Union conferences

Some gains at NEU conference

The National Education Union (NEU) held an online Special Conference on 3 October. Over 600 people attended, with around 550 delegates. Conference voted on various rule changes. They were not taken as a job lot, as I wrongly reported in Solidarity 565. The rule change to allow the General Secretaries to extend their tenure beyond five years, if they had announced they were retiring, was withdrawn due to rank and file pressure. In a significant victory for the left of the union, the proposal to reduce the executive from 70 to 55 failed to get the two-thirds majority required, following strong...

NEU conference: support amendments!

The National Education Union (NEU) is holding a virtual conference on 3 October. The union’s annual conference in April 2020 was cancelled due to the Covid-19 crisis. The virtual conference will deal with rule changes. Most of them are benign. Some, such as the possibility of job-sharing elected roles, are probably positive. However, the ones reducing the Executive from 70 to 55, and allowing the General Secretaries to extend their term in office beyond five years if they announce they are retiring, should be opposed. Unfortunately, it seems the rule changes will be taken as a job lot, making...

UVW reinvents the wheel?

The AGM of United Voices of the World (UVW), on 5 October, packed out the meeting hall, with nearly 10% of the membership turning up. There was no delegate system. Anybody could come and take part in the embryonic UVW democracy. I’m happy to give a certain amount of leeway to UVW. They are a relatively new union that has often deployed effective, aggressive industrial tactics and organised previously “unorganisable” workers into a fighting force to turn the tide against outsourcing at universities around London. The launch of Sex, Cultural, Design, Architecture and Charity worker sections this...

Industrial news in brief

UCU ballot opens University staff belonging to UCU are being balloted for strike action this autumn over pay equality, job security, workload and pay deflation. Working conditions in higher education have been deteriorating. The gender pay gap is over 15%; over 100,000 staff across the sector are on fixed-term contracts; academic staff work over 50 hours in a typical week; and in the past ten years pay has declined by 20% in real terms. In 2018 an impressive strike forced pre-92 universities to back down on massive pension cuts, but since then employers have refused to compromise and now they...

Industrial news in brief

Tube union RMT suspended strikes planned by drivers on London Underground’s Central and Victoria Lines on 3-4 September, after bosses made a number of concessions. The issues at the heart of the dispute include authoritarian management culture on both lines, and driver numbers on the Central Line particularly. The union remains in dispute and activists say strikes should be reinstated if management renege on agreements. Plans for TUC congress At the time of writing discussions are taking place among labour movement anti-coup people about activities at the 2019 TUC Congress (8-11 September, in...

Industrial news in brief

Tube workers fight job cuts Tube workers are currently voting in an industrial action ballot, as the RMT union pushes back against job cuts proposed as part of the so-called “Transformation” process. Nearly 2,000 workers are being balloted, including workers in engineering, signals, electrical, track, the London Underground Control Centre, and the Emergency Response Unit. “Transformation”, a sweeping restructure and job cuts plan, has already led to admin workers seeing their numbers slashed. The current phase of the plan includes the outsourcing of waste collection workers who are currently...

RMT activists oppose Lewis expulsion decision

The conference on 23-27 June of the rail union RMT passed, by a majority of two votes with six abstentions, a motion expelling left Labour MP Clive Lewis from the RMT’s Parliamentary Group. The conference decided that Lewis should be expelled unless he retracts and apologises for the criticisms he made of comments by RMT member Eddie Dempsey from the platform of a “Full Brexit” rally. RMT activists who oppose the decision are circulating a statement of protest, already signed by numerous AGM delegates as well dozens of other union activists. Lewis criticised Dempsey’s assertion that Tommy...

Unison clash over tests boycott

The most contentious debate at the Local Government sector conference of public sector workers’ union Unison, which finished on 17 June, was around a motion proposed by Lambeth Unison, supported by Workers’ Liberty Unison activists. The motion advocated that Unison organise its members working in primary schools to support the National Education Union’s planned boycott of testing in primary schools. Arguing that “Unison members must not be put in the position of being asked to cover work that another union’s members are boycotting as part of a legitimate dispute”, it asked that all Unison...

IWGB debates democracy

This is the second part of a report on the Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB) union’s AGM on 8 June (first part in Solidarity 510, see here). The AGM committed IWGB working closely with – and trying to revitalise – the wider labour movement, but voted against changes which would have made the union significantly more democratic. Submitted by a sympathiser of Workers’ Liberty, the first motion stated that “IWGB is part of the broad labour movement… direct coordination and links between unions, at rank-and-file level, is essential for developing workers’ struggles and building...

IWGB surveys its work

The Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB), a seven-year-old small union of mostly low-paid, often precarious, and disproportionately migrant workers, had its union-wide AGM on Saturday 8 June. The IWGB, with almost 5,000 members now, is known for a combative and creative approach to fighting for its members, with loud, disruptive and sometimes secret protests, flash-occupations, and the like. IWGB ‘s ten “branches” — what in many UK unions might be called “sections”, although with considerably greater autonomy from the central union — gave reports. Some highlights: The University of...

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