Unite’s conference brought together reps and activists from across the public and private sectors.
“It’s been a very good conference,” Len McCluskey told Socialist Worker. “This is a powerful union demonstrating its commitment to principled trade unionism.
“We’re sending a clear message to the government and the employers that we’re going to fight back.”
Unite members voted to renew their commitment to fighting for decent pensions and in defence of public services.
Gill George from the health workers’ national sector committee was applauded for calling for “trench warfare to defend the NHS”.
There were also debates on international solidarity, with guest speakers from the US and Cuba, and motions to support workers in Egypt and a boycott of Israel.
Construction worker Steve Acheson received a standing ovation for his work exposing blacklisting of union activists.
The union had many debates on its policies, but decisions about strikes are taken separately at the level of industrial sectors.
A large section of the conference floor was taken up by young members invited to attend as observers as part of a drive to rejuvenate the union.
“It’s good to see how the union makes its decisions, although I would have preferred to be a delegate,” Charlotte Childs, a factory worker from Scunthorpe, told Socialist Worker.
Fellow young observer Ben Hayes added, “The debate didn’t always go the way I’d have liked, but the union feels like it’s moving forward.
“It was uplifting to see so much appetite to get organised.”
United Left meeting
One of the biggest fringe meetings was hosted by the United Left grouping in Unite.
United Left chair Martin Mayer said activists should aim to get a million on the streets for the TUC demonstration on 20 October.
Another highlight was the Unite the Resistance fringe, which drew 60 delegates to hear striking Spanish miner Segundo Menendez Collar, Egyptian journalist Mostafa Bassiouny and others.
Simpson’s golden goodbye
The whole conference was outraged at the £500,000 “golden goodbye” obtained by Derek Simpson, former joint general secretary of Unite.
McCluskey argued that severance payments should be approved by three senior union executive members.
But delegates went further and voted for payments to be approved by the whole of the union’s executive council.