Having safely navigated its way through a virtual special conference called to discuss equality issues earlier this year, and the biennial National Executive Committee (NEC) elections, the hierarchy at the Communication Workers Union (CWU) has arranged another virtual two-day event starting 7 November.
The agenda is restricted to general policy and political issues. This gives activists no opportunity to challenge the partnership approach adopted on the postal side of the union or the recent sell out of the BT dispute.
The bureaucracy extends beyond HQ, with a substantial number of regional and branch officers on full time release from the respective employers. Union accounts published recently reveal that the total in branch accounts has increased to nearly £7 million, up from £5.2 million. Some of that is a result of the pandemic limiting travel and the cancellation of conferences. It does, however, highlight the bizarre situation of a union cash strapped at national level but relatively flush at the grassroots.
An organising drive is urgently needed, but there is clearly no appetite for this amongst the ageing, predominantly male group who control the majority of branches.
The closing date for motions to the special conference is 15 September. The hope is that the small group of left wingers in the union will be able to get some business on the agenda that addresses the key issues.
It should include a motion of censure in the NEC for its failure to call any industrial conferences in the past two years and a call for a renewed organising strategy that actually recruits new workers into the union.
There also needs to be a debate about the long term viability of an organisation that is selling assets to survive. If there is to be a merger with one of the larger general unions, then it is best negotiated before the financial position becomes desperate.
Unite has been circling for some time, and with a new General Secretary in place their efforts to bring organised communication workers into their empire could well be stepped up. Without pressure from below the leadership of the CWU may simply fall into Unite when the financial situation becomes untenable.