Socialist Worker

GMB union conference: Blair and nappies

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2005

The first two days of the GMB union conference in Blackpool saw talk of fighting the bosses.

On the first day delegates passed motions on building and organising the union that rejected a partnership approach with the bosses. There was also growing opposition to the proposed merger with the T&G and Amicus unions, which was to be discussed on Thursday.

GMB general secretary Paul Kenny argued for militancy to win victories. Speaking of the dispute with supermarket giant Asda, he said, “If anyone thinks I’m going play Queensbury rules with a company that breaks the law they are living in cloud cuckoo land.

“I’ll be calling for every GMB member to picket every depot where scabs come in. If you are going to break the law, we’ll both break the law,” he said.

The context of a broader fight against neo-liberalism came through in the discussion over Europe. Edna Greenwood, a delegate from Lancashire said, “It is critically important that civil society rejects the law of the jungle.”

However, there was less agreement on how to relate to the Labour government.

When Tony Blair spoke to the conference he received only polite applause. There was a good response from delegates when one asked when the troops would come back from Iraq, and cheers when one asked why workers wouldn’t get their pension until 68 when MPs had money poured into their scheme.

But several motions passed were focused around the implementation of the Warwick agreement rather than confronting Labour.

In his address to the conference Paul Kenny said when he was asked about whether Tony Blair should go he replied, “politicians are like babies’ nappies – both need changing regularly and for the same reason.”

In a debate on a motion denouncing the government’s attacks on education, delegate John McDonnell, pointed out to applause, “We have 100 GMB MPs in parliament, yet only nine of them voted for GMB policy. What are we paying them for?”

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Article information

Sat 17 Jun 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2005
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