By Nick Clark in Bournemouth
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Workers debate ending Labour link at CWU conference in Bournemouth

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Issue 2451
Delegates at CWU conference in Bournemouth
Delegates at CWU conference in Bournemouth (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Workers in the Communication Workers Union (CWU) debated anti-racism and the union’s relationship to the Labour Party at their general conference in Bournemouth last Sunday and Monday of this week.

Six motions challenged the CWU’s funding and support for the Labour Party.

But all fell when delegates voted for a motion to allow the CWU to redirect some of its general political fund to the Trade Union and Labour Party Liaison Organisation (Tulo).

It said, “a large proportion of the money saved by the CWU by not automatically affiliating members” to the Labour Party should be re-channelled through Tulo to support “trade union and working class candidates in elections”.

Tulo – also known as Unions Together – was set up by trade unions to support Labour candidates. So CWU members opting out of Labour Party affiliation will still end up indirectly funding Labour.

South Central Postal branch political officer Paul Garraway told the conference, “This motion recognises that a great number of our members do not wish their money to go to the Labour Party. But it seeks to give them that money through the back door through Tulo.”

Debate also reflected the broader political crisis affecting Labour’s support. Last year’s Scottish referendum saw one of the biggest turnouts seen for decades.

Kevin Logan from Scotland No.2 branch said, “The reasons for this turnout are simple – people in Scotland are angry. That anger needs to be harnessed and directed at those responsible for the austerity that we are now facing.”

Delegates backed calling for a Labour government to renationalise Royal Mail.

Moving the motion, Simon Midgley said, “In September 2013 as a result of our CWU campaign the Labour Party conference voted unanimously to renationalise Royal Mail.

“If that vote had been accepted and used by the Labour Party leadership it could have stopped privatisation in its tracks. But that didn’t happen.”


He added, “Clearly it’s not enough just to win a vote at Labour Party conference, which can then be blindly and routinely ignored by the Labour leadership.

“If we are to get more than a few fine sounding words in a motion at Labour Party conference, we must campaign for those fine sounding words to be put into action”.

Discussion at CWU conference also reflected anger at racism. A motion recognising “the number of deaths amongst people in the UK who come into contact with the police” was passed overwhelmingly. And a motion for affiliation to Stand up to Ukip was accepted by the executive.

A large number of people attended a fringe meeting on challenging racism. And another fringe hosted by Stand up to Racism and Unite Against Fascism was set to go ahead as Socialist Worker went to press.

Delegates also agreed to support the People’s Assembly Against Austerity and Palestine Solidarity Campaign. They also voted to campaign against the housing crisis and international trade deal TTIP.

The conference followed the election of Dave Ward as CWU general secretary – who beat the incumbent Billy Hayes.

A central feature of his election campaign was the promise of “no more something for nothing, blind loyalty to Labour”. Ward said, “The election result showed an appetite for change.”

But he added, “I really do believe that the best way for this union to move forward is not to debate about whether or not we should fight within the Labour Party or whether we should operate outside the Labour Party.”

Nevertheless, he also suggested that he would take the union in a more combative direction. He said, “The role of the union is about struggle. It will never ever be any different.

“As we start a new era we’re going to fight very hard in that struggle in the best interests of our members and in wider society.”


The conference paved the way for fights against the effects of privatisation and the aftermath of the “Agenda for Growth” agreement of 2013 between CWU and Royal Mail. Delegates agreed to fight against private delivery companies “cherry picking” the most profitable delivery areas.

The CWU postal conference agreed unanimously to fight Royal Mail plans to sell off its controlling share in facilities management company Romec to private company Cofely.

Armajite Singh from South East Wales said, “We need to say to our members in Romec, we’ll stand side by side with you – even if it’s at the gates”.

The conference was debating demands for a shorter working week with no loss of pay as Socialist Worker went to press. And delegates were set to debate the effect of outsourcing to agencies in mail centres on Wednesday of this week.

Meanwhile the telecoms and financial services sector conference unanimously agreed to take action over leave in BT call centres.

Bosses at BT Commercial have been imposing a “leave embargo” during busy periods, meaning workers struggle to take all their holidays.

Sales workers in BT Commercial are angry that bosses have banned them from carrying over untaken leave from one financial year to the next.

The strength of anger was reflected in the decision at conference calling for action “up to and including strike action to get the ban withdrawn”.

Both CWU sectional conferences were set to run from Tuesday to Thursday of this week.

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