homeless asylum seeker

Covid outbreak at Kent asylum detention centre: Napier is not fit for purpose

New anti-protest law: State forces want more power to crush the protests that are coming


Workplace news

Usdaw conference stripped of democracy by leadership

Usdaw Broad Left rally brings together those campaigning for a fighting union

Strong union lead needed to stop DVLA Covid spread

HMRC: We demand a pay rise without cuts to terms and conditions

Workers fight British Gas 'fire-and-rehire' plans

Vote Steve Hedley for RMT general secretary

The NEU's 'big announcement' - lessons need to be learned

Yorkshire aerospace workers strike against pay disparity

Workplace news in brief


The Communist Manifesto

The Communist Manifesto - A guide to understanding society, and how to change it


Rolls-Royce

1971: Rolls-Royce crisis - when the Tories nationalised in order to secure the interests of British capitalism


Readers' opinion

GameStop: Billionaires hurt at their own game

The Socialist Inbox


International news

Covid 'vaccine wars' underline failure of capitalist nation states to deal with the global pandemic


Campaigns news

New members meeting in the South West - preparing for the battles to come

Why I rejoined the Socialist Party

Help us raise the funds to fuel the working-class fightback

Save our square: we need social housing and public services

Stop Labour council's eviction of Stratford Circus arts centre


 

Home   |   The Socialist 3 February 2021   |   Join the Socialist Party

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