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Leadership shows weakness at CWU conference
Clive Walder and Gary Clark
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) conference met this year at a time of growing attacks on both postal and telecom workers. But the union leadership did not show confidence about leading a fightback.
Things started well when executive (NEC) motions to move the telecoms industrial conference from annual to biennial and to reduce branch delegation sizes were both defeated.
Unfortunately a motion which would have allowed the union to support campaigning bodies fighting for the same policies as the CWU was defeated. All opposing speakers except one were prominent Labour Party activists who peddled the spurious myth that only by remaining affiliated to Labour can the union influence it and gain political representation for CWU members.
Speakers in the debate described the three main parties as 'three cheeks of the same arse', and pointed to the Left Front's rise in France and George Galloway's win in Bradford.
The NEC, again showing no vision or leadership, opposed the changes, leaving the CWU tied to New Labour and therefore voiceless beyond Labour's 'Tory-lite' policies of 'slower cuts'.
The postal conference was against a background of looming privatisation. The national leadership failed to give a clear lead on how to win back members' conditions. Members have never failed to support the union fully but now feel let down after the 2010 dispute.
Royal Mail chief executive Moya Greene addressed the conference. This is clearly part of the leadership's move towards partnership working.
A motion from the postal executive wanted a review, to be discussed at a special forum, to see what benefits would come from getting a seat on the Royal Mail board of directors. This would leave the union in a difficult position as they would be seen as part of the management.
At the telecoms conference an emergency motion condemning the executive for not leading a real pay campaign was moved. While not carried, support for it was higher than expected.
After a presentation showed how CWU members were angry about bullying in BT, an executive motion on performance management was carried. This was only about continuing to talk to BT - a policy that has failed the members. Once again a sizeable number of branches placed little or no faith in the executive, led by the misnamed Left Activists Network.
In general the leaderships of both industrial groups and the NEC showed themselves not up to the tasks facing them. They rely too much on the employers' promises and have too much faith in what a New Labour government can deliver.
There is a need for strengthened workplace organisation and a combative leadership with a credible political strategy worthy of the members.
In The Socialist 23 May 2012:
Fighting the cuts
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