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19 June 2019

Unite must be at the head of fighting for a general election and against council cuts

Kevin Parslow, Socialist Party member in Unite the Union

General union Unite's rules conference takes place on 24-28 June with the Tories in meltdown. Unite has correctly called on Jeremy Corbyn to resist attempts to commit Labour to a second EU referendum and instead said he must be at the head of mobilising a mass movement to fight for a general election to get the Tories out.

Meanwhile, members of Unite at British Steel, Honda, Bridgend Ford and Bombardier face battles for their jobs. It is vital that Unite, along with the other unions, puts its stamp on events by fighting to the end against this industrial destruction.

The willingness of Unite members to fight is shown in the number of disputes regularly breaking out. Many have resulted in victories - including the Birmingham bin workers against a Blairite Labour council. Unite must take the lead in demanding that Labour councils finally refuse to pass on Tory cuts.

Right-wing councillors and MPs are a living reminder that the battle to defend Corbyn is far from over. They are desperate to prevent a Corbyn government or to sabotage it if elected - all in the interests of the capitalist establishment. This is why it was a mistake for Unite not to implement its policy on mandatory reselection at last year's Labour conference - a policy which a Socialist Party member had proposed at the 2016 policy conference.

General secretary election

There is speculation that a general secretary election could be imminent. The last election showed that the right in Unite and Labour saw removing Len McCluskey as an important step to attack Corbyn's leadership.

It is crucial that there is a left candidate who can take on the right wing with a fighting political and industrial programme that defends and extends lay democracy.

This conference is a real opportunity to set that in motion. In 2015 the words "so far as may be lawful" were removed from the rule book. This was a big step forward, but Unite must not be afraid to challenge the undemocratic trade union acts in order to defend the jobs and pay of our members.

There are several amendments this year which support democratic structures for Unite Community and retired members, which the Socialist Party supports. Many proposed amendments deal with representation at policy and rules conferences.

There is an undoubted dislocation that still exists in the structures, where too often the union's over 3,000 branches do not engage with the regional industrial sector committees.

Unite still has a biennial conference, attended by only a quarter the number of delegates that public sector union Unison's conference has. Enhancing representation at our conferences would encourage and increase participation in the union's structures.

Unite's executive council proposes only an increase in delegate entitlement to one per 1,300 members in each regional sector, but disappointingly reduces rules conference delegations by half. We feel this should be opposed and the democratic changes for annual branch delegate-based conferences supported.




http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/29264