SHOP WORKERS in the USDAW union gathered in Blackpool last week for their annual conference. The key debates reflected some of the anger and disappointment shop workers feel over New Labour's policies.
Delegates voted to urge the government to abolish the voucher scheme for asylum seekers. Shop workers are forced to handle vouchers, and some delegates made angry speeches about the way refugees are treated. One delegate said refugees "would not be here if our nations had not stripped their countries of resources and sold their governments arms with which to terrorise their people". Speakers also countered racist comments that came from a few delegates.
The union's leadership has been loyal to the New Labour project, but some speakers attacked the party's lurch to the right. A motion calling for the abolition of student tuition fees and the reinstatement of the grant was passed. Delegates also called for the restoration of the link between pensions and earnings.
Some of the debates gave a picture of the rotten working conditions and pay shop workers face. Socialist Alliance supporters leafleted the conference delegates and were well received.