by a CWU conference delegate
Delegates to this year’s Communication Workers’ Union conference have voted heavily to censure the union’s National Executive Committee for nominating former general secretary Alan Johnson for Labour Party deputy leader, and to overturn the nomination.
About 70% of delegates voted for an emergency motion condemning the Executive for ignoring conference policy, which states that the CWU will only back candidates for the Labour leadership who support the Trade Union Freedom Bill and 100% public ownership of the Post Office.
Johnson’s record of support for “employee share ownership” (i.e. gradual privatisation) and for the discredited policy of “commercial freedom” was attacked by delegate after delegate — as was his support for the anti-union laws, and his anti-working class politics generally. As general secretary, Johnson ignored the CWU’s policy on workers’ rights and he now refuses to support even the limited demands of the Trade Union Freedom Bill.
By passing the motion, conference instructed the Executive to inform the membership of their withdrawal of support for Johnson before balloting for the deputy leadership begins next week. (After the vote the Executive met and decided to make no new nomination.)
It is worth noting that the motion was opposed by general secretary Billy Hayes, who took the lead in pushing the nomination at the Executive and also wanted to nominate Gordon Brown until he was blocked by the strength of opposition. (Johnson and Brown have identical politics – but then you see Alan is “one of our boys”...)
Hayes has spoken about balloting CWU members on disaffiliation from the Labour Party if various demands are not met. Yet the idea of using the affiliation to fight the Blairites is evidently too much for him.
The conference also passed motions in support of organising and campaigning for migrant workers, for the abolition of quasi-corporate postal services regulator PostComm, for public investment in the post office network and in support of the Agency Workers Bill. It declared support for the life and death struggle of LGBT people in Iraq and campaigns against sex trafficking in the UK.
On the crucial issue of outsourcing, which is a growing threat for communication workers, delegates passed a motion that called for an end to remote sourcing of of government-funded work, and a legal requirement for any organisation remote-sourcing work to provide alternative jobs on at least the same pay and conditions for anyone affected, whether directly or indirectly.
Crucially, the motion called for a political campaign which links up with unions in the countries where work is being sent.
The whole tone of the conference was set by the impending national postal strike. Balloting has just come to an end, and the union expects a strong vote in favour of action over pay, the threat of job cuts, post office and mail centre closures, pensions and many other issues.
As the debacle of the leadership’s support for Johnson shows, we urgently need to marry industrial militancy with a militant political voice – one which will fight, no holds barred, for working-class political representation.