LABOUR'S DECISION to expel the RMT union has sent tremors through the wider trade union movement. Intense debate has taken place in many unions over the last few years about whether the unions should continue only to fund Labour. That discussion is now even more pressing.
Some of the earliest reaction came in the postal and telecom workers' CWU union, where this debate has raged for four years. Scotland No 2 branch is poised to back socialists outside Labour. It represents over 4,000 delivery workers, counter staff and mail sorters in Edinburgh, Lothians, Fife, central Scotland and the Borders.
Derek Durkin, the branch's secretary, told Socialist Worker, 'The RMT conference decision was an excellent result because it showed the delegates were listening to the members and refusing to back down in the face of New Labour threats and bullying. Scotland No 2 branch will now be moving to implement the terms of the motion that our recent AGM passed. It said that if Labour expelled the RMT then we would affiliate to the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) as a first step towards democratising the CWU political fund. So this week we had set up a meeting with Tommy Sheridan MSP to begin the process of affiliating to the SSP. This is not just an issue in Scotland. For example, London branches also began this debate during their recent strikes. As well as the SSP there are forces such as Respect which are much closer to the union's policies than New Labour.'
The debate about political representation is happening spontaneously. The annual general meeting of the CWU branch at East London Mail Centre took place last weekend. When the branch's political officer claimed the RMT had walked away from Labour, someone from the floor objected and there was a serious discussion about the whole issue. Many members wanted to take a similar position to the RMT but they were told this was outside the rules.
So instead the branch committee were told to take rule changes to the union's conference which would allow a much broader use of the political fund including backing forces outside Labour. One of those at the meeting says, 'There was real anger in the room about what New Labour has done. It was one of the best discussions we have ever had at a meeting. This issue is not going away whether you are a postal worker, a health worker, a firefighter or whatever.'
Stand together with the RMT
Every trade unionist should pass motions backing the RMT, like the one below:
(1) This meeting deplores the decision of the Labour Party National Executive Committee to expel the RMT union from the Labour Party.
(2) This meeting notes that the RMT conference in 2003 decided democratically to remain affiliated to Labour, but also to allow RMT branches to support other candidates who support RMT policies with the agreement of the RMT council of executives.
(3) This meeting believes that all trade unionists should have the right to decide themselves how their money should be used.
(4) This meeting resolves to: (a) Invite an RMT speaker to our next union meeting. (b) Write to the Labour Party NEC condemning the expulsion of the RMT. (c) Organise a debate over the question of our own political funds.