A sharp political debate has broken out inside the postal and telecom workers’ CWU union about the Labour Party.
The union conference, starting this weekend, could be very significant.
The background is the government’s heavy hints that it will soon unveil a scheme to issue shares in Royal Mail to the workforce.
It would be a form of privatisation which, coming as the market is opened up to private competition, would wreck jobs and the service.
An emergency motion to the union conference on this issue has been ruled out of order by the relevant union committee, to the anger of its proposers.
“This is a political stitch-up designed to keep a key debate away from the conference. It will be fought all the way,” one CWU branch secretary told Socialist Worker.
The motion calls for “the union national executive to obtain from Royal Mail and the government a clear, unequivocal statement that is in line with the Labour Party manifesto commitment that the Post Office will remain in the public sector as a wholly publicly owned company.
“Failure to achieve such a statement by 1 September 2005 will be viewed as an attack on the pensions, job security and working conditions of the members employed and will be resisted by all means at the union’s disposal, including national ballot of the membership.
“If the government fails to honour its manifesto commitment all monies to the Labour Party will be suspended from 1 September 2005.”
It is excellent that union activists have not waited for Labour and Royal Mail bosses to show their hand and instead have taken the initiative to put ministers on the spot.
But this has terrified some CWU officials and members who believe that the union must stick with Labour come what may.
The union’s postal executive was meeting as Socialist Worker went to press. It was considering a range of options about the motions it would itself propose to conference.
Some executive members want to submit a motion which has the same demands as the emergency motion that has been ruled out of order. Others want to have a special conference if the Labour Party refuses to give a pledge of no privatisation.
And some want the whole debate shelved until the 2006 union conference.
The stage is set for a critical debate. It will only have been sharpened by proposals last week from the government-appointed regulator that will cost jobs and encourage bosses to make workers do even more work in the same time.
“We are not going to let Labour get away with hammering us over the head without a response,” one CWU executive member told Socialist Worker.
“There is a very strong mood to use our political funds for those who support us,” he added.