Postal and telecom workers debated the EU referendum, fighting the Trade Union Bill and their relationship to the Labour Party this week. They were meeting in Bournemouth for their CWU union’s annual conference.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn addressed the conference on Monday, and more than 3,000 tickets had been booked for a JC4PM rally in the conference hall on Tuesday night.
A motion pledging to use the unions’ “full political resources” to support Corbyn and to increase Labour party membership was passed.
In his conference speech Corbyn stated his support for striking junior doctors. He said, “Can we just say to Jeremy Hunt – back off. We support the junior doctors.”
The conference was set to send a coach to a junior doctors’ picket line on Tuesday, and junior doctors were also set to address conference.
The conference also passed an emergency motion to campaign to stay inside the EU.
General Secretary Dave Ward argued for campaigning for a Remain vote “in the interests of workers’ rights.”
He said, “For all the problems that may exist in the European Union, most of the protections that workers have today have come from the EU.”
He added, “Some of our members may have legitimate concerns about migration. We shouldn’t label people who have legitimate concerns as racist.
“But it’s not migrants that are exploiting workers in Britain today. They’re being exploited along with every other worker.”
Some delegates argued that the EU does not protect workers’ rights. A delegate from Coventry argued, “All the benefits we’ve achieved have been fought for by the working class.”
And speaking after the debate, Merlin Reader from Mount Pleasant International branch (pc) told Socialist Worker, “It’s very important, and admirable, that the union backs many anti-racist initiatives. But I’d rather Dave Ward was campaigning against ‘concerns about migration’, not saying they may be ‘legitimate’.”
A motion was proposed calling on the CWU to join a “coalition of the willing” of other unions including the NUT, FBU and RMT to fight the trade union bill. It criticised the TUC’s lack of resistance to the bill.
Paul Garraway from South Central branch said, “It is urgent we respond. The Tories fear a response and we should give them one.”
But Ward opposed the motion, arguing that the union had to focus on making the bill “unworkable”.
Sectional conferences for Postal workers, and Telecoms and Financial Services were set to go ahead on Tuesday and Wednesday. Postal workers were to debate moves by bosses to lengthen deliveries, change shift times and threaten job losses.
It comes as Royal Mail and the CWU are negotiating a new pay deal. A previous three year pay deal after the privatisation of Royal Mail saw post workers get an increase of nearly 10 percent.
But there are reports that bosses have offered just 0.37 percent this year, to be “self-funded” by scrapping a number of legacy payment schemes.
Royal Mail managers in Unite have already voted to strike after rejecting a pay deal from last year.
The unions' postal conference passed an emergency motion supporting three victimised reps unanimously. The reps include Dave Chapple, who faces charges of gross misconduct following an unofficial walkout at his delivery office in Bridgwater, Somerset, last year.
The two others are from Newcastle and South Wales. Speakers at the conference said there was a pattern of managers targeting reps across the country.
John Woodhouse from Newcastle Amal branch said, "It's not just about three reps - it's about everyone in this hall. Because if it could happen to them, it could happen to any of us."
Meanwhile telecoms workers in BT were set to debate how to deal with bosses aggressively using “performance management” procedures against workers. A number of motions suggested industrial action.