Ninety delegates attended the first national conference of the Unite union’s local government sector last week. From the start, there was argument against the union’s call for activists to build support for New Labour in next year’s general election.
Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson, Unite’s joint general secretaries, argued fiercely against any left alternative to Labour. But they were critical of Gordon Brown, arguing that policies have to be changed by Unite activists inside the party.
In all, 15 motions from council workers were debated through the day, with continuous condemnation of the 12 years of privatisations and the Labour government’s attacks on council workers. When local government minister John Denham addressed the conference, delegates roundly attacked him.
They argued that the government is out of touch and asking how anyone can expect council workers to trust Labour to change policy for a fourth term after continuous attacks on public services, workers’ pay, jobs and pensions.
Tony Staunton, the chair of Plymouth council workers’ branch, won unanimous support for the People’s Charter and a policy of action by all means available against cuts to jobs and services and for re-nationalisation “whatever the colour of the next government”.
The People’s Charter was adopted by conference as a guide to maximum joint union action.
Delegates criticised the job evaluation deals that lost council workers hard fought for pay, and vowed to fight any attack on the craft workers conditions of service. Other motions called for a continuing fight against privatisation were supported.
Colin Calder from Swansea moved the successful motion to continue to defend council housing, with a formal record of appreciation for Alan Walter, the chair of Defend Council Housing who died earlier this year.