Socialist Worker

Anger breaks out at Unite's conference

by Sadie Robinson, at Unite conference
Issue No. 2205

Former Visteon workers lobbied the Unite union conference

Former Visteon workers lobbied the Unite union conference

Delegates at the Unite union conference last week defied their executive to back many left wing policies.

The executive went unchallenged for much of the time. But it couldn’t always keep control.

Delegates supported an emergency motion on the Labour Party leadership contest, against the executive.

The motion stressed the need for all declared candidates to be on the ballot paper to ensure an “open and transparent debate”.

They packed into a fringe meeting with John McDonnell MP, who hoped to stand as left candidate for Labour leader.

Delegates voted for two motions on pensions that the leadership opposed. And they voted down an executive statement on the issue.

During the debate, many speakers highlighted the struggle by former

Ford-Visteon workers, who are fighting to make Ford pay their pensions.

These workers lobbied the conference on Thursday lunchtime.

Delegates put the union leadership under more pressure on Friday. They called for the union to take equalities seriously and demanded better representation for members at a national level.

Many stressed the need for a rank and file strategy in the union to involve more members in activity.

The need to take on the anti-union laws came up frequently. Delegates passed motions calling for their repeal.

Some delegates advocated unofficial action to defy the laws. Colin Calder said, “Usually unofficial action wins quicker,” he noted. “It’s quite simple—either you show solidarity or you don’t.”

Joint general secretary of Unite, Derek Simpson, spoke against the motion. He said, “If people think it’s clever to put the funds of the union at risk, I believe they’re in cloud cuckoo land.”

Conference agreed to remit the motion to the executive, meaning delegates did not vote on it.

Cuts in public services and attacks on jobs and workers’ rights shaped the conference.

Delegates called on Unite to work with other unions to organise a national demonstration against cuts.

They also condemned employers’ blacklisting of union members and demanded equal pay for agency workers.

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Article information

Tue 8 Jun 2010, 18:43 BST
Issue No. 2205
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