A bitter mood against Labour
DELEGATES TO the annual conference of the MSF union in Harrogate poured out their feelings of bitterness with New Labour last weekend. Labour MP Ian Gibson addressed the conference and admitted, "Last Thursday's elections were not just a blip or a hiccup. A very real number of people abstained from voting Labour. They feel things are not getting better in health and education. I had pensioners slamming the door in my face, and I don't blame them. We have to say to Gordon Brown, 'When you've got �20 billion, you should spend it'."
Mark Tittley, a Derby Rolls Royce worker and Labour Party member, told the conference, "I don't think the government cares to listen to its activists. "The unions have made a major investment in the Labour Party. We should demand a greater return."
Jim Mortimer, a former general secretary of the Labour Party, was applauded when he said, "What we need is traditional Labour, not New Labour. "Mr Murdoch has more influence on the Labour Party than the trade union movement does." The shadow of the jobs massacre in manufacturing industry hung over the conference.
The debate over manufacturing industry was dominated by workers from the West Midlands, many employed in the car industry. Mike Wolffe said, "BMW is guilty of vandalism, or criminal damage on a grand scale. "If Rover goes down the pan, it will give a green light to other employers to do the same." Three Rover workers-Dave, Chris and Paul-appeared at the rostrum and received a standing ovation for their cry, "The fight goes on. We're not going away!"
However, the MSF leadership did nothing to build on this feeling for solidarity. Rolls Royce workers complained that full time officers were not spending enough time supporting the fight for jobs.
THE PROPOSED merger of the MSF with the AEEU engineering union dominated the conference. MSF general secretary Roger Lyons and Sir Ken Jackson, leader of the AEEU, are pushing for the merger. Many MSF delegates welcomed the prospect of creating a single union of one million members.
But they expressed deep doubts about the structure of the new union. They fear democracy in the MSF would be hit by the notoriously undemocratic AEEU and it would be harder to hold their leaders to account. So MSF delegates backed the merger in principle after a heated debate. But they demanded that the current merger plan is changed. Lyons now has to negotiate a new merger plan with the AEEU to put to MSF members.