Socialist Worker

Unite conference: blacklisting, Shrewsbury campaign, working hours

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2204


Delegates passed a composite of motions condemning the blacklisting of union members and calling on Unite to give its full support to victimised workers.

It read, “This conference is concerned that in a number of cases victimisation of activists has taken place where it appears our union has not been prepared to fully defend the interests of those members.”

Richard Harris spoke for the composite. He said, “At British Airways our brothers and sisters have gone further than many fighting against bullying and harassment.

“I take my hat off to all making a stand against Bully Walsh. If Unite is not prepared to defend activists it gives a green light to employers to do what they like.

“What is the union for? My members aren’t interested in cheap insurance – they want an active activist on their side. We have to show employers that members will get the full support of the union if they are victimised.”

Conference also backed a motion committing Unite to affiliate to the Justice for the Shrewsbury Pickets Campaign and to calling for a public enquiry into the case.

There was a debate over working hours and the government’s opt-out of the European Working Time Directive. The directive limits the hours that workers can legally work.

Trevor Sterret moved a composite calling on Unite to campaign to end the opt-out. “Workers who work consistently long hours have a shorter lifespan,” he said. He pointed to the host of health problems that are associated with overwork.

Two delegates spoke against the composite. Dean Tulley said, “This would penalise my members from earning a living wage.”

Hugh Lewsley added that workers should have the right to work long hours.

The vast majority of conference backed the composite. Taj Salam said, “We can’t have large sections of the Unite membership working for more than 48 hours a week just to earn enough money.

“We should be campaigning for a living wage,” he added, to applause from the floor.

Delegates voted for the composite with just three votes against.

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