The debates over the CWU postal and telecom union’s relations with the Labour Party continued to run throughout its conference last week.
The debates went along similar lines to the one on whether to suspend funding to Labour if post privatisation went ahead (A knife edge debate at the CWU conference, Socialist Worker, 18 June).
A motion called for the union to maintain funding to Labour, but only to give financial and practical support “to Labour candidates who are loyal to the aims and objectives of the labour movement”.
Moving the motion, Pete Keenlyside from Manchester welcomed a third term Labour government and said it had not been due to Tony Blair’s leadership but because people thought there was no real alternative.
He dismissed George Galloway’s victory as no more significant than the Liberals taking Withington.
Martin Walsh from London said it was wrong to give Labour a blank cheque and that we need “to keep Labour on trial” as ministers consider privatisation.
Paul Garraway, the south central political officer, added that the motion was very unclear about who it wanted to support and that instead we should demand adherence to CWU policies.
The debate was won by a speech from Lee Baron of Northampton.
He said, “If privatisation goes ahead I’ll be the first to say there is no role for this union within the Labour Party, but for now we must stay in the room and be part of the discussion.”
This argument fitted with the ideas of many delegates.
By passing the motion they knocked out a discussion we were supposed to have on democratising the political fund.
This was frustrating, but a later debate showed that there is still plenty of mood for a fight.
In the postal section conference delegates overturned the executive to demand that Romec, the engineering, cleaning and services section, should be brought wholly back into Royal Mail.
The mood of determined resistance to privatisation of the post continued with delegates supporting a motion from the Midlands divisional committee that recognised the postal regulator Post Comm as “the single biggest threat” to Royal Mail.
It called on the executive to significantly increase the union’s campaign to oppose Post Comm’s pro-competition agenda.
This mood of resistance was also evident when delegates supported a motion from the London divisional committee to “oppose by all means necessary any attempts by the employer or government” to worsen post office pension schemes.
It also permeated discussions around an imminent agreement on a new industrial relations framework, which spells out how the union represents members in the post.
Delegates were united in wanting to defend representation at area level and significantly improve it at the local office level.
They supported the executive’s emergency motion outlining its approach, but many remained sceptical about what the details of the final agreement would be.
Over the coming months the postal executive is going to be launching a major consultation exercise in the run-up to the next pay deal.
The aim is to take post workers pay up to the UK national average by April 2006. This is an ambitious target. The question is what will postal workers be asked to give in return?
There is a lot of trust being placed in the executive over the pay strategy. It remains to be seen if the results will justify this trust.