Nominations in the posts and telecoms union CWU closed recently, providing further evidence of the sharp decline in the activist base within the organisation.
Four National Officer posts saw candidates returned unopposed. That includes three that were vacant following the retirement of the previous incumbents. All the new occupants are drawn from the HQ bureaucracy.
This is a sad state of affairs given that five-year elections were agreed by a conference, giving rank and file activists the opportunity to challenge incumbents who had previously been elected for life. Such challenges were a regular occurrence in the postal section of the union in the 1990s and 2000s. They also helped democratise the telecoms group, where, prior to to the 1995 UCW-NCU merger, appointments had been the norm.
Just 17 candidates are competing for 13 places for the postal executive. With no organised left, the names are split between supporters of the current General Secretary Dave Ward and his successor as DGS(P) Terry Pullinger. These factions have no real policy differences, both have embraced partnership with the employer and have no strategy for rebuilding the union at its grassroots. In telecoms the misnamed Left Activist Network controls things via an alliance between supporters of DGS(TFS) Andy Kerr and the right wing clerical grouping. LAN, which is neither left nor active, was created as a vehicle for Kerr’s election bid after he failed to get the nomination of the Broad Left and then split away from it.
The BL, a shadow of its former self, has a couple of its supporters amongst the candidates for the Telecoms and Financial Services Executive (TFSE) posts but, given the way things stack up, they are very unlikely to be elected.
Cosying up to employers to secure substantial grace and favour facilities including high levels of full time release has created a situation whereby healthy union democracy has effectively ceased to exist. This has not benefitted the members who, across the industries organised by the CWU, are facing concerted attacks on their hard won terms and conditions.