The CWU union met in Bournemouth this week amid uncertainty over the government’s plans to privatise Royal Mail, a wave of management attacks on the union, and a political crisis that is gripping the government.
While the formal debates on conference floor rarely captured this ferment, the coffee shops and bars that line the seafront were alive to the sound of delegates discussing and arguing over the key issues.
Many delegates were angry at Gordon Brown and his right wing policies.
This mood was coupled with a fear of what a future Tory government might bring.
Revulsion at the election of two BNP MEPs saw one of the biggest anti-fascist fringe meetings at a union conference for many years, as over 100 delegates gathered to plan strategies for combating racism.
The question of working class political representation was never far from the surface of these discussions.
The postal workers’ section of conference, which opens as Socialist Worker goes to press, is likely to reflect the mood of resistance to Royal Mail shown in the vote for London-wide strike action against cuts and job losses.
Several parts of the country – including parts of the south west and east of England, as well as the east of Scotland – appear ready to join London in taking action. The need for nationally co-ordinated action was clear to many delegates.
Yet the union’s postal executive was set to put an emergency document to the conference which would delay any such national action.
This would offer management a crucial chance to regroup, while the head of steam for strikes that has been meticulously built up in offices that are preparing for action could be lost.
With the government weak and divided there could not be a better time for the CWU to hit back at both it and Royal Mail.