Debate about the future relationship between the CWU union and the Labour Party formed the backdrop to many debates at the union’s conference last week.
The day before the “official” debate on political funding, the majority of delegates endorsed a motion put by London branches that called for the government to be given until March 2009 to back off from attacks on postal workers.
The union agreed that if the government does not change course, it would ballot on whether to fund a future Labour election campaign.
As a consequence, when the session on political funding started many delegates felt that the debate had already taken place, and there was little mood to reopen it.
A motion calling for the democratisation of the political fund and another calling for disaffiliation from Labour were both clearly defeated.
Nevertheless speakers for these motions were often able to connect with the conference.
In the debate Paul Garaway of the South Central No 1 branch spoke for a motion that called for disaffiliation from Labour.
He said, “The message from Gordon Brown to our members during last year’s strike was ‘Get back to work’. His statement sent a wave of shock and revulsion around my office.
“To those delegates who say that this is not the right time to disaffiliate, I ask you, how many more mail centres have to close? How many more Crown post offices have to close? And how many more jobs have to go?”
Willie Marshall of the Scotland No 2 branch asked the conference, “After the illegal wars and the privatisation of the post and the NHS can you really see the difference between a Labour and Tory government anymore?”
General secretary Billy Hayes led a call for the union to maintain its link with Labour, despite the government’s right wing policies.
He said that any move to disaffiliate would be “doing David Cameron’s job for him” and accused those who wanted more democratic control over the political fund of “super-liberalism”.
But Hayes also reaffirmed his commitment to ballot the CWU’s members if the government and Royal Mail did not retreat on its pensions attack and its threat to privatise the business.