The biennial policy conference of the Unite union takes place at the end of June.
It is important that Unite members take the opportunity to argue for policies which would help make Unite fight politically and industrially against the Tories, and against the Labour Party leadership.
Over the last six months, Unite has produced a political strategy which outlines its view on how to transform the Labour Party — a policy which, if implemented, would involve Unite fighting against the right-wing political leadership of the Labour Party, for trade union backed MPs, a restoration of democracy and for policies which would commit the Labour Party to improving employment rights and opposing all cuts. At this year’s policy conference, there will be some debate on this strategy.
Some motions call for Unite to redirect some of its political fund (currently spent on Labour Party affiliation) into its own strike fund, while others call for a review of the link if the Labour Party doesn’t speak up for Unite policies.
There are no motions calling for the union to disaffiliate from the Labour Party. This debate will be lively, but the response from the Unite leadership is likely to be that Miliband is already toying — at least rhetorically — with the idea of reforming or reducing the Labour Party-union link, so Unite should not help him with the task.
Motions on issues of employment rights and the anti-trade union laws have been submitted by a large number of branches, with the issue of attacks on facility time also raised by many.
On international issues, there will also be a debate on Europe, with four “anti-EU” motions and one, weak, “pro-Europe” motion. It is difficult to tell what the outcome will be on this issue. The Communist Party/Morning Star’s Stalino-nationalist politics dominates the general approach of the union on international issues, but the economic collapse and the need for European workers’ unity against austerity could convince delegates that advocating UK withdrawal from the EU would cut across attempts to build such unity.
The other issue that has attracted a large number of motions is the defence of the NHS.
If Unite passes policy to fight to defend the NHS, it will allow union activists to argue for campaigns which link community and trade-union based campaigns with a political campaign to defend public healthcare.
The policies likely to be passed on these issues will set the general approach for the union for the next few years.
The role of socialists in Unite is to try and develop networks of rank-and-file activists in the union that can, amongst other things, fight for such good policies as are passed at this year’s conference to be implemented.