Unite conference: Fighting policies needed

unite-unionUnite’s new Executive Council (EC) meets from 9 June for the first time following the results of this year’s elections declared in April.

As expected, the United Left (UL) maintained its majority of the slightly smaller EC. It won two seats in the merged GPM/ITC (print and IT) sector.

However, the UL also lost two seats, including Kingsley Abrams in the Not for Profit sector, to the right-wing Unite Now group.

This was despite Kingsley’s suspension in 2011 for refusing to vote for cuts as a Lambeth councillor, in line with Unite policy.

Unite must vigorously defend its members who refuse to implement anti-working class policies.

The EC, which holds office for three years, and the biennial Policy Conference, which begins at the end of the month, must set out fighting policies to galvanise our members.

Already, the union is rolling out a campaign on the NHS, attacking the plundering of the health service by private companies.

Unite could also find itself at the forefront of industrial action this summer and autumn if local government and health workers vote for action on pay.

Unite must put the union at the forefront of the campaign to regain the wages lost as a result of the Con-Dem government’s pay freeze.

With a general election next May, some unions may try to limit any action in the hope of minimising any perceived harm to New Labour’s chances of victory.

Unite must not succumb to this mood, as there is every indication that New Labour will be as unrelenting on austerity as the Con-Dems, if it wins the election.

Unite should demand that all unions involved in the pay dispute campaign for a huge response with action, including strikes.

The relationship with New Labour will be an important issue for the new EC to deal with. Criticism of the union’s backing for the party is growing, despite the reduction of its Labour affiliation and cash by half at the last meeting of the previous EC.

There are resolutions critical of the union’s political strategy on the agenda of the policy conference and a Rules Revision Conference is scheduled for next year, where challenges to the union’s affiliation to Labour can be made.

Many Unite activists will welcome the decision of the April Executive to start formal merger talks with PCS.

But the incoming EC should have an open, welcoming and flexible approach which is able to incorporate the democratic gains made in PCS under its left fighting leadership if a merger took place.

The opposition to the UL-dominated EC seems weak. Unite Now made limited progress and the Grassroots Left organisation made no gains with its three candidates.

In fact, one of its candidates promptly resigned following his defeat to set up a branch of the right-wing Community union (formerly the Iron & Steel Trades Confederation) in Scunthorpe steel works!

However, that is no guarantee that the UL can take the union forward. There are examples in the past of left-led unions moving to the right.

Within the UL, there will be debate on the way forward in which Socialist Party members will play a constructive role in directing the union towards fighting socialist policies.

Socialist Party meeting at Unite Policy Conference

6pm Tuesday 1 July. Jury’s Inn, Keel Wharf, Liverpool (next to Policy conference venue, the Arena and Convention Centre)

Speakers include Peter Taaffe, Socialist Party general secretary and Tony Mulhearn, Liverpool 47 councillor

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