The crisis in the Labour Party dominated early debates at the annual GMB union conference in Blackpool.
Opening the union’s conference, GMB president Mary Turner urged union members still in the Labour Party to throw out MPs “who have made money out of their expense claims”.
But despite Labour failing to “listen to any words of concern about their policies coming from unions,” Turner insisted that “the alternative cannot be contemplated. After the recent terrible defeats at the ballot box, the Tories are now standing in the shadows.”
She went on to urge delegates to “fight and work to ensure that Labour returns to its traditional values and listens to us. We don’t need a new leader, we need a new direction.”
Paul Kenny, GMB general secretary, told conference, “On MPs’ expenses, let me be clear, flipping houses, having second homes that are further away from Westminster than your constituency is just unacceptable.
“Forgetting about your mortgage, spending thousands on furnishing your second home in a style you would not pay for yourself is an abuse.
“Now is the time to select and elect 40 to 50 fresh real people, real trade unionists, people who actually know how much a pint of milk costs, and what it is like to get on a bus – MPs driven by commitment rather than being worried about being driven by a chauffeur.
“We want our MPs to be MPs full-time, not as an add-on: one person, one job.”
The GMB is one of the Labour Party’s most loyal unions. It has donated more than £11.7 million over the past eight years and more than £342,000 so far in 2009.
A theme of the conference was anger at the government. But the leadership would not dream of breaking with Labour.
Remploy bosses’ bonus bonanza
Directors of Remploy, the organisation set up to provide work for disabled workers, increased their bonuses by 40 percent last year.
This was the year that 2,500 disabled workers were sacked when 28 Remploy factories were closed.
Phil Davies, GMB union national secretary, told the GMB Congress in Blackpool, “This is an absolute outrage. As Remploy went through serious difficulties with closure of workshops and redundancies for disabled workers, the ‘stress and strain’ this placed on the poor managers and directors saw them award themselves £4,168,598 in bonuses.
“So from their ‘poor’ beginnings in 2000-1 there was a total rise of £1.46 million – a 483 percent increase in bonuses.
“That must make the disabled workers who lost their jobs feel warm inside, knowing at least the managers and directors did OK.”
We need power at National Grid
The GMB is set to ballot for a strike at National Grid Newcastle in a bid to stop 181 jobs being outsourced to India.
GMB conference in Blackpool heard that 97 percent of the staff have already voted to take action in a consultative ballot organised by the union last week.
Gary Smith, GMB national secretary, said, “This proposed site closure is nothing but an act of irresponsible corporate greed.”
National Grid made massive profits of almost £3 billion last year.
Despite the profits, staff and unions at Newcastle have been working with the company to identify further cost savings of £3 million.
Now the company plans to sack these workers and move their jobs offshore.
An official strike ballot will be the next step.
Outrage at child poverty
Conference voted unanimously to campaign against child poverty.
Delegates called for an increase in the minimum wage, an end to low pay, and demanded that ministers “get the poverty-reduction plan back on track”.
GMB executive member Brenda Fraser said, “A rich elite, who receive more than eight times what most workers earn, does not deserve our sympathy when complaints are raised about increased taxes.”
Thanks to a GMB delegate for helping compile these reports.