Unite representatives gathered this week in Liverpool to discuss changes to the union’s Rule Book. Many of the amendments submitted marked a step forward in the process of becoming a more inclusive, activist union.
The creation of a further category of membership open to students and others not in employment recognises the importance of strengthening the links between organised workers and local communities.
Amendments calling for LGBT and disabled members to have reserved seats on all constitutional committees represent an advance in the union’s work around equalities and they should be welcomed.
However, one opportunity to equip Unite members with the powers they will require to fight back effectively against the government and the employers was missed, albeit narrowly.
One key amendment, supported by the United Left but opposed by the Executive, proposed deleting a clause within the Rule Book which binds the union to acting only ‘so far as may be lawful’.
Although the amendment was narrowly defeated, delegates argued convincingly against having current and future Tory anti-trade union laws enshrined in the union’s own Rule Book. This is especially true given the unprecedented offensive from government and employers. The closeness of the vote revealed that many lay reps are now ready to consider a direct challenge to these unjust laws. Even many of those who argued against the amendment recognised the need to take action outside the law on occasions, but did not believe the union should back it officially.