The annual conference of food workers’ union Bfawu took place Sunday to Thursday of this week.
Debates reflected a wider discussion about the relationship of the trade union movement to the Labour Party.
A number of motions calling for Bfawu to disaffiliate from Labour were ruled out of order on the basis that they required a rule change. But two emergency motions on political representation and the reasons for Labour’s defeat were heard.
At times the room seemed evenly split between those who wanted to remain affiliated to the Labour Party and those who agree with the need for a political alternative.
One delegate said, “The only opposition to the Tories are Labour. Under the Blair years we were mugged over.
“But what we need to do is be smart. We need to stick with the Labour Party because if we start splitting and dividing we’ve no opposition to Tory government whatsoever”.
Conference also passed a motion to endorse Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader.
Bfawu president Ian Hodson said, “We believe that there has to be a debate in the Labour Party about where its future lies.
“If you believe that the Labour Party needs to change – then Jeremy Corbyn is the symbol of the change at the top of the party and the change in the rest of the party which we all want to see”.
But full time official Sam Vickers disagreed. He said, “The Labour Party are moving to the right. We need to change the Labour Party – but it’s not going to happen. We need to start a new party of our own.
“If Jeremy Corbyn gets elected then I might re-join them – but that’s not going to happen either. So we might was well move on, look at the future and look at setting up a party that’s going to represent workers because the Labour Party is not going to do that.”
Lorna McKinnon, a delegate from Glasgow, welcomed Corbyn’s entry into the Labour leadership contest. But she also agreed with the need for a left alternative.
She said, “In the general election I campaigned for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition – I think we really need an alternative to Labour. That’s summed up by the election result in Scotland.
“I support Jeremy Corbyn, but is that going to bring radical change for the whole of the Labour Party?”
She added, “The debate and discussion has to be had within the wider trade union movement.”
Delegates also discussed how to fight austerity after the Tory election victory.
Bfawu president Ian Hodson used his speech to call for a general strike. He said, “My message to Frances O’Grady and the TUC is this: We’ve done the marches, attended the rallies and got nowhere.
“Stop beating about the bush and make the call for a general strike.”
Guest speaker PCS union general secretary Mark Serwotka also called for coordinated action – and he called for everyone to join the People’s Assembly protests on 20 June.
Delegates showed solidarity with victimised PCS rep Candy Udwin. They chanted and held up signs that said, “reinstate Candy”.
They debated their continuing fight against zero hours contracts as part of the Fast Food Rights Campaign. And they passed a motion agreeing to fight employers over working hours at Christmas.
Delegates also agreed overwhelmingly to support the Stand Up to Ukip campaign.